“Acoustically speaking” - Steve Hackett interviewed on Signal Radio on 2nd November 1983. Photos by Mike Ainscoe. Memorabilia: TWR archive.
INT: Welcome Steve Hackett. Before the break we heard a track off the Highly Strung album which was quite powerful and electric. That’s a departure from the current tour, right…?
SH: Yes, the new tour is entirely acoustic, almost entirely acoustic apart from a pick up for the guitar and a microphone for the flute, it’s entirely acoustic and that’s to back up the new album; Bay Of Kings which again is the same kind of thing. it’s really a kind of protest against the synthesiser if you like.
INT: This is interesting. Does an album like Bay Of Kings take as long to put down as some of your other albums?
SH: Three years to record! (laughs) I’m told not to say these sort of things. It’s just that I have been doing it in parallel to all the other things over the past years and no one was breathing down my neck saying that there was a deadline for it. I was doing it at my own pace and getting it to the stage where I was totally happy with it and finally released, which should be in a couple of days’ time.
INT: That’s really along time isn’t it?
SH: Absolutely. I have been taking too long but finally it’s here.
SH: Well, as I said before, there is that kind of feeling whereby you can have an over reliance on props and rock and roll is largely to do with props - shampoo, twin set and pearls or a laser, whatever it is. Rock and Roll is just full of all those safety nets and I just feel that the risk is just slightly taken out of it and so I am just in a kind of way working towards a credibility for myself, which means going back to acoustic instruments and showing that you can actually play that instrument.
INT: It’s about as far away from Genesis as you could get, isn’t it?
SH: It is actually, yes. To a large extent you don’t know whether you are listening to a man or a machine these days. I am definitely putting it back in the hands of the players really.
INT: This tour is mainly college circuits?
SH: yes, we are doing Keele tonight.
INT: So, you have certainly done some travelling today!
SH: Yes, we got up at 7.15 (laughter). Who said musicians are sluggards?!
INT: Dedication to the cause. Am I right in saying that that was a gut strung guitar? (Asked after hearing The Journey).
SH: yes, a nylon strung guitar or a gut strung one. They used to make them out of cat gut but these days we just feed the strays in the street instead of pulling them in to strangle them! (laughs).
INT: You can always tell a guitarist by his right hand, because he’s always got longer nails on his right hand…
SH: That’s right. I have just been polishing them up in fact for the gig tonight. It’s murder if you break one I can tell you.
INT: Then do you have to put on one of those pick things..?
SH: No, I can’t manage those. I am quite lucky because most of the time the nails stand up to it. It’s just if you go for a car door or suitcase with too much enthusiasm.
INT: All the tracks on Bay Of Kings are penned by yourself aren’t they?
SH: Yes, I am a self taught guitarist and I have picked up techniques from watching other people - it’s not orthodox in any way.
INT: Does that mean that by being self-taught, your style is a mish-mash of other guitarists’ styles?
SH: Oh absolutely! I mean everything that I do has been ripped off from other people (laughs). That’s not true but what I mean is having watched other people was the only schooling I got and you can learn a tremendous amount just by watching someone’s movements. I am lucky that I am able to visualise the guitar but the thing is that when I look at the piano, it makes no sense to me whatsoever. The keyboard by comparison I have to work everything out and I have no retention. My fingers go away from the keyboard for a few seconds and I hope I can remember it. For some reason the visualisation of the fretboard is that much easier.
INT: A lot of people watch Steve Hackett and try to emulate him. Who do you watch?
SH: Well, I watched Hank Marvin.
SH: Yes, I met him once or twice recently. He was going to the same people who do my contact lenses because he does scuba diving. It was the precision of the style - for the first time you were hearing melodies played absolutely cleanly and I respect that. There have been lots of guitarists since Hendrix and he had the opposite approach whereby no one knew what he was going to do next - playing through all the feedback and that was the opposite end of the spectrum but just as beautiful.
INT: So what sort of reaction has this acoustic set been getting?
SH: Well, live it has been tremendous; people that have come along have said “normally I only come along to rock gigs stoned out of my brain but I found that it had a more tranquilising effect than most of the drugs that I take!” It actually works.
INT: It doesn’t really ask for audience participation at all, does it?
SH: it’s not really a participant medium if I may be so bold. It’s the kind of thing where you sit back and listen to it and I suppose that’s its appeal - it’s supposed to relax you rather than get you stomping along so it’s coming from an entirely different angle to the things I have done in the past, mainly rock.
INT: You’ve got this out of your system now, are you going back to the Steve Hackett of old…?
SH: I’d like to go on with the Steve Hackett of new actually. I would like to do something more experimental actually, at the opposite end of the musical spectrum. This is kind of a one-off for me and it gets the tranquil stuff out of my system. There’s all hat insurrection that I want to get out again so…
INT: Thanks very much Steve, you’re on at Keele tonight.