INTERVIEW: FORMER GENESIS GUITARIST STEVE HACKETT TALKS ABOUT HIS UPCOMING AUSTRALIAN TOUR

Progressive rock pioneers, Genesis, have only ever toured Australia once – and that was the more pop-oriented line-up in 1986 – so most have us have never had the chance to hear material from the seminal Genesis albums that guitarist Steve Hackett contributed to during, what many believe was the band’s early 1970s golden age, live in this country before.

This situation will finally change later in the year when Steve Hackett brings his Genesis Revisited live show to Australia – playing Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in August.

Once again, no Adelaide dates have been scheduled this time out, so long-time fans will have to make the road trip east once again, but based on YouTube evidence of recent shows from around the world, the long journey will be worth it!

The Upside News had the chance to talk to the guitar virtuoso and sussed out just what he will play at these must-see gigs and found out a couple of other fascinating facts along the way about his ability to speak Venusian, and how he has had to adapt his playing, Django Reinhardt style, to accommodate the residual effects of a major hand injury.

Read on!

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The Upside News: Thanks for speaking with The Upside News, Steve. And thanks for so much great music over the years!

Steve Hackett: Oh, thanks! I try to keep it coming, you know, I’m still making a noise for a living.

TUN: And what a great noise it is! Can I start with an obvious question, why has it taken so long to organise an Australian tour? 46 years is a tad long to make your fans wait to hear you live don’t you think?

SH: I tell you what I think it is. David Williams approached my management team some years ago, but unfortunately those people did not pass on the information to me. I had a big falling out, and a big court case with them, not because of that but because of a whole bunch of other things. And some times, the wrong kind of management can deliberately keep you in the dark.

All I can say is, for the last ten years, my wife and I have been self-managing and that has opened up the world to us. She loves to travel, and so do I. I love to play live. So apologies for not having gotten there in all that time.

In fact, John Wetton and I used to commiserate the fact that we’d never been to Australia. We’d done other places. We did Japan together – the late, great John Wetton, a lovely guy and a pal – and it [Australian tour] had never happened at the height of his fame with King Crimson, and Asia and…

TUN: Uriah Heep…

SH: …Uriah Heep. ‘All that’, he said, ‘and it never happened for me.’ And I thought, ‘Well, will it ever happen?’

I mean it was a long time before I made it to Japan – way after most people made it, but I think it was precisely because you think you’re making the right choices with the people that you have who are close to home, but then it turns out that all conspiracies and stuff are going on behind your back.

Funnily enough, I had dinner, many years ago, with Bob Geldof after he’d not long done Live Aid, and he was saying that whenever he got through to managers to get people for Live Aid, they always turned him down [laughs] and whenever he got through to the artists…

TUN: They always said yes?

SH: They said yes. And I said, funnily enough, I was trying to get Genesis to reform then to do Live Aid. And at the time Tony Banks [Genesis keyboardist] said to me, ’It’s great that you’re trying.’ And then Bob said to me, ‘Had I known that you were pushing for that, I would have pushed from my end.’

Ah, you see? There was another agenda wasn’t there? Phil [Collins] was doing it, and being the busiest man on the planet, perhaps there was another agenda there.

TUN: You’d think everybody would be on the same page.

SH: You know what I’m saying. You know, politics plays its part.

Basically, I’d like to play everywhere, and that’s what I’m all about. That’s what I do, and I’m probably at my happiest when I’m touring. It’s a great big purge of all sorts of things.

You know, if I ever feel that I am not doing enough, when I am on the road and I am flat out, it’s an ongoing wrestling match with all the vagaries that is touring – the uncertainty of food, sleep…you know, all of it – uncomfortable travel and all the rest. You are always pitting yourself against what’s humanly possible. But the joy is, and the big payoff is, you get in front of people, and even if you are completely shattered, they give you the energy. They give you the enthusiasm. They are the true owners of the music. They are the enthusiasts.

TUN: And there are a lot of those enthusiasts here in Australia, believe me.

SH: Well, I am really looking forward to it. I get a sense that there is.

Well, I mean, no-one knows if there’s goodies in the bag or not, all I can say is that I’ve now spoken to people on the phone, quite a few now, and I think, ‘Wow! I seem to have been doing more media interaction now than I’ve been doing in some other places, you know, that I have visited time and time again. I have to say the publicity [for the upcoming Australian tour] has been extraordinary so far, and that’s heart-warming and reassuring.

Nobody knows what’s in the bag until you show up in a new territory – it could sell out or it could be three men and a dog! Nobody knows.

I know it’s more scientific than that, but we are touring around so much there’s now the time to find out.

TUN: I remember Steven Wilson being surprised when he first played in Australia with Porcupine Tree a few years back, having not made it down here before. He was absolutely blown away by the size of the audience, and the reception he got. I’d be pretty sure you are going to get the same.

