"Still Rockin'" - Steve Hackett in conversation with Tommy Vance on BBC Radio One, June 19, 1979
Leading on from our previous interview with Steve, here is another interesting backward glance at Spectral Mornings....
TV: Steve Hackett stunned people last year when he announced that he was quitting Genesis leaving them as a three piece so that he could make solo albums. Well, his third album was released last week to great critical acclaim and it looks like it could be his most successful project to date. For his last album, you may remember, he assembled a group of session players including notable names like Ritchie Havens but this time he has formed a permanent band to record the album and play live gigs and when Clive Williamson met Steve he wondered why he had changed his mind about being in a band...?
SH: If you look upon a band as a country as long as it is self-sufficient ; you don't have to import sugar cane from wherever it happens to be or whatever, you produce it yourself. There is a certain self-sufficiency which is one of the reasons why it has been the longest standing form of popular delivery shall we say? It is very hard to produce something whereby all of the people are taking cameo roles so to speak even if it is people like Ritchie Havens or whatever, who come and sing on albums for you. I have this feeling that people who spend time consistently working on one project, re-evaluating it and re-working their own part and taking as many shots at it as necessary, are more likely to produce a gifted contribution than if you have the most amazing guitarist or drummer in the world and you put them together and say: "OK, we're gonna shoot film, now, we're gonna go with this now and record you on the spot you know Marlon's just here for ten minutes and he's so expensive so we'll do it in the first take, Ok Mr Brando?" you know? And it's like at that point you don't know if you are working with a commodity or if you are working with artists. This is easier when in essence, you have got what seems to people on the outside a bunch of either unknowns or novices they are much more malleable quantities in that sense of the word.
CW: Where have you found the members of the band, then?
SH: Well, mainly through recommendations and partly through my own efforts. I try to keep auditions down to a minimum. I find auditions possibly the most embarrassing things that one has to go through for oneself or put other people in a position of doing. I had people along for audition and said "look, I know these things are terribly embarrassing I know I'm probably not going to get the best of what you are probably capable of doing and this is just to give me a rough idea". When it came down to singing; Pete Hicks who is the guy I've got. He was the only guy who could reach the notes! He just had a better range.
CW: We can hear Peter on the new album on a track called Everyday?
SH: That's right, we're all singing on that not just Pete, I'm singing and Dik Cadbury. It's like a three-man line-up on vocals most of the time and we're all singing throughout.
CW: Everyday actually illustrates very well the close-knit feeling of the band and members playing together. Had you played that one much together on the road?
SH: No that one hadn't been played on the road but it had been designed very much as a live number. It was a number which was born out of, to some extent out of a song which I had written on a guitar but the actual arrangement as such was very much a rehearsal room number. The thing is that some of these things take more shape in the rehearsal room; some of them took more shape on the road, I mean two tracks Spectral Mornings, the title track, and Clocks were included in the previous road show and I'd had the benefit of taking those numbers on the road and knowing just how ballsy they could be so I wanted to ensure that the album had that kind of "live" feel. I didn't want people to say: "Oh, but you are so much better live" I really wanted people to say; "Yeah, really sounds like a live recording". It was a straight through thing, if I could have done it in one go I would have done.
CW: I remember seeing the number Clocks during the last stage show when you were on and it certainly has a dynamic feel to it live, doesn't it?
SH: Yes, it does and I hope it retains the same thing on the album that it is possibly... the fact is that one cannot play a home stereo at the same volume as you can manage to cook up live. I have played that track back and demolished most of the glassware in my house (laughter) I have managed to do that. I mean when we were doing a recent video, we were doing playback and when we were doing it boy oh boy! It was demolishing!
CW: The profusion of styles on the album could only have been made, I feel by making the move that you did, leaving Genesis at the time you did. Have you any regrets at all?
SH: No, someone said to me the other day "You sound more like Genesis than Genesis do" because Genesis having been left as a three man team you know it is a case of where has it gone to and who was responsible and all that kind of stuff. I really feel so much better now that I can tour myself; now that I can make my own albums I can come into direct contact with people. I know that when I play every gig now I am there in body AND spirit and all too often when I was a member of Genesis, my hands might be doing one thing but my mind might be thinking about the groceries or the price of veggies these days. People seem to think "oh God, you turned your back on success it must be really hard for you?" And I say "no, it's not" Life is just so much more easy. Its not more easy being just a member of a famous team you know, there are a lot of problems; the dilution of ideals; and I am an idealist and one can say that financial success can go hand in hand with spiritual impoverishment and I wasn't prepared to put up with that....