“Genesis Re- Evaluated” - Steve Hackett in conversation with Alan Hewitt about the Genesis Revisited II album. Interview conducted at Steve’s home on Tuesday 2nd October 2012. Photographs: Alan Hewitt/Jo Hackett. Memorabilia: TWR Archive.
TWR: So, you said that there were a cast of thousands on this one, so tell us about some of the people who are involved with it…
SH: Certainly, there are thirty five people involved with this one, it’s half the music business actually! (laughs) on this thing. Some were invited and didn’t manage to make it because of schedules. Meanwhile I moved on with it and the people who had given it a firm tick. So, the first track; Chamber Of 32 Doors has Nad Sylvan who is with Agents Of Mercy who is currently working with Roine Stolt of Transatlantic and The Flower Kings, and Agents Of Mercy. He operates in three bands.
TWR: Doesn’t he get confused, because I do! (laughs).
SH: Well, this seems to be the way with modern bands, Lee Pomeroy who plays bass on it functions in six different bands. So, that’s Nad. In terms of singers we have Mikael Akerfeldt on Supper’s ready, then we have Horizons which I have done on the steel guitar again and Supper’s Ready has several different vocalists; Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth who has also worked with Steven Wilson and Steve is also on the album. Simon Collins, Phil Collins’ son, Conrad Keely, an American singer. We also have me on that track and we also have Francis Dunnery from It Bites who is appearing in a purely vocal capacity on this. Had I known he was going to appear, I would have asked him to play guitar as well, because I have two other guitarists on the guest appearances. One is Roine Stolt who appears on The Return of The Giant Hogweed, and the other one is Steve Rothery of Marillion, on The Lamia.
On that we also have Nik Kershaw on vocals. He has worked with Mr Banks so that shouldn’t be entirely unexpected. On Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, we have Francis Dunnery on vocals, Fly On A Windshield is Gary O’Toole as well as being on drums, of course. Speaking of drums, we have two drummers on the album; one is Gary on the majority of it but on two tracks; Supper’s Ready and Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, it’s Jeremy Stacey. He is currently working with Noel Gallagher and of course he worked with us on the Squackett album along with Roger, myself and Chris Squire. Chris is not on this album but we have orchestral players too. By the time we get to Can Utility & The Coastliners it is Steven Wilson on that so the tracks are: Chamber of 32 Doors, Horizons, Supper’s Ready, The Lamia, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, Broadway Melody Of 1974, Musical Box, Can Utility & The Coastliners, and then there is a version of Please Don’t Touch which I have included along with three other tracks of mine as Genesis “branches” because they were rehearsed with the band and they are restored rather like deleted scenes shall we say! (laughs).
On the second CD we have Blood On The Rooftops, which is Gary on vocals, The Return Of The Giant Hogweed is Neal Morse who sang it with me and Transatlantic at the High Voltage Festival and he does a wonderful job on that. Entangled is Jakko Jakszyk who has been working with Robert Fripp quite a bit in recent times. He parallels a lot of the stuff that Steve Wilson has done in terms of mixing stuff in 5.1. Steve describes himself as an “engineer” but he seems to be using the stealth approach with that (laughs) he is basically a star. Amanda Lehmann is on vocals on Entangled. Eleventh Earl of Mar is back to Nad Sylvan, Ripples is Amanda again. Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers, there is no vocal there, same for In That Quiet Earth. Afterglow it is indeed, Mr John Wetton. A Tower Struck Down and Camino Royale are me. A Tower… because we rehearsed it, or tried to get it off the ground with Genesis, it didn’t work and yet it worked on my first solo outing with Phil and Mike
Camino Royale, I have probably told you this story lots of times about in the early Eighties having a dream of working with Genesis again during the 1973 period where we were heading into this area which I describe as syncopated classical music where the influences of syncopated big band stuff meets classical changes. The church meets the club and we’re in the middle (laughs). Shadow Of The Hierophant, again, written by myself and Mike Rutherford . I basically wrote the song, Mike wrote the end. The reason for its inclusion is that we rehearsed it in 1972 during the Foxtrot sessions.
TWR: Now I certainly did NOT know that!
