It's been more than seven years since World of Genesis had an opportunity to chat one on one with Steve Hackett. Since that time, Hackett has released an impressive 13 albums; toured the world; completed his official biography with renowned Genesis biographer Alan Hewitt; launched a new official website; continues work on a forthcoming group project with Chris Squire, bass player and co-founding member of the legendary progressive rock group Yes; and he is currently preparing for a 2009 concert tour. If all of that wasn't enough, this was all accomplished while dealing with a number of major personal and professional changes in the past year, including parting ways with his long-time manager.

On February 23, 2009, Steve did a little question and answer session with World of Genesis.com's own Dave Negrin, and shares his insight into the next chapter of the career of one of modern music's greatest guitarists.

  WOG: In 2008, you celebrated your 25th anniversary as an independent artist. Whether out of reasons of artistic freedom or necessity, while many musicians now go the independent route, it was a bold step back in 1983. Do you plan to commemorate the anniversary of this achievement with a "best of" type compilation of your independent years to date (1983-2008)? If not, can you share why you've opted against a proper retrospective of your catalogue - or at least the part of your catalogue that you control?

SH: Iím not currently in control of my catalogue, so I canít comment.

WOG: I've read that you were pleased with the new Genesis remixed and remastered studio titles in the 1970-1975 box set. How involved were you in the project? Did Nick Davis consult with you on the levels and effects of the guitar parts, etc. in the new mixes?

 

World of Genesis: Can you tell us about your new website, and the other professional changes that are going on with your music and the new name "Hackett Songs"? 
 
Steve Hackett: The new website is alive and well, and weíre in the process of adding all its limbs! Iím enjoying doing the blogs, straight from the horse, so to speak... Those have been well received, which I find encouraging.

The new website is being continually updated, and weíll demonstrate new ideas as they come along. The new website, HackettSongs.com, means a lot to me, because at last I have a situation Iím closely involved with and am now able to have a direct personal connection with all.

WOG: Does Camino Records still exist? If not, will your new albums and back catalogue be reissued on Hackett Songs Records?

SH: For legal reasons, I canít discuss [this question].

  SH: I was very pleased with Nick Davisí input on the old Genesis songs. In those days, things were often recorded with their effects. I gather heís now working on some more material for release... (webmaster's note: Steve is referring to the Genesis Live remixed and remastered catalogue which is currently being completed) which reminds me, I must get back to him on it! I always look back fondly on the Genesis days, and I still think the songs stand up to scrutiny. I did a small amount of fix-ups on some playing from gigs which were never intended for release.

WOG: Many fans have commented that your solo music, especially some of your newer projects, would be very conducive to 5.1 surround sound remixing. Have you ever considered the prospect of remixing a few of your titles in this format?

SH: Surround mixes are a great idea. Several [live] shows of mine are already available in this format, and I intend to do more in the future.
 

WOG: You mentioned three new studio projects in development on the new website, one being the project with Chris Squire of Yes. Does that Hackett/Squire duo project have a band name?

SH: The Hackett/Squire project doesnít yet have a name, although people are already calling us the Squacketts, which was an idea Chrisí wife Scotty came up with!

WOG: You mentioned that it's a rock project, but it is more progressive or more of a mainstream rock type album in its overall style - a la GTR? What other details can you share about the recording of that album and its potential release?

SH: Itís difficult to fully describe an unfinished project as more musos come on board, but I can confirm that itís really exciting... Weíll give you a back-stage pass when itís finished!

WOG: Have Chris Squire's 2008/2009 tour plans with Yes hindered the completion of the new album? If not, how has the use of technology impacted your ability to both work on the album remotely outside of a traditional studio environment? Does this technology require a different approach to the way you write and record music?
 

  WOG: When you went back and did the EMI reissues of your early solo catalogue on Virgin Records, were there any early non-album recordings that you unearthed that you would have liked to have included on the remasters but didn't?

SH: I really enjoyed doing the re-masters of my early solo material. Although they werenít re-mixes, the use of multi-band compression and stereo widening improved them tremendously. For instance, Voyage of the Acolyte was cut straight from the master tapes which had been missing when CDs were first made of those songs.

SH: Chris has been touring the U.S., as I am with Europe, but it doesnít stop us with our recording, plus time improves the quality of production ideas and songs. Weíre sending stems to a famous drummer at the moment, so the ballís in his court whilst we wait for its return.
 
WOG: Wow! I didn't know that... the Squacketts is becoming quite the 'Super Group!' Have you and Chris determined roughly when you will return to the studio following your respective tours to complete that new studio collaboration?

