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INTERVIEW WITH STEVE HACKETT – MEXICALI - APRIL 2013
How does it happen you end up replacing Antony Phillips from Genesis in 1971?
-Anthony Phillips was no longer with the group, they had another guitarist called Mick Barnard. They didn’t make any records with Mick and they were still looking for someone else. Although he was working with them, he did not play 12 string guitar, so that wasn’t really suitable for them, they felt compromised. I joined them at the beginning of 1971. I met them, they heard me playing, they liked what I did. I didn’t have to go through the process of auditioning, like other guitarists they were trying to work with, they just decided to try me. At the time, I played 12 string and I also played electric guitar. Joining Genesis made me possible to expand my arsenal of instruments; I was able to work with more equipment, instantly I was able to get all the Les Pauls that I wanted. I enlarged my equipment so it would be more suitable to work with the band, they wanted an acoustic player as much as an electric guitar player, so I did that. Eventually, we ended up using nylon guitar by the time I was doing the last album with them, adding another dimension, the influence of Spanish and classical musical. It was a fortunate meeting.
But I worked with Anthony Phillips, he is a friend of mine. He worked in an album of mine called “Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth”, an album I did four years ago. We may do some other things in the future, I like spending time with him, he is very talented. But I didn’t replace it in the conventional sense, he had already left, so I was the third guitarist in that setup.
How was playing with such memorable musicians in that period so full of creativity?
-Peter Gabriel phoned me originally and asked if I was interested in joining the band. They wanted somebody who could write, and I aspired to be a writer, so I joined something that Peter said it was a “Songwriter Collective”, almost like a kind of commune of writers, a collection. At first I was playing songs written by the band, and then in the first year in 1971 we took the summer off to go and write together, because it was impossible to do shows and write in the full creative sense. Because we were a new team, to get the most of the new guy, myself, we had to stop work and dedicate time for the writing. That’s where we wrote the “Nursery Crime” album, and I think I had several important tracks on it for the band, such as “The musical box” and “The fountain of Salmacis”. I hadn’t played “The musical box” for a very long time, we are playing it again with this band. People love it, they go crazy for it, and it’s an extraordinary reaction from everybody.
Why did you decide to leave the band?
-I started to have a solo career while I was in the band, and I had a hit record with an album called “Forge of the Acolyte”. At the same time my company wanted more records from me. The band, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, who were the original founding members, said to me they wanted me not to record any more stuff for my own. So I said I would think about it, I’m afraid they were jealous of the success I had on my own and it made for a situation which was impossible for me. In the end of the day I realized that my future in music was to not hold allegiance to any one group, individual, or genre of music. I intended to experiment and to work with many people and have a huge musical adventure which was my original intention and will always remain my intention. The great sweeping ark of music has been like an odyssey, a journey, with me at the center of it, and all these stones around me go on as part of the trajectory, part of the journey, but I absolutely love the fact that I have been involved with so many different kinds of music, and so many different musicians. In recent years I worked with people in many different situations, both from the world of rock and pop and jazz and classical, and many different genres and that’s expanding and continuing.
How was the beginning of your solo career? It was a real challenge wasn’t it?
-Yes, the first record I made without Genesis was “Please Don’t Touch”. I recorded it in Los Angeles with many friends including Ritchie Havens. I wanted to make a record which was a cross between white English music and American black music, and I worked with several people who managed to make that possible. I wanted to do an album which was a combination of as many different kinds of music as possible. For that I remember an album called “The rock machine loves you” that CBS put out in the 1960’s, it was a big hit. I wanted my album to sound like a sampler of different artists, so I made it a mixture of fusion, jazz, pop, rock, with the influence of French music, etc. I was completely free, I worked with Randy Crawford, and Steve Walsh of Kansas, who had a marvelous voice. I started the album in L.A. and finished it back in England, and once I made it and released it, I realized that it was actually a very difficult record to make and my health wasn’t good at that time. But I realized I had to regroup myself, make myself strong, form a band, and go out and start to work, which is where I met several people who were to become partners over the following years, the line-up that would make “Spectral Mornings”, my following album, and “Defector”. They became very close friends, it was a very good group, very good vocally, really strong. We were all young guys, we liked each other companies, we had a lot of parties, gigs, and a lot of fun. They were really serious and good musicians, people like Dik Cadbury, Pete Hicks the singer, very clever, very good vocal harmonist, my brother John Hackett, and Nick Magnus, the keyboard player. I still work with Nick, usually on his records, but he also worked in Genesis Revisited.
Which are, on your opinion, the main differences between playing in a band against having a solo career?
-There are differences. In a band like Genesis there was a resistance to many kinds of music, they were not as open as I wanted them to be. For instance, I thought Genesis should expand and use an orchestra to work, you know, we should work with other people and be sufficiently mature to realize that the band had certain limitations and certain strengths. So the difference is if I want to record a song with just string players perhaps, I can do this. There is more freedom, I think as a solo performer, but it means that I can also perform the work of Genesis and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. I have total freedom to do everything creative as I want it. This is the peak of my creative time at the moment, to be able to walk in and out of the traditions of the past and do new combinations.
