Interview: Steve Hackett. Past Present & Future. Part 2.

It was a pleasure to interview Steve Hackett on July 1st. His memory is as sharp as a tack and he offered insights into the roots of how some of these Genesis songs came together, citing classical influences such as Ottorino Respighi, an Italian composer who in 1899 went to Russia to be principal violinist in the Orchestra of the Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg. Steve Hackett has opened up another classic musical box.

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

Will The Knife be played on the upcoming 2014 Genesis Revisited tour?:

We did a version of the Knife with my present band recently and it reminded how explosive that song really is, it was one of the reasons I joined Genesis, but it was written a year before I joined so we used to play it live but we recorded the live version of the Knife for Genesis Live album back in ’72

Fantastic, it’s almost like a Punk song 

Right, it almost pre dates punk and well it was punk wasn’t it, almost Punk about 5 years before the movement came in.

You are the master of “wait for it, wait for it”, which brings me to Firth Of Fifth probably the most inspiring guitar solo ever created in any guise of music.

Oh thank you for that. Well it is a beautiful melody which Tony (Banks) came up with and I said well why we don’t try it like this and he obviously loved it.

So you had John Wetton playing and singing on Firth Of Fifth in the Royal Albert Hall but he has done this before with you hasn’t he?

Yes, John is an old friend we have worked on each other’s albums, and long may it continue working with him, lovely guy, and great voice of course a great bass player.

Absolutely, Wetton is so active, he just gets on with it doesn’t he?

He just gets on with it that’s right, his voice just gets stronger and stronger and I saw him when everyone was doing their bit on Cruise To The Edge, prog rock on a boat.  The last time and he was singing with UK and everything just stops and John holds the moment, fills the room, quite extraordinary it just barges through everything and its wonderful.

That first UK album with Bruford and Jobson was so dynamic. Anyway, talking about strong pieces, Nad Sylvan’s visual presence on Suppers Ready holds the 22 minute visual attention span. You play this long piece note for note with no medley or short cuts, similar to the way Yes dealt with Topographic Oceans and Relayer live. Do you treat Suppers Ready as a classic piece of music which just can’t be interfered with?

Well I do but the only time I go off the map with that is right at the end and I feel the need to take it to the mountains and do an extended guitar solo I keep doing it, I cant stop it has to be in the build up. I give it my all every night and it’s a different solo.

Well you do give it your all and you seem busier than ever. I just mentioned Yes which leads me on to the work you have recently done with Chris Squire “Squackett”. 

Oh Right! Funnily enough I have just worked with Chris here in the studio, he happened to be in town and said ‘Have you got anything for me to do’?  I said well, it just so happens that I am working on a track and I said I’ll play it to you. He said I’ll come around tomorrow and we’ll have a look at that but have you got a bass?

I said I had a bass which is probably still in its case which I have not used for a very long time since I did Chairs many years ago. Chris came around and we took this Fender Precision out of its case and set up it with new strings and put it through a PDM mixer and I said ‘Chris, its still got ambience’ and it sounded wonderful from the word go. It felt like Chris Squire playing his famous Rickenbacker. It was a very bass driven song with a rising psychotic feel and he was just the man for the job and I am very pleased we have him on the new song, not knowing that he was going to be in town of course, but that’s the way of the wind.

Next year is the 40th anniversary of ‘Lamb Lies Down’ and I have seen some original Group shots on Facebook with you and the guys in the past week and I have to ask is there a re-union tour planned?

Well, at the moment, let’s put it like this all the national papers are saying that the band has reformed but it is actually only a case of all of us having been interviewed together. For your information, the other guys are aware that I am up for it; otherwise I would not be doing a Genesis show. I am putting my cards on the table here and its more than obvious to everyone just how up for it I am but it’s a work that can’t be trussed.


What about Phil Collins and the problems with his back. How would he cope?
The last I heard, and this is the last I heard, some of this is just rumour, and I really ought to be phoning him up and saying are you enjoying your job and say how’s it going and this that and the other and we should be much more active. But he did an interview a few weeks ago with the BBC and he said he quit at the time but indicated that he was back playing drums again and he could manage this that and the other. Everyone wishes him a full return to health and to the stage. All I can say is that I have got no news other than we live in hope and what I have told you.

What about Peter Gabriel when did you last work with Peter Gabriel live?

Live, well that was in 1982, he and I did something, along with Mike Rutherford, for the Tadworth Court Children’s Hospital next to Great Orman Street and that was charity thing with everyone support we were able to keep that hospital open and that came fairly hard on the heels of the Milton Keynes event.

I was there at Milton Keynes in 1982 and still have my programme!

Bedraggled in the wet? Soaking wet (and the mud) it was cold evening but the weather was legendary on the night but it was such a great thing to be on the stage with all those guys who have done such wonderful things in music, I am so proud of the performance and the longevity acclaim of the event even though it was done back in 1982, so proud of the past.

Absolutely, so with Peter (Gabriel), you have not done anything at all since then?

I think back when we were doing Back To The Creation he said feel free to use our time for the Real World, as it was a good cause, but he was committed to doing some other shows for his own causes at the time. Other than that I don’t believe we have done anything other than to communicate and complement on each others various projects we have done. And of course he just a lovely influential guy and I am so glad he still going as strong as ever.

Going back to Lamb Lies Down you have a few tracks on the new CD album from the concert at the Royal Albert Hall.  Would you say that Fly On A Windshield is one of your heaviest guitar pieces that you have written and recorded. It is such a stunning and epic heavy piece of music?

Yes its funny that isn’t it, I don’t think of it as a guitar piece, I think of it as an ensemble piece and essentially it is a backdrop to an improvised guitar solo and has got some phrases which I can choose to include or misclude. It reminds me tremendously of many things because you have the influence of classical composers with what Tony (Banks) is doing with the changes, you’ve got the influence of Ottorino Respighi, Pines of Rome (1924), the influence of Ravel with the chord change, the influence of Miklós Rózsa with music of Ben Hur, you’ve got that and you also have the haunts of Hendrix.

Its co-incidental you should mention Ben Hur just as that is what I used in my review for the Squackett opening track ‘Life within a day’, I compared that to the massive epic sounds of Ben Hur and his Chariots and even Sahara sands.

Yeah, there is a bit of setting up a Military theme and with the drumming there is an element of “Brother your time has cometh”.. you know. With a drum kit that weighs a ton but you’ve still got to keep marching so there is a little bit of that which goes through the music. It seems to be to me that even though you have the world of Classical and Rock music together, there are times when the two do speak to each other, particularly when orchestration starts going a bit Russian, heavy and a bit dark, that seems to be the time when the bass seems to draw it’s heavy metal roots from and that is something I am focused on quite a bit these days and working with that combination of why should the orchestra be thought of as just a pure art, when used properly it can just add more weight to the infinite bass set ups or the bass pedals and when they are doubling live it just enlarges everything and it can be absolutely wonderful, and I would include mellotron in that.

More on the Classical influence in Genesis’ Prog Rock and the latest on the Steve Hackett Solo Projects for 2015 coming up in Part 3….

Here is the first part of Tim’s interview with Steve: Steve Hackett, Past Present & Future Part 1

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