Phil Collons On Getting THAT Drum Sound. You Know The One.

How clearly do you remember establishing the drum sound on “Intruder” for Peter Gabriel?
Phil Collins: Like it was yesterday. That was at a time when Peter didn’t really have a band since he couldn’t afford an American band full time. I was at a loose end and going through a divorce. I think I’d done most of my demos for Face Value and said, “If you need a drummer, man, I’m around. I’m free.” He took me up on the offer and I went down to his house in Bath along with a couple of other people. [Bassist] John Giblin was one and [guitarist] Jo Partridge was the other. We just kind of lived there for month and played every day and helped him prepare some of these songs that were going to be on the third album.

Steve Lillywhite wasn’t convinced by me, I don’t think. He wanted to audition me. Anyway, that happened at a rehearsal room near London Bridge. I turned up at the town house in London, Shepherd’s Bush, and we started routining some of these songs that we’d been working on in Bath. The first thing happened when I got here is that Peter said, “Take away the cymbals. I don’t want any metal on the record.” I thought that was a little stubborn on his part, but it’s his album.

We started putting tom-toms up where there would be cymbals and I started to play around the drums, getting comfortable. [Engineer] Hugh Padgham started getting a sound. I had asked Hue, as I usually did when I was working with an engineer, to let me hear what they were doing in the headphones. I heard this sound being achieved and I started playing with the sound that I was hearing. And so I started to play like a John Bonham type thing [imitates the “Intruder” drum pattern with his voice]. And Peter said, “What is that you’re playing?” I said, “I’m just playing with the sound.” He said, “I like that. Give me that for 10 minutes.”

So I did. At the end of it I said, “What are you going to do with it?” He said, “I don’t know yet.” So I said, “Can I have a copy of it?” because I felt part ownership. I got a copy and when it turned out he was going to adapt one of his songs to fit the drum part I said, “Can I have a credit, at least? If I can’t use the thing, I’d like to have a credit.” He agreed to that and I started my very strong friendship with Hugh Padgham and we went from there to do my records and Genesis records. The rest is sonic history.

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