Interview:      Mr.  Steve Hackett,    master rock and classical  guitarist,    composer. 

Thank you  Steve for   this  e-mail interview.  I missed talking to  you at  Nearfest,  so  I  guess this  is  the  next  best  thing.  Also,  thank  you  for  putting my painting of you on your  website.

At  what  age  did  you get  into  music?  What  sparked this  interest  and who  were your  first main  influences?   What  was  your  first  instrument.  What  was the first song you  learned?

I got into music at the age of two, although I must have been about four when I got several tunes together on the mouth organ. They were You are my Sunshine, Scotland the Brave, Oh Susanna and God Save the Queen. My Dad and Grandpa were my first main influences.

Please  describe  the  compositional  process  in a  `typical’ Steve Hackett.  Do  you prefer  writing instrumentals?  Do you  compose  on  the  acoustic   guitar?

I vary the process according to circumstance and I often enjoy writing when there is no instrument in my hand. Sometimes it's on the run, such as airports, but everywhere and at all times the muse might call. Pen and paper is important! Sometimes I write on a guitar - any guitar!

For  the  next  few  questions, let’s  talk  about  the Genesis  years.  The band answered your  advert in Melody  Maker when they  were  looking  for  a  replacement  for Anthony  Phillips.   Please explain  how you   gained  Peter, Mike and Tony’s   confidence  to  hire  you.   Because you  were  the  `new guy,’   how tough  was it  breaking into  the compositional process  with such a tight-knit group of   songwriters?  What  did  you  feel  you  added  to  the  band  compositionally during, Gabriel years and after he  left?

There was no formula. We just gelled. Our tastes were similarly broad. It was tough at first, but as my confidence grew I realized I gave them an extra edge. My electric guitar has its own voice, which complimented theirs. I gave riffs, lyrics, classical ideas, atonal experiments and many song ideas.

Which  Genesis  member did  you  get  along  the  best?  Why?

I got on with all of the Genesis bunch, who were so individually brilliant.

What  were your  feelings  about the emphasis on visuals  and theatrics during  the  Gabriel  years? At  any  time  did  you  think they  took  away  from  the  music?

I welcomed the visuals during the Gabriel years. I was a great supporter of them. I actually felt they enhanced many a complex idea and helped to give it all a focal point for both fans and media alike.

Which  Genesis  album is  your  favorite?  Why?  What is  your  Genesis favorite  song?  What made  the Gabriel/Hackett-era  of Genesis  so  amazing?

I feel Selling England by the Pound is my favourite Genesis album. We ran the gamut of ideas from Scottish folksong to jazz fusion, all on one disk. I don't have a favourite song, but do really enjoy Dancing with the Moonlit Knight because it's so surreal and powerful. The Gabriel/Hackett years were amazing because we were all just as crazy as each other!

Your  first solo  album `Voyage of  the  Acolyte,’  was released to  critical  acclaim  and  even went silver;  did it  give  you  the  confidence to go  solo, even  though Genesis  was  beginning  to  fill huge  venues?  Through  various  interview, it almost sounded   like  leaving the band  was   almost  a foregone  conclusion;  how difficult  was it  leaving  Genesis?

It felt wonderful to be in control of such a great team with my first solo effort and it made me realize just what the possibilities could be in the future. More responsibility but even more magic! I've been lucky to work with several musical geniuses. I agonized over the decision to leave the band, but I just felt I needed more autonomy at the time. My allegiance has always been to the music itself, wherever that might lead.

Most people familiar with your  music consider  `Defector,’  and  Spectral  Mornings’  masterpieces (though  I  would  add `Highly  Strung,’ into  that group) .  What  is  your  favorite  solo  album?  Your  most  important  album?   Your  most  risk-taking  work?

My favourite solo album from the early years is Spectral Mornings, particularly the first three tracks, and from later years since around 2000 I've felt really pleased with all my albums. My most important album is always the current one! Playing Bach, particularly the Chaconne on Tribute, for me was the Everest of the guitar world. Doing Genesis Revisited was a huge risk, but it was a success.

GTR,  how  quickly  did  it  form?  Was their enough room for two master guitarists?  Was this planned  as  a  short-timed  project?

I loved Steve Howe's work with Yes. We wrote the hit song When the heart rules the Mind on practically the first day we worked together. It took a further two years to form a band, secure a deal and produce a hit! There was no master plan - I was just thrilled that it took off and spawned an awful lot of lookalikes (at least the title did).

How  did  the Tokyo  Tapes  project  come  about?  Was there any consideration of a longer tour?  You  have brilliantly  put  your  spin  on many  classic  Genesis  songs.  Would you ever try to  tackle  a Hackettized  `Supper’s  Ready?’

A number of friends who were fans of each other's work tried to find some common ground to cut their teeth on. This was a project designed specifically for Japan. Having been one of the architects of Supper's Ready in the first place, I don't feel any need to reproduce it verbatim, but I think the earlier acoustic passages point the way to new paths.

