“This is probably the one and only time I’ll ever tour with an orchestra – unless it goes so well!” says Steve Hackett as he prepares to take his Genesis Revisited Tour on the road across the UK in October.
The decision to undertake this tour was cemented following the critical success of last year’s one-off US performance of the Genesis Revisited music with his band and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the charismatic Bradley Thachuk.
“That was great, it was sold out and it went extraordinarily well, it was just fantastic! I thought ‘Is this really me up here with a full orchestra.’ When you’re a kid you’re drooling outside music shops working out if you can afford a guitar or an amp. All these years down the line and suddenly you’ve got the chance to do 8 dates up and down the country, with 2 dates in London, with an orchestra plus a group. It’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”
Whilst Steve will not neglect work from his own extensive solo catalogue, the centre piece of the shows will be music from his time as one of the classic Genesis line-up between 1970 and 1977 with tracks including Supper’s Ready, Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, Firth of Fifth and The Musical Box.
“I was very lucky to have joined a terrific band,” Steve reflected, “and, as everyone worked together, it became stronger. We were allowed to influence each other and something filtered. We were bound to be affected by each other and it was wonderful to watch everyone’s individual development. To be in a band where you happen to be a fan of all the ideas that the other guys are bringing in to it, that was thrilling. To contribute to it, as well, that was something else, so I’ve got many happy memories.”
Steve’s intricate guitar work, which would become such an integral part of the Genesis sound over those years, featured heavily from the outset, very much to the fore on The Musical Box, opening track on Steve’s debut Genesis album Nursery Cryme (1971). His solo track Horizons (Foxtrot, 1972) became a signature piece whilst his guitar solo on Firth of Fifth (Selling England By The Pound, 1973) was a highlight of one of the best-loved prog albums of all time.
Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975) was Steve’s first individual outing, as Genesis took stock in the wake of front man Peter Gabriel’s departure, reaching number 26 in the UK album charts.
“Pete had something special, I missed him greatly, yet at the same time it gave one more space. I was starting to write more and more, and having more of a hand in the direction of the band.”
Genesis continued as a four-piece, with Phil Collins stepping up to the mic for the first time, and the albums A Trick Of The Tale and Wind And Wuthering took the band’s popularity to new heights.
“But I wanted to take it a stage further. I wanted to have a parallel solo career but that wasn’t on offer at the time, it was discouraged within the band. I had a choice to make and I had to see where my own personal development would lead. I was leaving not because I was at odds with the Genesis music, far from it, there was so much really great stuff. I had hoped that the band might one day become an orchestra, instead of getting smaller and smaller. You play yourself into a corner that way.
Steve Hackett with Orchestra: photo by Armando Gallo
“Decades later I came back to the Genesis idea and thought what if we involve more and more people. I made a couple of albums that included orchestra and friends who were in terrific bands like Steve Rothery (Marillion) and John Wetton (King Crimson, Asia)
“John (1949 – 2017) and I touched on each other’s lives, feeling like brothers and feeling honoured to be in each other’s company. In a way that’s really emotional but I think John’s still out there, with us in spirit. Chris Squire (Yes, 1948 – 2015) said I was one of the few guitarists he’d met who didn’t feel threatened by the idea of working with an orchestra. I said ‘Oh no, why would I?
“I started to get interested in orchestras when I was a kid. I never wanted to go the route of the conservatory and the academy and study piano. Guitar was always a symbol of freedom, so I always came to it instinctively. I was listening to Hank Marvin, the Stones, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Hendrix and all of that at the same time that I was exposed to Segovia playing Bach. All the trappings were stripped away and it was such amazing music that he was playing. I thought ‘Wow!’ It sounds like the guitar is as unlimited as keyboards, miracles can be performed and I never thought that I would end up recording some of that stuff.
“Later in my life I did an album that had 6 pieces of Bach on it and much of the same material that I heard Segovia playing, doing it in an updated modern studio, but essentially it was the same thing. The old magic – that’s what we’re looking for.
“So unless I’m making an album that’s just me and my guitar, there are rock players on it as well as classical players. It’s all one and how fantastic to all be in the same layers and be in the same room at times.
