13. September 2021 · Comments Off on Steve Hackett Interview · Categories: Hifi News, Live Music, Music Interviews, Music News · Tags: ,

You would think that on the day he releases a new album and kicks off an extensive tour, former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett might have better things to do than to chat with John Scott for Hifi Pig.  Thankfully though, it appears not.

Photo by Tina Korhonen, all rights reserved

Hifi Pig: Hi Steve, how are you? This is a big day for you with your new album Surrender Of Silence released today and the Seconds Out Revisited tour kicking off in Leicester tonight.

SH: Yes,  I’m good thanks.  I’m looking forward to getting on stage and getting the first gig under our belts.

Hifi Pig: Apart from anything else, it must be good to be providing employment for the crew again after the last year of having no shows.

SH: Yes, exactly. I haven’t been able to do lots to raise dosh for them but I have written out some personalised lyrics that I’ve sold and there have been some tee shirts for sale but it’s not the same as them earning a regular living.  I’ve given them a cash injection from time to time but, yes of course, they are all looking forward to earning again.

Hifi Pig:  How many people, apart from the band,  do you take out on the road with you?

SH:  Oh my goodness, you know it gets bigger every day.  We just found out last night that we are going to have to take on some extra people because of extra equipment and that means extra trucks and by the time we are all out there that’s going to be somewhere between 15 to 20 people.

Hifi Pig:  I wanted to ask you something that’s been bothering me for about twenty years or so and it’s to do with Seconds Out so it’s probably quite timely: In the fading seconds of Los Endos you quote the riff from Steppin’ Out from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers album.  Was that an off-the-cuff ad-lib or a coded statement of intent?

SH:  Oh, that’s a long time ago now.  I think it was just a clue that I used to throw in there for those that were remotely interested in guitar playing.  It was a very different mindset that I had then compared to today so I can’t tell you exactly why I intended to do that but I think that I was occasionally throwing in things that, you know, I might get objections to from some of the guys in the band.  In a way, it was just kind of tweaking their noses a little. [Laughs].  And, I think the audience as well; I thought it’s better just going for that than just a long held note.  We’re going to be doing it again now and reinterpreting it and I doubt that I’ll be playing that on the final chord but I’ll be thinking of you tonight since you asked that question.

Hifi Pig:  My first, and in fact only, live Genesis experience was in January 1977 on the Wind And Wuthering tour in Edinburgh.  At that time you played four shows over two nights.  It’s unthinkable that a major band would do that now.  Was that the norm back then?

SH:  it’s probably a case that there may not have been so many larger venues to play at that time so, you know, lots of shows in smaller venues would have been the thinking.  For instance, when we are in London, my band, we are going to be doing three nights at the Palladium.  You could say you should have done one night at the O2 then, but at the end of the day, I think small venues are better. It’s not really personal playing in large arenas.  I went through all of that, playing arenas with Genesis and often on stage sound used to feel like an aircraft taking off in a hanger, you know?  The sound that used to come back would be roaring off the walls and be nothing really discernible remotely as music so I don’t actually enjoy the sound of arenas, I like the sound of theatres.

Hifi Pig: I’ve always thought that about Seconds Out – there’s a bit too much of the sound of the hall in the album.

SH: Yeah, well that’s entirely possible.  That was a big gig – the Palais De Sports in Paris, which is a gig we played lots of times back then and it would have had a ring to it as all those large venues do because they are not actually designed for music, they are designed for sport and it’s designed to cram as many people in as possible to see people leaping around throwing balls about so the sound suffers accordingly.

Photo by Tina Korhonen, all rights reserved

Hifi Pig: How do you pace yourself through big tours these days?

