Phillips first started to play professionally at the age of twelve in his father’s Dixieland band for four years. Phillips was the drummer on the 1976 LP 801 Live with Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno. He is also a prolific session drummer, having played for Jeff Beck, The Who, Judas Priest, Tears for Fears, Mike Oldfield and Gary Moore, among others. He was The Who’s drummer in their 1989 American reunion tour. He has released four of his own solo albums. Phillips joined Toto in 1992 after Jeff Porcaro died during rehearsals for an upcoming tour. On January 26, 2014 Phillips left Toto to focus on his own career.
Phillips began to play professionally at the age of twelve in his father's (Sid Phillips) Dixieland band for four years. He was then offered the chance to play in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. He quickly became a sought-after session player. By the mid 1980s he was well established on the session scene, with Queen drummer Roger Taylor commenting in an interview in 1984: "You have to be as good as Simon Phillips to crack it these days." In 1992, he released two instructional videos displaying some of his best work.
Phillips found an early prominence as the drummer on the 1976 LP 801 Live with Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno. He replaced Judas Priest drummer Alan Moore on the band's Sin After Sin album (1977) and went on to record Michael Schenker's 1980 debut album The Michael Schenker Group.
Phillips has performed and recorded with a wide array of musicians including Big Jim Sullivan, Pete Townshend, Big Country, Toto, Steve Lukather and Los Lobotomys (Candyman), Jeff Beck, Whitesnake, Jack Bruce, David Gilmour, Frank Zappa, Brian Eno, Duncan Browne, Toyah, Mike Oldfield, Jon Anderson, Bonnie Tyler, Trevor Rabin, Gary Moore, 10cc, Mick Jagger, PhD, Joe Satriani, Russ Ballard, Mike Rutherford, Phil Manzanera, John Wetton, flamenco guitarist Juan Martin, Asia, Stanley Clarke, Jimmy Earl, Derek Sherinian, Nik Kershaw, Gordon Giltrap, Camel, Jordan Rudess and Tears For Fears.
He was the drummer for The Who on their 1989 American reunion tour, and appeared on solo recordings by band members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.
Phillips has played on, co-produced, and mixed five Derek Sherinian solo records – Inertia (2001), Black Utopia (2003), Mythology (2004), Blood of the Snake (2006), and Oceana (2011). He also co-produced and mixed two albums by Mike Oldfield. Phillips also appeared with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and others in the video for the 1983 A.R.M.S. benefit concert for Ronnie Lane. In the early 1980s, Phillips formed part of RMS with fellow session musicians, Mo Foster and Ray Russell.
He has released four studio albums of varying styles.
In 2006, Phillips released a DVD with his jazz band, Vantage Point, called Resolution with writer and pianist Jeff Babko, Trumpeter Walt Fowler, saxophonist Brandon Fields and bassist Alphonso Johnson.
In 2015 at The 14th Annual Independent Music Awards, Simon Phillips was the winner in the "Jazz Instrumental Album" category for "Protocol II".
In 1992, Phillips was asked to fill in for Jeff Porcaro after Porcaro died during rehearsals for the upcoming tour to promote Toto's Kingdom of Desire album. Steve Lukather stated that he would only go on tour so shortly after Porcaro died if Toto could get Phillips to play the tour, so he was the first and only drummer that the band contacted to replace Porcaro. After the 1992/93 tour Phillips was asked to join Toto as a permanent member.
Nicknamed "Si-Phi" or "Si" by his bandmates in Toto, Phillips was noted to be the group's 'technical' guru; handling the engineering duties on both the 2002 Through the Looking Glass and 2006 Falling in Between albums. He also engineered the 1999 Livefields album, and the Live in Amsterdam DVD from 2003.
After the decision (15 July 2008) "to go their separate ways and begin new chapters in their lives", on 27 February 2010 former members of Toto announced on the band's website a reunion for a brief 2010 summer tour in Europe in honour of their ex-bassist Mike Porcaro who was living with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). They scheduled more dates for a tour in 2011, and ended up with the DVD performance in Villafranca Di Verona. Phillips toured with Toto in 2012 and 2013. After the last attempts at releasing a new DVD were all shelved the band recorded another concert aimed to be released on DVD in Lodz, Poland.
As of 26 January 2014, Phillips has departed from Toto to focus on his solo career. He was replaced by Keith Carlock and subsequently Shannon Forrest, Toto's current drummer.
In 2009, Phillips joined with keyboardist Philippe Saisse and bassist Pino Palladino in forming an instrumental jazz/funk rock trio: Phillips Saisse Palladino or PSP, who toured in Europe in 2009 through 2010, spotlighting the talents of each performer in the songs chosen for their set list. Phillips also performed on Joe Satriani's album Super Colossal, appearing on multiple tracks. Phillips appears in Alan Parsons' Art & Science of Sound Recording educational video series, as well as the program's single "All Our Yesterdays". He played in the Michael Schenker Group album In the Midst of Beauty and took part to the band's 30th Anniversary world tour in 2010. Phillips is featured on Hiromi Uehara's 2011 album, Voice. He also toured with Hiromi and bassist Anthony Jackson as part of the Hiromi Trio Project.
Phillips cites Buddy Rich, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Steve Gadd, Ian Paice, Tommy Aldridge and Bernard Purdie as his main influences.Solo albums
Force Majeure (1992)
Another Lifetime (1997)
Out of the Blue (1999)
Vantage Point (2000)
Protocol II (2013)Look In Look Out
Protocol III (2015)
801 Live (1976)
Listen Now (1977)
ChilliwackLook In Look Out (1984)
Live in Japan (1990)
Jack Bruce Band
How's Tricks (1977)
Sin After Sin (1977)
Song of Seven (1980)
There and Back (1980)
Smallcreep's Day (1980)
Michael Schenker Group
The Michael Schenker Group (1980)
In the Midst of Beauty (2008)
The 30th Anniversary Concert – Live in Tokyo (2010)
Temple of Rock (2011)
Is It Safe? (1983)
Rock, Pebbles & Sand (1980)
The Changeling (1982)
Warrior Rock: Toyah on Tour (1982)
Heaven's Open (1991)
Russ Ballard (1984)
Radio Musicola (1986)
You've Got to Laugh (2006)
Tears for Fears
The Seeds of Love (1989)
The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend (1989)
Join Together (1990)
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B [Disc 4, track 19] (1994)
Greatest Hits Live [Disc 2, tracks 1–5] (2010)
The Buffalo Skinners (1993)
Absolutely Live (1993)
Toto XX (1998)
Through the Looking Glass (2002)
Live in Amsterdam (2003)
Falling in Between (2006)
Falling in Between Live (2007)
Live in Poland (2014)
Trilok Gurtu & Simon Phillips
21 Spices (2011)
Black Utopia (2003)
Blood of the Snake (2006)
Hiromi, The Trio Project
Before I Forget (1982)
And About Time Too! (1979)
Look at Me Now (1981)
Back on the Streets (1978)
After the War (1989)