As one of those musicians who made the history of modern music, Steve Hackett doesn’t need special presentations to music lovers; no doubt he deserves great recognition for his impact on Genesis’ sound and for giving the chance to all those who missed it 40 years ago, to still enjoy live renditions of the English band’s greatest songs thanks to his Genesis Revisited tours.
He’s just come back from the worldwide tour and ready to launch the Genesis Revisited II: Live at Royal Albert Hall CD/DVD/BluRay package – out June 30th – before embarking again on more UK live dates in October and November 2014.
I had a telephone conversation with Steve regarding the times with Genesis, what Revisited means for him and a new album coming in 2015.
Q: What’s your best memory of the old times with Genesis?
A: I have lots of great memories of them. I think working on the very first album, with Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford and Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, when we were doing Nursery Cryme. It was the first time in 1971, that I was working on an album where I could be truly professional, working with great writers, great players, working with a mellotron, working in the country; I enjoyed it very much, it was a great feeling to be part of it, it was a real blast.
Q: I think you get this question quite often: is there any chance for a reunion?
A: More than any chance of whether it’s a reunion with me, it’s the case of whether there would be any chance of a reunion for anyone else. I know that people want the classic lineup to play together again and there’s always a chance of it, several still hold that hope for that. I’d be very proud to be part of it.
Q: What made you decide to do the revisited project?
A: I’ve always thought that I would love to do a show live of, entirely of Genesis music. I think ever since I saw Paul McCartney on stage doing Eleanor Rigby, I hadn’t hear it for years and years and years, I thought, well, we could do that, we could go back to do what we were doing in the first place and it would be a celebration. I was always up for that kind of festival of music, it always seemed to me that they were sitting there waiting to be celebrated again, because it was such a great response to it. So I thought the best way to put the show together was to really look into the old material in order to enlarge it, playing it with the experience, the control and the technology of now. I have a number of different things that the performers are doing, it was not easy trying to replace Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel; but each of the singers I think did a wonderful job, it’s like the leading part of a movie where you have to share it with a number of different people. So I was able to get a lot of pretty great singers, most of them were already friends, to take part of it, I had a great time doing it, we were hard pushing to finish it in time because Revisited II was an album that took eight months to put together, and considering that we have 30 or 40 people on it, it meant we were working around the clock, with different teams at different times, they were making films with a second camera unit, a third camera unit and a fourth, and I wasn’t always able to be around this, and recording my own guitar work, I couldn’t get into my own studios at times because other things were being done there. You know you have to think there were lots of things we were doing at that time, then luckily everyone came along with fantastic performances. They were perfectly in time, perfectly in tune, it made things easy. It’s a lot of work.
Q: Looking back at the first revisited and the new one, the latest version sticks more to the original arrangements. What made you change your mind between the first and second one?
A: I’ll tell you what, when I came up with the idea of doing a live performance, the keyword for me was authenticity. I wanted people to know we were not gonna trash the original versions. I mean there have been classical re-inventions of this stuff, I know there have been jazz versions of it, but I wanted people to know what they were gonna get, so when I did the version of Dancing with the Moonlit Knight there are variations, but it’s true to the original, I wanted to hold on the parts, the harmonies, the structure of the songs, and to change aspects of it. You know, you get backing vocals details, you get an orchestra or two on some of the tracks, you get extra guitar parts, you might get along with guitar solos, but there are certain things that I thought we should play; Musical Box, there’s no point doing a different guitar solo, cause that part of the song was written as a part of the song. When I was writing that stuff I thought, I’m not just following the notes here, I’m not just bluesing away; I love blues, I didn’t think that was really appropriate for this; you know, blues and jazz, and a lot of aspects of jazz music allows you to play with improvisation, but with this stuff I keep coming back to the fact that there are so many tribute bands, playing with this stuff. So I like to change the things that were old, to expand some of the ideas, but it’s subtle changes. You know, you don’t have to do it all on the mellotron, you can do with an orchestra, there has to be other stuff and I’m very proud of the way that sounds. We had two orchestras at the beginning and one of them we reversed it, so we got a reversal orchestra playing at the same time as the forward stuff, it’s such a big sound beautiful sound, I love the sound of that, I love the way that came out.
Q: What’s your favourite Genesis album?
A: Well, I normally say Selling England by the Pound, because I like the worlds of ideas that were on it but all of the albums have got something unique to offer, and I could say my favourite Genesis album is the one that I’d be mixing myself, because I’d get a chance to fix what I think needed fixing, make it in time and in tune, better sustain, better control, more guitar, all that stuff, but I kinda love all the albums, but Selling England by the Pound is the album where the guitar took off to lead the way to the other albums, and the album got Firth of Fifth on it and Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, I think they were great moments.
Q: How do you see the new progressive music, any new progressive band that you find particularly interesting?
A: I think that progressive stuff has always been there, but they weren’t calling it progressive at that time when people were doing the blue print. I think the blue print of progressive rock term itself started with The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s, once you got the idea of songs being linked to the atmospheres you got the template of the blue print to follow. I do like the bands who use orchestras, there are people that I like, it might not necessarily be in the progressive area, I like some of what I heard from Elbow, I like some of what I heard from Muse. I’m pleased to have been part of some of the influences in these people, I get a mention from time to time. I think it’s really time to set the record straight and say, you know, tapping, I came up with that. Also, I think you don’t have to call yourself progressive, you know, I think for me it’s in a word, colliding, it’s just producing something creative, something that could be achieved with destructive force where the inevitable object meets the indestructible force, I think with that kind of collision sometimes things can be born out of that change.
Q: Are you working on a new album?
A: Yes I am. I’m very excited about that, it’s not just rock, it’s got some aspects of world music, I’m very pleased to be working with people who are in no way involved in rock ’n roll. There’s lot quite outside the range of rock and violins, didjeridoo, gipsy music, jazz, and crossover, not really playing recognisable stuff, you know. It’s a fantastic sound when they all come together.
Q: When is it coming out?
A: I think probably at the beginning of next year.