SH: You didn’t know that? We rehearsed it as part of the end section, Mike’s bit, the very slow section the she’s so heavy meets the Moonlight Sonata bit and that was sung originally by Sally Oldfield on Acolyte but on this version it’s Amanda and that was reintroduced into my normal performing set at the suggestion of Steve Wilson who liked it very much and wanted to play on it. I was worried that, along with the rest of this, it was all too old fashioned and that’s why I didn’t do it but I think the fact that that went down so well and also the fact that when I was being interviewed by Nicky Horne a while back before I started work on this album, he happened to be playing The Chamber Of 32 Doors as I walked in to his domain there and it sounded great. You know the way radio treats everything, its compressed and it sounded very powerful and I think he may have been playing the remix of that and he said to me; ’I think this sounds wonderful’ and I said; ’I have to agree with you’ but what I didn’t tell him was that I wanted to make the guitar sound a tad more wonderful! I wanted the guitar to sustain in the way that the vocal notes did and there is a note early on that dies on me on the original and I probably wouldn’t have played it with the right amount of control in those days anyway but I did on this, it has got sustain, effect and tremolo and vibrato to give it a kind of vocal sound.
TWR: So that’s the vocalists, what about the musicians?
SH: Well that’s another story! On keyboards we have Roger King
and Dave Kerzner who has worked with Simon Collins of course, he did some keyboard
work on Supper’s Ready, on the Apocalypse In 9/8 section. Roger did the
orchestrations and use the word “orchestra” freely but it is a few
classical players tracked up. It is Christine Townsend on violin and viola.
TWR: Is it the members of The Underworld Orchestra? SH: That’s right. Dick Driver on bass, and on cello we have Rachel Ford , it was Chris Stewart but he is no more on the earth plane which is a great sadness for me because I would have invited him to join in on this. But on joining the orchestra there is John (Hackett) we have two flutes in places and that also creates something of the grand sweep of the orchestra you can hear kicking in from the very first track which I don’t think you have heard but I could play it to you if you wanted but then we would be stopping and starting.
TWR: You did all of this originally back in 1996 with Genesis Revisited of course, so what is the premise behind it this time?
SH: I wanted to be able to be able to perform these songs live. I wanted to do these things in concert but what’s challenging about that of course is breaking down all the various parts; the harmonies, you name it. In Roger’s case, the scores sheet is more reliable so we made updateable demos, computer sketches, lots of analysis for Roger.
TWR: None of this stuff was ever written down was it?
SH: No, so the plot is you find yourself sitting there listening to one side of the stereo in order to pick out what you think is a guitar part and the other side of the stereo to try and find out what the other two twelve strings might be doing! (laughs). So when you have got three twelve strings all playing at once and all playing something slightly different to each other then that can really fox you. So you have to try a few alternatives and listen to it back and say ’yeah, I think this has got the sense of it’ and it is very close indeed to the original. One of the most difficult things I found was the middle of Eleventh Earl Of Mar, the little song in the middle which was a section that I wrote and I could not remember the chord shapes I was using and I hate to use the term a pair of nylons (laughs) plus a twelve string. Using a pair of nylons as one does, and it was very difficult to figure out exactly what was going on. It foxed me and it foxed Roger and that is saying something because Roger has been known to transcribe Bach by ear! He has been known to do that, he has that ability but Genesis is a little bit beyond anybody’s capabilities especially when the parts are not written down and there are several interlocking bits.
So, I thought I would do it live but really I have always been an albums animal and the chance to do this and include some of the things that were accidentally left out of the original recordings like for instance, a guitar solo on the end of Musical Box. I wrote that as a three part harmony guitar solo and one of the parts was left off on the original as we were mixing it at about six o’clock in the morning (laughs). We seemed to be incapable of editing in those days and it got left off which was a real shame but it is restored on this version. I haven’t used anything like the original equipment. In the main it is the Fernandes sustainer guitar and I have been using amp plug-ins with both Roger’s system and Ben Fenner’s system and they work in two separate ways. Roger uses Apple Mac Logic, Ben uses Pro Tools and the reason why I was working with two engineers is because for the last two months when we were concerned that having started it in January that we would finish by the end of July it was some cause for concern. We wanted to get this thing out in October and so we were doing long hours and we were using two different teams rather like separate camera units on a film set.
