Before the release of his new ‘Broken Skies, Outspread Wings’ collection and his upcoming Genesis Revisited tour, influential ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett had a chat with GIGsoup about the tour, collection, being in Genesis, guitars, and Pink Floyd.
So you’ll be releasing your Broken Skies collection soon, how did you decide which albums to feature in it?
Well it’s a collection of albums, it’s really a sort of middle period with my stuff from the 80’s and a little bit of the 90’s so it’s all of those albums consecutively. Some stuff with Brain May that didn’t come out at the time, Feedback ’86. A lot of stuff and a lot of people on it, some that maybe wasn’t toured as much as the earlier stuff and certainly not as much as I’m doing now as I’m doing masses of touring these days. It’s also got previously unseen DVD material.
And which of your solo records are you most proud of?
The one I’m most proud of is a collection of surround mixes of the best stuff on those albums. I’m most proud of it because some of those songs have upwards of 200 tracks on, with loads of vocal things etc. I have a tendency to use up far too many tracks and you can’t possibly hear all that detail in stereo, but when you’ve got it in surround it all comes out and you can spread it all around. I’ve noticed this is similar to other people’s stuff. I remember hearing King Crimson’s ‘Lizard’ a couple of weeks ago in surround and how that’s been improved massively by having it in surround rather than as a collision between two speakers. You realise that being fully immersed suits certain kinds of music.
How do you decide what balance of this solo material/Genesis/GTR tracks to include in your sets?
When I’m playing live I’ll be playing with an orchestra, with 8 shows up and down the UK. It’s mainly a Genesis based show. It’s stuff that’s been tried and tested that work best, things like ‘Dance On A Volcano’, stuff from ‘A Trick Of The Tail’ or ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’ from ‘Selling England By The Pound’, which already had an orchestral-like quality to them. When you add an orchestra to that it becomes even bigger.
Which are your favourites to perform?
I like doing all sorts of things- ‘El Nino’ from the latest album. I’ve done it live with the band but I’m interested to see what it’s like with the orchestra because it’s got that huge sound.
What about writing? Do you like writing shorter songs, huge prog masterworks or the more experimental stuff?
I have no real prejudice when it comes to the length of a piece, sometimes you might be working on something with a number of different influences, as with the current album that I’m just putting to bed now, but sometimes there may be a short song with nice harmonies that sounds like The Byrd’s or Peter, Paul and Mary. I like things that are really simple but that uses heartfelt harmonies, that alludes to folk and is deliberately old fashioned, not so much based on the technology.
Is there anything you write for your solo stuff these days and think ‘this would have worked really well as a Genesis song’?
Much of my stuff. I’d say I’m probably the most Genesis-sounding of all of the spin-off solo projects. I think Genesis as its best was a very all-inclusive band and when we worked together, the term progressive wasn’t in common usage but its collision of all of these different things are the reason I like to celebrate it when I perform live. In 1973 when we could barely get a gig in the states, [John] Lennon, who was still around before some idiot shot him, said that Genesis was one of the bands that he’d been listening to. Of course, Twitter didn’t exist at the time so nobody could make any capital of that, but certainly now I can say to people that the album we were doing at the time (‘Selling England By The Pound’) found favour with our older brothers in The Beatles and that’s good enough for me!
It must have been pretty incredible to hear that John Lennon liked your music.
Yeah it really was a great thing, it was very important to us.
What inspired you to bring tapping and sweep picking into your music before the shredders of the 80’s?
I was trying to sound like a keyboard player. That helped to create part of the language that shredders and heavy metal players use these days. It’s also partly down to my love of the great composers.
Which guitars do you find best for this technical playing?
Most of the time I play everything on a nylon guitar first, because if I’m trying to write a good melody it has to sound good on an acoustic guitar, rather than just going for the bluster of power chords and speed. I’ve got Japanese guitars that I like to play, my Yairi is one of my favourites.
Since becoming a solo artist all those years ago, you’ve brought in a huge amount of influence from other genres and instruments, are there any genres or instruments you haven’t yet used, that you’d like to experiment with?
Well there are a lot of individuals I’d love to work with where it just hasn’t worked out in the past. I’ve worked with Indian influence, with an Indian sitar player but then there’s the aspect of indigenous American music that I’d like to make a part of the next album. I just need to try and come up with something of enough relevance.
And who are the individuals you’d like to collaborate with?
Well I’ve just been working with a couple of girls who worked with Pink Floyd, the McBroom sisters, and it was wonderful to work with them on a track called ‘Underground Railroad’ on the new album. It’s really the story of slaves escaping, and I think I’d like to work with them more. I think they were on the last 4 Pink Floyd albums or last 4 tours and they’ve worked with David Gilmour extensively. They’ve got wonderfully powerful voices, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface with them this time.
Talking of Pink Floyd, with you doing your Genesis Revisited tour, and Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets, are there any bands you personally would like to see go back and revisit their early work?
There are many that have come up with great early stuff. I was talking to Gary Brooker a while back and the influence of Procol Harum on Genesis and how they’d used orchestra so well on some of their finest moments on ‘Salty Dog’. We admired that back in the day as they were involved with the game of music making before Genesis were. But they’re going to be out there doing it with an orchestra soon, so there’s a link there!
Steve’s Genesis Revisited tour hits the UK in October, and GIGsoup’s review of his ‘Broken Skies, Outspread Wings’ collection can be found here.