We have a new interview with
Friars legend Steve Hackett who is looking forward to coming back to
Friars as much as we are looking forward to seeing him back. Steve's
history with Friars goes back to 1971 when he witnessed Peter Gabriel
breaking his ankle jumping into the crowd at the Borough Assembly Hall.
Here he talks about Friars and of course about the new Genesis Revisited
album which you will hear at Friars on May 9th played by the master
Steve is currently in extensive
rehearsals for the tour in March 2013 and we are very grateful for him breaking away
to talk to us.
The Genesis Revisited 2 album is
Steve, welcome back to the Friars Aylesbury website
and welcome back to Friars Aylesbury!
How have the rehearsals been going?
great and the band sounds wonderful. Rehearsals repeatedly going over
the same stuff, up to nine hours a day, so I'll be taking the weekend
off to recover!
We are so
looking forward and so excited at you coming 'home' on May 9th.
looking forward to it too. I have lots of good memories of Aylesbury,
playing many times of course. It felt like home, it was the sure-fire
gig that was always going to work for us and it was such a great
feeling, those first gigs that Genesis did as a band where there was
such an acceptance.
(Stopps) very much believed in you.
Yes, there was a
level of success implicit in that, a feeling of completion before it
happened if you know what I mean. Of course we had a long way to go, a
long way to travel and a lot of rough edges to polish. But there was a
sense of Friars being ahead of the rest of the world.
A lot of bands have said that if Aylesbury took to
you, there was a fair chance it could go national.
important. I was saddened when Friars closed and delighted when it
Your first Friars appearance in 1971 - you were
there when Peter Gabriel broke his ankle......
That was jumping
off the stage wasn't it? People didn't realise it wasn't part of the
show, he was sitting on the floor saying "why didn't anyone come to help
me?" (!) Eventually, it was Richard MacPhail who was mixing up front who
realised there was a problem.......you can't rehearse moments like that!
that end up going into folklore....
Yes, you can't
rehearse wounded pride. He was in pain. I remember him stoically sitting
there in agony at the end of the gig waiting for the ambulance to take
Then we did a few gigs with him in a wheelchair and a cast. Not
surprisingly that didn't really work.....
I guess with
his stage persona, him being rooted to the spot was never going to work!
No. We did about
three gigs with him in a wheelchair. I remember one gig in Durham where
he was waving his crutches around in the air being as equally dangerous
as if he was running around the stage!
imagine it was dangerous to you whilst you were playing, avoiding flying
imagine being whacked during a complicated guitar solo!
You had to adopt
the mantra of wherever the stage was your home, then you're in for the
long haul and whatever can go wrong will go wrong at some points. Things
can go imperceptibly wrong, I've been on a stage that caught
fire.....we've all been on stage where we've fallen over and I don't
know anyone who hasn't! The law of averages catches up with you in the end even
if it's just a broken drumstick. A broken Mellotron is another problem
though....but I've been at this now since 1971.
You are just
about to go on a world tour including as we mentioned Aylesbury, with
the UK dates selling well, performing Genesis Revisited 2. Listening to
this album, you've obviously approached this in an entirely different
way to Genesis Revisited 1 in the sense that the arrangements seem to
have been made with a conscious eye on performing them live. Whilst I
think the arrangements on GR2 are very fresh sounding, it's clear that
you haven't gone down some of the experimental roads you did on GR1?
copyright Lee Millward
I had the idea of
doing live concerts and I thought the best way was to re-record some of
the old songs as an absolute reference point because I have to say that
just the 12 string parts that Genesis did were not "straight" - we often
had three people playing different chords and we had to accept
deliberate musical disagreement to get that third or even fourth chord
to work musically and that was what it was all about. To reference those
things, you start from scratch
with a blueprint laid down so you can play it live and also I wanted to
add some orchestral parts to some it too. It was also difficult to
follow this vocally when you consider the originals were Peter Gabriel
and Phil Collins who went on, rightly so, to be big stars. The idea of
safety in numbers by having an array of singers was the way to go.
Different singers, including myself, taking different parts at different
points. I felt justified going back to that, the early arrangements, as
I was advertising the fact that when I joined the band it was as a
songwriters collective and if you wrote guitar parts, then you were
considered to be a fully fledged writer of the songs. During Gabriel's
tenure, it was very much a collective and after he left, it was
different and became competitive so that ethos no longer applied. So I
was coming up with parts which I laboured long over and with love and
care and they weren't being used. So part of the guitar part I am now
playing live on Ripples for example, that shows it moving forward
as well as a backward sound. When you come up with parts that are
difficult to pull off......I am proud that we incorporated nylon guitar
into the Genesis sound. I do that now. I wouldn't trust holding
back on technique and virtuoso work for the sake of it. The music comes
first but it's a given that you have to have technique to pull some of
these things off. Some other bands don't do it this way - the statement
doesn't come first, the punctuation becomes king and you can end up with
something half arsed. It's like the difference between Bach and other
composers. There's melody running through it and many people refer to
him as the first jazz musician.