That’s what we were doing. Vocalists were sending in their parts, they were working at home and sending them in, most of it was done that way. Very little was recorded in my studio in terms of vocals. So we had these different layers to it, people performing in different places. Jeremy Stacey doing his drums in his studio..
TWR: I suppose that is the advantage of modern technology, you can get a whole lot of people to do their parts where otherwise you would have to spend an arm and a leg to get them into one room.
SH: I think the beauty of a band is that you are all potentially in one room and the meter is not running but when you are working with a number of people who are very busy guests, busy with their own lives, you are going to take it any way you can and so we got these performances in and again ninety nine per cent perfect from them. I think people took the view that following Gabriel and Collins was a hard act to follow vocally, so nobody sent me anything that was rubbish, it was all extremely pukka. We did the odd tweak but not as much as you might think I mean when I do my own vocals a lot of time is spent polishing the stuff so it sis lovely to get a performance that is already in time, in tune and all of those things. So nobody sent me anything that was grim. It was all of a standard.
TWR: How did you go about selecting people, when you decided on doing such and such a track did you already have an idea of who you would like to have singing or playing on it? Or did people come to you and say; ‘I’d like to have a go at that’?
SH: Yeah, that’s how it worked at the end of the day in the main, I let the singer choose the song because unless a singer is comfortable with a song… I think vocalists more than anyone else have to be “in the moment” like an actor. There is no point trying to carve out a role for somebody who doesn’t love the song. So all of these people loved the songs that they were involved with and the fact that they did it as a labour of love immediately made it affordable, doable. I have done this on the favour system in other words I will do something for them further down the line, come and paint their house for them! (laughs). Play guitar for them, mind the kids so I shall be in domestic service for the next fifty years.
TWR: People have heard so much about the album so far but I think the biggest surprise has been getting Nik Kershaw involved even though he has the associations with Tony…
SH: We had a conversation at one point, Tony and I and this was a long while after I had left the band and we both agreed that we liked Nik Kershaw’s work primarily because he was somebody who used chords and so I would say that that was praise from Caesar coming from Tony. He’s a great musician, a great singer and he uses chords, even better because the school of using chords as lead instruments was started round about the time of J S Bach and probably ended up with Genesis of course. It’s an art. Other bands stray into it from time to time, Led Zeppelin had a moment of it with Kashmir. Mike Rutherford certainly had that ability, Tony certainly had it and I am not immune to it myself. It’s a way of working where you are functioning as both an ensemble and soloist at the same time but it is not a million miles away from the big band jazz approach of Buddy Rich playing Baubles, Bangles And Beads there are harmonies going on there. Or Borodin goes big band and you get Buddy Rich doing that! (laughs) and all of that influences a little band called Genesis.
TWR: How did you go about selecting out of the vast canon of material that you guys were responsible for in the beat combo apart obviously from the ones that you had done on the first album and didn’t want to do again…?
SH: I had one kind of album in mind which was just my favourite songs which included The Chamber Of 32 Doors, The Lamia etc. But I was just trying to look at it like a fan of the music. Then I had a conversation with Jason Day of EMI who said; ‘if you are going to do this, you should do pieces where the guitar is key to it’. So that is why it became a double album. I did In That Quiet Earth which we have attempted before live but this time we went the whole hog and did Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers and songs where the guitar was key such as Entangled not always playing heroically but things that were built on the guitar. And I felt that he was absolutely right and I will just have to do things that weren’t on the first album and try and dig up some bits where the guitar wasn’t exactly playing a heroic role but was there as the foundation to the tune.
TWR: The first album had an unfinished song on it (déjà vu) was there nothing around this time?
SH: There was something I could have used but I chose not to. It is slightly complicated this one. For legal reasons I had to defer with this, not that anyone was preventing me but I put that idea to one side and all I can say is that there were songs included that were not part of the Genesis canon but which were songs that I had recorded previously with two other members of Genesis and it felt like it was stuff that was part of the whole picture and so including them was like including deleted scenes, particularly when the guys themselves said nice things about the finished versions, including Banks and Rutherford and Collins and Phil said nice things about Please Don’t Touch. Tony said nice things about Shadow Of The Hierophant, he said; ‘we could have used that as a Genesis track’. I didn’t think it was ever going to happen, you know three years after the event I was thinking that would never fly which was why I persuaded Mike into including it as the coda of what became known as Shadow Of The Hierophant and I was a big fan of what I had done, and I had done that as a crescendo when we rehearsed it first of all at the end of Hierophant in 1972 with Foxtrot when Peter Gabriel said; ‘it reminds me of some kind of Greek tragedy’ it was as if it had that kind of processional vast like quality something like the Greek Chorus.