SH: At this moment in time, Chris and I are involved with the world of live gigs... but we are still in touch and passing stems backwards and forwards with a view to picking up the batton once there is a break from gigging.

WOG: Can you share any insight into the other two studio projects you mentioned that you are working on? Are they rock projects as well?

SH: Iím working hard on at least one [other] album. The emphasis is broadly on rock projects this year.

  There was also a version of "Shadow of the Hierophant" that was much longer than the one originally released which was found some thirty years later in the back of my dadís shed!

WOG: Do you think Unauthorised Biography will ever be remastered in a similar capacity?

SH: The Unauthorised Biography is basically a compilation album, and almost all of those tracks have appeared on other projects. It's not a priority to all those concerned to remaster this compilation at this stage. However, I was extremely pleased with the sound of the other remasters, particularly Spectral Mornings, which was already a firm favourite.

WOG: I was really impressed with how candid everyone in Genesis was on the DVD interviews from the 1970-1975 box set about the creative process, touring, and even the artistic conflicts within the group during that period. Watching the DVD, you get the sense that any issues between the former band members, professional or otherwise, are sort of 'water under the bridge'. Is that a fair assessment?

  What, if any role, did the talks of a possible Genesis reunion tour over the past several years play in that sort of healing process?

SH: Iíll always have tremendous affection for all the Genesis guys and hope that one day weíll manage to pull off some kind of public performance together whilst most of us have got our own teeth, hearing, and so on (laughs)! Iím always happy to see the others, and I have great memories of our music and times together.

WOG: I understand that Tony Banks was interested in recording music for your 1996 Genesis Revisited album, but pulled out of the project before it was released due to his commitments with Mike Rutherford and Genesis at the time.

How did you go about selecting him to be involved? Did you reach out to any of the other guys in the band?


 
WOG: Will you tour Europe or North America for any of these projects in 2009?

SH: I already have European gigs lined up, and I hope as soon as possible that U.K. and U.S. gigs will follow.

WOG: On the Wild Orchids album, one of the things I found really interesting about the release was how the 13-track and the (special edition) 17-track versions of the album, despite being fairly similar in overall song selections, took on a very different flow and feel based upon song order, added tracks, etc. Do you have a preference to one version over the other? How important do you think the sequencing of the tracks is to the overall tone of a record?

SH: I personally prefer the special edition of Wild Orchids, which I feel runs better as a program, particularly the use of bookending the album with the "Dark Night in Toytown" / Gothic theme. Itís sequenced like a train ride, starting with "Transylvanian Express," stopping at various tracks that become stations along the journey.
 
 

WOG: At the time of its release, To Watch The Storms was your first rock album since 1999's Darktown. For the album, you used your then touring band and included a few newer songs that were heard previously on the prior North American tour. Did that level of familiarity with that band and some of the material make recording To Watch The Storms any easier than that of prior albums?

SH: Itís always great to be able to test drive songs in front of audiences before you record them, but it doesnít always work out that way. Some songs are studio constructs and arenít always easy to deliver convincingly with a small team. For instance, on "Down Street" we had approximately 212 tracks running Ė about the size of two symphony orchestras... Ever since then Iíve been trying to cut down a bit to stop the computer from blowing up (laughs)!

WOG: What was it about the chemistry of that band that compelled you to bring them back into the studio for that project following the tour and continue to work with most of them to this day?
 
  SH: Many of the guys who had played with the band over the years took part in my album Genesis Revisited. I found Peter Gabriel very helpful in that I managed to complete an unfinished song of his, "Dťjŗ Vu", that showed great promise during the Selling England By The Pound period. Chester Thompson and Bill Bruford both played stunningly; and Tony was encouraging about the idea.

WOG: Did you get an opportunity to record with Tony again for Genesis Revisited before he left the project?
 
SH: Tony wasnít able to be involved in the end, due to other commitments.

WOG: In your opinion, what is the greatest barrier in making a Genesis reunion tour or one-off gig with the 5-man line-up happen? If everyone except Peter is receptive to the idea of a reunion, do you think you, Tony, Phil and Mike will ever consider the (1976-1977) 4-man line-up? 
 

STEVE HACKETT ON "PLEASE DON'T TOUCH"

"It's quite true that theme was rehearsed by Genesis at the time of the Wind and Wuthering sessions, but we never got further than the odd rehearsal cassette, which Phil used to oversee. So, he's the only bloke on the planet who might even vaguely have some dodgy versions of what was to become a great number and stage favourite."

 

 




Steve Hackett at NearFest in Trenton, New Jersey 2002

 

SH: I love the guys in the band. Itís like an extended family to me. Of course, thereís also Jo, my partner, who is part of the writing team these days. Itís wonderful to work with her, too.