I'll come back
to Bach later...when we last spoke about GR1, you said you would have
approached it differently now because of better technology, presumably
GR2 was easier to record, but why was now the right time to revisit some
of your old Genesis catalogue?
was....I've seen so many of the Genesis tribute bands, who have been
good. The music is the star. Most of those tribute bands want to try to
re-interpret that earlier material that made people take up drums etc.
Several of these bands were very good and a journalist has told me that
there are 50 tribute bands worldwide performing that early Genesis
material. I was a part of that which was not considered
necessarily to be a success (at the time). It was almost as if Genesis
with Charisma Records was a bit of a "problem child" as we didn't fit
the mould. Latterly, there seems to an investment in something people
can't quite define. I felt these songs had been my life life long
companions and have acted as the standard in my own mind many times (in
terms of solo work) and I have thought is this something Genesis would
have done, would it have got through the 'committee'? It was a tough
school and difficult to please at times. But I learned what makes a
melody swing or what makes a piece of music work sonically and so many
other ways of defining what is good. Many people have said that
musicians start off with passion and end up with technique. I would like
to think you can combine the two to subordinate technique to have that
passion. And there's no greater passion for me as a guitarist that a
well executed piece rather than the blazing runs that so many guitarist
try to do. I explore and spend time still practising scales, but there
are decisions you make that ultimately define you as a musician. There's
a very good argument for spontaneous music, spirit over form. On the
other hand if you were having a conversation with Tschaikovsky today,
you'd like to think he'd say "interesting chord sequence there!" We're
likely to look to the classics or jazz - on the periphery of rock there
are always these influences. To move forwards you always have to look
back I think.
hadnít probably played some of these songs for many years, how difficult
was it getting back into the swing of them?
Initially it felt
daunting because the music is really complicated and there was a lot to
re-learn after so many years. However, once I had gotten back into it
all, the spirit kicked in and my fingers began to fly. The band members
have all got a great feel for this music too and it now feels as if
there was no gap in time... the songs and riffs are all flowing and
speaking back to me.
tribute bands, I understand the reasons (for them), but you've every
right and reason to revisit these, you were there in the first place. It
must have been difficult with GR2, it must have been such a difficult
choice as to what to select? From a Genesis fan point of view I think
you've spoiled us with some extra nuggets in there such as Shadow of The
Hierophant which was never recorded by Genesis but you had rehearsed it
around the Foxtrot period.
rehearsed the ending of that song during the Foxtrot period. I felt it
deserved it to be on a Genesis album and when I recorded it three years
down the line (on Voyage of the Acolyte, my first solo album), there was
a consensus that we should have done this as a Genesis song.
I am personally delighted that you have many
tracks from the Wind and Wuthering album on GR2 which was a great
collection overall, but whilst there is only so much you can do, were
you tempted to revisit Inside and Out?
interesting tune and an interesting work out musically. I think the
extra compression on that brought the song alive. If anything it could
have developed towards the end which is why I think it didn't make it on
to the final cut of the album. I think it's very strong, we did play it
live on the Wind and Wuthering tour in 1977 and it worked well.
The other two
tracks left over from the Wind and Wuthering sessions, "Match of the
Day" and "Pigeons" which with "Inside and Out" made up the Spot the
Pigeon EP, much as I love them, showed a light hearted side of Genesis.
In terms of
humorous songs, there are moments which have been hilarious but musical
jokes tend not to be classic.
were light-hearted lyrically. One extreme to the other when you consider
that on Wind and Wuthering... Eleventh Earl of Mar, that's about the
Scottish jacobite John Erskine and in Unquiet Slumbers for the
Sleepers...In That Quiet Earth, there's the Wuthering Heights
references. I am still surprised as I have mentioned to you before that
Inside and Out didn't make it to the final cut when I think there's a
couple of perhaps "weaker" tracks on Wind and Wuthering
agree. Some people love those tracks so I am not going to cast aspersion
on their choices but I think it was one of the stronger tunes. But
there's all sorts of reasons at the time as to why certain songs are
chosen. We often had an excess of material but I like to think we made
the right choices most of the time. But there are moments where you
think gems shouldn't be forgotten. We were famous for writing tunes
which got left on the back burner and came back years later.
that time and which also features on GR2 is Please Don't Touch which you
intended as a Genesis song and you certainly rehearsed it for the Wind
and Wuthering album.
