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Interviews : “There’s a big emphasis on the 70s thing” – An Interview With Steve Hackett

By on July 8, 2017

It’s nigh on impossible to fathom, but one of the most revered figures in progressive and rock music, former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, a man with an illustrious, virtually half-century long career behind him, has never plucked a string in anger in Australia or New Zealand. In fact, never even been here as a tourist or for any other reason. According to the man himself, speaking from his home on the Thames just outside London, it’s often the foibles and machinations of the industry and artist management that get in the way of these things happening.

“I know, I know, it is (hard to fathom),” Hackett says, “the funny thing about it is, there actually was an offer. But the manager I had at the time failed to tell me about it, as managers who have their own agendas do. So it never came off at that time. (Promoter) David Williams said he did make the approach several years ago, and all I can say is that I wish I’d known about it!”

But that is about to change, finally, as it was recently announced that Hackett would be making his maiden voyage Down Under in late July, and his main thought is that it’s better late than never. “The main thing is we’re doing it now,” he states, “and I’m looking forward to it tremendously. It’s long overdue and I can’t wait for it.”

Often when bands or artists come to Australia for the very first time after a long career, they receive a hero’s welcome, but in this instance Hackett isn’t certain what kind of reception he’s going to receive from Aussie and Kiwi audiences.

“You just never know with these things,” he says, “it’s virgin territory for me. But the thing is, it’s just wonderful to come. It’s obviously an extraordinary place.

“John Wetton and I had this conversation, probably about 10 years ago. He said he never made it to Australia, even at the very height of Asia’s fame, when they had a number one in England and in The States at the same time, they never made it to Oz. And it’s the same thing, never made it there, it’s very annoying, but now at least I get the chance. I’m still only an adolescent, you know,” he laughs.

Hackett is bringing with him a fabulous backing band (“They are a glorious band, they are a crack regiment!” He enthuses), and a setlist comprising of some select tracks from his brand new solo album The Night Siren, plus, in what is certain to excite old-school Genesis and prog rock fans, a whole bunch of tunes from the classic Genesis period and lineup of which he was a massive part. The 1971-77 era featured the great Peter Gabriel on vocals and classic Genesis albums The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Selling England by the Pound and Nursery Cryme.

“That’s about the size of it,” he confirms, “in different places we’re doing different shows. Don’t pin me down on exactly which show we’re doing in each place because I don’t have it in front of me, but if people happen to come to more than one show, they’ll get substantially different material.

“There’s a big emphasis on the 70s thing, that was my calling card to people. Put it this way, we’re keeping the museum doors open for the glorious early Genesis exhibits, wearing a curator’s cap in the museum of my own making. That’s fine, love the early work, I don’t mind dusting off the exhibits for people, but usually we do a 50/50. I do a set of my own stuff and then a set of the Genesis stuff.”

Hackett has extremely affectionate memories of that wonderful era in the 70s when Genesis were breaking new ground musically, and contributing profoundly to the prog rock canon.

“I think I was very idealistic in the early days,” he recalls, “I was very much the earnest, bearded guy, with the Polish dissident look, Buddy Holly glasses, beard and a dodgy sweater. But we all looked like we were wearing remnants of an out take from a Dr Who episode, circa the Tom Baker era. It was all overcoats and scarves and that sort of stuff.

“But seriously, it was a great time, we went from playing tiny venues and sometimes free gigs, to, in ’73, I’d probably been with the band for a year or two, and we heard that John Lennon said that we were one of the bands that he was listening to, and that was a huge feather in our cap. I remember being in the States, and we couldn’t get a gig in between New York and LA, so we were sitting around in New York for two weeks, eating burgers, until it was time to go to LA. And there we did three sold-out, two shows a night shows in LA, but there was nothing in between at that point.

“And we couldn’t ‘Tweet’ that Lennon said that he liked what we were doing in those days, it took years in those days, there was no video, word of mouth was everything.”

Unfortunately he feels that a complete reuniting of that classic lineup is extremely unlikely at this stage. “I left in ’77, solo careers were being heavily discouraged at the time,” he remembers, “but the band was starting to haemorrhage members. We lost Peter Gabriel, the band lost me. As a three-piece, the band managed to weather that, but I think Phil’s (Collins) departure later on was a bridge too far.

“Occasionally Phil joins up with them and does stuff once every twenty years. But I have to say that the chances of a full reunion with Pete are unlikely. Everyone’s got their own agendas and their own ideas.”

Hackett may be approaching 70 years old, but he is far from finished yet. “I still make noise for a living, and I still consider that a great privilege,” he says, “I just want to continue to weave lots and lots of different styles into my songs. Especially, I love orchestras, and I love the use of orchestras with rock instruments, so I really want to continue along those lines.”

Steve Hackett: Tour Dates:

Friday 28th July – AUCKLAND, Town Hall (Genesis Revisited extended show)
Wednesday 2nd August – BRISBANE, Tivoli (Genesis Revisited extended show)
Friday 4th August – SYDNEY, Enmore (Genesis Revisited extended show)
Saturday 5th August – MELBOURNE, Palais (Genesis Revisited extended show)

Tickets:
Pre-sale: Wednesday 28th March, 10am – 6pm Local Time
General Public On sale: Thursday 29th March 10am Local Time
Ticket info here

About

Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine, themusic.com.au, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.