"Widening The Landscape" - Steve Hackett in conversation about his new album "Genesis Revisited" Interview by Alan Hewitt. Photos by R Nagy/TWR.
AH: Well, Steve. What have you been doing since we last spoke?
SH: Since we last spoke? Round about the time of the Italian Job (laughter) the last time I was running around Italy with an acoustic guitar with Julian Colbeck. We were playing in Sicily and a fan turned up at the hotel and he had everything I had ever done. He had all the Steve Hackett albums and I signed them all, and it took quite some time, then he turned to his wife and pulled out another lot quite sheepishly from the bag and said in quite a clandestine manner would I mind signing these too; thinking that I wouldn't because they were all Genesis albums and I signed them all, thinking why would anyone have the impression that I would be happy to sign my own albums and not the Genesis ones?
And I thought further to that, having a conversation with Julian on the plane on the way home, I said to him: "You know, I am always gonna be remembered for these Genesis albums above all, no matter what I do...". There's still that, but plainly I feel that certain things have changed over the years: my own experiences, my techniques, ability to play, techniques have changed so much and I often thought "I wonder what these numbers would sound like if they were re-recorded with the technology of now, putting my own studio to good use?"
There were always numbers that I had loved and adored, and mainly remembering those numbers often sounding wonderful live, but feeling that the recorded versions of them were a little bit disappointing. Things that were epicly huge like "Watcher Of The Skies" on both the recorded versions; "Foxtrot" and "Genesis Live". It didn't have the size and majesty I remembered playing it live to twenty thousand people in the Palasport in Rome and having it fill the amphitheatre. I had a tape of that that our sound engineer had done and it just sounded so huge and it never sounded that way when we recorded it. Anyway, it stayed with me for many years and this conversation that I was having with Julian and the fact that he had worked with ABWH and Yes and occasionally with Steve Howe and we had heard that they were going to reform with Steve Howe... Julian remarked that one bunch were doing much better than the others and it seemed that any version of Yes that didn't have Steve Howe in it had something missing. He went on to say that fans perceive that Steve is the heart of Yes, and he thought it is possible that the fans have the same perception of my involvement with Genesis.
So, I said to him "what do you think if I re-recorded some of those Genesis numbers?" And we started kicking the ball around and he said, maybe you should approach some of the guys and see what might come out; a quorum of guys from the band and I thought that's true, but more importantly for me, felt that Genesis and the other Progressive bands had all worked with each other in one combination or another that maybe the public's perception of them was that they were one big band that the similarities were more important than the differences; if there were differences. I think that Genesis stuff and my own stuff had more humour; we always thought that humour was very important. Not with every album, obviously; not with the acoustic albums I had done.
| The cover art for "Genesis Revisited"
So, I felt it might be nice to get a quorum of people who had played with the band and more importantly a quorum of Progressive players and I had also taken part in the odd orchestral album... I did an orchestral Genesis album with David Palmer but I felt that you had the potential to do something wonderful with the orchestra and I felt that if I was in the driving seat that we could do a good job. Anyway, to cut a long story short; I have recorded a whole album of Genesis stuff. Initially it is going to be released in Japan. In Europe; Tony Banks has just agreed to take part in it with me so; it is going to vary slightly in Europe.
The people on it with me who have been associated with Genesis so far are myself, Tony, Chester Thompson, Bill Bruford; and then there are Tony Levin from King Crimson, John Wetton on some tracks; there is Paul Carrack in his Mike & The Mechanics guise so Paul is on a couple of tracks. John is on a couple; Tony Levin is on one track, Pino Palladino is on one, Colin Blunstone sings on a track with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hugo Degenhardt and Doug Sinclair are on some of it; my brother is on some of it and generally people tend to appear in cameo throughout it.
It was the most marvellous experience; it was very, very hard work. It has taken me about a year and a half and I am still working on one more track, so I worked very hard on it. We struck a deal with Japan and they wanted the album delivered in a month and I felt that I had another six months to go because I thought if I am going to re-record these tracks I want them to sound really good and I wanted the production to sound really good and I didn't want anyone to say "It would have been better to have so and so play on it..." so I really went to town on it and we used everything on it. We used Melllotons, we used real orchestra, obviously a lot of well known people are on it.
