"Somewhere In The Tunnel's Mouth" - The Steve Hackett Story Part 7 narrated by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Alan Hewitt, Stuart Barnes, Jordi Kuragari, Richard Nagy, David Negrin And Mike Ainscoe. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
The beginning of the new millennium was to witness Steve's resurgence both as a recording and performing artist, a resurgence which shows no sign of abating. In fact, the 21st Century has witnessed Steve's greatest creative efforts.
Those efforts got under way with a pair of albums which, in their way, both looked backwards. The first of these was the delightful Sketches Of Satie album released on 1st May 2000. Combining the talents of Steve and his brother John on flute, this one brought the marvellous music of the French composer Erik Satie vividly to life. Both Steve and John talked to TWR at the time of the album's release and here are some of their comments…
(Steve) "John and I had talked about doing something for a long time… we talked about maybe originally a possible flute and guitar combination and a mixture of things, a mixture of composers and one of John's suggestions was that we record all the stuff which we had played on tours over the years…"
(John) "Funnily enough, for me it was a very fresh process because it came together so quickly. We had talked about doing something together for some time and at the beginning of last year Steve 'phoned me and said: 'let's do something and why don't we go for Satie?' So we looked at a few bits and pieces and quickly thought this could be a goer…"
The album was well received by fans and critics and got the new century off to a good start. Sadly another project which had been started at the same time has yet to see the light of day. Jim Diamond, whose vocals had graced Darktown had been working on a collaborative album with Steve but it remains unheard although at the time Steve was optimistic about its release…
"Well, I will be honest with you, that one has really reached an impasse because, well I don't know exactly… I decided to work very hard on the project putting in a lot of time and Jim is a guy who, by his own admission, likes to spend as little time in the studio as possible. Studios make him claustrophobic. I did what I thought was in essence a really great sounding album but he has reservations, which he has yet to be specific about…"
Another project which had been delayed for over ten years DID come to fruition at this time, however. Fans had been aware of the existence of an album going under the title of Feedback since the days of GTR but it had completely disappeared off the radar thanks mainly to legal complications that were part of the fall out from the break up of GTR and the general disinterest which attended Steve's attempts to get a record deal for it, as he explained to TWR…
"I will be absolutely honest and say that I couldn't get a record deal with a single record company in Christendom (laughs) never mind pagandom! So I think that my standing at that time in the record industry was at an all time low…"
The album however, continued the AOR vein explored by GTR but also contained a few more typical Hackett moments such as Notre Dame des Fleur's and The Gulf, whilst Slot Machine should, in my opinion, have been released as a single.
Sadly, both projects remain untoured and it was to tiring that Steve returned in 2001 with the first of what have since proven to be an increasingly extensive feature in his life. His first outing was to be an extensive tour of South America - a place which seldom gets tours from artists of his truckcalibre. Once again Steve opted to road test some new material alongside a mix of older tracks. The shows were not without incident including the ransoming of the band's gear by the police at one gig and several others where there were technical issues of one sort or another. Not that you would know any of that from the resulting live album/video/dvd titled Somewhere In South America which was released by Steve's newly established record label, Camino Records, the following year.
However, the spectre of Genesis had also re- emerged as well. As the second Genesis Archive set was released in November 2000 to a more muted response than its predecessor. There was also the vexed question of the Carpet Crawlers '99 recording, surreptitiously tagged on to yet another compilation - Turn It On Again - The Hits. Steve explained his views on this to TWR…
"I was roped into that on the understanding that it was going to be used with the box set so it was going to make more sense as a retrospective that featured me and Pete as well as the other three. They held on to it in order I suspect, to give the hit single making team some connection perhaps with their roots. I feel very uncomfortable about it going on an album where it is a cameo appearance at best and most of that is on the cutting room floor…"
Strangely enough, a lot of other things ended up on cutting room floors about this time as another Genesis project - The Genesis Songbook, not only featured the band but also yours truly as interview subject and I still have no idea why any reference to the Abacab album by me or anyone else was omitted from that one!
The next release from Steve was one which really excited his fans. The Charisma period of his career had never seen the release of a live album despite demands for one from the fans and Steve's willingness to provide one. So, he took the opportunity to put that right with a marvellous box set - Live Archive '70's, '80's, '90's which, as its title suggests, documents the decades mentioned with one recording from each of them all rehoused in a nifty slip case along with a booklet and a gig guide compiled by yours truly.
Of particular relevance to me was the last recording from the Clapham Grand Theatre in London which I was fortunate enough to attend. When the set was released in Japan, it was reduced to three discs to make space for the as yet unreleased Feedback 86 album. The Japanese edition also featured a different '70's live recording - Newcastle although this was subsequently made available as a stand alone disc elsewhere.
|Having looked backwards, it was now time to look forwards and after a further live release, 2002's Hungarian Horizons, which documented one of the increasingly frequent tours by the Acoustic Trio, and a further Live Archive release from that year's NEARfest gig in Trento NJ which captured the new live set and gave fans their first proper taste of the as yet unreleased new studio album which was still a year away.|
Steve's first rock album since Guitar Noir was finally released in early 2003. Titled To Watch The Storms, it continued the trend set by its predecessor with Steve talking openly about issues that concerned him. Nostalgia is given full rein in Strutton Ground, a playful look back at some of the places associated with Steve's early life. A geographical equivalent to The Virgin &, The Gypsy, if you like. The Devil Is An Englishman is a rarity on a Hackett album, a cover version in this case a track by Thomas Dolby.
Frozen Statues and Mechanical Bride however, examine much more serious topics; the former you will be familiar with if you have seen the film Awakenings, starring the late Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, and the latter a graphic look at man's inhumanity to his fellow creatures be they animal or human, as Steve explained at the time of the album's release…
"I remember being at a charity dinner party and listening to these people discussing how many grouse or whatever they had bagged and I said to them: ' wouldn't it be fun if the animals could fire back?' and they looked at me as if I had gone crazy and walked away.
Yes, it is a protest song, at the end of the day it is all about innocent men dying in the electric chair and being tortured to death, state sanctioned torture and the idea that any civilised nation could do things like that rests very uneasily with me.. "
Perhaps the most personal song on the album though, is a truly remarkable homage to Steve's father - Serpentine Song…
"Well it's a stroll through Hyde Park through the seasons because it refers to rain; subshine; snow and autumn so in a way it refers to all of the seasons. It's all of those strolls I have taken round the lake put into one. It's also dedicated to my dad who sells paintings alongside the railings of Hyde Park on the Bayswater Road side and he still does that every Sunday…"
The album covered a lot of ground and speaking of which, it was also the album which ushered in the increasingly regular rounds of touring which have taken up so much of Steves time ever since. That round of touring got under way in a slightly surreal manner with a series of one-man acoustic shows in bookstores belonging to the Borders chain in the USA and a couple of shows in Japan as part of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of their branch of the Hard Rock Cafe. Here he was accompanied by Nuno Bettencourt, Paul Gilbert and John Paul Jones. The shows were captured and released on the Guitar Wars CD and DVD released in Japan. After that, he returned to the much more familiar surroundings of the rock stage with a full band for shows which were extended into 2004 and thankfully both tours were captured for posterity on the Live Archive 03 and 04 albums and the Once Above A Time DVD.
As if that wasn't enough, Steve also found time to contribute to an increasing round of guest appearances with contributions to his brother John's Checking Out Of London album and also to that if his former bandmate, Nick Magnus' Hexameron album. He also guested on former drummer Ian Mosley's Postmankind release.
