Despite its challenges personally and professionally, 2009 has proven to be a banner year for Steve Hackett. In addition to the release of Steve's official biography, Sketches of Steve Hackett, the year also expects to see the release of a new studio album, Out of The Tunnel's Mouth; a new European tour; the establishment of a new record label, Wolfworks; and a newly launched official website: HackettSongs.com.  They say that when faced with adversity, the human spirit rises to any challenge. If that is true, perhaps its not surprising that Hackett's latest album is among the best he's ever recorded as a solo artist and his authorized biography, written by acclaimed Genesis biographer Alan Hewitt, is earning rave reviews among fans.

As a sort of companion to the World of Genesis.com interview Steve granted us back in February, on September 1, 2009, the legendary guitarist and songwriter updated us on his current projects, tour plans, his forthcoming solo album, and the highly anticipated duo project he is completing with Yes bassist Chris Squire. Not surprisingly, despite the short gap of time since we last spoke, with all of these new projects and commitments, there was much to discuss! (Webmaster's Note: Since this interview was completed, a legal dispute has temporarily delayed the release date of Steve's new album, Out of The Tunnel's Mouth. It will not be available on October 5th as initially planned. A rescheduled date has been announced for Friday, October 30, 2009.) 
 
  WOG: For the Sketches of Steve Hackett biography, were there any topics that you intentionally wanted to keep Ďoff limitsí in the book? Looking back on it now, are there any portions of the book that you regret sharing - or regret not sharing?


SH: I gather the publishers and Alan Hewitt decided to leave some things out of the biography, because they had to deal with some issues they were confronted with. I think that Alan has done a great job of making sense of a tremendous amount of spoken interviews, woven into an interesting read.


WOG: When were you first approached by Alan Hewitt with the idea of doing the official biography? How much creative control did Alan have with inclusion of material culled from the interview process? Are you pleased with the Alanís completed work?

SH: Alan first approached me a few years ago now with the idea of a biography. I let him know my thoughts, but the creative control lay with him. Yes, I am pleased with the overall result, which I know Alan worked very hard on. I think his comments are insightful. He obviously loves the music from early Genesis days onwards...

 

World of Genesis: What is the significance or meaning of the new album title, Out of the Tunnelís Mouth?

Steve Hackett: Out of the Tunnelís Mouth refers to emotions and creativity emerging from a dark period in my life into the light, finding voice and expression. It also alludes to a post divorce feeling of euphoria at being able to drive my own career forward into a period of activity that rivals the busiest days of recording and touring Iíve had for more than twenty years...

WOG: You worked with both Nick Beggs and Chris Squire on bass for the new album. Why did you choose to work with two different bass players for this release? What does each playerís personal style bring to the record?

SH: Both bass players are equally brilliant, but in totally different ways. To work with one powerhouse is strong but to work with two on the same project is mighty! Theyíre both kings of the bass and killer players who others model themselves on.

 


Steve (left) Live at the Ino-Rock Festival in Inowroclaw, Poland 2009

Steve Hackett on His Forthcoming
Project With Chris Squire:

I like to think it will go down well with fans of
all the bands weíve been associated with, in my
case Genesis and GTR, and in Chrisí case Yes and SYN.

  WOG: I was really pleased with the fact that the quotes and the way itís edited together really do a nice job of giving the reader a little of the personality of the speaker and not just providing the story generically. Perhaps that is an advantage that Alan had from doing The Waiting Room fanzine for so many years. The text is very smooth and almost conversational in its presentation.

WOG: Richard Nagy, who designed the cover art for Sketches of Steve Hackett, did a beautiful job with the artwork for the book. Do you see yourself working with Richard or perhaps another computer graphic artist on future album art?

WOG: Can you give any update on the duo project with Chris (Squire) or when you expect to complete it? Will the ďSquackettĒ nickname become the final name of this project?

SH: Chris and I are indeed working this very day on a long term project that has been a labour of love for both of us. Who knows how it will be presented finally? Itíll just have to take its course, but I can say this Ė I think itíll sound very good, and Iím pleasantly surprised that we gel so naturally. We both love detail and appreciate each otherís styles. I like to think it will go down well with fans of all the bands weíve been associated with, in my case Genesis and GTR, and in Chrisí case Yes and SYN.

WOG: Its been rumored that Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters was to be part of the Chris Squire/Steve Hackett project. Is there any truth to that? What other musicians are part of the project? Is it a "band" or a host of different players supporting you and Chris?
 
SH: There are various possible surprises. All well known musicians have commitments that have to be honoured. I don't have a crystal ball - we'll see. We could all consult our oracles, goat entrails and tea leaves, but not even Chris and I know yet who the team will finally be! Meanwhile we continue to write and record together and the demos are already sounding really fantastic.

