"Genesis Exhumed" - Steve Hackett in conversation. Interview by Alan Hewitt, with Jack Beermann and Michael Spuck at Crown Studios, Saturday June 1, 2002; Photos by Michael Spuck.

SH: I am sorry that this will have to be a bit rushed; I am getting ready to go to the Royal Albert Hall for a rehearsal. As you know, I was asked by Duncan Philips to sit in with the band (The Musical Box).

AH: I suppose therefore, the first question really should be... You have obviously seen these guys play before?

SH: Only in rehearsal.

AH: Did you go down to Chiddingfold?

SH: Yeah, I went down mainly to make sure that we were all playing in the same key (laughs) and whether there would be a piano introduction to it or not, or two, three, four and straight in. If you know these things it helps.

AH: And what did you actually think...

SH: I have seen a little bit of video work of theirs and I had heard stuff that they had done but I had never seen them live, and when I saw them in rehearsal they did "Get 'Em Out By Friday" and they did "The Musical Box" and it seems to me that it has been very well observed in every sense... You have seen them live, haven't you?

AH: I have seen them... this is my sixth show on this tour and I have been to Canada another three times to see them because of Jack's behest, and he said that if I didn't go, he would come and get me! And I have never regretted it.

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Alan and Steve at Crown Studios
(Photo: M. Spuck/TWR)

SH: Given obviously all the guys in the band were too young to have seen us perform that live at that time I think it is as well studied as it could possibly be, you know.

JB: A lot of it is from amateur films, you know; 8mm films - and they asked for films, and everybody in Montreal brought these 8mm films to the shows (laughs)

SH: So, in a way there is that record of whatever it was.

AH: I never saw you guys on those tours and so for me to see that show recreated so lovingly; it is astonishing.

JB: I haven't heard them perform "Get 'Em Out By Friday" in years, though. That isn't part of the show.

SH: Maybe they weren't playing that. Perhaps it isn't part of the show, I assumed that they were because they were rehearsing it. I give them full marks for going all out which is what they have done and it is well on the way to "Genesis - The Musical" isn't it? All they need is Ben Elton to write the arguments or something (laughter).

JB: One of my roles for the band was that I researched the stories. For example, if Genesis played in the same city then I found tapes of those shows and provided them with the actual stories which Peter used.

SH: The stories actually came up as I am sure you probably know; just to allow enough tune up time when Genesis was the world of twelve strings, and some of those stories were ten minutes long and were epics in themselves. I think when I go back and listen to those the overriding influence was Peter Cook; E. L. Wisby and the long monologues; you know a man talking to himself. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are unassailable as the best of British humour as far as I am concerned. Between Morecambe and Wise, and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, none of whom are sadly with us anymore, but they remain in our hearts forever.

AH: Moving on to your own projects - I suppose the most likely to happen in the near future is the Evelyn Glennie project. How did that come about? Because I am still not altogether sure what the background to it is...

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Jack, Steve and Michael at Crown Studios
(Photo: A. Hewitt/TWR)

SH: I had a phone call from a friend of mine who was in a band called Quiet World - the band I was in before Genesis. We did an album together and I hadn't heard from Dick Driver, who was the bass player in that band, for many years. He was a friend of Paul Cameron, who was putting together events for the South Bank, and he is also a percussionist. Dick had played electric bass with Quiet World and upright bass in that band. I had lost touch with him for many years... that was 1970 and we hadn't spoken. He recommended me to them and I had a meeting with Paul, and I was already aware of Evelyn's work from seeing her on TV, and thinking she was absolutely wonderful, of course. Anyone who has seen her live realises that and they asked me to come up with an hours' worth of original music for this show.