TWR: It’s like the characters coming on stage at the end of a play like in Romeo & Juliet, it has a very doom-laden quality to it, portentous I think is the word…
SH: Portentous, yes it is there is an inescapable fate underpinning it, isn’t there? It’s severe basically, isn’t it? It is all stuff that was written at the time and with the guys in mind originally and in most cases the chaps did appear on versions of these, or most of the band did anyway. So I felt it was justified and it’s a bit like the Hitchcock idea of going back and re-doing The Man Who Knew Too Much, the idea of wanting to shoot the film again in this case a film designed for the ear. I wanted to do that in some cases to get it slightly different, in other cases to get it a LOT better and that is the irresistible motivation for many musicians to get it in time and in tune all at once. Plus of course all of the issues that are failing you as a young player you fond out what your weaknesses are. Is it singing? Is it rhythm? Is it being able to play in time? Whatever it is that you are in adversarial combat with so I like to think that my timing improved and my appreciation of rhythm improved
But also when I was doing this stuff and someone said to me; ’I like the arrangement you have done on that’ I didn’t know what they were talking about, ’what do you mean, “arrangement”?’ I couldn’t understand the language. Of course people get together and they pile in and you add something instinctively but I didn’t know what the word “arrangement” meant I had never learned to do this at school. It is musical sounds that compliment each other now of course, the art of production is that of making one instrument sound better , what reverb do you put on it? What effect do you use? Do you play it forwards? Backwards? These are all choices that the producer has so I wouldn’t draw the distinction between what an arrangement is and what production techniques are particularly these days when you can make a drum kit sound like it is coming out of a telephone and sound like ping pong balls going backwards and forwards. Or the same performance can sound like canons firing at the end of the 1812 Overture and it is the SAME performance but it just depends on how the technology has been used.
TWR: You have said that these tracks were pretty much your favourites from the body of work…
SH: Yes, my favourites, Chamber Of 32 Doors what a lovely track, all those… for me it always sounded as if it was heading towards an orchestra you know with the Mellotron and the RMI piano and the addition of the tubular bells which I think I was always banging on about in those days and I used top play tubular bells on things. I can’t remember who played it on the original, we never used to credit it but just that idea of the bell at the top and the bells that appear on Supper’s Ready, I played those. I didn’t even know where to bang them! (laughs) I didn’t realise that you just hit them on the top! No one told me, unschooled. Now we use samples of bells on a keyboard and they sound great. But in those days you would get a rack of them in.
TWR: I think it might come as a surprise that someone who was so pivotal in the creation of this music as you were, can have favourite tracks…
SH: Why would I have a favourite track? There are other tracks that I liked very much that I haven’t used and some that I wrote that I haven’t used but I am trying to be fair here! (laughs) I have gone for the tracks that I found most memorable from that time and that doesn’t mean to say that there weren’t wonderful things that I haven’t gone at but the ones that stand out to me there was a lot of stuff. I was looking for authenticity and so there is honesty and authenticity about these arrangements and I haven’t altered them as much as I did on the first album. What I have done is changed some of the solos in the songs like Fly On A Windshield where the guitar part always was 50% improvised. So it will always be different every time I play it. But when it came to doing Musical Box, the idea of doing a different guitar solo rather than the first recorded example of “tapping” it just seemed to me that that was just so much part of the song I couldn’t hear it with other notes.
I had this on the first Revisited album when I was doing Fountain Of Salmacis I had written the guitar solo at the end and I tried playing a different melody and it didn’t work. Every time it didn’t work it was so key to the song, those notes the become too well known whereas on The Return Of The Giant Hogweed when we come to the solo towards the end, where the piano is playing in triplets, I gave it to Roine Stolt and we had done it live and we had swapped phrases and I thought we could do the same thing and he sent me two or three different solos and he said; ’I assume that you will use what you want and leave the rest’ and he did this wah wah solo and I thought this is a radically different treatment to the one I had given it on the original and I said to Roger; ’I think I should let him have this solo and stand to one side’ and I did the guitar work on the rest of the tune. So some things stay and some things go but authenticity is the key.
