Interview Steve HACKETT by Suze
We saw ourselves this summer in Loreley. You know well the legend of The Loreleï. What inspire you musically the story of this young girl ?
Steve Hackett: The Loreley legend is very close to some of early GENESIS songs inspired by water both in its untamed wild aspect and in its refined ascetic form, such as in the fountains created by Bernini. The GENESIS songs “Firth of Fifth”, “The Fountain of Salmacis” and “The Lamia” all deal with the subject of the femme fatale, the siren and the sea. The theme of a woman whose deceptive façade lures a man into a state of suffering comes into the song “Emerald and Ash” on my new album.
It’s the third time that you come at this German festival. Musicians and publics have evolved if they hadn’t completely changed. Have you the sensation to have so much changed during your evolution ?
S.H.: None of us escape the tyranny of the clock, but inwardly it feels like I’m still just as moved by the same music I heard when I was starting out. We’ve all got our own private soundtracks that feel like personal anthems even they are delightfully short songs. I love playing Loreley because it holds so many happy memories.
Peter GABRIEL has leaved the Group GENESIS in 1975. Probably has he felt that his oddities were too much? What thought you about these fit of madness ?
S.H.: Pete was always extravert on stage but very shy off stage. He was a great showman and his ideas were really original. I’ll always love him dearly.
You have brought up Nick BEGGS in your band. He seems to bring too his share of oddness. Could it be one of the things that made you interested by him ?
S.H.: Nick has a similarity to Pete but initially I was interested in his great playing. He certainly is extraordinary to watch on stage and is, like Pete, a whole show in himself !
You were several to think of form again GENESIS, you had even met in this sense. Nobody had seen anything. Is that utopian or have you really the desire to form again GENESIS ?
S.H.: GENESIS was many people, perhaps it’s possible to re-create that 70’s time, but like LED ZEPPELIN it’s hard to get everyone to become part of the machine again when the individual careers are on going. It’ll be great if a reunion happens but in the meantime I have a fantastic team that thrill me when we play and sing together.
In so far as the circumstances don’t allow a reformation of the group, could you consider a new collaboration with Tony BANKS, Mike RUTHERFORD or Phil COLLINS ?
S.H.: I’ve recently worked with Anthony PHILLIPS, which is the closest to a reformation I’ve managed recently without the pressure of upholding the GENESIS banner.
GENESIS was your first group but your passion for the music dates since a longer time, when you were just able to tread on your feet. Had this passion know doubts just once in this long time ?
S.H.: I was playing since I could walk. I was always crazy about music. I played harmonica for ten years before I tried guitar. Eventually I realised I had always been a musician. I didn’t have a choice. Music chose me.
What was your first music instrument ? Keep you a particular emotion for this instrument and have you preserved it ?
S.H.: My father played harmonica which was my first instrument copying him. Today I love the sound of blues harmonica which can sound like a guitar or trumpet.
When have you composed your first piece of music ? Was it in your head or had you an instrument in your hand ?
S.H.: I think I composed my first piece of music on harmonica and I used the melody recently on “Wolfwork” from the “Wild Orchids” album.
You are Rock but also Classic and Jazz. Are they opposed or complementary ? Do you need some particular circumstances for know inspiration or does it take you at all moments without warning ?
S.H.: It’s all music to a musician. There is just a different emphasis between Rock, Classical and Jazz. Inspiration can arrive in any form but be re-arranged to suit the style. Syncopation is natural for the jazz man but different for the classical player. Rock combines both when it allows all the influences.
Which public do you touch more, actually ? Is that a target of is it an accident ?
S.H.: I’ve been lucky to reach Rock, Classical and Jazz audiences. Sometimes it’s deliberate like playing BACH on record or SATIE to reach a Classical audience. I can’t help loving that kind of music.
Your first influences were your father and your grand father. Which were the following influences and which are the actual ones ?