The thing is that worries me, and it still worries me, is that Evelyn doesn't have any time to rehearse, because she is always out there touring and the idea of being an hours' worth of unrehearsed material. I have put together about an idea which is based around loops which go in the show, and there is a degree of improvisation, and that is the idea. The piece, such as it is, is called "The City Under The Sea", which is a poem of Edgar Allen Poe's, and before I saw the film Artificial Intelligence, which also uses the idea from the same story so that idea seems to be uppermost in a lot of people's minds. So, that happens on July twenty-first at Queen Elizabeth Hall. I will be playing another show in Manchester on July nineteenth, but that is part of her other show, which is called "Shadow Behind The Iron Sun", which is heavily improvised. That will be the first time I have played with Evelyn and so I will probably jam along with that one, probably more tentatively than the other show. She works with Philip Smith-Pierce and they basically put effect on her and the piano and let the sound travel, and they use the effects on those two instruments and there are a couple of loops on that and I have come up with a few ideas on my Boomerang which enables me to play a forwards guitar solo and a backwards one at the same time, delayed by a couple of bars if you want. I have never used it live before. I have used the Line 6 [Line 6 make guitar effects processors that can make a guitar sound like pretty much anything - TWR Equipment Ed.] and I am Mr Guitar Never Forwards these days (laughs) there is never anything completely forwards; never anything completely straight ahead. Apart from when I am playing acoustic, of course.
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Steve Hackett at Crown Studios
(Photo: M. Spuck/TWR)

JB: You used the Hi Flyer on "The Lamb..." shows and that was a crazy piece of equipment!

SH: Yeah, and I don't have one anymore, and I wish I did. I don't know anyone who has got one.

JB: The Musical Box have got one and I found it for them, actually on the Internet and it was so expensive!

SH: It was an interesting device at the time, and nothing I have found does quite what that did - the strange tremeloes - and I don't know anything that does that. On "Counting Out Time" it does the gurgling sound, and I used it a bit on "Voyage of The Acolyte". It would be nice to have that stuff. It would be nice to have all my old sounds. It would be nice to have everything but that is a dream isn't it? To have everything you had in the past with the knowledge and respect you have for it now. It would be nice to bring out all of those rabbits from the hat even if they are a little bit dog-eared.

AH: Speaking of live stuff; you have just done another "Italian Job" how did that go down this time round?

SH: Yeah, I have. Very good.

AH: And quite a different set too, at least from the reports, with a lot more of the new stuff, so are you still road testing that?

SH: In Italy? There were some new things with nylon guitar I was quite flexible about including numbers or leaving them out. Sometimes they are not quite whole new numbers; they are sections and I tend to improvise a little bit more than I used to, so I don't know if you would say that they are completely new. There will be a DVD which is basically that set from Hungary, called "Hungarian Horizons". It will be both a DVD and audio CD, two CDs as well as two DVDs mixed in surround sound. There is also another from Buenos Aires, a DVD which is also mixed in surround sound, and which features the five piece band, whereas the other one is a trio. The Buenos Aires one is called "Somewhere In South America". We managed to edit it.

AH: I was glad to hear that John was back out again...

SH: Yeah, that was good. John has started play again. He was with us this year in Japan and Hungary and Italy, and I believe he is coming to the show tonight, according to my mother - who phoned today to enquire where her tickets will be (laughter). She came to as many Genesis shows as she could face... as many London shows and she saw it on the rise.

AH: You have been working out some of the new stuff and as you say, not all of it may be the finished article but may be part of other things. How far down the line are you now with the new studio album?

SH: Well, I am probably no further on than I was several times earlier when I was speaking to you because I worked on a lot of live stuff... a lot of history... and some of it is recent history; the Hungarian stuff and the South American stuff and it took far longer to mix than we thought it was going to do, you know surround sound takes far longer, and we were trying to get this place [Steve's new studio] finished and Billy had hoped that I would have had the new album finished by the beginning of this year but that all had to go by the board. This place was supposed to be ready in January and I knew it wouldn't be and here we are six months down the line and I was literally in here working for the first time last week and so it is very early days yet and normal service will be resumed as soon as I have got all these gigs out of the way. The more gigs you do and the more you try and turn them into albums; it all takes time and the studio things keep on going back and back and back. Some of the new material has been test driven live things like Mechanical Bride and Serpentine Song which may end up eventually being called In The Meanwhile or whatever... and so there you are half the time I am working with live things like the Wall of Knives which I had always intended to turn into a band and which we are playing as a live improvisation...