TWR: That was what I thought was one of the key strengths of the first album, not everything was set in stone, you could be adventurous with some of these things and I freely admit there were a couple that left me cold or scratching my head such as Waiting Room Only…
SH: Ah yes, Waiting Room Only I called it. It was different every night and I have done a different improvisation but we had written new stuff for that and I found myself listening to that quite recently and I thought when it started out I was thinking, what’s going on here? It was just a series of noises I can’t get away with this and then when it started to unfold I thought it’s a pretty weird ride and I like the fact that it keeps on going down to practically nothing apart from a couple of wait for it teaser little guitar notes and it is the element of surprise was there and it did raise a smile as I had forgotten what it was all about. Things like the drums played with a towel on them and stuff like that. Towards the end of that they are being played with dish towels on them and Roger has an effect where they sound like they are being played through mud deliberately and they sound sticky but there was something odd about it with this tiny little guitar sound and it was deliberately turning perspectives on their head.
TWR: The same criticism will be aimed at this by certain individuals as was to the first one which is if you want to listen to the albums, listen to the originals. And that’s fine as far as it goes but the beauty of these albums is if it is different enough to make me go back and listen to the original album again then all well and good.
SH: There is a lot more detail, a lot more going on and a lot more detail on these tracks. Not all the time but there are moments of extra detail..
TWR: Were there any tracks that you started work on and then thought, oh sod this, I can’t face this one?
SH: Originally we were going to do Wot Gorilla? And Please Don’t Touch which were linked and I attempted that but we had to compromise so much with the time signature that it didn’t really seem to quite work. I was going to put them together in the way that they were originally and it’s the same drum rhythm but I had to think again. I would have done that and it also fell during the week when I was working with two different orchestras in Germany and when I came back Roger had attempted that and we were beginning to fall behind schedule and I felt that I had to stick with some safe bets here and it was the only time it seemed to founder on the rocks with a little bit too much complication. If I had had longer with this album a lot of things could have been different but this album because it was such a monumental task there came a point where I had to say, we have run out of time we don’t have time to do that and in the main it is increased detail but there are cases where it is not as much detail.
Then you get something else, for instance A Tower Struck Down is a lot more powerful sounding than the original and we kick it off with just strings. It sounds a little closer to Bernard Herrmann, it’s a little bit closer to Psycho than Elvis! (laughs). So it sounds more Hammer Horror certainly.
TWR: You have mentioned time scales, when did you… was this album your idea or did somebody say; ‘why don’t you…?’
SH: No, I have to take the blame for it and it was my idea. I tell you what, it will be the second album I have released this year because the Squackett album had been in the pipeline for a long time and it found its feet this year. I mentioned Nicky Horne earlier and I think that was pivotal and hearing Chamber Of 32 Doors on the radio as I was sitting in the radio station, in the studio of Planet Rock and when they play stuff on the speakers there you hear it as the radio listener does, and that affects the sound so the quiet bits get louder and the loud bits get quiet and it does it in the way that we are used to hearing adverts on the TV.
TWR: When did you start work on it?
SH: At the beginning of this year, in January so we have done it in about six months it was phenomenally quick and I think it took a lot out of the team and Roger, bless him, he was under a lot of strain and he was worried that we weren’t going to be able to finish these mixes in time because between the two of us we want to go back and tweak things and we had to take a much more pragmatic and disciplined attitude to this. So for the last two months we have been doing twelve hour days and nobody was seeing their family too much during that time. There is a downside and the cost can be quite high because you kind of give up civilian life at that point; you’ve been drafted. As soon as you are on the road or as soon as you have been into an album you really do say goodbye to civilian life.
TWR: Do you think that after having done the first album and now doing this one that you are perhaps in danger of becoming your own Genesis tribute act?
