Interview: Steve Hackett. Past, Present & Future. Part 1.
On a sunny morning in downtown Wolverhampton journalist Tim Price hooked up a line with the legendary Steve Hackett in London and they talked and talked. Here we learn about the Genesis Revisited project and the discovery of Nad Sylvan.
The cover of your latest live album (Geneis Revisted Live at the Royal Albert Hall) is really stunning, revealing the legendary light-shows as we saw in those Genesis 1970’s concerts such as the Seconds Out Tour. The pyrotechnics of the Genesis Live Shows were legendary…..
They were indeed…
and that is what so many people wanted to see, the whole visual experience, so how do you compare today’s pyrotechnics with those of that 1977 tour. Just how many tour trucks did you have back then?!
Oh, I cant remember how many trucks we had back then I wasn’t counting really but I know we were using lasers but we weren’t using screens at that point. We used screens on Lamb Lies Down On Broadway when we had 3 screens, and when it came to Trick of the Tail we invested more in the lights so at that the time I think we were carrying the heavyweight light-show.
Genesis were certainly the pioneers of the laser light shows of that era, but coming right up to the present, the Genesis Revisited concerts have been amazingly popular over the past couple of years. Did you envisage such an interest when you embarked on the project?
I hoped there might be that level of interest in it but in order to set ourselves up as a live band against the glories of the past and that was going to be a tall order and as far I was concerned it was going to happen. It was going to have to sound and look just as good and, on a good night I think we have pulled that off.
I think you have!
If I was an American I would probably be blowing my own trumpet a bit more with this but being British, you know, I don’t like to talk about that so much. Basically I was thrilled with the response from the crowd and I know that everyone on stage as a group pulled out all the stops to make the thing really spectacular. We’ve done a few tours out of it now.
Well, you’ve have original tours sold out and repeat shows sold out time and time again due to popular demand and an over subscription for tickets. That is a great position to be in.
The songs selected for the Royal Albert Hall Live album are a wonderful mix of classic Genesis material. Was this an easy selection process?
Well, to be honest, I think when I first started building up the band for this project I had underestimated how long many of these songs were. At first I was trying to get 3 ½ hours under our belt and it was insanely too much. I think we cut to 3 Hours, we had more than enough material but the sensible thing to do was make it come in around 2 ½ hours.
So I doubt you will get much change to the 2 ½ set we now do which is actually slightly longer than the original Genesis 70’s era sets of that time. Everyone in the new band says it took them 3 months to rehearse and get the energy into their brain cells and I started thinking myself even though I took the responsibility for the project and working with them, I felt it took much longer to realise what was going on, techniques are not the problem but in terms of things which are put together from disparate bits over distance, things come together from different perspectives. So we had, here is an idea from the keyboards; here is an idea from the drums. It all doesn’t fall under the same guise immediately.
Also some of the guys who had been playing on previously bass had to alter their style of playing a 12 string following an old video and then they started asked questions such as why are we doing this in F Sharp? Or why are we doing this A Flat Minor? Well, we are this year, because that was the original key of Genesis, and so that’s how we have to do it, and so the challenges are enormous. I had a conversation a few weeks ago with Nick Beggs working on his own rehearsals and he said it took him 3 months to learn how to play the 12 string, but I knew he could do it. So, I replied yes, it took me that long too.
The 12 String, that’s what Mike Rutherford, played of course.
Yeah that’s right, and the bass pedals and the double decker 12 string and bass. It’s quite a tall order all of that and quite ambitious to play all those instruments and be able to get that sort of feel.
Your current live band is nicely put together to add to the visual theatrical presence in line with the original Genesis spirit. Where and how did you find Nad Sylvan?
He was recommended by a guy called Winfried Volklein who is a German agent and promoter and when he heard we were putting together auditions for Genesis revisited he said well why not use him. When I looked into Nad’s background I learnt he had recorded an album in the style of early Genesis and on the sleeve notes a description of songs in the style that Genesis could have done, so it in the spirit it was not a straight tribute but it was also highly influenced by (Genesis) but then I also heard a version he had done of ‘32 Doors’ and I was interested that he was in the process of recording with Dave Kerzner, who is another mate, who is in the States and who is my contact with Simon Collins, Phil’s son, amongst others .
