AS a founder member of prog-rock behemoth Genesis, Mike Rutherford has gone from cutting edge artist to stadium rock star and cult hero.

Now frontman of Mike + The Mechanics, he is returning to his roots for the band’s ninth album.

Out Of The Blue captures the evolution of some of the band’s best loved hits throughout their 35-year career, while signing the future with three new tracks. And, says Mike, it has been recorded close to where it all began with Genesis.

“Recording the unplugged version was like in the old days – down the stairs into a basement studio not 50 yards away from Trident Studios where we recorded Genesis’ second and third albums.”

It features the talents of R’n’B singer Andrew Roachford (who had a hit with Cuddly Toy in the 80s), and Canadian rocker Tim Howar.

“Having toured with the Mechanics over the last 10 years, I have heard the old songs change a bit each year with Andrew and Tim singing and the same band playing. In some cases they have been extended and developed – so it seemed a good idea to record these versions in the studio.”

Released next month, Out Of The Blue features newly recorded ‘as-live’ acoustic versions of Don’t Know What Came Over Me, The Best Is Yet To Come, The Living Years, Beggar On A Beach Of Gold, Another Cup Of Coffee and Over My Shoulder.

“Anyone who has seen us live will, I’m sure, like to hear the old ones in this form as they show how the two singers work so well together,” says Mike. Especially on a song like Get Up which has become a double lead vocal.

“We recorded these live and Tim and Andrew led the songs with great vocal performances, and we mixed it as we recorded it – like in the past.

“No wonder albums took a maximum of three weeks to complete then! We have also written and recorded three new songs which show the Mechanics next stage - I hope!”

New songs are One Way, What Would You Do and the title track.

Fans get a chance to hear both old and new at a show at Oxford’s New Theatre on Tuesday.

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Mike admits to having been a lifelong rebel. His father was a Royal Navy captain and Mike was destined to follow in his footsteps. But, sent to top public school Charterhouse, he fell into music, joining school band The Anon. Despite having his guitar confiscated by his house master, Mike’s love of playing live began.

Along with band member Anthony Phillips, he teamed up with schoolmates Peter Gabriel, keyboardist Tony Banks and drummer Chris Stewart and formed Genesis.

The band, with Mike providing bass, rhythm guitar and backing vocals, went on to become one of the biggest acts of all time, selling 130 million records worldwide and being at the vanguard of progressive rock, pioneering new techniques in production, live performance and video making.

While the band went through numerous line-up changes, Mike remained, penning some of its biggest hits, such as Follow You Follow Me, Land of Confusion and Turn it On Again.

“They were exciting times, because there were no set precedents,” he says. “It was all about trying it and seeing. There was no formula and record labels were owned by individuals, not shareholders. Now it’s become a big business, which it wasn’t in the early days. It was an adventure and people usually had a good time.

“It was a golden age, because of the changing of formats. We went through vinyl, tape and CD. We took it for granted; you do when you are young.”

Mike + The Mechanics formed in 1985 as Mike’s side project and originally featured Paul Young of Sad Café and Paul Carrack of Ace as frontmen. They immediately stood apart with their unusual line up of two vocalists and achieved huge commercial success throughout the 80s and 90s.

Hits also included Silent Running and All I Need Is A Miracle. After Paul Young’s sudden death in 2000 Mike reformed Genesis in 2007, before turning his attention once again to songwriting – and bouncing back with new Mechanics.

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But the spirit of Genesis is still alive, with Mike + The Mechanics teaming up with the band’s Phil Collins for the first six shows of his European tour.

And while Mike still loves big gigs, he admitted to being equally happy playing heartfelt songs in small theatres with The Mechanics.

“Having 80,000 people cheering is a bit of a lift,” he said, in that distinctive cut-glass accent.

“It gives a really good buzz of pleasure. I can’t compare what I am doing now with that time in the 1980s when I was playing big arenas, but it’s still exciting. And now I can see the audience, which I couldn’t before.”

He laughed: “Now I can see people nodding off!”

Mike + The Mechanics are at the New Theatre Oxford on Tuesday. Go to atgtickets.com