SH: I tell you what, if I were to answer any criticism that might be levelled at me as regards that all I can say is that since I left Genesis I have been involved in so many different kinds of music and after I have spent a year doing this, which is what I am going to do. I am going to become an individual again. I have always said that there is always a danger of wearing a curator’s cap in a museum of your own making but I do think those exhibits are worth looking at again because they are jolly fine and if I weren’t a proud exhibitor or curator and I do feel some sense of responsibility to these songs which I feel have not exactly been disowned by the majority of the other perpetrators then certainly I feel that often disparaging statements are made about them to the effect of ‘we did that when we were young and then we moved on and did it in a different way and had more commercial success, therefore these were early experimental failures’. Now I am paraphrasing of course, nobody has said that but I sense a certain reluctance and disdain plus we are now in a time where one journalist was saying to me; ‘do you realise there are over fifty different Genesis tribute bands throughout the world doing this stuff?’ and I said ‘no, I didn’t realise that’ and for all I know maybe next week there will be a hundred but what it means is that that music refuses to die. There must be a reason why that is a genre. It is a genre that embraces all other known styles in some way or other. If only to parody them! Yet it does include everything.
All I know is that since I have started to do this there has been massive interest and the tickets have been selling massively well and so there is huge interest in it and I have taken an interest in all of the various tribute bands which are out there and I have tried to see as many of them as possible to see what material works live, how it goes down with audiences, how the bands manage to do it and some of them do it very well. It is lovely to get a reappraisal of that. I remember seeing Fly On A Windshield done in Italy and I thought, ‘yes, I see what it is like being on the other side, being in the audience and I see that it is a wall of sound depicting a wall of death’. It has always been one of my favourites, it always was and that idea of the Ben Hur ramming speed and that sequence meets ancient Egypt and I guess with Pete’s idea of the setting in New York of the watchful towers of New York and it is almost Nostradamus describing what might be later New York so it is a strange confusion of time zones and it is some kind of depiction of death, isn’t it? It is as if that moment was frozen in time. We have done a radical treatment to that, by the way, that might upset some fans. The vocal is treated in a radically different way but I am so proud of it.
To me it is like a pageant, when you get to Broadway Melody Of 1974 you get the idea of the American Dream turning sour, turning nightmare. It is the inconsistencies, the inequalities the “haves” and the “have-nots” and the prejudice that creates that contradiction that is modern day America and you have got that in the lyric so I think it is an intelligent, far reaching and prophetic song perhaps. And if you come back to the classical terms the Ostinato bass and the stabs, it was the ability that the band had to play in a minimalist kind of way, less is more and the wall of sound where everyone is piling in and then pulling back with this kind of haunting feel and is this progress? It’s not all swimming together is it? We’re not all in the mood really. Within it (The Lamb..) there were moments of poetic, romantic, filmic expanses and it is those moments that I come back to and that is why I have done several of those tracks on this album.
As a band we often used to say when we looked back at it that this would have made a great single album but then I know the things that would have been left off and it would have been The Waiting Room, it would have been some of the improvisations. There is some very good stuff on it and it is very claustrophobic in nature but I understand where Pete was heading with it because he finally achieved it on his third album where there is not a romantic track in sight. Intruder is an aural depiction of finding a stranger in your house and wondering whether you are going to blow him away with your spare shotgun or lay back and think of England. That’s where he was headed and I think that perhaps Genesis was the wrong team and always would have been , in a band context to understand where he wanted to go. But I loved his third album and as a radical departure from music as we know it, it was an area that King Crimson were seeking themselves but if anything it was Peter who found it. I think the difficulty for King Crimson was that the first incarnation had been so influential precisely because it was so broad based and I could be paraphrasing the exact words that Robert Fripp felt but unlike him I wouldn’t have been dismissive of the title song on In The Court Of The Crimson King and it always sounded awkward with me when he described it as a “pseudo classical pop song” and I think to be proud of one’s early work is the precise difference between me and Robert. Robert would never have gone back and re-recorded that. I feel the need to go back to those early canvasses and re-paint them, sometimes just to do a little bit more green in one corner because I am moved by detail and Pete was quite right when he described me as a colourist in that sense. I can even understand why a conductor would want to re do, and you mentioned The Rite Of Spring, so why not go back and re-do it and conduct it a little slower so that the instruments get a chance to speak? I can understand that totally. When I listen to classical music I find that unless the tempos are absolutely right, and that usually means a little slower than most people do it, I don’t get the pathos from the music that I require. I mean, I will go back to the 1812 Overture, and there are very few versions of it that work for me because there is a lovely melody in the middle that has just got to be done as a love song for me, I see it as a ballad and conductors belt through it as if it was just another canon! (laughs) They are marshalling their forces and sword fighting until the last and here in the middle is a moment of straight love and it is not just a march through the battlefields of Europe, there is a beautiful tune in there and it starts magnificently and I only want strings at the beginning, I don’t want the bloody choir - sorry! (laughs) choirs are best employed doing something else and I have always loved that. It IS voices but they have been distilled into the heavenly transmogrification that is the strings doing it. The violin is close to the voice and I have often preferred to hear the violin.
