TEJ: Whilst watching one of the Genesis box sets I happened upon an interview where its revealed you almost left Genesis around the time of Foxtrot what brought you back to the group?
SH: Ah, well there might be a bit of disinformation there. I was going to leave before Foxtrot and it was only when the others said ‘No, we really like your guitar playing we would really like you to stay.’ I think Ringo Starr tells a similar story (In The Beatles Anthology which I have seen) where he was going to leave because he thought the others didn’t like what he did. I think that’s a function of joining a band that’s up and running but which has some history before you’re involved. Ringo was the new boy in that situation, as I was in Genesis.
TEJ: I think you were probably the fifth guitarist in the band by that stage.
SH: Yeah I needed to be reassured.
TEJ: A confidence thing?
SH: It was a confidence thing.
TEJ: But of course millions are happy that you came back to the fold because of the work that followed along with the level of skill, it just got better and better with each album and tour. [I say this retrospectively as I wasn’t alive when Steve left the group]
SH: It did! There was a lot of great stuff that came out and I am not just saying that in an egotistical way on anything that I might have contributed, but in terms of what the others brought to it. I was blown away by the strength of ideas and the unusual twists and turns and the use of dynamics in a very mind blowing way of course we lose that sense of surprise now. But when we were rehearsing up parts of ‘Supper’s Ready’ I contributed sections to it that the rest was hung on but there was one bit talking about Willow Farm and the stomp that’s from the spoken word that was just actually mind blowing from one moment to the next and the idea that it would come in, imagine in the rehearsal room for the first time and I was busy working on another part and suddenly everyone was going boom! I thought, YES, that’s a moment of fusion where we’re all doing something together. Great moments of fusion like that and the beginning of ‘Dance on a Volcano’ (here Steve vocalises the opening drum beat and cymbal crash) and that note there where you get a sense of individuals taking something but the real power is when the ensemble do something together and hit those frequencies that will shake the foundations.
TEJ: Where they all seem to be on the same page at the same time?!
SH: That’s it!
TEJ: It comes over like intuition.
SH: Well, ‘Dance on a Volcano’ I was actually there on the first day. Even though the others seem to say that I wasn’t because I had to master my album (Voyage of the acolyte) a day before that, but I was there for that and we all came up with ‘Dance on a Volcano.’ The 7/8’s, together we all did that and we all hit the notes together and it it was like writing with telepathy it was just all done in the same accents. (Steve vocalises more from the song)
TEJ: This is the same session where someone brought in a lion cub?
SH: Yeah someone did bring in a lion cub, we were rehearsing it in Acton and I was playing with this lion cub and it was …
SH: It was surreal! I was like yeah it’s a lion cub and I was playing with this thing on the floor and I have got my hand in its mouth and it was just extraordinary. This little thing it didn’t have a teeth but the tongue was so rough!
– Laughter –
SH: It was amazing playing with this lion cub it was just a kitten except it was a lion sized kitten about this big! It was a wonderful time.
TEJ: Career wise Genesis had lost Peter Gabriel and then you all had to go through this audition process and I am not aware of the upheavals the band went through auditioning people…
SH: Well, I can tell you I suggested to Mike and Tony that Phil became the singer. He had already sung wonderfully on my solo thing when he used to sing in the van I would say to him ‘Hey you got a great voice a bit like Steve Winwood.” He said “Oh do you think so?” I said “Seriously I am not kidding!” So I suggested when Pete left that Phil became the singer. They said something along the lines of oh no, we have got to find a singer. Thus we went through an absolute waste of time auditioning other people and it didn’t do them any favours and it lost us some time and by the time we were in their recording A Trick of the Tail we still hadn’t figured out who was going to be the singer luckily Phil stepped in and sang Squonk.
TEJ: That’s a rather tough song to sing isn’t it?
SH: It’s a very difficult song. It’s outside the range of most singers. I think the problem for Genesis was a large number of us were non-singers at the time and we tended to write lines that were a struggle for singers to reach. It’s even more of a struggle now. In some parts of Supper’s Ready I had to lower the whole thing by a tone in order to facilitate some of the singers. We were already doing that by the time we were performing Supper’s Ready with Phil I think in ’76.
Imagine the older a singer gets the more they say I think I can sing this but its right at the top of my range and I might get a bit shaky there.
TEJ: I suppose it doesn’t help that some of the early Genesis songs are very wordy!
SH: Yeah very wordy!
TEJ: There must be a lot for a singer to do in terms of breathe control almost to the point at the end of some verses that oxygen would be required at sea level!
