The first of Rutherford’s 12-string/bass doublenecks was simply two Rickenbackers grafted together. But for Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour, he used the instrument seen here: a Rick 12-string paired with a 6-string Microfrets bass. Photo by Frank White Agency.
You’ve used many tunings in the past. You were also instrumental in the design of the Steinberger M series. Was the Steinberger TransTrem [a tremolo system that allowed for quick, capo-like key changes] part of the toolbox you used for the alternate tunings?
The crazy tunings were done before the Steinberger, and all through Genesis I played with my 6th string tuned down to D. But now that I’m doing more lead, I’m using normal tuning. Occasionally I forget which tuning I’m in.
What is your main axe now?
I have the EC model [Fender Eric Clapton Strat]. The Strat is the easiest sort of workhorse version there is. Funny enough, you mentioned Steinberger. The original small model was so crude, with the graphite body, and the wooden ones never quite did it for me. I’d asked if they could build me one and they said, “No, we don’t do that,” so I did it myself. I’m working on a new thing now where I’ve got my old small one out, and I have some very lightweight wood that will just be attached in a couple of places with rubber washers, but the extra wood won’t even touch the guitar. Basically, I’m a big, tall guy, and those guitars felt so small. Their sound is quite special, but I want a guitar with a bigger feel. We’ll see. I like doing weird stuff with guitars.
Are you still using the bass/12-string doubleneck?
Not on this tour, no, though I brought it out on the last Genesis tour in 2007.
You’ve had many versions of that instrument.
There have been about four versions. For the first version I went into a guitar shop with my 12-string Rick and my Rickenbacker bass and said, “Can you cut that one and that one and join them up?” The guitar maker [Dick Knight] said, “You’re not serious, are you?” He wouldn’t do it at first, but I said, “Someone’s going to do it, so why don’t you do it?” Later I got the Shergold. For the last tour I had a Gibson 12-string and a Yamaha bass.
And you mated them?
Yeah. Once again, “Cut that one here and that one there.” One thing with all doublenecks is, the balance is rubbish. The neck is going to fall down.
It’s heavy, too.
Yeah—tell me about it.
You played guitar, bass, and bass pedals in Genesis. How does each instrument shape the way you approach music?
I write in the home studio, not the big studio. I’ve got my guitar plugged into an amp and the roof is blasting out. And I’ve got my guitar synth playing string pads, and I’ve got my bass pedals, which are a key part of my writing.
What is your main amp?
The key thing in my rig is an old Fender [Hot Rod] DeVille 4x10. I’m running the guitar and pedals into it. I sometimes run them in stereo, with one amp being the straight sound and the other having delay only.
What about for your bass and the bass pedals?
For bass, I’ve gone back to Ampeg, the old one with the 4x10. My guitar tech has also done AC/DC’s Malcolm Young for years. He keeps some of the gear, and I just borrowed it one day. The thing about the Ampeg is, no matter where it’s set, I’ve got a sound. The settings could be all wrong, and it still sounds the same! The bass pedals go through it, too.
A live clip of Mike + the Mechanics’ hit “The Living Years” with original vocalist Paul Carrack. Mike Rutherford’s subtle, single-note part enhances the song without calling attention to itself.
Back in the day you used Echoplexes. What do you use now for delay?
When I write, my guitar goes into Pro Tools, and I use EchoBoy [a SoundToys plug-in].
How about live?
For years I used a Lexicon delay. But I’m trying to avoid having too much in racks. I want things to be smaller and simpler. What’s weird is that sometimes the older, cheaper effects sound better. I tend to use Boss pedals.
People always ask about a Genesis reunion. Are you sick of that question?
Of course they ask about it. We had a bit of action last year. We did a documentary for BBC over here, and for Showtime in America. It’s a nice story. Most people don’t quite know who did what. People ask, “Was Peter Gabriel in the band? Did Phil Collins play drums? Are you in Mike + the Mechanics?” There are no others plans at the moment. But I always say, “Who knows what project is around the corner?”