S.H.: I’ve been influenced by the family, but ultimately by everything. TCHAIKOVSKY is a huge influence. I often wonder if he had been a guitarist what would he have sounded like ?
Was it very difficult to conceive your first solo album “Voyage Of An Acolyte”, out in 1975 ? Do you resent some emotions when you think at this album ?
S.H.: The first solo album was a great joy because I proved I could come up with a whole dream instead of just a small part. It wasn’t hard because it was a pleasure.
Which is your favourite album, with or without Genesis ? Why ? Have you a favourite song ?
S.H.: “Selling England” is a record I’m proud of because the guitar was the key to its success. For my own stuff I love the sound of “Spectral Mornings”, particularly the vocal harmonies. I’ve explored that again with my new record “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth”, which I’m really excited with.
You have recorded “Hungarian Horizons” in 2002 at Budapest with the Hungarian group DJABE. You have rejoined them at London in 2004. You have done a concert with them at Budapest in 2007 and after, you have a share in their tour in Hungary, Romania and Latvia. What represents this group for you ? Resent you a particular attraction for the Eastern musicians ?
S.H.: Hungarians, and DJABE in particular, are very diverse, clever, energetic people that seem to combine more than one profession. Ferenc KOVACS plays trumpet and violin, is an Olympic Kendo swordsman who hunts and grows his own food, makes his own wine, and still has time to laugh his head off! DJABE’s music is eclectic and free… in fact their name is African for freedom.
My parents were both Hungarian and I have studied French language at the same time than the Hungarian. Have you succeeded to study some rudiments of this language almost unique and so difficult ?
S.H.: I can say a few words but I’m not a natural linguist. I have a little French, Spanish, Portuguese and the occasional song introduction for live concerts from most places even if I have to read it on the night.
Have you some projects for a near or indefinite future with this group ?
S.H.: I’ve already played on one tune for their forthcoming album. I hope to work with them time to time in the future because the music is liberating and inspiring.
The music is your passion but is it the unique ? What kinds of art raised up your heartiest interest ? Like you read books ? If yes, who is your favourite author ?
S.H.: I do like read books and paintings are also very inspirational, as is poetry which gives words a music of their own. It was recommended to read SHAKESPEARE you should read it for its music at first rather than its meaning, although his insightfulness and creative inspiration is equally compelling. But I enjoy many authors. I’m currently reading “Memoirs Of Hadrian”, which I believe was written by a French writer and draws one into the world of ancient Rome, and I’ve just finished T”he Kite Runner”, set in Afghanistan and very harrowing. I love funny books too, and I’ve read a lot of Bill Bryson. I enjoy many authors.
When you are in concert, you pass cheerfully from electric guitar to the classic one to create solos that are giving us shudders. Which is your favourite guitar and why ?
S.H.: I love electric guitar and equally nylon/classical. They’re both things I worship but very different gods – equally beautiful but both very demanding. I could’nt give either of them for long. I’ve got to champion them both.
Classic music is manifestly a part of more important things of your life. Who is the person that induced you for this art ? In which degree the classic music has an influence on you ? Who are the composers that give you some substance to compose yourself ? What is the thing that induces you to record “Tribute” ?
S.H.: I first was aware of Classical music when I spent a little time with a boy who was crippled with Polio. On an old wind-up gramophone he played me Tchaïkovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 in Bb minor. I immediately fell in love with that music – it always feels like flying with the angels…a combination of tragedy and triumph…melancholic yet wonderfully inspiring as if there is a sadness that can never be healed. Bach I feel was a great romantic beneath the weight of all that structure. He did it all. Music is endlessly beautiful and fascinating in all its small details.
You have played with many different musicians in the course of your carrier. How can you adapt at those many personalities ?
S.H.: Some musicians are easier than others. I don’t enjoy musicians who are confident and too controlling. I like to make my own mistakes because I always fix them on record if there is time.
