As all Peter Gabriel fans know, the maestro works at a very slow pace. His last album of new material, Up, came out back in 2002, and ever since, he’s filled his time with human rights issues, two albums of re-worked orchestral tracks (Scratch My Back and New Blood), a super-deluxe reissue of So, and plenty of touring. Meanwhile, all fans really want is a new studio album — the one Gabriel teased with the in-progress title I/O way back around the Up release.
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Gabriel gave a vague progress report on his next LP, telling the magazine that he has “probably 20” songs in assorted stages of completion — and that, as always, he has absolutely no idea when the damn thing will come out. The one true ray of hope is that even Gabriel seems to be getting impatient: “I really need to stop doing other things and lock myself away for awhile,” he said. “It probably hasn’t moved nearly as much as I would have liked to in the intervening time. The songs are still there but some of them I would redo now and there’s some new stuff as well (…) I keep arranging until the cows come home, which is sometimes a weakness.”
Gabriel’s current project is a reunion tour for the original So live band — including drummer Manu Katche and keyboardist David Sancious. Gabriel’s enjoying the live dates, and he’s even planning a concert film from the tour, which he hopes will even have a “limited film release” before hitting DVD. The biggest delay comes down to fidelity — they shot the tour in hi-def 4k resolution, which Gabriel says “messes up the synchronization. So then you have to go back and synch things up by hand. So the disadvantage of being ahead of the technology is that it doesn’t always work.”
Inevitably, Gabriel also fielded some questions about the possibility of a Genesis reunion. “It’s never been ruled out,” he said. “I’m trying to picture a time when it would top my priorities list, though.” When presented with the fact that all five members of the classic prog-rock era are still alive, he did ruminate a bit: “Actually, I was thinking about that the other day. We’re quite lucky. Looking back at other bands of our generation, there’s usually one or two missing now. So you do get a sense of the clock.”
Upon hearing that Phil Collins is considering some new material (and even a reunion with his old bandmates), Gabriel responded enthusiastically. “Good!” he remarked. “I think he got himself into a bit of a hole, and that’s great news he’s coming out of it. It doesn’t have to involve work, but if it does, that’s a great indicator.”
So…what can we make of all this?
Not a whole, whole lot, unfortunately. Gabriel has been teasing I/O for a decade now. This is what Gabriel had to say when I interviewed him a couple years ago for Paste:
“This is perhaps silly of me to come up with a title before I’ve got a real album,” he says, “but there’s a lot of stuff in the can, and in January, I’ll start looking at it all again. And it’s not finished — that’s the thing. It’s a lot of ideas, some of which I’m sure I’ll still love and some of which I’ll think are crap. However, I’m also attracted to try a different type of music that I’ve been exploring with the orchestra, so I may even do a bit of both and see what’s most promising. It’s still that sort of thing that I’m thinking about and using very different instrumentation that I have been with the orchestra.
“I just think it’s good to try different things,” he continues, “because you open some daylight into the dark corners that way that wouldn’t normally be exposed if you didn’t consciously steer it that way. I was thinking about electronic stuff, having done orchestral things with the two records. I think that would be a nice contrast, and given that these have been quite serious and down records, make these quite childlike and ‘up.’ It’s a fun idea; whether I’ll get something I still like musically, I don’t know. We’ll find out.”
So what is this album supposed to sound like? Gabriel’s mentioned the possibility of an orchestral direction (which we saw a glimpse of with the brooding new track “Why Don’t You Show Yourself”), but he’s consistently billed I/O as a more funky and rhythmic LP. Being that Gabriel’s recent original studio albums (Us, Up) have been very eclectic and dense, I can only imagine he’ll continue in that direction with whatever comes next — I can picture some orchestral stuff, some funky stuff, some electronic stuff. Whatever it turns out to be, let’s hope it comes out before we’re all dead. Next year seems out of the question (especially since Gabriel’s announced some new So tour dates), but 2015 seems like as good a possibility as any.
Also, this song (from the unfortunately ignored Big Blue Ball project) is unbelievably awesome: