Radio Two Interview with Steve Hackett 27th April 1988. Transcribed by Alan Hewitt. Photographs: Ted Sayers. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
INT: Final guest on today’s programme is quite simply one of Britain’s finest rock and acoustic guitarists… You would easily know Steve Hackett from his Genesis days. Steve has brought a new album out called Momentum which is acoustic guitar and would most probably be classified as classical music, wouldn’t it, Steve?
SH: I suppose it is my classical roots coming out with it really. I am not really a classical player, because I am self-taught. You have to go along to the Academy for years, you know, to get your diploma. But guitar playing used to symbolise freedom for me so the idea of being taught by someone else was against the grain for me.
INT: It’s great though to have the freedom in this case of doing both but I notice that your brother John has appeared on the album, he’s playing flute and he WAS classically trained.
SH: That’s right. John decided to follow that route and so we come from opposite ends of the musical spectrum although we share an affinity with classical stuff. I really came out of the Rock & Roll but he came out of orchestras.
INT: And dad, I gather that he used to be able to play absolutely any instrument in sight?
SH: Well, that’s right. It’s strange but my dad used to be able to play the harmonica, the bugle, and clarinet and I am surprised that he never became a professional musician. He was very gifted in that way and he’s a professional artist now. He was very clever and he introduced me to a lot of different instruments. Eventually it was the guitar that…
INT: What was your first guitar?
SH: It was an acoustic guitar and it was very big and it wasn’t until I was 12 that I was able to get my hands around this thing because this was something he had brought back from Canada years before and it had a brutal action on it and it was very, very hard to play but once I got the bug I really couldn’t put it down.
INT: It has taken you some time to write the album hasn’t it? About three or four years?
SH: That’s right. I’d say that Momentum is the longest album it has ever taken me to write but the shortest to record. Because it is mainly guitar pieces done in one go it took me just two weeks to record it but much longer to write it.
INT: I mean, do you write fairly easily even though you may take a long time perfecting, and all that kind of thing…?
SH: I think it is easier to write a rock song because really they’re not as complicated. Rock and Pop music is actually very simple. Once you have written everything and programmed it up and you have got the players in you can delegate a lot but these are pieces played on the thing in one go and it is very complicated so it takes longer.
INT: When you give concerts, as indeed you will doing over April and May, do you find that the Genesis fans are very loyal?
SH: I have been very lucky because the kind of stuff that I have done has been so diverse that it has taken a very dedicated audience to understand why I’ve done something like that one minute and then do something like a kind of pastiche of a big band which I did with Defector on Sentimental Institution but they’ve stayed with me, luckily.
INT: Is there any conflict within yourself between acoustic and electric guitar? Can you satisfy both really?
SH: Well, I have tried to play the whole guitar. I’ve tried to present the thing in all its forms. I finds one half of me is satisfied doing the acoustic stuff but I can’t deny the other side with the hooligan element; the rock and roll.
INT: And I notice that the front cover of the album is very beautiful and is painted by your wife?
SH: That’s right, yeah. My wife is a very talented artist and I think she’s done her most beautiful album cover for this particular one. It’s one of her enamels as she calls them.
INT: How do you classify your acoustic music, does it have a romantic element or… how do you sum that up?
SH: Oh absolutely, yeah. Romance is very important to me and I think that the acoustic guitar is the most romantic instrument. It’s just something that is very personal to me. When you do rock and roll and you get surrounded by props it can be a very hectic life. It is almost as if doing this kind of stuff is its own reward. You don’t really design it to sell millions and millions of copies but sometimes it can surprise you when it happens. But these are all very personal things really.
INT: At what stage in your career though, when you had just had phenomenal success with Genesis. At what point did you find that you were getting more and more pleasure with acoustic music or was that basically always there?
SH: Well, many years ago I was sitting in a rehearsal room and when I was in the band with Phil Collins and I was playing this piece of music and Phil said; ‘that sounds really beautiful why don’t you stick that on the album?’ And I thought the other guys weren’t going to be interested in this so he said; ‘’Hey guys, listen to this’ and it was a piece not dissimilar to what you’ve just played (A Bed, A Chair & A Guitar) and they really loved it and said; ‘Ok, give hi a minute and a half on the album by himself’ and then it is hard to sort of switch off the tap once something like that has gone down and been accepted. So I am often surprised.
To be continued…..