Interview: Steve Hackett. The Future.

In the third and final part of his interview Steve Hackett talks with Tim Price about the future beyond Genesis reunions or revisited and lets us know about his love of George Harrison and other guitar heroes and remembers a TV show with Eamonn Andrews.

Steve Hackett live at the Assembly Hall, Islington, London. In aid of Childline Rocks. (Simon Jay Price)

Revealing these incredible insights of classical roots and how they influenced your Genesis material, and prog rock, really suits how you go about the music in this time of your life career. Would you agree with that?

Absolutely, especially with the aspects of what some classical composers were doing back then, especially Edvard Grieg, some of the harmonies frankly sound totally Mongolian with Eastern influences and have bags (a lot) less to do with the orchestra as we know it, less stiff upper lip, more sultry and tribal.

Orchestras can sound as a part of rock when they are pointed in that direction, we know it has worked with certain bands who have used orchestra wonderfully but it only happens now and again it seems, without anyone unleashing the full might of these things, but it is precisely this area, in between the cracks and the corners, that I am interested in.

This is also where I had been leading to, and your answers should make the readers want to explore these incredible classical influences in more detail.

Well, those classically driven technique areas can be very much oversubscribed, technique has got its place, a composer can compose very fast, clever boy, but the difference between a virtuoso player and a composer is that the composer is the genius and original writer. Everyone in that orchestra should have sufficient technique to unleash all the solos and cadenzas he has written.

If you are trained in classical music you can achieve this but I would argue that there are certain orchestras who when they try to get incredibly difficult stuff together they are all over the show most of the time, yes there maybe enough lead to keep them up there, the orchestra is not there for nothing, they want to play to the composers guidelines but often there is a top violinist who challenges the rest to ‘follow me boys’………

You are booked out this year with the Genesis Revisited Tour but how do you see things developing on the solo front?

Well, next year is solo territory and that’s the plan basically, I will be doing more things live which are solo but doing a “solo” album is complete nonsense really.

You have your current band, which took years to put together, to consider don’t you?

Yes, we are a team and I could not possibly go out on tour and play all those instruments by myself, I am good at giving directions and when we rehearse, you see, if you can imagine a hut or a house, I can stick a torch under it and see if it catches fire. That principle is the same with people, that’s when they become engaged and that is when I know it is working. I can see when people are bored out of their skulls; there is just no point in just playing without engagement.

Could the next solo album could see you almost as a conductor using all of these classical influences?

Well, there are a lot of influences of things, and there is a sharing of contrast between the classical and rock and there is a lot of similarity in terms of the energy, the intense subject matter. How would the orchestra interpret it? What would Alexander Borodin have done with it? What would John Bonham do with it? What would Bonham and Jonathan Dove done with it if these guys had talked to each other?

That’s an amazing statement; you continue to list some deep classical influences.

I remember years ago, seeing John Lennon on TV with Yehudi Menuhin, they were having an argument on one of the shows, it might have been Parkinson; it might have been Eamonn Andrews show for all I know, way back, but they both seemed to have common territories.

In John Lennon’s case his argument for rock was Selling England By The Pound, which was quite interesting that he was listening to, and cited, Genesis. The other side of the coin from the classical aspect was Yehudi Menuhin, who was making a programme on English chamber music and he used a piece I had come across which was in the style of Erik Satie for acoustic guitar and flute.

There was an area they both agreed on, you know, at some point, despite all the differences and the varied backgrounds. It was a war of the classes perhaps, we sometimes go ‘a-ha’ on the scoreboard, but it has got to be possible to reach an agreement, if everyone would listen enough and they didn’t have prejudice, whether they are punk, classical or prog rock, it has got to be possible, because at the end of the day there has got to be enlightenment.

Steve Hackett live at the Assembly Hall, Islington, London. In aid of Childline Rocks. (Simon Jay Price)

If there was an original Genesis line up tour in 2015 do you think that the
popularity of the work you have recently done with Genesis Revisited has
helped re kindle public appetite and awareness for such a re-union?

I suspected that it would light a torch but it is only an interview, the rest of it we will have to see. I don’t know if a Genesis reformation in any shape or form would be necessarily creating a vial which sells tickets; it is the brand what sells.

Beyond that I think it is the music which is the star of the show with Genesis, whoever is doing it, but yes I would like to be involved, of course. Genesis in the broadest sense of the word involves all of the heroes of the band stuff, and to give him his due, Anthony Phillips was very much the original architect and motivator of that early sound.

