Gene Stashuk talks about the origins of his all too briefly popular progressive pop '80s band, Red 7, and working with Mike Rutherford
By Steven Ward
November 1, 2004
Former Red 7 lead singer and guitarist Gene Stashuk talks about the origins of his all too briefly popular progressive pop 80s band, working with Genesis guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford on the debut Red 7 album, singing on the debut Mike and the Mechancis album and why the second Red 7 album led to the band's demise.
Steven Ward: When did you form Red 7 with keyboardist Michael Becker and drummer Paul Revelli? Also, How did you meet those two guys and did you guys play clubs before getting your record contract?
Gene Stashuk: There was (and probably still is) a famous rehearsal studio under the streets of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco (the absolutely worst area of San Francisco) -Francisco Studios. You would emerge onto the street above the studios to be confronted by pimps, hookers and junkies, and occasionally the odd dead body . On occasion I would go there to jam with other people. Various permutations of these jams eventually evolved into Red 7. For instance Michael Becker had been playing with a group called "Eye Protection" (lead singer Andy Preboy-who became the lead singer of Wall of Vodoo) who also rehearsed there, and I came to know him through his roomate. Paul Revelli responded to an ad for a drummer. He sat down to play at the ensuing audition, and immediately we knew that we had something- it stuck. Paul is an extremely talented fellow.
Yes, we played in local SF clubs, such as Mabuhay Gardens, The Stone, The Oasis, Wolfgang's, or in Santa Cruz at the Catalyst, etc. Actually, our first gig was at "The Exotic Erotic Ball" (quite the classy occasion-black-tie/jockstraps). We didn't get the chance to play live as much as we would have liked, but we really didn't fit into what was fashionable at the time. People didn't know what to think of us. Red 7 was always pointedly "not part of the scene".
SW: How did you land your record contract with MCA and was it only a two record deal?
GS: Our manager at the time knew the head of A&R at MCA. He told him (Tom Trumbo) about us. Mr. Trumbo flew to San Francisco and heard us play for about half an hour at the S.I.R. Rehearsal Studio. Two days later he offered us a contract. The deal itself was open-ended.
I was to record a solo record as well, however, the debacle of the second record ("When the Sun Goes Down") made us feel that we had to leave, so we did, also canning our management and falling at the time deeper into the mire of the LA music scene (our new manager was heavily involved and enamored with Richard Marx-that should have told us something)...never to emerge intact.
SW: When and how did you first meet Mike Rutherford? Where you a fan of his or the music of Genesis? Did you guys ask him to produce your debut? Also, did you get to record any of the album in the Genesis-owned studio, The Farm in Surrey, England.
GS: "Red 7 Meets Mike Rutherford" was itself an event. Our management had talked to Phil Collins about possibly producing our first record. So, when Geneis was playing the Oakland Colliseum we went to the show to meet him and talk to him. As it turned out Phil was commited to way too much (even then), and he suggested we talk to Mike Rutherford. We met him and talked for a few minutes in the midst of the confusion of the apres-show backstage scene. He said he was interested and that he would come to our rehearsal studio to hear us play. We thought, sure-not bloody likely. The next day, much to our surprise, Mike actually appeared bright and early at the front door of the extremely funky rehearsal studio (see above). It drew quite the crowd. We played for him and talked for a while. He said, okay, come over to my place (The Farm in Surrey) and let's make a record. It was actually that simple.
I was never a Genesis fan per se, if I listened to that genre of music then it was bands like Gentle Giant. I did, however respect what Genesis was doing-the quality of their work. I believe that the fact that we weren't raving fans actually made Mike Rutherford more comfortable, because there wasn't that embarassing fan-adoration thing going on...potentially an impediment when trying to work together on a project.
Yes, we recorded all of that record (with the exception of a few background vocal overdubs) at the Farm and stayed in the 16th Century house on the grounds. Had a cook in residence and a lovely old lady housekeeper who insisted that we have our "nice cup o'tea" in the afternoon. Spent a bit of time in the local pub in Chiddingfold (the small nearby village)...great food there contrary to the popular belief. The Farm is really a remarkable place, you looked out of the windows of the studio onto a pasture where plumb English dairy cows placidly grazed. Mike would come to the studio and put on slippers and an old cardigan sweater and work would resume. At that time the studio was yet to be "updated" and refurbished. By today's standards the equipment list was spartan, but Genesis certainly made a lot of great music with it. Today it is completely state of the art and very posh. On the property were several barns and secondary buildings which housed fascinating things such as all of the old Genesis stage sets, or a house with all of Mike's instruments (a vast array of guitars and basses). The Genesis crew lads (Little Jeff, Bison, Dale Newman) were always around and invariably helpful and great to be around. It was and is a magical place, almost possessing its own time continuum.