Steve Hackett, singer songwriter, chats with Kevin Cooper about coming from a refugee family, there being no plans for a Genesis reunion, his latest album The Night Siren and his Genesis Revisited With Classic Hackett tour of the UK
Steve Hackett is an English musician, singer and songwriter. He gained prominence as lead guitarist of the English progressive rock band Genesis, which he joined in 1970 and left in 1977 to pursue a solo career after contributing to six Genesis studio albums, three live albums and seven singles.
Hackett released his first solo album, Voyage Of The Acolyte, while still a member of Genesis in 1975. After a series of further solo albums beginning in 1978, he co-founded the super group GTR with another progressive guitarist, Steve Howe of Yes and Asia, in 1986. When he left a year later the group disbanded leaving him to resume his solo career. He has released albums and toured the world on a regular basis since.
Whilst currently on tour in Europe, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.
Hi Steve how are you?
Hi Kevin I’m very well thanks. How are you today?
I’m very well thank you and let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
That’s okay it’s my pleasure.
You are currently touring with your Genesis Revisited With Classic Hackett 2017 Tour, how is the tour going?
I am pleased to say that the tour is going very well, very well indeed. We have played a few dates in Italy, Germany and The Netherlands which all went really well, which is as you would agree all good news. Most of the shows have been sold out so I am really happy with things at this moment in time.
We last spoke in December when you were putting the final touches to your latest studio album The Night Siren. Are you pleased with how well it has been received?
Yes I am, the album has been well received and as far as I know it is currently number twenty four in the charts (laughter) which I have to say is both very nice and very reassuring.
I have been playing the album for a few weeks now and I have to say that I love it. The diversity of songs means that there is something on there for all of your fans.
Yes partly that and I think that there is something over and above the fact that it is just another album of songs. I would also like to think that there is something of meaning on the album especially when you consider the troubled times in which we currently find ourselves. Especially when you consider the fact that Governments and Politicians would have you believe that foreigners are a very bad idea. I think that the album flies in the face of that. It shows that foreigners can in fact work together and become musical migrants that span borders. I personally feel that Politicians must be challenged on a daily basis with positives as opposed to negatives. I feel that I need to say “hey, we managed to do this and we can in fact have peace, goodwill, friendship, unity, and globalisation in a constructive sense”.
We have got the global village together with the technology and all that it needs is the right philosophy. However, all of the Politician’s world-wide seem to have adopted the ‘damn the refugees’ approach. Whenever I perform live I keep reminding audiences that I come from a refugee family. One hundred years ago a family of Polish refugees were escaping religious persecution in an area in Poland where women would be dragged along the street by their hair. My great grandmother told me all about this and fortunately they made it to England. They were allowed into England which at that time had an open door policy. It has been extraordinary speaking to people about this all around the world, with everyone having different opinions, but in the main people are in agreement whilst the majority of their Governments aren’t.
I am deeply troubled by how the Hungarians have responded. They have proposed locking everyone who is over fourteen years old into a container. What happens next when you run out of containers? Sadly it seems to me that we are now following the politics set down back in the 1930s and a problem that has been created entirely by the West it would seem.
How have you managed to succeed where the Politicians have failed?
(Laughter) well I am not entirely sure that I have succeeded but on this new album I do have an Israeli playing alongside a Palestinian which I think is quite an achievement, and you know what, it wasn’t that hard. Once people start offering an olive branch to each other it’s amazing just what can be done. So that is part of the thing that is behind the album, it’s the idea of peace.
So just how did you manage to get all of these artists from different backgrounds and beliefs to work together?
That’s easy really, I made friends with them all (laughter). I have travelled all around the world meeting a number of people who were very gifted at various times over the past few years. Some of whom knew me whilst some of them didn’t, but as soon as you respond to people and say “I like the way that you play” then that automatically appears to break down barriers. I have played with all sorts of artists from all over the world including Azerbaijan, Sardinia, Africa, and Qatar. When I played with these guys nothing was agreed and everything was spontaneous. I really thought that this type of approach wasn’t going to go anywhere but that was because I was thinking in terms of the usual approach of writing and being disciplined, all those things. However, the amazing thing was that those sessions were remarkably productive. I now have at least a couple of albums worth of very interesting stuff that came out of those sessions.
Well I really do love the album and in particular Martian Sea which reminds me of Crosby, Stills and Nash and those sweet three-part harmonies.
Right, well that is interesting. I have to say that there is definitely a 60s influence; that track is basically paying homage to all things 60s. We have included harmonies, sitar, backward guitars, sitar guitar, compressed drums and two drummers amongst others. It gets more seriously weird as it goes more psychedelic. It seems to find a focus as it does that thing where it goes off on a psychedelic bender at the end. We put a whole load of flutes on there together with the backwards guitar in order to make the track go atonal at the end. I have to be honest with you and say that I actually find that particular track quite compelling.
I love your use of the sitar and feel that it adds that extra element to the track.
It does doesn’t it. There really is something about the sitar especially at the end of the track when the ambience is turned up and it goes really spacey. It’s a great sound and I love the sound of the sitar. We first got introduced to the sitar in the early 60s and I remember being struck by the way that Monsoon used it. Sometimes I have worked with the sitar guitar and a sitar sample of each individual note. On a few of my past albums I have used sitar sounds but I think that this is possibly the most successful use technology, playing and all of the rest.
A lot of your fans are saying that The Night Siren is your best work to date. Would you agree with that?
Well I think that it is my most unusual work to date and I have to say that it certainly feels good. There is a lot of musical adventure on this album, together with a lot of experimentation. It’s not straight ahead and I must admit that I am working in some slightly unfamiliar areas, the use of Peruvian instruments for instance on Inca Tera. I am very pleased with the way that all came out, that journey in which something starts very small and ends with an orchestra worth of players.
Are there any tracks off the new album included on the set list for the tour?
Yes, there are three tracks off the album that we play live and to be honest they all work really well. The three in question are In The Skelton Gallery, Behind The Smoke and El Niño. We play all those three and we are able to deliver them. It’s a challenge but I suddenly wondered if the mass drums that we have got on El Niño would actually work when played live. All that I can say is that it seems to get the blood going and the audiences like that quite apart from any of the music that might be on the top, the lead instruments. There is that feeling of full force with once again that feeling of two drummers which I am no stranger to with my Genesis background and I have to say that it works very well.
Are you already thinking about the next studio album?
Yes I am and funnily enough whilst we were driving through the Alps along the Great St. Bernard Pass from Switzerland to Italy the scenery was just breath-taking and I found myself writing the whole time. If I see something breath-taking it makes me think of glorious musical vistas so I was writing a whole bunch of things down which seem to be basically disconnected but in fact probably do belong to each other. There is just something about gleaming white expanses of snow together with sun kissed vistas. It really was a truly remarkable drive which left me feeling incredibly inspired.
You briefly mentioned Genesis so I have to ask you, is there any truth in the Genesis Reunion rumour?
Well I don’t think so. I think that it is unlikely. I have always said that I would be up for it but at this stage I think that it is unlikely to happen. Believe me there are no hidden plans for a reunion to take place. There are no plans from my end other than an open invitation. There really are no plans basically.
Steve on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been an absolute pleasure. You take care and I will see you in Nottingham.
Once again thank you Kevin and I will see you in Nottingham. Cheers for now.