  SH: Richard did a beautiful job on Sketches, and we could well work on something together down the line. I also think that Harry Pearce has done fabulously with the new album cover design from Jo Lehmannís great photos.

WOG: This new album is the first on your new label, Wolfworks. At some point in the future when matters are resolved in court, do you anticipate re-issuing your Camino catalog on the new label?

SH: Que sera sera. Weíll just have to wait and see because dreaming and acting are not always in perfect sync.

WOG:
Aside from being a former song title, why did you choose Wolfworks for your new labelís name?

SH: Wolfwork is the title of one of my favourite tracks, and I feel the name holds a certain resonance.

WOG: Now that the Genesis box sets featuring your Ďeraí with the band have been released, finishing with Genesis Live 1973-2007 this September, are you satisfied with the material, sonically speaking?


WOG:
I understand from Roger King that the
drums were programmed on Out of The Tunnel's Mouth, mainly with the Toontrack Superior. Why did you opt for programming as opposed to a ďliveĒ drummer on the album? What were the advantages of using drumming programming on these sessions?

SH: Roger is a genius at playing and programming Ė an extraordinary Ďall rounderí whose arrangement skills rival Bach to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance - if the portraits are to be believed. We went for the Ďdrum cabinetí to make it kinder to neighbours as I am not currently using my own studio. The advantage is that we monitor at home stereo levels rather than have to shout over drum and guitar levels to get a point or two across...

WOG: On your Blog, it says that the album was recorded in your living room in Twickenham. What, if any, acoustic issues did recording the album that way cause you to have (or to troubleshoot to get the sound you wanted)?

SH: Weíve used Apple Mac Logic with small Australian Event Speakers which make you work a tad harder for mixes than usual but do give realistic bass levels. These mixes do sound great on other systems Iíve heard them back on. Again no-one is fooling him/herself with client listening level volume.

WOG: Almost a trademark of a Steve Hackett rock project is a hybrid mix of musical styles. When you are writing new material, is that blending of styles something that comes out on the pages as its written or do you go back and try to incorporate those other influences (like classical guitar, etc.) later on in the recording process?

SH: I try everything. Nothing is sacred when teaming an album. You have to kick it around like a football from brain to brain. Eventually, it starts to sound interesting by exhausting all the 1,001 other things that sound slightly wrong or are just not exciting enough. Classical music is less ad hoc and for me decided in the hands or rather finger stage. The computer is the updatable score sheet of course. I love all styles. Itís all in the details. Having a great team helps... even if itís just two of you!

WOG: To my novice ears, the production quality of the new album is among the best youíve ever offered (perhaps only comparable to Wild Orchids or To Watch the Storms). The rhythm section on Out of the Tunnelís Mouth sounds great! The drums are nice and loud and the bass has this thick, chunky sound that balances out perfectly with your guitar. When recording the last few rock projects, did you and Roger approach the production of the newer material differently?

SH: I think the longer weíve worked together on projects that vary wildly from each other weíve achieved a kind of telepathy that makes it a great production partnership. Obviously, recently weíve worked in Ďminiatureí with tiny amps but the proof of ultimate power is how the new album sounds, which takes some beating Iíd say...
 

  SH: I guess like every perennial act, Iíd love all my past efforts to be in perfect time and tune but archive work is a reflection of its time with some sublime moments and others that I occasionally wince at, but the fact is that those live albums have a rough smooth honesty about them. 

Everythingís different now... the trousers... the boots... the fuzz boxes... but we love the past mainly because it was a gentler time. Iím eternally grateful for the love I received from audienceís way back then.

WOG:
To your knowledge, are there any confirmed plans to release additional Genesis board tapes on CD? If so, is that something you support having released officially?

SH: Iím sure one day itíll all be out there - warts Ďn all,  but Iím very busy looking forward with several great new teams.

WOG: How did you get Anthony Phillips involved with the new album? While you both seem to have some similar interests and influences as musicians, your approaches to guitar playing are a little different. Seeing as this was the first time you two have worked together in the studio environment, how was that initial collaborative process?

Also, did you have any hesitations about reaching out to him for the sessions? Do you see Ant as someone you would look to work with again in the future?

SH: Ant was great to work with. I love the way he played 12 string on the new album plus he is an extremely modest, self effacing man who spearheaded the Genesis approach. He was regarded with great affection by the band. His shoes were difficult to fill. Heís much more than just a guitarist, and yes Iíd love to do more stuff together... I just left him to it. When I came back heíd done all in seconds and cast a magic spell over it on two tracks, "Emerald and Ash" plus "Sleepers".