WOG:
How did you come to meet Nick Beggs and get him involved as part of your new band line-up? 
 
SH: I first saw Nick Beggs playing with Belinda Carlisle playing at an EMI music convention around about the time I was promoting A Midsummer Nightís Dream. We hit it off immediately.

Nickís a great player and character, and Iím looking forward to treading the boards with him on our Italian tour. He has a tremendous sense of humour... Just you all wait and see!


WOG: I read in Nick's bio that he's played with John Paul Jones and Steve Howe, both of which you have worked with yourself. When you consider working with someone new who has toured or done session work with some of your former colleagues, do you call for professional references or does the musical abilities of the player and the musicians that they have performed with speak for themselves?

SH:
I prefer to use my own ears and eyes and cast my fate to the wind, the brass, or even the bass in this case!
  SH: Iíve always thought that some kind of reunion would be possible. Itís up to Pete, Mike, Tony and Phil. Iíve always been flexible on the subject ever since we last got together on stage at Milton Keynes in the early eighties.

WOG:
Rumor has it that "Hackett to Bits" (a.k.a. "Please Don't Touch") was something you wrote in your Genesis days. Did Genesis ever demo the track before you left? If so, is that demo lost at this point or was it considered for the 1976-1982 Genesis box set?

SH: It's quite true that theme was rehearsed by Genesis at the time of the Wind and Wuthering sessions, but we never got further than the odd rehearsal cassette, which Phil used to oversee. So, he's the only bloke on the planet who might even vaguely have some dodgy versions of what was to become a great number and stage favourite.

WOG: You've done more than 30 solo albums, not counting your work with Genesis and others, and toured the world many times over. Is there a particular album or moment in your career that you are most proud of?

SH: All the albums have got their strengths. [As mentioned] Spectral Mornings remains a favourite, and Iím very proud of my more recent albums, such as Tribute and Wild Orchids. Selling England By The Pound, I think, has got the best Genesis guitar moments for me. Gigs have always been important. Itís a great feeling to play to a huge crowd, but equally some of the smaller gigs have got an intimate magic all their own. 
 
WOG: When you compose orchestral projects, like A Midsummer Night's Dream and Metamorpheus, does the process by which you compose music differ from when you are creating, say, a classical guitar album like Tribute or even a synth/acoustic guitar album like Bay of Kings?

SH: Normally on orchestral projects I work very closely with Roger King as we tend to negotiate the parts note by note. Thereís no room for jamming when orchestras are involved. Roger is a trained musician, whereas I am self taught and my approach is more instinctive. I follow the same approach with all my classical albums, but the orchestral ones have an added dimension.

WOG: Is there a genre of music that you would like to explore in more depth than you have to date?

SH: My latest explorations are into Indian and Turkish music... places Iíve only so far visited in the mind!
 
 

RECENT GENESIS PROJECTS
FEATURING STEVE HACKETT:




GENESIS - 1976-1982 (U.S. CD + DVD) Box Set
Includes Trick of the Tail, Wind & Wuthering, And Then There Were Three, Duke and Abacab in newly remixed and remastered stereo and 5.1 surround sound plus bonus rare video footage, new band interviews, special packaging, and more!

WOG: Can you share any news on Sketches of Steve Hackett, your forthcoming official biography than Alan Hewitt is reportedly working on? How did the idea for an official biography first come about?

SH: Alan Hewittís biography initially came about via a series of interviews that coalesced Ďorganicallyí into the basis of his book. I believe itís due for publication at some point this year, but best to check with Alan!
 
WOG: Did you have any apprehensions about doing a biography knowing that is its a sort of 'all access' history of your career and personal life? Will the book go up through the end of 2008 with the release of the Tribute album and your recent changes professionally and personally? It sounds like 2009 has a lot of optimistic things on the horizon that might be a nice ending for the book with the new website, new tour, new band, new material on the horizon with Chris (Squire), new relationship, and so onÖ.
 
SH: Obviously, there have been changes in my post-divorce situation, but Alan is sensitive and constructive in his approach. My plans for 2009 certainly promise to reflect the positive tone of the book. 
 
 



GENESIS - 1970-1975 (U.S. CD + DVD) Box Set
Includes Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in newly remixed and remastered stereo and 5.1 surround sound plus bonus rare video footage, new band interviews, special packaging, and more!

1970-1975 also available as a limited edition 200 gram 6 LP box set!


Special thanks to Steve Hackett for granting this interview. This interview is © 2009 David Negrin and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. For more on Steve Hackett, please visit his official website.

   

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