As Genesis reassemble for a DVD and CD release celebrating their careers alone and together, Andy Howells chats to Steve Hackett who visits Cardiff later this month with a concert full of classic Genesis material.
Prog pioneer Steve Hackett might be very much his own artist some four decades after leaving Genesis but he still holds his work with the group in very high regard. So much so, he’s back out on tour with a series of Genesis Extended concerts recalling the bands early years.
Steve was Genesis’ lead guitarist from 1971 to 1977 and is the first ex-member to re-record and tour that part of the band’s material in Genesis Revisited I (1996) and II (2012).
Steve tells Andy Howells, “For many years fans have said to me “please re-join the band, please change the emphasis of what the band is doing from the poppy stuff to the rockier stuff.”
“I didn’t feel there was a chance of doing that, because you need everyone to tango at once. But I thought if I bypassed all the politics, I can create a band of my own where the people know and love the material and we seem to have gone from strength to strength.”
Joining Steve on stage are Roger King on keyboards, Gary O’Toole on drums, percussion’s and vocals, Rob Townsend on sax, flute and percussion’s, Nad Sylvan on vocals and Nick Beggs on bass and twelve-string guitar.
“There is an afterlife from Genesis but it’s lovely to be doing the Genesis thing once again,” says Steve, who recently took part in a Genesis reunion for a DVD documentary with Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks,
“It’s been great, I’ve seen grown men weep. The audiences have been fantastic for it. The material has proved itself over time, so it’s wonderful to make peoples dream come true. A lot of people weren’t around in the days when we first did this stuff. People have said “Oh, I never thought id get to see Blood on the Rooftops live or Watcher in the Skies. It is lovely to be able to do something that’s passionate for me and complex at the same time. Its the simple moments like I know What I Like, so you can clap along with it if you want or dance in the aisles should you wish.”
Steve became involved with Genesis back in early 1971 when lead singer Peter Gabriel responded to his advert in a popular music paper:
“I advertised myself in the back pages of Melody Maker every week for five years and finally stuck in an ad saying “Guitarist/writer seeks receptive musicians determined to strive beyond existing stagnant musical forms” and Pete phoned me up. He must have thought I was a nutter or an idealist or both and he was right. Had it not been for the ad he probably wouldn’t have phoned me up.”
Although chart statistics record that Genesis had great commercial success in the 1980s when Phil Collins fronted the band, Steve is keen to continue shining a light on the bands earlier material.
“Although it became a very successful thing, it became firmly a pop machine and they did that tremendously well, but there was something that was different when Peter Gabriel was the singer with the band. I think the subject matter of the lyrics was more challenging; there was a sense of magic about it. I am very proud of all my involvement with it.”
Steve admits he could keep playing Genesis material live as a full-time job for the rest of his career, but has been back in the studio working on his next album which is due for release next February.
“I’m thrilled with it,” he says, “Its part rock and part orchestral. There’s a lot of Beatles influence on it. I liked The Beatles when they started to incorporate orchestras. I also happen to be a fan of ELO as well. I’m a huge fan of the more elemental side of the classic stuff, the more Slavic moments of Tchaikovsky. Its twinning it in and out with lots of different styles and a fusion of a lot of instruments you might not recognise. Orchestra plus and group extended if you know what I mean. I think it’s my best effort.”
Steve Hackett played St David’s Hall Cardiff on October 30, 2014.
Photo of Steve Hackett by Gregory Temesvari
A version of this interview was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide in October 2014.