“Shedding light on Our Dark Twin” - TWR in conversation with Joanna Lehmann. Interview conducted at Steve’s home on Friday 2nd May 2008 by Alan Hewitt. Occasional interjections by Mrs June Leaney! Photographs courtesy of Joanna Lehmann.
At last able to step out from the shadows, TWR is very pleased to be able to share this conversation with the new lady in Steve’s life with all of our readers. Initially organised for the forthcoming Sketches Of Hackett project, I hope you find it interesting and my thanks to both Steve and Joanna for giving up so much of their time to make it possible. Additional thanks to June (Steve’s mum) for the ham sandwiches and champagne!
TWR: I think the first question, Jo is how did you and Steve meet?
JL: We met because I was involved with a film production company and I had written this script which we were intending to turn into a feature film. There was a company called Zomba Music and Steve was on their books. They read the script and decided that Steve would be a good person to approach because they thought he would like that subject and he was interested in the idea of doing film music at the time. This was in 1990 and so they arranged a meeting for a whole group of us and that is how we met.
TWR: What was the subject of the film?
JL: The subject? It was a story set in Greece a fictional but semi-mythical story and a thriller. The actual film didn’t get off the ground in any event because there were problems in raising the money and there were a whole group of people who let us down- but that’s another story! (laughs)...
SH: Can I say that Jo is working on it as a book and so it is very much a labour of love for her.
JL: I am working on it now as a book so I have written the first draft.
It’s a modern myth really. It is based on the ancient myths but it is
a modern story.
TWR: So, give us a potted biography of your good self, if you can, Jo…
JL: Goodness! Where do I start? I was conceived in Sierra Leone because my parents were living out in Guinea at the time. My father was a teacher there and it was very hard because it was very primitive and a Communist government and they couldn’t even get a fridge out there and they had to go to Sierra Leone to buy the fridge! Then I was born in Hastings and brought up in Sussex. I went to university in London and studied Drama and Classical Studies. I was equally interested in anything to do with the ancient world and was always fascinated in anything to do with the theatre, so I decided that that kind of course would suit me.
After that I did do some work in theatre for a while and then I got involved with the film production company as a script writer. I directed two or three things. One of them was something that originally Steve and I were involved in together called “Soulscapes”. It was again a fantasy subject and the idea was that there wouldn’t be any dialogue, it would be driven by music. It was in three sections about three different characters and what happened to the first character created the story of the second character and then the same for the third so it was like a domino effect.
Another project was called “Change Of Heart”. It is all about a boy who gets involved with criminal activity. He almost knocks a kid over when joy riding with a gang and he literally has a change of heart. He’s done a lot of graffiti and realising he has a talent he starts to do artwork. What was interesting about the project was that some of the people involved with it were young people who had actually been in prison and I got them involved with professional actors. I also got them to help me write the script so that it would be completely authentic. That worked out pretty well and in fact one of those guys got an agent and within a couple of months was on TV so it actually helped at least two or three of the people in it to get their lives together.
TWR: And you have published a book yourself as well, haven’t
JL: Yes I have , its called Our Dark Twin, it’s a psychological /spiritual book mainly based on the idea that when you are going through a hard time it’s as if there’s this parallel universe that is going along below the surface and it comes up in dreams and intuitions and instincts If you can key into that then it can help you through because then you feel yourself as being the hero of your own life as if you are in your own adventure (laughs) rather than just the victim of life and you can see things clearly and in a different way.
TWR: You have been involved with Steve creatively since 1990 or more recently…?
JL: Essentially, yes for the first eighteen or so months we were involved creatively and after that we continued to encourage each other with what we were doing. If I was writing an article for a magazine or a book or … in fact, it was Steve who encouraged me to write Our Dark Twin in the first place because I had written all these ideas down and he said; ’This will make a book, put these ideas together’. With a lot of what Steve has been doing musically we have often talked about ideas or what order to put something in in an album or tracks or musical ideas or lyrical ideas. We talked about these things a lot. So, essentially we have always been creatively involved.
SH: Yes, we have been involved for quite some time.
|TWR: The last couple of records have been a lot more
personal, and you have said that yourself , you have worked with people
from dysfunctional backgrounds and Steve has taken a lot of the personal
issues that have affected him, especially on the last two rock albums …
you speak to people in the first person now and not in the third person,
maybe that is something to do with your influence on Steve…?
SH: I think that Jo has encouraged me in that way. Obviously leaving Genesis there was a time when it wasn’t possible to be as available to people as you would like…
June Leaney (Steve’s Mum): And yet can I just come in here and say that I think that Voyage Of The Acolyte was an amazing album for someone who was how old when you did that? If you play that album it is an amazing album and Steve has never really acknowledged it but it was very creative, wasn’t it? For someone that has come out of a group/family thing and to splash out on his own.
TWR: How do you go about bouncing ideas off each other these days?
JL: It varies quite a lot. One example is when I once wrote a poem which Steve liked. The poem, called Underworld, inspired Darktown. The first verse of the song was based on the poem; it’s not the same but based it. Sometimes it would just be the two of us talking about lyrics and ideas and discussing a subject such as how we both didn’t like school. Sometimes we would be sitting in Starbucks or some café and we would look at a table and an idea would come to us and we would discuss it. Or Steve would start to play something on the guitar and an idea of a song would come and I would pitch in with ideas for lyrics. Then in my writing I might be talking about something that I am interested in and Steve would say, you should write about that and then we would start to discuss the ideas.
I think a lot of it has come about from the many things we have in common. We have shared numerous books over the years; we have always read one another’s books. We get inspiration too from watching the same sort of films and discussing anything to do with God knows what in life really! (laughs) Creative stuff; historical stuff; how people tick how dreams work; how the spirit works, the things we share can often relate to a creative idea…Quite often what is most personal is also most universal really. Metamorpheus was something else which I was involved with. Obviously Steve was doing all the music and it would be a case of in places suggesting what energy to create according to what was going on in the story and what the undertones were and how that would affect the music and that was something which we would discuss a lot . Sometimes we would be together while Steve was composing bits and pieces. I can remember specifically when the bit where Eurydice is trying to escape and she dies. Steve was actually composing that as we were talking about what was happening and how you create dramatic effect to a story in music when you are not actually using words. The atmosphere of that message is so powerful and it has got so many levels to it and it means so much.
SH: I think that Jo is very modest, she is very sweet and very gentle and very supportive …
And on that note, we leave things. Once again, my thanks to Steve; Joanna and June for another great day and for giving up so much of their time to speak to me - I will learn to love Mr Sinatra one day; I promise!