"Spectrally speaking" - Steve Hackett interviewed by Nicky Horne on Capitol Radio's "Your Mother Wouldn't Like It" show, June 11, 1979
NH: Two years ago he suddenly left the band to concentrate on solo work. He made two solo albums while with Genesis and just why he decided to sever all links with this immensely popular band aren't immediately obvious. Today sees the release of Spectral Mornings his first album with his own band. James Locke asked him why he decided to quit Genesis and start again from scratch...
SH: When you have a band that is as creative if you like, as Genesis. When everybody writes songs it's awfully hard to make sure that everything is not only proportioned properly but that the bulk of material isn't shelved and that's really the main reason for leaving; to make sure that the songs that I had written and the ideas that I had, had a decent kind of outlet.
JL: Of course, with your new band you are writing all the material yourself: do you find that you have got a vast freedom of expression now that was stifled in Genesis?
SH: Oh yeah, I mean this is really the best of both worlds; the Genesis approach was one where it was almost down to a fine art; we knew exactly how long the writing period was going to take; the recording period was going to take; when we would tour and I could virtually tell you three years in advance what I would be doing. To a large degree I think some of the spontaneity was taken out of it and I don't work within those rigid guidelines now.
JL: Your album Spectral Mornings comes out today, and last week we were speaking to Kim Poor who did the cover artwork...
SH: Yes, Kim is a young lady who.. she has an art show at the moment and a book coming out and she is very busy actually. She did my album cover and most people don't seem to know if it's a photograph or a painting. It's a painting that she did or I don't know if I should call it a "sprinkling" because she sprinkled paint onto these enamels and it's a complicated process...
JL: She obviously spent some time studying you?
SH: Yes, she did, we've been together now for quite some time and she's had a fair amount of time to get to know what I look like.
JL: On to the album itself, the track Everyday and one or two other tracks remind, me or are rather reminiscent of Genesis in the early stages, around Nursery Cryme time for example. The track Everyday for example has the guitar and organ sound like on The Musical Box. Is that on purpose?
SH: I think as someone was saying the other day that I have a highly definable style and to a large degree there must be similarities but I see the main difference being in the vocal department where on the album we kind of specialised in the three or four part harmonies approach as opposed to the solo voice.
JL: The songs on this album are much less songs and more sort of instrumental pieces such as Clocks, perhaps you could tell the story behind that one?
SH: Clocks is quite a strange piece, it grew up in the rehearsal room and I spent two days trying to explain to everyone exactly what I was on about and it came at the end of a rehearsal period whereby at the end of it you were totally washed out trying to explain this thing and try to remain articulate and feeling very, very tired at this point. And I said "well, basically it was written for a horror film score" and I was trying to retain the sort of suspense, almost to a time bomb feel and then it finally explodes really.
JL: It is funny because you have always come over as being shy and retiring on stage in Genesis, at one point you even sat down on a chair you were that laid back. Is that really you, or is there a very flash extrovert guitarist hiding behind that exterior?
SH: I think... people have said to me "you've gone through a kind of metamorphosis bot in terms of looks and in terms of the way you present yourself". In those days I felt that my role was to sort of sit there under a mass of beard and glasses and sit there on a stool and all I wanted was for the music to be heard and I didn't want to be a distraction from it. To a large degree the anonymity of that was something that I still adhere to and I still prefer people to be able to pick up the album and listen to it and not necessarily have something to consult with visually. But having come full circle where one ended up playing huge stadiums; you know twenty thousand seaters and I spoke to various people who said "you know what you have got to do is communicate to the guy at the back of the hall" And so because of that movements tend to become exaggerated and any grimace on the face, you know what I mean? I suppose one learns to contort in every kind of respect just to be able to communicate something to somebody at the back of the hall so that they don't feel as though they are watching a totally static show.
I would say that mainly I tend to scale it musically and there is still the point in the act where I sit down and pick up an acoustic guitar and just play and then there's no movement, you know?
JL: When you do start touring is there going to be any huge visual effects in the show, because with Genesis it was a very visual act and it seemed at times that it was so large and ordered that it overtook the performers?
SH: Very often people used to come away and review the lasers and the light show and the audience and they say Genesis also ran, you know? That is a very real danger and I've always felt that the music... it feels to me that the music should be the most important thing.
JL: There's a very biting satirical message it seems to me, in The Ballad Of the Decomposing Man or is it more of a joke, or is it really...?
SH: It's very much a joke and I will admit that occasionally I have been known to have a little too much to drink and I'm by no means an alcoholic but the song was written during two sessions both of which were hangovers at six o'clock in the morning feeling totally dehydrated after too much red and white wine and I would get up and what the hell do you do? What I do is I end up picking up a guitar and I end up coming up with my most out of character statements at that point in time. This particular one... I put on a tap and it was Walt Disney's "Whistle While You Work" and then I sort of got into this factory idea and I felt here is me sitting down writing this rubbish and people must think that this is a really downhill statement and so the whole thing of decomposing... and I was abroad for a while and I came back and virtually everything had stopped, you know everything was at a standstill and people were saying "You know Steve should you really go back? I hear it's really quite bad over there" and it sounded like the war and I was amazed. I arrived at Heathrow and everything was just like normal.
JL: You are starting at the end of this month in Gutenberg in Germany and working your way touring right over to America and back again, that's a heck of a task isn't it?
SH: It's an awful lot of touring but for me it's almost as if I'm going on tour in order to escape really, you know; there are lots and lots of things one has to do at home, not least organise this tour and to me it is going to be relatively simple to become a full-time musician again and not have to worry about everything else.
And that concludes this interview with Steve, once again I am sure that you will have found it interesting.