Obviously, I realised that the fans would still say that even though the originals were flawed in places, they still preferred it because it was the original people; but then I took the attitude that there were certain Genesis tracks that I considered to be classics, ones which I had taken part in and I felt that there are a tremendous amount of tribute bands out there now and I thought the time was nigh if I was going to be remembered for this, then I should do the definitive Hackett version of these tracks. Then, quite by chance, just as I had started it, I got a 'phone call from Peter I think, mentioning the boxed set and all that stuff; the live "Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" and so on, and I thought I could get annoyed... "Oh my God, the ghost is rearing its head again.." or I could accept that I was always going to be a curator in a museum of my own making, and so I doffed my curator's cap. I can't help noticing that everyone in the band is doing it in some shape or form.
It's like someone had said what would it be like if Hackett was back with Genesis, with the current production techniques, and he's the one that's in charge? Some tracks sound very similar, some tracks sound totally different. I took the philosophy that there was no point in changing everything just for the sake of it. If something is wonderful in the first place, I wouldn't do that, so to some extent some things have been extended. I had been very flexible about it. I would like to call them enlargements if you know what I mean, a broadening of the original landscape. It is a tremendously big sounding album, and there are a lot of people on it, enough for several armies and I am very proud of it.
|Therefore, when I heard that the Japanese wanted it in a month, I thought... well, it's possible. I just gave up sleep for a month (laughter). I just got myself up at six every morning and I worked for five hours before I started work in the studio... I would map everything out on paper - the only way, if anyone thinks this album sounds good, it is because of the way it was organised. Every time I had an idea, whether it was a production idea or whatever, I didn't do the thing that musicians usually do. I didn't wait for inspiration... I mean if you wait for inspiration... it means that you have got a thousand balls in the air and every so often a few of them fall to the ground in front of you, and remind you that was a good idea. And you work at the speed of a plant, slowly letting things evolve. If I want to still do this, and still make it sound wonderful, I have got to note down everything. And so I was ticking things off the list all the time, the mixes took three days on the epics but I must say I am thrilled with the album for many reasons. The people who were involved on the album, those who I have played it to, have all said how pleased they are that it turned out so strongly, and I am hoping that I am talking about something that will become history and that will be seen as a good idea.|
Maybe I should go through the numbers I have done. I have done "Watcher Of The Skies", "Your Own Special Way", "Dance On The Volcano", a track which Peter Gabriel started off with the band but never finished, I have finished it off with his blessing, called "Déjà Vu". On the Japanese version of the album there are two of my tracks but that might not be the case in the final European or Japanese versions, there may be different versions of the album doing the rounds; there's a number by me called "Riding The Colossus", "For Absent Friends" is on the album which is a little known song from "Nursery Cryme" done completely differently with the orchestra and voice, no other instruments. Colin Blunstone sings on it and it is slowed down to an old time waltz; "The Fountain Of Salmacis". I started doing a track called "The Waiting Room" which was a completely atonal jam from "The Lamb..." and it is a completely different track now called "Waiting Room Only" (laughter). "I Know What I Like", a pub Jazz band version meets Cajun Hillbilly music; it is a very throwaway version; very humorous. "Firth Of Fifth", and I am currently working on a version of "Los Endos" with Tony (Banks) which is going to be on it.
AH: What is the album going to be called?
SH: It is still a little bit up in the air again, that may vary from territory to territory. At the moment it is going to be called "Genesis Revisited", and there is some conjecture as to whether it is going to be called a solo album or a project. In Japan so far they have embraced it as a solo project but it is larger than a solo album and do it may have a project title throughout the rest of the known world.
My thanks to Steve and Billy for allowing me to take up so much of their valuable time in order to get the background to this intriguing project, and also for allowing me to hear it - I can assure you the finished result will be well worth hearing!