I know you were to record this on your next solo album, but it must have
been frustrating when you have to get these through the band committee?
When he heard my
version, Phil Collins said that he didn't remember it being that strong
in the rehearsal room. At the end of the end of the day not every band,
not even the greatest bands, can do every song complete justice.
I think GR2 is a very well balanced album. In
terms of a huge body of work and what you choose must be difficult to
get that good balance.
to make some brutal choices. There were other things I could have done
but these were the strongest songs and the most beloved by fans and I
had to make sure that not only were these songs loved by fans but were
still loved by me I have to make sure from a guitarist's point of view,
there's something musical, something idiosyncratic and some quirky about
copyright Lee Millward
One of the appealing things is that you haven't
gone for the obvious (and not revisited stuff that you already did on
GR1) and included Genesis relevant material such as Hierophant and
Camino Royale that weren't necessarily recorded by the band first time
They are as
harmonically developed as the Genesis tunes. Whether Genesis would have
interpreted that way if they had recorded them.....but we had a wealth
of musical ideas which is what made the band strong but even with a
double album like this, it's extremely long and it's extremely
comprehensive and you'd be pushing the envelope to try to add another
tune. I couldn't stretch it to a three CD box set and there were time
constraints too. We started in January 2012 and finished in August.
There were so many personnel to co-ordinate that teams were working on
this concurrently. Eventually two or three people coordinated it,
there's 35 performers on there.
A cast of thousands! Pleased to see Aylesbury's
own Steve Rothery on there too. You've obviously chosen who you
work with musically and vocally. You've a wide range of vocalists
including Nik Kershaw and Simon Collins (Phil's son), whilst I know it's
Amanda Lehmann, when I first heard Ripples on GR2, I honestly thought
(without realising then who the vocalist was) that it was Stevie Nicks.
Yes, she does have those sorts of qualities in her
The man out on
tour with you as guest vocalist is Nad Sylvan who is featured on the GR2
rehearsals with us this week and sounds fantastic.
The GR2 album
has been such a labour of love for you.....
fans have been asking me for a long time to rejoin Genesis but I've said
it always takes more than one to tango, even more than one, five
ideally. We did kick some ideas around......
The five of
you (you, Collins, Gabriel, Rutherford and Banks) met up in 2006 to try
to get back together to do The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway as a live
I'm on record as
saying I am the most flexible member of Genesis and had they said they
just wanted me to do one walk on (like Milton Keynes 1982), I would have
yes, anywhere, anytime. But you need everyone working together. I think
there was insufficient common ground to try to work out a way forward.
But everyone's become bandleaders in their own right and celebrated as
much as individuals as they are in the band.
circle with GR2, after you left Genesis after the Wind and Wuthering
album in 1977, every Genesis tour since, including the Ray Wilson led
era and the 2007 reunion tour, quite a bit of the set revisits the past
including much material you originally played on - this proves that
music stands up and what you did means something.....
We wrote these
songs together and certainly up to 1975 we were the most democratic band
you'd ever find. I gave my all to the band and I feel I am giving my all
to the idea of what became Genesis now. I guess songs that stay in the
affection for that long.....the only comparisons I can make are the
worlds of classical music, jazz and musical theatre where the songs
I said I'd
come back to Bach....in 2008 you released the astonishing Tribute album,
where you interpreted Bach's pieces on classical guitar. A real labour
of love and it reminds me that you remain the only artist ever at Friars
to encore with a classical guitar piece.....technically it's an amazing
I really enjoyed
Tribute and I stand behind that. It's me paying my respects to some of
the great writers. What you do when you do something like that is add a
footnote to some of the performances of it. It's like an actor playing
Shakespeare, it's a given that the material is unassailable, you just do
your own interpretation of it. The Chaconne was originally written for
violin but translates wonderfully to the classical guitar, it's like
(laughs) how's your King Lear or Hamlet! It's a standing joke with Rob
Townsend "did you catch my Coriolanus at The Globe? (!)
copyright Lee Millward
and GR2 are some years apart, would you consider a GR3?
I don't think the
material warrants it bar a massive reinterpretation and you'd be heading
far down the classical route which may stretch credibility in terms of
what is and what isn't Genesis in relation to what would be my version
So we've the
GR2 tour coming up, it's a big production this tour isn't it?
Can't tell you
enough how much we're looking forward to seeing you on May 9th! Thank
you for your time and good luck with the rehearsals and the tour.
I'm very much
looking forward to it too. Please send my best wishes to everyone at
Friars Aylesbury and to David and Joe Stopps.
Tickets for Steve at
Friars on May 9th
Official Steve Hackett website
This interview and its
content are © 2013 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not
be used in whole or in part without permission.