SH: My lifestyle is very different now.  Back in those days, I would be having a few drinks after the end of the show and before you know it you’ve polished off at least half a bottle of white wine.  In those days, as a young guy, I would be smoking cigarettes, I’d be drinking whatever I fancied and I had the constitution of a guy in his twenties.   This is now several decades on and we are talking about the grown-up.  I mean, today I was looking at myself in the mirror thinking I look very much like my Dad at times, I see my father’s face looking back at me except that I am still lucky enough to have lots of hair. I hope I’m as sensible as he was.   At that time everyone used to have a few drinks in the evening but I know that my insides wouldn’t be able to take it so, yeah, self-preservation helps to elongate the music. I’ve got a vested interest in staying healthy so I fight all that off! I’m probably healthier now than the young man waking up with a hangover every morning, punishing myself and doing it all over again so I’m a very different character to the one you would have found back then.

Hifi Pig: The tour you are just starting was, of course, supposed to happen last year.  Instead of doing that, you produced two new albums. Do you think that in retrospect lockdown was a bit of a blessing in disguise creatively?

SH:  Yeah, there were so many things that I was used to doing that I couldn’t do.  I was used to meeting crowds.  Before every show I would be absolutely run off my feet: From the moment I arrived, I’d be doing a soundcheck then I would have a ten minute window to eat and if the food didn’t arrive exactly on my table in ten minutes, I knew that I was going have to go off and meet people and sign things and then there would be a backstage version of that for meeting friends or family or dignitaries and then I would get a short window before I was on stage, so at the moment because we are existing in a tour bubble we are not allowed to meet people; we have to prioritise keeping people safe.  If anyone catches anything in our team we would have to stop for ten days and that would be a terrible disaster. Our American tour was halved because of the pandemic so as soon as I got back I was doing lockdown videos just to keep people’s spirits up.  I finished off a live album; Roger King did the stereo mix with me and then we sent it to Steven Wilson who did a surround mix. I finished off an autobiography, then we were doing the acoustic album Under A Mediterranean Sky, then almost immediately we got into Surrender Of Silence.  It’s been a rather extraordinary workload.  I’m sorry to say that we haven’t been able to do all the stuff as personally as possible but look at this – the increased output, the increased commitment.  And having fun doing it.

Photo by Tina Korhonen, all rights reserved

Hifi Pig: I was very kindly provided with a promo copy of Surrender Of Silence but I was under strict instructions only to listen to the three singles before today.  I’m looking forward to hearing it later.  What do I have in store?

SH:  Well, there are four new videos coming out to accompany things today.  There is one for Scorched Earth, there is one for Wingbeats.  There is one for Natalia which is an interesting cartoon, virtual kind of thing.  It’s a very full-on album.  It’s not romantic, I would say it’s more metal macabre.  In terms of romantic material the acoustic album, Under A Mediterranean Sky addressed all those escapist, romantic leanings but I think both albums are cinematic in terms of the sound textures.  There’s lots of orchestral stuff going on, there’s lots of rock stuff, there’s some world music; regional instruments of course.  There are things that are maybe not recognisable instruments that people will be hearing.  All I can say is it’s a hugely detailed album, it’s very full-on.  Some people have been saying that it’s more heavy metal than I’ve done before.  There are lots of stories in it but you know, it’s hard to describe music.  You need to have the personal experience with the album to get to know what it is like.

Hifi Pig: I asked some friends if they had questions that they would like to ask you so I’d like to ask a few of those if that’s okay?

SH: Sure, yeah.

Hifi Pig: Jim asks: Can Steve illuminate what actually happened with the weird edit on ‘A Tower Struck Down’ (Steve Tobin is credited with “parrot and cough”)?

