Peter Gabriel on music and AI: “I think you do better if you work with a powerful new tool than just grumble or pretend it doesn’t exist”
David Guetta thinks it’s the future, Deadmau5 reckons it’ll just give us more of the same “stupid” music, and Nick Cave called “bullshit”. Yes, every musician is either being asked for or offering their opinion on the potential impact of AI at the moment, and now it’s Peter Gabriel’s turn in the chair.
Speaking to Uncut, Gabriel sounds resigned to the fact that artificial intelligence is going to shake up the music industry, and suggests that resistance is futile.
“I think it’s a bit like King Canute on the beach, unfortunately,” he says. “It’s coming. We’re only just building it. We have no idea what it’s going to achieve. I can’t think of anyone whose job couldn’t be done better by AI in 10 years’ time, maybe five.
“For instance, when I drive down to the studio in my Tesla, the Tesla is doing a lot of the driving for me - but I’m still keeping my hands on the wheel. The same is going to happen more in any process, including creativity. With some of the AI, half the artists want to play with it and half want to shut it down. But I think you do better if you work with a powerful new tool than just grumble or pretend it doesn’t exist.”
Gabriel is in the process of unveiling his new album, i/o, releasing a new song on each full moon. His latest single, Playing For Time, is a piano-led Randy Newman-esque composition, and he says that this is still one of the instruments he turns to when he’s writing.
“It’s usually a piano or rhythm machine,” he confirms. “As an old drummer, a good groove will still get me going. I still want to move!”
While known for his use of synths down the years - a clip of him demoing the Fairlight regularly pops up in our YouTube recommendations - Gabriel is modest about his technical prowess. “By the time I’ve understood the keyboard I’m playing, it’s obsolete,” he explains.
The star puts this down to being “a slow learner,” and says that his longevity can partly be attributed to his willingness to accept help. “I’ve always been smart enough to surround myself with people that are smarter than I am,” he notes.
Towards the end of the interview, Gabriel was asked to comment on the final gig by his former band Genesis, which he attended.
“Ultimately, there were human relationships underneath,” he says of the band. “With Tony and Mike, these were people I was at school with, when I was 13 years old. There’s a lot of history there. It was lovely to see Phil [Collins] again, even though he wasn’t as strong as I remember him. But it brought back a lot of memories. I was very glad I was there. I had been there at the beginning, so I should be there at the end.”
You can read the full interview in the May 2023 issue of Uncut.