“The first single I bought, as a kid, was The Shadows Man Of Mystery and the first album I bought was Ravel’s Bolero, because I loved the idea of the way it grew and grew and it took you over, like a march through time. I notice that a lot of people who don’t really like classical music, very much, find that may be the one piece they can listen to, that and Hall Of The Mountain King, because they both reach a crescendo, something that starts small and becomes overwhelming. They become emotionally overwhelmed by it. That’s the idea of music, it ought to be overwhelming.”
Funnily enough, while listening to Steve’s most recent studio album The Night Siren (2017) I noted a marked similarity in the ending to the track West To East which rises to a crescendo just like Supper’s Ready (Foxtrot, 1972).
“Interesting that you would say that because by the end of that there are a number of singers and a number of ad-libs and in recent years I think I’ve sometimes allowed myself to have not just one guitar solo playing but sometimes two and even three on the latest album. At the end of Supper’s Ready you’ve got the set line and the improvisation over it. Supper’s Ready, back in the day, that’s something that I do live with the orchestra and we take it to the mountains! We improvise and allow it to take off and it’ll be different every night.
Rob Townsend, Steve Hackett and Jonas Reingold: photo by Cathy Poulton
“Genesis’ music is still developing and under the baton of Bradley Thachuk who’ll be with us, a Canadian conductor who we worked with in Buffalo in the States. And I’m looking forward, of course, to doing a live album of all of that, and mix it in surround sound. It’s a wonderful opportunity to go mad on detail!”
This has already been a busy year for Steve, having a new studio built at home and working on his next album, due to be released in the new year, continuing his interest in working with world musicians.
“I’ve been working on a new album, we’re just putting the finishing touches to it, now, and it’s taken the best part of 6 months. I have a new studio built in the roof, but that took so long to do that we ended up recording in the living room while that was being put together. I like that.
“I saw my old pal Peter Gabriel, recently, and I remember with his Real World Studios project, very impressive – been to see it, but he said ‘I prefer working in the cow shed!’, albeit a converted one. He was working in this little, tiny area while other people were going to work in big, flagship Queen Mary-sized studios. Stephen Wilson, he’ll say his studio is the size of the monitor screen – and a not-very-big screen at that! The most important instrument is the brain, I guess.
“Peter and I were talking and comparing notes. He’s done lots of various stuff involved with world music and I think that at times you have to share the phone book and say these guys might be interesting to you and I recommend this guy.
“World music, to my mind it started perhaps with The Beatles and, arguably, with George Martin even before that, with his comedy records such as Boom boody-boom (Goodness Gracious Me, Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren, 1960). It was already heading towards India and other continents. I think he facilitated that all-inclusive style.
Steve Hackett, Broken Skies – Outspread Wings (1984 – 2006)
“You can trace a thread through from that and what the individuals in Genesis have done since: Phil with his big band or Pete with an orchestra or me working with South American drummers. Ideas start out small with doodles, and alone in a bedroom with a guitar or a piano, and if you’re lucky you get to work with the whole wide world. I love it!
Steve is also set to release a special 6CD & 2DVD collection titled Broken Skies – Outspread Wings (1984-2006) on the 5th October 2018 via InsideOutMusic.
Following on from 2015’s Premonitions, this special art-book compiles the albums Till We Have Faces, Guitar Noir, Darktown, Feedback 86, To Watch The Storms and Wild Orchids, all newly remastered, alongside a host of bonus tracks. In addition to this, 2 DVD’s are included which feature several recent live rarities and 5.1 mixes of selected songs, together with the glorious Somewhere in South America live DVD capturing a set in Buenos Aires. This is rounded off by brand new artwork from Roger Dean beautifully presented as a 60-page book with liner notes, rare photos, lyrics and more.
Steve Hackett and his band are playing 8 special UK shows in October, where they will perform with a 41-piece orchestra, with some dates already sold out:
1st October – Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
3rd October – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester SOLD OUT
4th October – Royal Festival Hall, London SOLD OUT
5th October – Symphony Hall, Birmingham SOLD OUT
7th October – The Sage, Gateshead
8th October – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
10th October – Regent, Ipswich
11th October – Palladium, London