SH: Steve Tobin is a pal of mine who directed commercials.  Before he became a successful commercials director, he made a number of films that sometimes I would appear in just because he would rope in his mates when it was at the level of amateur dramatics on film.   At one point he painted me silver and had me wear a silver suit and I thought this was normal.  And then he didn’t use it in the end.  One time, he did a series of fast edits with the film and also the sound and I thought that was interesting.  At the time that kind of predated what you were going to get much later with Owner Of A Lonely Heart and that kind of Close To The Edit philosophy, and so I like to think that it had an influence that went beyond the merely musical.  It was a philosophy: what sort of things do feel that you can put together at sharp, contrasting angles to each other as opposed to the idea of music that flows.  It was like music interruptus, deliberately so.  I was often putting things that were very jagged next to one another for sharp contrast.  Cutting into things; splicing into moments.  And that, in a way, was a style that became very popular later.  That same album, Voyage Of The Acolyte,  had an unaccompanied tapping sequence which guitar gunners started to tend to use; it became part of the language of heavy metal and shredders. It was a signpost and it pointed the way forward.  I don’t find myself listening to that album very much these days but I was hugely interested the last time I heard it which was a surround mix – actually a faux surround mix – at the push of a button by Steven Wilson. It created a surround mix which threw up some interesting things, it creates lots and lots of surprises and certain things start to appear in the rear. At the beginning of Hands Of The Priestess, you get a bell tree that shoots from back to forward.  It was a real whirlwind of an experience.

Hifi Pig: It’s interesting that you mentioned tapping as Garry wanted to know if you were the first person to do tapping on a record and where did you pick it up from?

SH: As far as I know I am the first person to have done it on an electric guitar and that was in 1971 when I first started working with Genesis. I came up with the idea purely by chance as I was trying to play a phrase that sounded remotely like something that Bach could do, a triplet figure, and I figured out that I could do lots of things with it and it became a major calling card of people like Eddie Van Halen.  I believe there was somebody – I’m sorry I can’t remember his name – who was doing it on a nylon guitar, in 1968 there is apparently a clip of someone using that technique but all I can say is that that’s not something I had seen in 1971.  Historians try to trace the roots of tapping and say that this guy was doing it first, so I cannot claim to be the first but I do believe I was the first to do it on an electric guitar.

Hifi Pig:  We know that you advertised in Melody Maker for other musicians to work with and that is how you came to join Genesis.  We’re there any other bands that we might have heard of that you auditioned with?

SH:  I don’t know if there were other bands.  The way it worked with Melody Maker at that time was that you advertised yourself and so I did lots of jamming with potential collaborators, most of which came to very little at all other than I worked with a band that was signed to Pye, who had a subsidiary label, Dawn. I seem to remember that John McLaughlin was singed to Dawn – this was 1970, so a year before I met Genesis.   I worked with a band called Quiet World; we did an album together.  I may have met Quiet World in ’69 but we recorded the album, which was called The Road, in 1970.  There is some stuff with pals recorded in living rooms; there is stuff with Canterbury Glass which apparently has me on it.   I’ve listened to it and I can’t tell if it’s me or somebody else.

Hifi Pig:  Andy wonders if there is anyone who you haven’t worked with yet that you would really like to?

SH: Well, it’s a funny thing.  Guitarists do have a habit of getting together and playing but what tends to happen is that if you stick two guitarists in a room together, very quickly it seems to deteriorate into a contest where one tries to play much faster than the other so it reduces it to the level of sport because one guy wants to appear to be more proficient than the other guy.  If you can get guitarists to serve the best interests of the music and realise that they are playing as part of an ensemble then I think you can come up with music that’s memorable, as The Beatles and The Stones did where guitar parts are serving each other.  r where you hear John Williams and Julian Bream playing together, it’s complimentary, but otherwise it can be competitive.

Hifi Pig:  Richard asks, did you spend any time in lockdown practising claw hammer or any other techniques that you don’t usually use?

SH:  Well claw hammer, as I understand it, means that you use a plectrum but have another couple of fingers free to pick out extra notes but because I no longer use a pick,  basically I use all the nails on the right hand it means that not only would that technique be explored but much more, as classical and flamenco players demonstrate.  Employing the right hand seems to be the way to have complete lift off with your tapping or where you are using your nails.   The plectrum has its limitations and there are other ways!

Hifi Pig: Mike would like to know, did you exchange Christmas cards with Tony Banks?

SH:  I believe we did, yes.