AH: While on the subject of gigs... and I am sure that Jack wants to ask you the same question, I think... You have toured in Italy... and South America

SH: Why haven't I toured here?

AH: Why haven't you toured here and Jacks' question is why haven't you toured in the States, although you are doing some shows in the States soon, I believe...?

MS: What about gigs in Germany...?

SH: I think that has to do with foreign promoters who have been more enthusiastic than English promoters. I realise that there is an audience that I want to play to and who I think would enjoy coming along but you have always got to talk a promoter into it or drive it ourselves and you know we have a small organisation and they work round the clock doing the various things. I would love to play again in England and in the meanwhile there is the odd guest spot and stuff such as with Evelyn and I hope to be doing something more representative of my stuff over here.

AH: I suppose at the end of the day, we shouldn't complain because the one thing is that Steve Hackett is out there with an album and people have got something to listen to or something to watch and that whets the appetite...

SH: Yeah, there is that. I realise that it would be great if everything was totally current and it seems that the key to the future is also the key to the past. As I am honouring the past as much as possible by... co-operating with my past as it were... It seems to have reintroduced a certain energy in to the proceedings. I know that a lot of people are in denial of their pasts; and I had been for a long while, and then you realise that there really has been so much water under the bridge, and it isn't a case of being anachronistic or unfashionable and even the things that were favourites in their day have had a little bit of stardust sprinkled on them because they are moments that cannot be recaptured totally. A lot of the stuff that is going to be performed tonight by The Musical Box, those things were not necessarily "hits" in their day, and were very much part of the slow burn and ideas which were vindicated... exhumed... Exhumations, that sounds like a good one... From Genesis To Exhumation... remind me about that; that sounds like a good title! (laughs)

So it is strange, isn't it when we look back to "Nursery Cryme", and Charisma were looking at this band that they had who didn't sell this much product, and they had to be fed and watered. But they stuck with that horse. And Tony, God bless him... that amount of loyalty from a record company... from one man; Tony Stratton-Smith; doesn't exist these days...

AH: It was rare then, I would imagine; to be honest...

SH: Yeah, I think so. I think the industry worked at a slower pace but I think it was an industry that could afford to experiment, and now the risks are greater and the competition is tougher and the level of investment in any band... we could get depressed talking about that, couldn't we? I think that when the industry was perhaps a lot more naïve, I think that it was slightly fairer and slightly more democratic, and it was possible for a band to form themselves, and not and not be immediately using so much money. I think that the music grew from its own volition and people went out and toured and they had immediate feedback from the fans who told them what they liked and what they didn't like and so there was that steady dialogue with audience and performer which built a more secure foundation.

AH: It is wonderful on the one hand and also frustrating for us, and also for you no doubt that you are juggling so many projects. The one remaining I suppose, is the guitar "concerto" album. Is that still on the go...?

SH: Yes, that is still on the go. I haven't taken it any further because I felt that it was something that either needed major funding, or I was going to have to work with a small team and use a small amount of real stuff, and a small amount of sample and I am still prepared to do that. It is ways of funding... you can't do everything. I mean, not even Genesis could afford to go out and play in the States last time for various reasons and so everyone has their cash flow limits, and you know these days to be in business and not to have gone out of business is quite an achievement. And yes, I hope to have two new studio albums; one of which is broadly electric guitar and the other, nylon guitar. Probably the rock album will be next... but who can say? It might be that the response from the Evelyn stuff is tremendous and something may come from that. I don't know. All I know is that's this stuff some of which you heard; the "Take This World" track is almost finished. That stuff has been crafted over a period of time and that was two songs which were knocked into one the stronger verse on one and a slightly stronger chorus on the other and they seemed to belong together; they seemed to fit and that takes time to figure out. I have done that before with Steve Howe with "When The Heart Rules The Mind" which was two songs knocked into one and made into a stronger finished product. So, in a way the longer you wait for something; the stronger and more right and spontaneous it is.

My thanks once again to Steve and Billy for being patient when I cocked up the timings - again! Also my thanks to Martin for his enthusiasm and interest and to Jack and Michael for being willing accomplices this time round.