How did you work on such diverse musical concepts? (For example, shown in “Nomads”)
-I think diversity is the basis of my musical philosophy; diversity, surprise… both to surprise others and myself. Sometimes for a complete diversity you need to immerse yourself in the culture of another country, another place, and work in situations that you’re unfamiliar with. If you’re lucky, you can create a whole musical language, with people who don’t speak English, perhaps in the case of working with people on Eastern Europe for instance. We don’t all speak the same language but we arise at the common language of music, and sometimes you literally have to demonstrate something that you do to someone else, and it’s a much more flexible way of working, so you adapt to the style of the person and try to incorporate that in a way. It can be a marvelous way of working. When I first started to do that kind of things, I used to think it was something very unprofessional, because it was something I couldn’t control and I thought I was doing something wrong. But I realized it’s very important to take away all of the safety features and requirements and to do something that seems at first dangerous and threatening to your own traditions. When you start working with somebody like that, you might not get it right. You will understand eventually the importance of an area of music which you are not fluent with, and you can take from it what you need.
What are you memories on that show?
-Many of the people who were on Genesis Revisited I asked them if they were interested in doing some live gigs. The opportunity came up with doing four shows in Japan, and the Japanese liked the idea very much because we were the kind of band full with very well known people. Ian McDonald, Chester Thompson, John Wetton, Julian Colbeck; it was a very unique and highly capable team and I had a lot of fun working with them. It was people I worked with and I knew I had to work again with them in the future at some point in some way. A very nice bunch of guys, very very capable, a team full of wonderful players and writers. John and I continued to work with each other, in fact, I just recorded a version of “All Along the Watchtower” to put on a re-released version of the Tokio Tapes, so I had some additional tracks on the record. I had a very interesting time working with him.
Genesis Revisited I and II
How comes you decide to make Genesis Revisited I and then Genesis Revisited II?
-Originally I felt like doing a stage show of Genesis tunes, for several reasons. We were originally going to re-form Genesis with Peter Gabriel and myself. In 2005 we had a summit meeting everyone together. One of the ideas was to do “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” as a musical, and another one was to also re-form the band, do some shows, but there didn’t seem to be enough common ground between the various ideas people had. I think I was extremely flexible in my ideas, some of the guys in the band weren’t as flexible as I was, so that didn’t happen, they ended up reforming as a three-piece. Now, I said to them “Well if it doesn’t work as a five-piece with Peter, I would still be interested in doing something” but they said “No, we only want you to join if Peter joins”. So after years of saying I was up for it, I felt it wasn’t gonna happen, it was too complicated. It takes more than one person to be willing to make this sort of things happen.
I decided the best way to put my version, or I would say, mi vision, of the band in front of the public, was no to go out and call myself Genesis but to do a solo show which features the very best of the work that we did together as a band. I called it Genesis Revisited II as a kind of reference points of doing songs in a certain way, in a certain style. Plus, I wanted to expand on the original Genesis model, to incorporate other players and lots of singers, and to give it an orchestra in some places. Improve the production and the separation; make it brighter and more up to date perhaps, but being faithful to the original ideas, and all those well known guitar solos. In the places I thought I couldn’t improve on them I left exactly the same. The same with very well known stuff like the end of “Supper’s Ready”, I changed the guitar phrases, I kept the ones I thought were good, and the other ones I thought could be improved I kind of went “off the map” and made them a little bit more “bluesy”. So you have a cross between the very melodic and European music of Genesis, and the more soulful bluesy style that they rejected at the time. There’s an aspect of it that’s in my heart and soul, so I think it came out a very good album. The whole of the music business got together willingly to make this record, many of this performers grew up listening to these songs, so Genesis was very important for them. My old friends, my new friends, my younger friends, are right across the board on this album. Nick Kershaw, fabulous singer; John Wetton, fantastic; two Swedish singers, Nad Sylvan, Mikael Akerfeldt, all brilliant. They all worked at home in their own studios on their parts and sent them to me, and we managed to make that album in six months, which is the quickest I’ve ever worked in my life. It was a very big effort made by many people.
In that album, your role was as a producer too right?
-Yeah, I think as a producer in the old sense of being a producer. It’s almost impossible when you have that many people who are working on a project. You try to get your hands on as you can but you have give everyone freedom.
Was the final mixing made by you?
-Yes it was. Because throughout the whole thing, I would’ve had to be on several places at the same time. I had to be working on my own part, as well as trying to coordinate. Jo (Steve’s Wife) worked very hard on coordinating all the musicians too, trying to contain everyone. She is such an important part of all the work that I do now, and since we married my life has changed completely. She has a strong power of dedication, organization and all sort of things, we are a very happy couple.
Note by Rocksinfonico.com: A quick nod by Jo approves Steve’s comment. And we can certify it too. On our stay on Baja Prog, she took care of all the details regarding this interview
Genesis Revisisted II - Live in Baja Prog, Mexicalli 2013
Baja prog & Argentina
What are your expectations about Mexican’s “Baja Prog Festival”? (This interview took place before Steve’s performance on Baja Prog 2013)
-I don’t know what will happen, but whenever I came to mexico It’s always been fantastic, I always loved it. I loved coming here to play in the past, I had a show on Yucatan about 3 or 4 months ago and it was wonderful, so I’m looking forward to seeing them.
We would like to know if there is any chance of having you back in our country, Argentina, as it is 10 years now since your last visit. Is there any chance?
-I hope so. There are plans in general to do a South American tour but specifically to do Argentina. I’ve just started talking to promoters again and we are open to that. I would visit you, because it has been a long time and I want to take Jo to Argentina again. It needs to happen, and I look forward for it tremendously, it was brilliant for me in the past, so I think we could give them something really spectacular now.
To see more about Steve Hackett please enter to: http://www.hackettsongs.com