SH: I think it’s often a function of people sitting down, as would be young poets not necessarily thinking of the well being of the singer and too many words does mean that you will garble lines. I think for most of the Lamb unless you have got the cue sheet you’re looking to pick up a lot of cues in a lot of that stuff, but intelligibility has never held back in Rock ‘n’ Roll you know ever since Elvis sang, “ I aint never did no wrong” Grammar school boys need not apply!
We have another cup of tea and when we switch the tape back on we are part way through a conversation as to whether it’s best to be taught music formally or to learn through improvisation and trial and error.
SH: Well, I think there is room for both approaches. If you want to sit down and perform and write a piece of Bach perfectly then you have to put in years but it doesn’t mean to say you will write like him, ever! You’ll have the score up there and you’ll be following it, but writing like him as I have tried to do occasionally although I never went through the training. I like to think the spirit of that is accessible to non readers and non writers although I do write music out with my own notation but even with my own notation it doesn’t come quickly to me; I have to do the 1 and 2 and arrows up and down.
TEJ: Your method works for you!
SH: I think it’s even more precise than some examples when you have got a classical score they are not telling you what BPM (Beats Per Minute) but I’ll always find a tune that’s the perfect BPM for what I am trying to put across so I’ll say that timing. You know it might be a tune with that timing, like ‘Roll out the Barrel’. It’s not about whether the song is right but whether the tempo is right. There can be a few songs that are as slow as the end of Shadow of the Hierophant for instance which I recorded on the album as there are four Genesis branches songs that were either rehearsed with the band or written with the band or had input from the band.
In one instance there was a tune where I dreamt that I was working with the band again in 1973 going out with a long lead (on his guitar we presume) so I could see and hear what was going on. I wrote a chorus in that style from what I remembered from the dream. That was Camino Royale. There is a ‘Tower struck down’ which Mike (Rutherford) was involved with the construction of that my brother (John Hackett) wrote a substantial amount of that and ‘Shadow of the Hierophant’, which was written with Mike and it was partly rehearsed up by Genesis
SH: Yeah, it went on the back burner. It was rehearsed up around the time of 1972 during the Foxtrot sessions.
TEJ: It’s that long ago?
SH: It’s that old and I had recorded it for Acolyte (Voyage of the acolyte 1975) and Tony (Banks) said afterwards we could’ve used that bit for Genesis and I thought hang on a second it was a reject for the previous three years and I didn’t think it would ever see the light of day. I did ask Mike, as I didn’t think it would see the light of day with Genesis.
TEJ: What about ‘Please Don’t Touch’?
SH: ‘Please Don’t Touch’ was rehearsed around the time of the Wind and Wuthering sessions.
TEJ: How different are the versions that Genesis rehearsed and that you recorded for the your second solo album?
SH: Essentially, it was the same format. It may not have had every bit of detail or join.
TEJ: With your previous Genesis revisited project there was a partially finished song called ‘Déjà vu’ which you recorded with Paul Carrack. Were there any other unfinished songs from Genesis that you fancied revisiting?
SH: I could have done but I chose not to with this.
TEJ: Did the limits of the CD format inform that decision not to pursue old unfinished songs?
SH: That, as well which was a consideration and I could have changed it so much that I wouldn’t have needed to give anyone a writing credit on it but then that would have diminished it but I didn’t do that even though I might go at it at some point in the future but not for this project.
TEJ: From what we have heard it’s pretty faithful.
SH: Yes it’s pretty faithful – there are some ins and outs that are different.
TEJ: Did you think about reworking and recording anything the band released after you left the band?
SH: Well, the funny thing was I did like some of what was done after I left. I liked the title track of Abacab and I liked ‘The Brazilian’. I liked both of them and I would’ve liked to have played a guitar solo on Abacab but I haven’t and not only did I consider doing anything that might have been after my time but also before my time which was ‘Visions of Angels’. It is my favourite tune on Trespass which was an Anthony Philips tune and I would’ve asked him if he wanted a go on that but in a way I suppose there would be too many raised eyebrows, you know why has he done that why wouldn’t he want to do his own stuff.
TEJ: I think if you had recorded ‘Visions of Angel’ with Anthony that would’ve been great, was there any instrumental stuff you fancied tackling?
SH: Well, there was some instrumental stuff in Abacab that I liked and the very simple (Steve sings the guitar line that sounds like der der dum dum der) and funny enough when I recorded Slot Machine and I worked with Brian May (Of Queen) he played the same riff.
