Thompson believed he had landed a short-term job when Collins asked him to join Genesis without an audition in 1977, but he went on to take part in every road trip until 2007 and was also a stalwart of Collins’ solo group from the initial Hello, I Must Be Going tour in 1982.
“It was a much bigger band,” Thompson told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “Even though [guitarist] Daryl [Stuermer] and I weren’t technically in [Genesis], we toured as the band. But with Phil, you’re one of a cast of thousands. It wasn’t the same kind of luxury and stuff, which is fine.”
He added that “Genesis was very balanced,” instead of having a leader, and “everybody had their say.” But his first experience with Collins as boss was “kind of a drag.” “He only truly related to drums,” Thompson explained. “And so the horns would make a mistake and he’d turn around and look at me! He figured it out pretty quickly. But on that first tour, I’d be like, ‘Come on, man. That ain’t me.’”
Despite those early troubles, Thompson recalled that he “hit it off immediately” with Collins, which made their regular drum duets easy to perform. “Phil and I, from the very first rehearsal when he sat down and we started jamming together, we just locked,” he said. “It was just there. And Phil and I had a lot of the same roots. He was into a lot of the American jazz drummers. The difference being I wasn’t so much into the English drummers, like Keith Moon, and he was. But he still had that American stuff. It was a big part of his background, and we just hit it off immediately.”
One of his biggest problems on his first Genesis tour was trying to understand his English bandmates’ speech. “It was really disturbing because, for the first two weeks, I could not follow a single conversation,” he admitted. “I was okay one-on-one, but they speak much, much faster than we do. There were all these conversations going back and forth that I’d try to track. I could track one guy, kind of, but then somebody else would jump in. It was a weird, lonely feeling to be in the room with people that supposedly speak the same language and not be able to understand what was going on.”