Phil Collins on How He Came Up With the Drum Solo for ‘In The Air Tonight’

In a captivating YouTube video, Phil Collins shares the intriguing tale of how he created the legendary drum solo for his hit song ‘In The Air Tonight.’ This groundbreaking track not only showcased Collins’ exceptional drumming skills but also introduced a distinctive sound that revolutionized the music industry. Let’s delve into the transcript and uncover the story behind this iconic drum solo, its impact on Collins’ career, and his humorous take on the song’s enduring popularity.

Unconventional Studio Setting and Collaborative Inspiration

Collins reveals that the drum solo in ‘In The Air Tonight’ emerged from a unique recording experience at London’s townhouse studio. Unlike traditional studios, this one had a distinctive Stone room that captured a different sound. Collins had previously recorded with the engineer at this studio during his collaboration with Peter Gabriel. Impressed by the engineer’s ability to capture a captivating drum sound, Collins enlisted his help for his solo album ‘Face Value.’ When recording ‘In The Air Tonight,’ Collins and the engineer set up in the live room, where Collins played the drums while the engineer worked on capturing the perfect sound. During the recording process, Collins spontaneously added a drum fill into the song’s intro, creating a remarkable moment that they decided to keep, leading to the iconic drum sound that would define the track.

The Impact and Legacy of the Drum Sound

As ‘In The Air Tonight’ gained popularity, the distinct drum sound used in the song captivated listeners worldwide. Collins describes the sound as a “Facehugger,” likening it to the alien creature in the movie ‘Alien.’ This unique drum sound was unlike anything heard before and became synonymous with the song. The success of the track inspired countless artists to sample and emulate the drum sound in their own music, extending its influence across various genres. From its appearance in popular television shows like ‘Miami Vice’ to commercials for Cadbury’s chocolate, the song continued to leave an indelible mark on popular culture. However, Collins humorously acknowledges that the overwhelming association with ‘In The Air Tonight’ can sometimes feel like a “noose around his neck,” as people often expect him to recreate the same magic in subsequent works.

Embracing Musical Evolution and the Song’s Enduring Popularity

Collins reflects on the impact of ‘In The Air Tonight’ and the challenges it presents as an artist. While the drum solo remains a defining moment in his career, he recognizes the importance of artistic growth and the inevitability of evolving beyond a single iconic track. Collins humorously notes that it is impossible to recreate the same drum solo or the exact drum sound, as it would be seen as mere imitation. Despite the pressure, ‘In The Air Tonight’ continues to resonate with audiences and remains a beloved masterpiece. Collins acknowledges that the song holds a special place in his heart and appreciates the enduring popularity it has achieved over the years.


Phil Collins’ revelation of the origins of the drum solo in ‘In The Air Tonight’ provides a fascinating glimpse into the creative process and the impact of a defining musical moment. The unconventional studio setting, the distinctive drum sound, and the song’s enduring legacy have cemented this track as a timeless classic. While the expectations associated with such an iconic piece may sometimes be challenging, Collins embraces the evolution of his artistry and remains proud of the lasting impact ‘In The Air Tonight’ has had on the music world.