Hifi Pig:  That’s good to hear.  I kind of get the impression though that if you went round to Tony’s house at Christmas, you would only see the cards that he had written himself.

SH: [Much laughter] Good lord!  No actually, the last person from Genesis that I heard from was Tony who was wishing me well for something and so it’s not what people think, you know.  I’ve actually got a lot of time for the guys. I mean, they are unbelievably competitive but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have respect for what they have done individually and collectively.  There is a wealth of talent there that has gone under the Genesis banner.

Hifi Pig:  I’m really glad to hear that.  You are doing so much to uphold the legacy of the band as it was during your time in it and it doesn’t seem that you get credit for that from the other guys; at least it doesn’t come over that way.

SH: Well, that’s the competitive streak. I do get complimented privately, it’s part of the style, you see.  Privately complimented, publicly denounced.

Hifi Pig:  It’s that public school thing I think, isn’t it?

SH:  It is a public school thing, yes.  Absolutely. You’re beaten into submission into a position where you can uphold the Empire at all costs.

Hifi Pig: I remember seeing a DVD clip where Tony referred to you and Phil as junior members of the band, despite this being over thirty years since you had joined.

SH: [Laughs] Yes, once a junior member, always a junior member!

Hifi Pig: As this is a Hifi magazine, I wondered if you had any interest in Hifi?  Are you keen to get a sound at home that is as close as possible to what you hear in the studio?

SH: Do you know, this might sound crazy but I very rarely ever remember the makes of anything that I am using because stuff comes in and goes out all the time. I can’t even remember off the top of my head which speakers we are using. I can tell you about guitars [laughs]. Yeah, I’ve got a HiFi that sounds alright.  At some point, I’m going to be building a new professional studio when I move house and so I’ll tell you what I’ve got then.

Hifi Pig:  it’s been great chatting to you, Steve and I know you have a busy day ahead.  I look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in a couple of weeks.

SH:  Thanks, me too. It’s been a pleasure speaking to you.  All the best.

John Scott


14 September 2021 – Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK

15 September 2021 – Corn Exchange, Cambridge, UK

17 September 2021 – St David’s Hall, Cardiff, UK

18 September 2021 – The Anvil, Basingstoke, UK

20 September 2021 – Palladium, London, UK

21 September 2021 – Palladium, London, UK

22 September 2021 – Palladium, London, UK

24 September 2021 – O2 Apollo, Manchester, UK

25 September 2021 – Playhouse, Edinburgh, UK

27 September 2021 – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, UK

30 September 2021 – The Baths Hall, Scunthorpe, UK

01 October 2021 – St George’s Hall, Bradford, UK

02 October 2021 – Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK

04 October 2021 – Fairfield Halls, Croydon, UK

05 October 2021 – G Live, Guildford, UK

07 October 2021 – Dome, Brighton, UK

08 October 2021 – Lighthouse, Poole, UK

09 October 2021 – De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, UK

11 October 2021 – Mayflower, Southampton, UK

12 October 2021 – Pavilions, Plymouth, UK

14 October 2021 – The Sands Centre, Carlisle, UK

15 October 2021 – Stockton Globe, Stockton, UK

16 October 2021 – O2 City Hall, Newcastle, UK

18 October 2021 – Waterside, Aylesbury, UK

19 October 2021 – New Theatre, Oxford, UK

21 October 2021 – Cresset, Peterborough, UK

22 October 2021 – Royal Hall, Harrogate, UK


11 November 2021 – Pakkahuone, Tampere, FINLAND

12 November 2021 – House of Culture, Helsinki, FINLAND

14 November 2021 – Nalen, Stockholm, SWEDEN

16 November 2021 – Sentrum Scene, Oslo, NORWAY

18 November 2021 – Pustervik, Gothenburg, SWEDEN

19 November 2021 – Kulturbolaget, Malmö, SWEDEN

20 November 2021 – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DENMARK

30 November 2021 – La Salle Pleyel, Paris, FRANCE

More information and tour dates can be found by visiting Hackett Songs

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