SH: Well, that would be terrific and I know that Steve has been encouraging me in that way, and Nick Beggs, who plays with Steven’s band, and who played with mine before he was working with Steven Wilson, has been down there with Wilson…

TUN: Yes, I saw him in Sydney last year. Fantastic.

SH: There are places that are on the map, and there are some that are off. We seem to going to more territories this time, you know, bridging new territories, that I’ve have not been to before. This year seems to be busier than ever with that, and I’m very much up for the adventure of it all.

TUN: Hopefully you’ll love it enough to come back and make sure you cover the whole country. Touring acts seem to only visit the eastern seaboard and underestimate how big Australia is.

SH: I’m looking forward to this tour enormously, but initially I could only go with what’s on offer, because everybody is testing the waters. And if the waters are warm it will be a different story next time, I suspect.

TUN: Now you just mentioned before that Nick Beggs is still in your touring band. Will we be getting the band that is touring with you at the moment – Nad Sylvan, Roger King, Gary O’Toole and Rob Townsend?

SH: Yes. That is the band. They’ve been the regular band for a while. In some cases, when I’ve been looking at the bass playing chair, it has sometimes been Nick Beggs, other times it has been Lee Pomeroy who is working with Jon Anderson & Rick Wakeman these days and Trevor Rabin, and I’m very pleased for him that he is doing that. He’s been working with ELO, all sorts of things, Take That…

And we had Roine Stolt doing bass for a while but also guitar as well. We had a twin guitar thing going there for awhile. I’m not adverse to another guitarist being in the band, and what a guitarist he is too!

So, I’m open to all of that…

TUN: So you won’t be bringing any other guest ‘stars’? I was watching your Royal Albert Hall show from a couple of years back with Ray Wilson [former Genesis lead vocalist] singing a few songs, and he was sounding fantastic. No chance of him coming?

SH: Well, I think we were able to do that in London, and we were able to do that in Germany, where he is hugely popular.

There have been a whole bunch of guests with all of this.

In fact, we did one of those Caribbean ‘Cruise To The Edge’ tours and the late great John Wetton was on stage with me, and the late great Chris Squire, because they were great mates and we’d done a lot of recording with each other over the years. And we also had Simon Collins, Phil Collins’ son.

I think there is a YouTube clip of that with all of us playing, if I remember correctly, ‘All Along The Watchtower’. Not an original tune for us, but something simple that everyone could get their teeth into, and it was just that gesture of having those twin bastions of bass on stage doing something together. That was the first time we’d ever done anything together, and the last time. And the first time I’d ever been on stage with Chris Squire.

Both of those guys were a joy to work with in different ways because they were tremendously enthusiastic. And they were friends, first of all.

Friends first, players second – which means music is always great.

TUN: Will you be playing any of the Squackett [Steve Hackett – Chris Squire recording project] material in tribute to Chris whilst you are here?

SH: Not this time out, no – I’m not doing that.

Funnily enough, people have been…it’s  a strange thing, although we did that album a few years back, we didn’t tour it.

We were offered to headline a festival in London, I believe it was called the High Voltage Festival, and I said to Chris, ‘You know this could be really good. If we’re going to go in for doing a live thing, this would be a great way of us auditioning to an audience who are already there for us.’

And he said, ‘No, I’ve got a date with Yes that will come in the middle of it’.

Then at other times he would say, ’Why don’t we go out on tour?’

We had the big moment here!

And the idea of doing something much smaller, I thought, was not necessarily the best idea. So we never got around to it, apart from on the boat as I said.

It’s just one of those things, so they’re both with me in spirit now…

TUN: Yes, it’s sad that they are gone.

Now, this year’s Genesis Revisited tour is celebrating forty years since the release of Wind & Wuthering, which was your last studio album with Genesis…

SH: That’s right, yeah.

TUN: Your Australian shows will obviously be featuring tunes from that album, but will there be a broader range of songs from the six albums you worked on with Genesis, seeing as you haven’t made it to Australia before?

SH: I tell you what, yeah, there’s different material in different places.

Now there’s a kind of flexible setlist that’s sort of been going backwards and forwards so much with David Williams, all I know is that on some of the shows we are playing – and I could belt through all of the numbers…it’s ‘Dance On A Volcano’, ‘Squonk’, ‘Every Day’, ‘Blood On The Rooftops’, ‘El Nino’, ‘Afterglow’, ‘In The Skeleton Gallery’, ‘Behind The Smoke’, ’The Musical Box’, ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’, ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’, ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’, ‘Firth Of Fifth’, ‘Supper’s Ready’, ‘Fly On A Windshield’ and ‘Los Endos’.

It’s going to be an acoustic show at one point, and that will be different material.

So some of the ones that I reeled off are solo ones but, as you can see, most of it is the Genesis stuff, from albums, variously from Nursery Cryme to Foxtrot to Selling England By The Pound, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering. So we try and cover as many bases as we can. It’s mainly a Genesis show.

