A Few Words With Steve Hackett
Every time I speak to Steve Hackett — as I have done now three times for Vintage Rock — I am reminded of how absolutely comfortable the stellar guitarist is with who he is and his place in the pantheon of great musicians.
In the middle of his latest “From Acolyte To Wolflight Tour 2015” tour, he's playing songs from throughout his career — from Genesis and his prolific solo catalog.
He’s also supporting his 2015 release Wolflight and the reissue of the GTR album, a double disc set comprising a remastered version of the 1986 self-titled original album, plus a live CD.
Indeed, there’s lots of music that Hackett is involved with and lots to talk with the man about. Shawn Perry interviewed Hackett in the Spring 2015, just as Wolflight dropped. So I picked up from where Shawn left off, and asked him a few questions about his latest activities.
Where are you presently in your 2015 Fall tour?
For the past two months, we have been playing in Europe, then we take to the States November 8th until 11th December.
The shows are as much filled with music from the span of your solo albums, as Genesis songs. Can you give us a little sneak peak into what U.S. fans might expect?
The first half is made up of songs from my solo career yes, from my first album Acolyte to my most recent album Wolflight, then we take a break for fifteen or so minutes and come back to do the Genesis Revisited stuff.
I caught you at Town Hall in NYC doing a full Genesis Revisited show, but this time you are picking even different Genesis tunes to play, right?
Yes, in fact, in New York, Bruce Willis came to the show, which was a surprise as I never thought he was a Genesis fan and we talked different harmonica brands for quite a while, so that was nice, but really Genesis Revisted was hugely sucessful and something we did for a good two years. Within this show, we have picked some different tunes this time out from the Genesis catalog — songs like “Can-Utility and the Coastliners” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.” The fans said they liked the Genesis stuff but they always were asking as well about the solo stuff, so I give them a schizophrenic three hours.
Are there any Genesis songs that stick out for you, as well as solo stuff?
There seem to be stalwarths. I think “Firth Of Firth” really has some definitive guitar solo work and always works with an audience and there is something about the “Musical Box” that always works, with the end of the track building as it does. As far as my solo stuff, I think “Spectral Mornings,” and the harmonies we manage just around acoustic guitar on “Loving Sea” from Wolflight go down quite well.
Changing direction slightly, in regard to the reissue of the GTR album, what’s your overall feelings on that band now with the passage of time?
It was such a hugely successful album and tour, and a great validation for the idea of having two guitarists lead the band like that. It truly changed peoples’ idea that sideman like Steve Howe and I could have a success like that. It was a great thrill. I met Clive Davis who I feel worked that album very well and also I got to meet Whitney Houston at that time, a very talented and very lovely person. MTV really rose to the occasion; suddenly I was a pop star getting fan letters from 14 year-old girls. Where before the bands Steve and I were in mainly attracted a male audience. It really was very exciting.
But all that said, it was an enormous undertaking of money, time and stress to maintain something that successful right out of the gate, with the expectations on us both to deliver. There were difficult choices to be made within such a meteroric rise, and to fund a band like that for two years meant unbelievable pressure.
From there, I went to working with Brian May, Bonnie Tyler and stripped everything away and for what was my next solo album at the time I did an all-acoustic record….and just kept playing.
As we see lots of artists of a more ‘vintage’ variety out there still playing live and releasing albums, how does one keep it going as you get older?
I like wrestling with it every night. When all the planets are aligned, it’s wonderful to come back and forth. My advice to any younger artists coming up is to keep coming back to the table, stay in the game, don’t stop just because your latest opus didn’t set the world alight. You’re going to sow some fallow fields from time to time and it’s no good crying about yesterday. I like what John Wetton says when somebody asks him about going into the music business, he tells them, “Don’t do it…unless you absolutely love it.”