With  the  exception  of  the  2007  `reunion, it  seems bizarre  that  you, the only (former or present),  member of  Genesis, who  doesn’t  seem  embarrassed (or  a better  phrase  might  be-  seems most  proud),   of the   `classic,’  Genesis  songs such  as Watcher of  the  Skies.  Why  do you  continue  to  acknowledge the `old days?’  As your  solo music  still  contains elements  of complexity as  well  as strong instrumental riffs, do you  think  that  it  matches  well  with  the older Genesis  style?

I think the earlier band work was broader. There wouldn't be so many tribute bands if the music wasn't so inspiring. It's the era that turned on other musicians.

`Every Day,’ is  still one  of  my  most  listened to S. Hackett songs. The track  is about drug abuse?  Can you  explain  more about  the pieces’s  origins? 

Every Day was about a girl I used to know, who broke my heart because of her self destruction.

You  have  added humor in your  music  on occasion (Ballad of the Decomposing Man,  Sentimental Institution, etc.  As you progress in your songwriting, do you feel  that humor is less  important? Do you feel  that Genesis  lost that  sense of  humor in their songwriting when Peter and you left? 

I've always enjoyed 'end of the pier' humour! Most of my recent albums have contained humour. The band continued to employ humour, which is always very personal.

Your  acoustic  work  has gained acclaims  from  rock  and  classical reviewers  alike.   Were there  any  trepidations  as you- a famous  electronic guitarist  began  tackling  `Bay  of  Kings?’
What  classical/acoustic album  are you  most  proud  of  and  why?

I've always loved nylon guitar and orchestras. I've indulged my fondness for both several times. All the acoustic albums are from the same family... Tribute was the most challenging, because of the Bach.

A classic  deserted island question with a twist-  You  can only have  five  CD albums, one type of food, one magazine, one type of drink, one book, one movie and one type of pet on this deserted island- please list what you would bring and why?

On a deserted island I would like cheese, National Geographic, lychee juice, David Copperfield, Kind Hearts and Coronets and a cat.

You’ve  been  working  on a  new  album.  Please  give us  a sneak explanation  of   what’s in store  for  Hackett fans?   As you  have a  massive  body  of  work,  how  difficult is it  to   keep  things  fresh?

My new album is rock. I've drawn on both personal experience and dreamscapes. As always it spans many oceans of music styles, which is how thngs stay fresh!

Muli-talented Prog-master Mike Keneally  (Frank  Zappa, Beer for Dolphins),  called your music- “haunting, unpredictable melodic/harmonic progression that felt utterly unique and utterly correct. Very chilling, superb music.”    What  electric  and  acoustic guitarists  do  you  admire?

I admire Django and Peter Green.

What  do  you  like  to  do  besides  creating  and  playing music?  Hobbies?

I enjoy reading about other people's lives, interests etc. I love the sea, travelling. I'm passionate about London,my home town, but everywhere fascinates me.

If you  could  bring  back  5 people  from  history  to  talk  to,  who  would  you  choose?

Spartacus, Jung, Joseph Campbell, Sir Christopher Wren, Clement Attlee.

What’s  the  next  step or progression  in  the  musical  career  of  Steve  Hackett?

In the words of Peter Sellers, "I want to become an all round... er... entertainer!" (Twit Conway)

On March 19, 1977 at  the Moody Coliseum in Dallas  Texas,  the Genesis  gig  was filmed. In the  early  years of VHS, this  was  sold in  stores as a Genesis  live show even if it  was roughly 30  mins.  Was  the  entire  show  shot?  And if  so, do you  think  the fans will ever  get  to  see it?   Also, was the Milton Keynes `reunion,’   ever filmed?

I remember the gig. It was obviously a bootleg you saw, so I can't comment. Similarly, Milton Keynes was never officially filmed or recorded, but was a very happy memory.

You  have  mentioned  that  you  are willing  to  be  involved  with a  `classic,’  Genesis  reunion. Do  you  think  it  will ever  be  realized?   Are there  any  discussions   or  updates on this  matter?

No! But you never know...

How do you think the music of Genesis as well as your solo  work  will be remembered 100 years from now?

In Las Palmas I saw a beautiful sleeping moon sand sculpture on a beach. The following morning it had been destroyed. Perhaps time will be kinder to our efforts, but the sculpture was equally deserving of the world's attention.

Any final  words to  fans and  inspiring musicians?  

Just remember it's never to late to realise any dream, no matter how big or small. To quote Clive Barker, 'Nothing imagined need ever be lost'.

Thank you so much for this interview,  Steve,  though I  do  not  play  guitar, you  have  been an inspuration  to  me.Keep on creating amazing music.  Best Wishes and thank you for sharing your answers and thoughts. Hopefully, we’ll see ya  in the States  soon? Keep on  creating amazing  music.   Cheers, Lee

(via e-mail-   June 29, 2009
Information about   Steve  and all his projects   can be discovered at:

photo courtesy of  Steve Hackett