SH: I thought, god, people will be thinking that’s me but he played the same thing. I wouldn’t have gone there but that was Brian and I’m not going to say anything to him as I was happy that he did anything on my stuff at that point. He and I wrote some stuff together.
TEJ: Another fantastic musician, Mr May.
SH: He is fabulous and he works quickly. He’s a powerhouse, but I have been spoilt for choice. I worked with Roine Stolt on Hogweed of course, we did it live together at one point. He’s a great player he does great stuff and he finds great people to work with and I liked what he did with Transatlantic and somewhere I have got the Agents of Mercy album I must dig it out.
TEJ: Was there anybody you asked to be a part of the project but you couldn’t get hold of?
SH: Probably but I didn’t ask any of the Genesis guys and I’ll explain why I don’t think they would agree to do it. They are competitive characters and I don’t think they would want to be part of something that would be my ideal version of Genesis. Even if it was extended and there were thirty-five people on it I can’t see that being a goer for them. Whenever I’ve mentioned any sort of combined involvement other than the odd one off or odd guest appearance there has always been a sort of fighting shy of all of that.
TEJ: I suppose its because of the connotations or implications as how it might be interpreted.
SH: Yeah the implications might be people asking is this going to be the new Genesis and are you and so and so going to be involved with that. So I didn’t because I wanted to avoid the complications of that, but you’ve got a tacit understanding as to why no one would want to be seen doing it.
TEJ: Was it expensive to have so many people involved?
SH: I do this because I love it. No one spends their time and money speaking about time and money. So, many people did this for nothing. The singers all did it because they loved the material. The arrangement is we have a reciprocal arrangement where if they want me to play on something I play on something of theirs too and I’m already paying back those favours.
TEJ: So you have gone down the bartering route, potentially offering your services or production services?
SH: Yes and in one case with Djabe they not only wanted me to play on something but to sing on something as well. I’ve done that and it took me a couple of days to get that together because I am on several tracks of their new record and their on ‘Camino Royale.’ I wanted Camino to have an aspect of jazz and those guys just played the balls off it in the improvised section in the middle as I didn’t do any improv’. They did it and it’s mute trumpet, it’s fabulous piano – real piano.
At this point we get to listen to Camino Royale, it’s a refreshing and invigorating version thanks largely to the members of Djabe giving it a Jazz feel and theme.
TEJ: Did you want to have real strings on Camino Royale?
SH: I did want strings on it whether it would have worked or not I don’t know. I wanted an orchestra on it and I got one hell of a band and I got Jazz. If there had been more needle time I think I would’ve had an extended intro that would’ve had an aspect of the old south as well because New Orleans to my mind is all of those things. But as part of this project, I don’t feel as though I can… unless there is some compilation album at some point, which it could become part of, but I did get to live out most of my dreams if not all of them.
SH: This is one album I have done where I was so against the clock and I was wondering if Roger was going to hang up his gloves at one point because it was so long and he had so much stuff to do and so many teams. We didn’t think we’d get the mixes done in time, we didn’t think they would be this good, so I did the unthinkable whilst Roger was working on what he was doing. I started finishing off my parts with Ben Fenner (Steve’s live sound engineer and who re-mastered Steve’s first six albums in 2005/2006) and he [Ben] was recording me at his place. That was the only way I managed to get it all done. You know there’s different drummers being recorded at different times; well at the same time in fact; and I think if Ben hadn’t been involved with recording one of the drummers and Roger doing the other one then there probably would’ve been three things going on at once.
Actually, three things were going on at once. Singers were sending in parts and so it was a bit of a three-ringed circus it really was.
TEJ: From what we have heard today, when you consider the amount of work and how finishing of the album must have felt as thought it was getting longer and longer, none of the work seems to have suffered or been compromised at all.
SH: They don’t! Considering we started work at the beginning of this year and considering some albums take ten years to produce, this album of course had its template cast in stone – firmly rooted in the past. So the dots were already there of course but how to colour them in.
TEJ: Well when take into consideration that Supper’s Ready now has something like five singers in it, that’s a fair amount of colour and texture and so each section is going to almost have its own flavour rather than a continual flavour all the way through.
SH: Yeah it’s not like each line is a different singer. It’s sections of different singers. There’s Michael Ackerfledt at first then, there’s Simon Collins, and then Conrad Keely, and then it goes back to Simon and right at the end its Francis Dunnery it goes back to Mike Ackerfledt as well.
TEJ: Which fortunate individual was given the task of singing the Willow Farm section?