So that was an interesting combination there with Nad and straight away he sounded like a cross between Pete and Phil with a unique pitch combination of their vocals.
I was going to ask you that, the combination of Peter and Phil and how effectively Nad covers that role of both individual voices.
Yes, the combination of Pete and Phil was like Pete was not like double tracking himself but was like two thirds and that is what struck me even before I joined the band, I thought Pete was double tracking himself as the star in the band and using tapes or ADT signal but when I listened I thought ah that’s the drummer ghosting in here, very close to the lead voice, both strong voices, great rock voices, a bit like having two Steve Winwood’s in one band and I though blimey this is extraordinary.
But you know Nad has that same quality voice, and he is also like a soul singer almost black at times.
The thing about that time, with the Chamber of 32 Doors, we made a studio version with Nad, and I was being interviewed by Nicky Horne (Radio One DJ) at one point and his camera came up into the Studio , he took a super compressed patch coming out of the airwaves and he said this sounds wonderful and I said I agree with you , the sense of compression on it, with sounds bursting out of that board which I cant wait to let loose and I think that was the whole idea which kicked off the idea of doing Genesis Revisited and doing a double album and covering so much of the material. But of course my first stint of doing Genesis Revisited in was in the mid nineties and that’s what really got the ball rolling, so funnily enough Nad was already in the process of doing that.
But the ‘Chamber Of 32 Doors’ isn’t on this CD release is it?
No, its not on that and I have not done it since then because the thing with it , lets put it this way, I think the version with Nad is terrific but I suspect live it goes in and out of energy and its very subtle, and burns Genesis hybrids
I was a little worried about doing it live when so many other songs were going down so well. I was concerned that we did not want to try the 32 Doors and have the audience loose patience, yes it’s a great song, very well know but it does have those pauses and in its time it was deliberately “Genre-ial”, deliberately empathic and it has that influence of Country Music has well, it’s a strange hybrid of American influences its one of those kind of wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, and compared to the style of Musical Box, which also had that aspect of making you wait for it. There are some Genesis songs which cant be beat and so for the up coming live tour we have included the Knife as well, call me old fashioned and some of these songs are as old as the hills but we did a version of the Knife recently and that song was one of the reason why I joined the band. So that was really fun.
End Of Part One: Steve Hackett is the master of “Wait for IT” on his guitar solos so now we have to wait for the second part……….
Genesis Extended tour is on at the following venues
Genesis Extended UK Tour Dates 2014
Tue 21st Oct IPSWICH Regent Theatre 01473 433 100
Wed 22nd Oct BRIGHTON Centre 0844 847 1515
Fri 24th Oct NOTTINGHAM Royal Concert Hall 0115 989 5555
Sat 25th Oct GLASGOW Clyde Auditorium 0844 395 4000
Sun 26th Oct YORK Barbican 0844 854 2757
Tue 28th Oct SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion 01702 351 135
Wed 29th Oct SOUTHAMPTON 02 Guildhall 023 8063 2601
Thu 30th Oct CARDIFF St David’s Hall 02920 878 444
Sat 1st Nov LONDON * Eventim Apollo 0844 249 4300
Sun 2nd Nov SALFORD The Lowry 0843 208 6000
Mon 3rd Nov GUILDFORD Glive 0844 770 1797
Tue 4th Nov BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall 0121 345 0602
Ticket prices for all venues except London are £29.50 and £27.50 all seated (except Guildford seated/standing) and London* £35 and £30. 24hr Ticket Hotline: 0844 338 0000 Online: BookingsDirect.com (Agency & credit card bookings subject to booking fee) Showtime for all shows is 7.30pm (plus support). For full details on exclusive VIP packages to meet Steve before the shows, please see www.hackettsongs.com