At Loreley, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Brian CUMMINGS. He will probably come in Belgium in 2010 to interpret GENESIS with his group, THE CARPET CRAWLERS. What do you think about these groups as like as THE WATCH and THE MUSICAL BOX, which interpret GENESIS ? For you, have they a soul ?
S.H.: Orchestras are full covers and I have done my own tributes. The soul is in the music or no one would bother to buy it or play it. I can’t find it in my heart to criticise musicians who play for love.
What do you think about the revival of the Progressive Rock with the new generation of groups like RIVERSIDE or PORCUPINE TREE ?
S.H.: I enjoy PORCUPINE TREE but I’m unfamiliar with RIVERSIDE. I prefer if people are not described as Progressive because it turns off so many people but I understand the reason for labels. The more styles you embrace the more you’re considered Progressive. The upside is the inspired experimentation and uplifting sounds, whilst the downside can be too much punctuation but not enough statement.
You have recently unveiled a new website for your fans. What is your personal involvement in that site ?
S.H.: I’m very involved with the new website. I write for it and choose photos whenever possible and I enjoy answering emails personally. It’s a direct link and a smile to friends and fans. My partner Jo is involved too and her sister Manda built and maintains the site.
Consider you that the Web becomes an obligation for the sale of the CDs ?
S.H.: I’m very pleased to be able to sell via the web. It’s a lifeline.
Personally, I like see and touch the music that I listen for. Vinyls feature like ancestors for the young generation that I don’t belong to, and CD will soon live through. Have you sometimes the nostalgia of your beginning ?
S.H.: I have affection for vinyl mainly because of the size of artwork and images from favourite artists and photographers. But as a professional I prefer to hear music without clicks and distortion unless I choose it is an effect.
Your new album will release at 5th October, wholly recorded on your own label. Could you tell us more about this album and the title “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth” ? Which will be the leading influence on this album? Will it be Word Music, Rock or rather Classic ?
S.H.: All styles are there in the new album so it’s a special one that people are comparing to “Spectral Mornings”, which had a real spirit to it. I love it, for me it’s already a classic of playing, singing and production.
Can you describe me how one day is developing when you are recording ?
S.H.: Roger KING stares at the computer and waits for it to give him the green light whilst I twiddle with a guitar or refine a lyric. Then the process begins, but it’s not a spectator sport because it is slow. The joy is in completing something, which makes the snail’s pace process worthwhile.
You have succeeded to Anthony PHILLIPS in the bosom of GENESIS. He has shared in your first solo album and you meet again to record the album that will release. Could it be a look back to roots ?
S.H.: I’ve only worked with Ant once on the new album “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth”, but I really enjoyed the experience. It is a great team with Chris SQUIRE, Nick BEGGS, Ant, Rob TOWNSEND, Roger KING, John HACKETT, Manda LEHMAN etc. I don’t think it’s back to the roots but Ant plays great twelve string.
In your worry to explore all musical ways, feel you a musician of the word or above all British ?
S.H.: I’m a man of the world and a little frightened English boy at the same time, depending on the circumstances. Both battle for supremacy. I carry them both forward – you can’t deny who you were and what you’ve become since.
Is there a question that it had never been asked and you would like to be asked ?
S.H.: Question – What’s the most moving, emotional piece of BACH you’ve recorded ? Answer – The Chaconne, written on violin and dedicated to the memory of his first wife. It sounds wonderful on guitar. When I first heard the Segovia version through all the distortion of the recording it sounded like someone playing through a fuzz box. Thunder and lightning like heavy metal, then the gentle section in the middle is the most beautiful melody ever played on guitar. This is why I refer to BACH as romantic. You can hear the tears – it’s more than music. It was important for me to record because I’ve never played like that in my life – to such an extreme.
Some words for our readers of Progressive Area ?
S.H.: Progressive music has a lot to live up to because the idea is no longer new. Try to use the real old instruments where possible even though economically it’s easier to use a sample. Give violins a chance and all the rest – they all deserve to be heard…
Thank you very much Mr Hackett.