SH: That was me!
TEJ: That was you?
SH: Yeah it took me several days to do that, well, about three days actually because you have got to sound like 20 different singers on that. It’s like Mel Blanc and Loony Tunes. I have done the high and low bit with my voice and the processed and unprocessed bit with my voice as well as trying to camp it up a bit with the Teddy’s bears picnic.
– Laughter –
SH: Practically each line requires a different character because it’s all about change and a certain kind of metamorphosis of sort. Pete’s idea of that was of a Zen farm which was his explanation and that’s even more confusing.
TEJ: When will the album be released?
SH: It comes out in October and next year I’ll be touring. At the moment (3rd September) we are booking a British tour (announced as May 2013 look at the bottom of this interview for more details). Nad Sylvan is going to be the singer the guy you heard at the beginning.
TEJ: Will he be singing all of the live material?
SH: It will be a combination. Nad will have the majority of it and Gary will have some. I may have some although there is a vocal team. I think that Nad is the closest thing to Gabriel and Collins. There’s just something about his voice essentially he is a soul singer and he loves this stuff. It’s a labour of love.
TEJ: We are aware of Nad from the now defunct Genesis forum and Nad always had a passion for Genesis, it must be like a dream come true for him.
SH: Yeah he said “I cannot believe you’re asking me to do this. It makes me want to cry.” That’s what he said and I said, “I think you have had a long time waiting in the wings to do something like this.” I’ve made no secret of the fact that he really is the man for the job and I like to think that audiences will like him doing it as much as I like him doing it.
TEJ: Did you get much feedback from Nad’s performance in your band at the Isle Of Wight festival?
SH: Yeah he was on Watcher of the Skies, which was just a bit of a taster for him. I realise it’s very difficult to fill another mans shoes because I thought Daryl was very good playing a lot of the material that I did. But he had to take a lot of flak for it because it was another mans shoes in the same way in which Peter Green had to take a lot of flak when he took over from Eric Clapton in the Blues Breakers (John Mayall). Again, that’s a long time ago. We are talking 1966, but nonetheless it’s the same issue of no matter how good a man is he is filling another mans shoes. On another level, I think the fact I have a lot of confidence in him means a lot to him. He likes the sort of things I have done, he has been very complimentary. He also likes the classical stuff I have done. He said to me “You’ve got nothing left to prove.” The way I see it is there’s no time to sit back on the laurels, you know you have got to be out there doing it. For me, I’ll be up there doing it until I drop. I still think it’s a privilege if you happen to drop dead on stage one day I think it’s a privilege.
TEJ: So you would like to be remembered if you drop dead on stage as being happy and enjoying yourself doing something.
SH: Doing something I was meant to do!
TEJ: That was quite poignant really.
SH: Yeah but rather that than getting ill over time or …
TEJ: Or going to sleep and not waking up again…
SH: Well they do say that’s the sleep of the blessed if you can do that and none of us really have a chance to choose.
Another cup of tea is consumed with some wonderful treats we lighten the mood and switch the recorder back on.
TEJ: Steve is there any news or progress with the re-mastering of your first four albums into surround sound?
SH: It’s on hold at the moment because there are other priorities for EMI at the moment. Partly because it seems every five minutes EMI are being resold to another party and luckily I am still dealing with the same team. They’re in place before but no one knows how long that’s going to last – all record companies are nervous.
TEJ: Any news on Roger King?
SH: Yes he is going to be working on a solo project!
TEJ: We look forward to interviewing him about that in the future.
Sadly our time had run out Steve and Jo had a social engagement to attend and I hadn’t realised that Steve had in fact been gigging the night before the interview.
Details on Steve’s Genesis Revisited Tour –
Dates for the European leg of the Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited 2013 World Tour
Sunday 14 April 2013
Monday 15 April 2013
Wednesday 17 April 2013
Saturday 20 April 2013
Monday 29 April 2013
Tuesday 30 April 2013
Thursday 2 May 2013
Friday 3 May 2013
Sunday 5 May 2013
Monday 6 May 2013
* More European dates to follow! *
MAY 2013 – UK & IRELAND
Dates for the UK and Ireland tour
Steve Hackett – guitar and vocals
Roger King – keyboards
Gary O’Toole – drums and vocals
Lee Pomeroy – bass guitar and vocals
Rob Townsend – brass and woodwind
With Nad Sylvan as principal vocalist on several songs.
Thanks to Steve and Jo for their time and hospitality, and thanks to Sharon Chevin.