Tony Banks says classical influences in his work go all the way back to Genesis

Some might have been surprised by Genesis co-founder Tony Banks turn toward classical music. But, it turns out, he’d always had an interest in the genre.

“As a child my mother used to play classical music,” Banks says. “She was a good pianist. She played a lot of Chopin and that was quite a strong influence. I’ve always liked classical music, the standard pieces like Ravel’s “Bolero” or (Holst’s) “The Planets,” which I heard when I was a child. When I was in my teens I got into things like Shostakovich and Mahler.”

A new classical album from Banks, called Six Pieces for Orchestra, is set for release March 6 from the Naxos label. Violinist Charlie Siem is featured, along with alto saxophonist Martin Robertson and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of conductor Paul Englishby.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Here's a look back at the recently released Genesis boxes covering the years 1970-75, and then the period from 1976-83.]

Banks was one of just two members of Genesis, along with Mike Rutherford, to appear in all of the group’s many incarnations since its 1960s-era founding. One of the leading voices in their sound, in particular early on, the keyboardist and sometime guitarist was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010. The band hasn’t toured together since 2007, and hasn’t released an album of new material since 1997.

“Pianistically, within Genesis, I was influenced by some of the piano players like Rachmaninov and Ravel,” Banks said, in an interview with genesis-music.com that was reposted on the Naxos site. “I took those sorts of styles into the rock world and it worked quite well, particularly Rachmaninov because it is quite rhythmic.”

Six Pieces for Orchestra is Banks’ ninth solo project, dating back to 1979, but just his second classical release, following Seven: A Suite for Orchestra, released in 2004.

“I loved pop music in the 1960s, but I got more and more disillusioned, probably because I was playing it,” Banks says. “You get fewer surprises, you know how it is all done. I found I got more and more into classical music, so I’ve listened to a lot. But I’ve always liked both.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Genesis. Click through the title for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GUITARIST STEVE HACKETT, FORMERLY OF GENESIS: Hackett, who still nurtures a lasting affinity for classical music, has leapt headlong back into prog rock — putting the finishing touches on a collaboration with Yes co-founder Chris Squire, even as he begins work on an album that will reexamine his celebrated tenure as guitarist with Genesis. Hackett went in depth on the new project with Squire, the guitarist’s celebrated tenure with Genesis, and the sweeping impact of J.S. Bach on his playing style.

GENESIS – A TRICK OF THE TAIL (1976): The era immediately following Peter Gabriel’s departure contains some of Genesis’ best music. While Gabriel was a creative force for the band, I’ve always preferred Phil Collins vocals even while I missed the progressive leanings of the band after their turn to a pop-oriented sound following Steve Hackett’s departure. “Ripples” from this album would be one of the last, best examples: Collins’ vocal delivery is haunting and powerful. Hackett’s guitar playing is brilliantly emotive as always. And Banks piano work on this song, I’d argue, is some of the best he ever did for Genesis.

ONE TRACK MIND: STEVE HACKETT ON “FIRTH OF FIFTH,” “WHEN THE HEART RULES THE MIND,” OTHERS: Hackett, who’s readying a new collaboration with Yes co-founder Chris Squire, talks about how joining Genesis spurred him to a series of memorable inventions on his instrument. And how one of these pioneering moments would one day help create a signature part of Eddie Van Halen’s high-flying solo sound. We also go inside the brief and stormy collaboration with Steve Howe in the mid-1980s called GTR, and Hackett’s genre-busting return to prog rock in 2009.

GENESIS – SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND (1973): There’s music I like, music I love, and then there’s music that literally gives me goosebumps. The list of music that falls into the goosebump category is a rather short one: No matter how many times I hear Steve Hackett’s guitar solo on “Firth of Fifth,” the hairs on my arm stand on end and I find myself moved nearly to tears by the emotive beauty of his guitar-tistry.

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