Speaking of violins, in Musical Box if we can go back to that. The little tune; Old King Cole, and you get the instrumental version of that going on in the background. Instead of fiddlers three, we used three instruments in the end. We used violin, we used distorted flute and soprano sax and they are all playing that.. (hums the tune) that melody and it is a strange little vignette almost as if it is coming to you from a courtly musicians’ gallery somewhere up there in the distance and I am really proud of that moment. Nad Sylvan added some extra harmonies and little choirs going on as well and this is where the differences are on this. I am not saying it is better than the original, its just different. The danger is always for the listener who has grown up loving this that the original is Gospel and any new version is going to ruin it entirely. But to some extent these are restorations and they are also revisions and in the main I have kept everything exactly as it was and you will be listening to vast tracts of this and thinking ’I am listening to the original album here’ but I didn’t let that stop me because on Selling England By The Pound, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, I think the original arrangement was so good and unassailable and it is only when you get to the end of that that I changed a single note, its just more in time and more in tune. Then you get the play out section that we used to call “Disney” where it all winds down and goes pastoral a bit like England has been sold off and there is this little corner left of Albion, just the gnomes! (laughs) comfortably numb gone gnome at the end, a passive acceptance a bit like an antelope being eaten by a lion and peacefully accepting that that is going to be its fate. That’s something that Jung mentioned when he was in Africa and he was attacked by a lion and he just sat there and then something happened to distract the lion. I loved doing the album.
TWR: You gave me and thank you, a nice link into the final question, when you mentioned marching across Europe. So you said that this album was done predominantly to enable you to play this stuff live, and so we now know that you are marshalling the troops for a rampage across Europe…
SH: A rampage across the world if it goes well. There are dates in Europe being booked and dates in the States being talked about and whether they happen first of all in front of everything else or whether we just do Canada first of all I don’t know. But I am trying to carry a PRODUCTION with this, unlike my normal stuff because I think the music deserves that so we are using screens and I hope to be able to use them in all places but obviously that will be a conversation with promoters and agents who might not understand why I can’t just turn up with a pair of spoons and a harmonica (laughs) because if it has got Genesis on the poster it will sell anyway mate, won’t it? (laughs) But what I don’t really want is You Tube clips going up showing that it was anything other than all bells and whistles. I think we are going to be carrying LED screens for this.
TWR: So who will be in the band accompanying you on this rampage?
SH: Okay, at the moment it is the “regular” band, its going to be Gary O’Toole, Lee Pomeroy, Roger King, Rob Townsend and me. Did I say Nad Sylvan? It won’t be Amanda, much as she would like to do it we are committing to more dates than we would normally do and domestic pressures being what they are for her, family pressures, she has a young child and she doesn’t want to be an absentee mum. I have said to her that when I reconvene the Hackett band that I would very much like her to be involved. She may show up for the odd special guest appearance. There may be some special guests but it is not driven by the idea of special guests.
TWR: It doesn’t need to be, the special guest is the music itself.
SH: I am glad you said that. The special guest in my life and in my shows is Genesis itself and that was special enough to get me noticed by the public in the first place. I will always be grateful to it for that. I’d like to think it is not a cop out.
And there we have to conclude this fascinating chat with Steve about this new project. One thing is for sure, as I can vouch for personally, the amount of effort that is expended on putting together one of Steve’s shows these ones will definitely not be a cop out! Once again my thanks to Steve and Jo for giving up so much of their time for me in what must be an incredibly busy time for them both.