Luckily, Anthony and I worked on Talisman and I played with him on a couple of those early tracks, it was a joy to work with him, a lovely guy, very entertaining. So when you say a reformation of the original, of course it goes back a very long way from when they were at school. That includes Chris Stewart (the original Genesis drummer) who has become a bestselling author (Driving Over Lemons) and I think he does musically more guitar playing these days than he does drumming, but with Tony (Banks) you never know, there have been previous reincarnations of Genesis with Tony, but if we reconvene or not, you know, they have a choice.

So, as you said before “Genesis” is a brand?

Yes, it a brand and you can place Ray Wilson into all of that, who joined me for several shows and he is another brilliant servant and another performer in Genesis history.

Ray Wilson is on the new Genesis Revisited CD from the Albert Hall isn’t he?

Yes, with a shortened version of Carpet Crawlers, singing very well it has to be said, he has done it several times, but every time he is just bang on and literally cradling the microphone. His technique is completely different to Nad’s approach who has his arms outstretched as a flamboyant person and creates a totally different atmosphere.

One of my favorite Genesis tracks is Blood On The Rooftops. The lyrics are still very poignant. That line about the news and ‘The Arabs and the Jews, boy, too much for me’ is still what is going on in today’s world, but now 40 years since this was written.

Well, it is, unfortunately, and there is now a changed attitude globally.

On your Solo Tour two years ago at the Robin 2 in Bilston you signed my original Selling England By The Pound vinyl from November 1973 on the front cover which remains one of my most treasured possessions.

Well, thank you, I was always fond of that album, in a way, as with the previous Genesis albums it was often about bringing lists to the party for them and it got to the point (with Selling England) where I am going to write some songs here.

Was Selling England By The Pound the first Genesis Album which featured the classic Hackett riffs?

That album developed the approach of writing songs face to face, in a way it was a volcanic and organic process whereby I had originally taken a back seat, but then thought, no, here is an idea, we can use this, and we can use this and my riffs.
I think that is why that album has perhaps some of the strongest guitar from me, but as much as I love my acoustic guitar some of that strongest acoustic stuff, such as Horizons, had to even wait for other albums.

I think that I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) was only based on a guitar riff which actually sounded too much like the Beatles and was always presented as the same piece of work but there was a bit of George Harrison influence in that one, he was a guitar hero of mine growing up as a kid, very much.

That is interesting as on a recent BBC Radio Two Ken Bruce’s Tracks Of My Years Radio slot you recently cited your first guitar inspiration as a George Harrison song and you had to go out by that record?

Yes, it was I Wanna Be Your Man a Stones version including Brian Jones slide guitar solo of one the Beatles tunes which was one of the most exciting things I had heard on the planet at that point. Probably it was 1964, when I was just starting out on guitar and that knocked me for six, but it might have been 1963. That is what I grew up with, distorted guitar sounds. I liked playing things like Bonanza (the ‘60’s TV Series) and enjoyed made it go twang. Suddenly we then had the screaming and roaring effects and the world has been a better place since.

Steve, I am conscious of your time, so one last question, you have already mentioned George Harrison, but who would be your own favourite guitarist of all time?

Oh, that’s impossible because I have so many but somewhere in between, Hank Marvin and Segovia (virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist), Burt Weedon, Les Paul, and I’d have to mention straight off a bunch of people because they are wonderful of course, Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, but all these guys are British so we won the Electric Guitar Explosion. We share the badge of guitar-ing, that’s how I see it.

Absolutely Steve! Many thanks for this incredible opportunity and for taking the time to give extended answers. A real education in those classical roots. I look forward to seeing you in Birmingham in November for the Genesis Revisited Tour.

Tim Price Interview with Steve Hackett. June 2014.

The Genesis Extended tour will hit the UK in October 2014, dates as follows:

Date City Venue Box Office
Tue 21st IPSWICH Regent Theathre 01473 433 100
Wed 22nd BRIGHTON Centre 0844 847 1515
Fri 24th NOTTINGHAM Royal Concert Hall 0115 989 5555
Sat 25th GLASGOW Clyde Auditorium 0844 395 4000
Sun 26th YORK Barbican 0844 854 2757
Tue 28th SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion 0844 854 2757
Wed 29th SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall 023 8063 2601
Thu 30th CARDIFF St David’s Hall 02920 878 444

Sat 1st LONDON* Eventim Apollo 0844 249 4300
Sun 2nd SALFORD The Lowry 0843 208 6000
Mon 3rd GUILDFORD Glive 0844 770 1797
Tue 4th BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall 0121 345 0602

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