His next release took us all a million miles away from the world of rock and roll and back to the world of Greek mythology for his own interpretation of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.This time however, the album was a welcome return to the acoustic/orchestral field and titled Metamorphous. The album had had a lengthy gestation period as Steve explained at the time…
" I recorded most of the guitar work back then in 1997, I think it must have been hard on the heels of A Midsummer Night's Dream and then I had to leave it for a number of years whilst a number of other projects took precedence because they were easier to deliver…"
The wait was worth it however, as Metamorpheus was one of Steve's more satisfying albums. With no budget for an orchestra to tour with, Steve did the next best thing and bravely stripped things down again to the acoustic trio of himself, Roger King (keyboards) and John Hackett (flute) and the trio hit the road in the UK in March 2005 with a series of excellent acoustic performances. The tour was also extended into Europe and latterly the USA, Canada and Mexico and gigs sporadically took place in 2006 and 2007 as well. The tour took in some unlikely venues including churches, a tram shed and a particularly memorable one in a slate quarry!
It was also during this period that Steve's Charisma era albums were finally remastered properly by EMI and released with an abundance of extra tracks. It is hard to believe that these were the first remasters to be released with Steve's knowledge and input!
Of course, another Live Archive recording made at the show at London's prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hall was released before Steve returned to the world of rock with the dark and eerie Wild Orchids . Featuring some particularly heavy tracks such as Down Street and A Dark Night In Toytown the album combined both facets of Steve with the light shining through on tracks such as A Girl Called Linda and the majestic To A Close.
Sadly, the years between 2006 and 2009 were not to be happy ones for Steve as the relationship between him and his wife, Kim Poor had reached the point of no return and was to result in a lengthy and acrimonious divorce which occupied much of Steve's time and resources.
2008's Tribute album was to be the last released on the Camino Records label. An acoustic homage to some of the giants of music such as JS Bach and Andres Segovia this one was effectively sidelined by events surrounding the ongoing divorce which is a shame as it is an impressive piece of work.
|The divorce even delayed the release of Steve's follow up to Wild Orchids as disputes over ownership of material and recording rights dragged on. The album was eventually re-recorded in the living room of Steve's new home and some of it was premiered at the handful of rock gigs he and his new band performed in Italy in the spring of 2009.|
The album, tellingly called Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth was eventually released later in 2009 after the divorce legalities were finally settled. As you might expect, this one did not shy away from examining some of the issues surrounding the breakdown of the relationship with Kim but this was not Steve's Face Value by a long shot! It does feature some of his strongest writing in a long time especially on tracks such as Emerald & Ash and Nomads both being particularly strong. The former also saw a surprising pairing between Steve and his predecessor in Genesis; Anthony Phillips as well as the appearance of Nick Beggs who was soon also to be a welcome addition to the new look touring band.
|Thankfully things took a turn for the better in Steve's personal life when he married his new partner, Joanna Lehmann in 2011. Jo has become an indispensable asset to Steve as a wife, co writer and assisting with some of the onerous managerial tasks as well as being an incredible support to the fans at every level. The pair continue to be in a very happy and creative place as the ongoing activities of Mr Hackett indicate.|
Another project which had been on the back burner for a while and which certainly got fans excited was the Squackett pairing of Steve with another member of Yes, Chris Squire. Given the way in which GTR had imploded, fans were surprised to hear that the album was ready and was also released in 2009 to acclaim from fans and critics alike. Sadly with increasing your schedules occupying both protagonists at the time and the subsequent death of Chris Squire the album is another that remains untoured although one track from the sessions; Stormchaser was performed in Italy in the spring of 2009 but remains otherwise unrecorded.
Steve's next album, 2012's Beyond The Shrouded Horizon was another musical Odyssey taking us from the back streets of Cairo (Two Faces Of Cairo) to the bayous of the Mississippi with the blues driven Catwalk as well as a trip round the universe in Spaceship Hackett that is Turn This Island Earth - a fitting tribute to the classic Sci Fi film (This Island Earth). All in all, another typical Hackett offering and one for which he undertook yet another extensive tour during the early part of 2012 before returning to the studio to work on his next effort, one which was to take him, and his fans by surprise, but more of that next time, folks!