WOG: Have you ever considered reaching out to someone like Tony Banks who seems to have great respect for your music? At least in recent years, when promoting the Chapter and Verse book and remixed box sets has really praised what you brought to Genesis in days past as a guitarist and songwriter. Or, do you think some of your other former bandmates would be receptive to a collaborative studio session? Is something like that far more likely than a full blown Genesis reunion?

SH: Itís a very good idea. Letís see if they like what Iíve done with Ant. Itís really full circle for all of us exís, but a great pleasure to work together without the pressure of carrying the flagship Genesis into the currently unanswerable area of a possible reunion.

WOG: Do you plan to release a Live Archive CD release or DVD from your current 2009 tour?

  SH: All the emphasis is on future stuff as thereís so much band stuff being assessed right now.

WOG: Do you ever think the 1978 live DVD released in Europe a few years ago will ever get an NTSC DVD release for North America and Asia?

SH: Rights are currently hanging in the balance, but Iím sure itíll happen at some point.

WOG: Your new biography is called Sketches of Steve Hackett. If many years from now, a new biography of your history was released, say, thirty or so years from now that spanned your entire career, what would you want to call it?

SH: Iíd be happy to hear your suggestions and those from fans generally, because great titles donít grow on trees. They need constant nurturing and watering with a dash of fertiliser for your exquisitely refined tastes of course (laughs)!
 

WOG: In your opinion, what are your favorite tracks on Out of the Tunnelís Mouth? Can you share any insight into the making of those songs, their meaning, and why they are among your favorites on the album?

SH: I love all my brainchildren equally. I particularly enjoy the flamenco style we paid homage to on the second track "Nomads", not just for the instrumental authenticity but also the lyrical allusions and vocal Ďcryí.

["Nomads"] would be hard to do justice live because it has a very in the moment magic with all the dancers, castanets and handclapping... the whole nod to strictly flamenco that brings out the arrogance of a certain Andalusian guitar style. "Fire on the Moon" is a very personal expression of pain and release, which I feel is delivered in a powerful way. "Emerald and Ash" is another song of contrasts, reflecting the difference between romantic illusion and the dawning of harsh reality. I feel proud of "All the Sleepers send you their Dreams", which runs the gauntlet of the dream experience... To tell the truth, Iím proud of every piece!

WOG: I must say, "Nomads" is probably one of my absolute favorites - not just of this album, but if your solo catalog. It's a fantastic track, but I see what you mean about it being hard to reproduce in a live setting.

WOG: Have you secured a distribution deal for the new album or will it be available exclusively through Hackettsongs.com? I understand from Alan Hewittís official biography that there will be a special edition version of the new album with bonus live tracks. Can you tell us anything about this release? Will it offer 5.1 audio?

SH: Iíll be able to explain more about how the album is being released within the month, but itís certainly on track for 5 October (Webmaster's Update: For now at least, the album will be available exclusively through HackettSongs.com).

WOG: Do you plan to tour places you havenít played live in a while, such as North America, South America, or Asia in support of the new album? If so, when can we look forward to that?

SH: Touring is a symbiotic relationship between promoters, agents and tons of other invisible participants, which means that itís not just down to me because Iíd love to be playing your home town next Saturday night ideally, but I am now starting to live out of a combination of a suitcase and a guitar case just like the new front cover depicts for much of the time... Iím certainly hoping to play in the States and Canada in 2010, and thereís the possibility of other places too!

 

 

WOG: When I read your book, I was concerned that the project you cannot release for legal reasons was the Chris Squire duo project. I'm glad that isn't affected. What was the project you cannot release until the Camino issues are resolved in court that you discuss in the Sketches book?

SH:
The project I was referring to was a solo electric album that was unfinished. Due to the circumstances, I put that project to one side and then began recording a new album, which is Out of the Tunnel's Mouth.

WOG: Several years ago when I spoke to you, you mentioned an acoustic cover album you were working on with Jim Diamond including music by Edith Piaf among others. What ever happened to that album?

SH:
The Steve Hackett/Jim Diamond project showed promise but has not yet been finished. Jim's got a great voice, and I hope we'll be able to complete something together in the future.

WOG: Whatís next for Steve Hackett?

SH:
Well, as mentioned, I'm touring in the autumn in Europe and the UK. I'm hoping to do U.S. shows next year... I'm excited about working with my electric band! My new album Out of the Tunnel's Mouth will be released in October, and I'm currently working on a project with Chris Squire, which shows great promise.... Stay tuned!

Selected Items Featuring Steve Hackett
 


Sketches of Steve Hackett biography





Genesis
Live 1973-2007
Box Set

 





Steve Hackett - Out of The Tunnel's Mouth




Genesis
1970-1975 Box Set

Special thanks to Steve Hackett for this interview. For more on Steve Hackett, check out his official website.  This interview © 2009 Dave Negrin and may not be reprinted in whole or in part without permission.  Click Here To Return To The Interview Index.

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