TUN: You didn’t list ‘Carry On Up The Vicarage’ [novelty tune with ‘Laughing Gnome’ style vocals from early solo era] there, I noticed…

SH: I didn’t get into that one.

TUN: [Laughs]

SH: I have done that one live though, but not in recent years. And that was when I was hard up for material when I was doing my first live shows ever! And it was a band that had neither played on Voyage Of The Acolyte, my first one, or neither had they on Please Don’t Touch, so we did that and a tiny bit of Genesis…

TUN: Congratulations on your latest album The Night Siren. The tracks I have heard off that are great. I love the film clips, that stunning Icelandic one…

SH: Yeah, it’s gone alright hasn’t it? And it’s charted in a number of territories. It’s zoomed up. I’m thrilled with the response to that. It’s been terrific. Its sales in the first week have outstripped its predecessor straight off the bat, so I might be doing something right!

We’ll be doing three songs from the album. We haven’t attacked anything else because we’ve been in harness and it’s a little bit tricky to start things from scratch. It’s already quite a memory test for everyone, getting through everything, we’ve got about three hours worth of stuff.

I guess live it could be anything from two hours, two hours ten, two hours twenty, two and a half hours, you know, it all depends…we’ll see how it goes.

TUN: A few questions about your early days with Genesis. The way you came to join the band originally was quite unusual – not responding to an ad for a guitarist, but with the band responding to an ad that you placed. How did that play out?

SH: Yes, that’s right. Well, I advertised in the back of that trade paper [Melody Maker] for four or five years, every week. So I was a persistent offender and, in the end, I think if you keep coming back to the tables, you do create your own luck because you’re gambling on yourself. You’re advertising yourself and your ideals, and I had a very highly idealistic ad, which in the end is what caught Pete’s eye. So if Peter Gabriel hadn’t have called me up I doubt whether the others would have bothered. But he had his ear to the ground in those days, and an eye on the future. And he was great and enthusiastic…

TUN: Was that the only reply you got in four or five years? Surely not…

SH: Oh, no, no, no… I’d had hundreds of replies over those years and I’d already done an album with a band called Quiet World…

TUN: The Road

SH: But I was invited to be a writer with Genesis from the word go, you see. [Pete said] ‘We are a writer’s co-op, that’s what we do, so from the moment you play guitar on something, the moment you write a guitar part, you are a fully-fledged equal partner in the writing team.’

So I thought – ‘Can’t be bad!’

TUN: Now legend has it, that the band were fairly, shall we say, ‘fiery’ over creative differences at times. How did you cope stepping into a band that had been together for a long time, old schoolmates, and that were a bit feisty?

SH: Yeah, they kind of had their own language which you had to learn. So I very quickly learned to quick Venusian…

It was very different to everything I’d known and Phil [Collins] was from a different background too. Phil had been at stage school, so in his way he had interacted with more people. He’d been on stage singing the Artful Dodger in Oliver! And he’d been in films.

He downplayed a lot of that. He just wanted to be the drummer, but he happened to have a great voice. He was a logical choice when Pete left as his replacement.

TUN: You stayed for two more albums after Peter Gabriel left Genesis…

SH: Yes, I did.

TUN: I know you are on record as saying you were going through a pretty harrowing time in your personal life but I also read somewhere that you really badly damaged your hand. How long did it take to recover from that? And has it had any residual affect? Are you sort of like Django Reinhardt [French jazz guitarist who played with permanent injuries to his fret hand] playing with an issue, or…

SH: Well, there is a sort of Django Reinhardt effect. I don’t look horribly maimed or anything, but I severed a tendon and a nerve in my thumb which meant, to this day, that I can’t bend the top joint properly. So I support my hand in a different way. And I learned to do freestanding vibratos somewhat stronger now, so I can incorporate that. Single vibrato was the toughest thing, but I wasn’t particularly good at that in the early days anyway. I’m much better at that now. So, yeah, I recovered from that. It was a harrowing, and difficult time, yeah.

TUN: A few more questions…

SH: Actually, I seem to have over-run again…I have another call waiting. Are you OK with that?

TUN: Yes, even though I have another five hundred questions or so…!

SH: Ah, well maybe we’ll get to talk again in the future? And we can cover those when I get to meet you in the flesh!

TUN: Maybe at the Melbourne show?

SH: Yeah, that’d be lovely!

TUN: Well, thanks for talking to The Upside News, it is really appreciated.

SH: No problem. Nice talking to you.

 

Steve Hackett brings his Genesis Revisited live show to Australia in August. Dates for the Australian tour are:

Brisbane: Wednesday 2 August – The Tivoli

Sydney: Friday 4 August – Enmore Theatre

Melbourne: Saturday 5 August – The Palais

Tickets available from: DAVIDROYWILLIAMS.COM.AU

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