Steve Hackett 2009.
Photograph Bettina Dorr
I say, well, we have an
exclusive interview with a Friars legend. Steve Hackett played Friars
Aylesbury three times with the ever growing Genesis and played also with
Genesis at Friars gigs in Bedford, Watford and Dunstable. Steve
surprised fans when he quit Genesis, by then hugely successful, in 1977
two years after another Friars legend, Peter Gabriel, had left the band.
Steve's first big headlining tour as a solo artist was in 1978 and on
only a handful of gigs ensured that Aylesbury was one of them. Here,
Steve interrupted his current recording sessions to talk about Friars,
Genesis, the time when Peter Gabriel broke his leg at Friars, his
leaving the band, his own solo career and his thoughts on a 'classic'
Steve releases a new album "Out
of The Tunnel's Mouth" very shortly - check out his website (at the
bottom) for more details!
Friars Aylesbury Website:
Steve, welcome to the Friars Aylesbury website!
to say that Friars holds a special place in your career?
Friars was always a great gig to play for me and the rest of the Genesis
guys. It always felt like playing in front of friends, almost a family
atmosphere. Of course David Stopps was important in spearheading it.
Those shows were early victories for us all, affectionately remembered
early seventies memories.
It's clear from, not only generally speaking, but
also from the Chapter and Verse biography that Genesis held David Stopps
in very high esteem. What set Friars out amongst the other venues in the
David was such a character and really was part of the shows with his top
hat and white clothes. I remember Pete Gabriel breaking his leg there.
He always gave his all but perhaps that was a bridge too far. There was
warmth and enthusiasm from the crowd that acted as a morale booster for
the band when other hearts were harder to conquer.
You may not know that Genesis played the only ever
Friars gig at Princes Risborough in 1970 - do you remember Mike
(Rutherford) getting booked for having no tax on the van?!
If it was 1970 I canít confirm. Thatís a year before I joined the band,
so sadly I canít confirm the story about the tax running out on the van,
but it sounds plausible!
You mentioned Peter breaking his leg jumping off
of the Friars stage in 1971. How did his flamboyant stage persona sit
with the rest of the band as you were developing? This appeared to be
the exact opposite of your own unassumed sitting down position in the
Crowd surfing became part of Peteís act in later years but no-one was
ready for it in those early days and unfortunately the waters parted...
Pete did some gigs with us from a wheelchair after that, whilst waving
his crutches around wildly, which was admirably stoic! All of Genesis
used to sit down apart from Pete. It was a different time when several
bands did that, de rigueur for Ďseriousí guitarists to sit down in those
days. I still happily sit down when playing nylon!
I seem to recall that one idea he (Gabriel) had
was for the band to effectively play in front of the PA, obviously
oblivious to the horrendous feedback it would probably have caused! I
donít think this got off the ground did it?
I have no recollection of the suggestion to play in front of the PA but
I did see the Grateful Dead actually doing this.
Genesis had outgrown Friars Aylesbury by the end
of 1972, how was this time for the band with an ever increasing profile?
It was certainly only going to be up!
1973 saw a big difference in our presentation. By then we were carrying
our own lights, sound and stage set, which didnít fit everywhere, plus
we were touring other places relentlessly.
What caused the tensions that led to Peter
leaving? Was it the strong front man presence or was it more, as Peter
has alluded to, that as the singer he should be writing all the lyrics
and not singing someone else's or writing "by committee" as I think he
Pete had other projects he wanted to pursue and he also needed to spend
more time with family for a while. In the meantime the band was keen to
keep up visibility. Finances were tight. Family pressures for all of us
were difficult as many of us were becoming fathers. I sympathised with
Peteís need to write all the lyrics he was going to sing. I loved him
dearly and still do. We all missed him when he left.
Whilst you all are friends of longstanding, what
was the band's reaction to (Gabriel's first solo single) Solsbury Hill
which is widely held as a swipe at his leaving the band?
I think Solsbury Hill is a great tune and I played it live with Pete
with my own band at a charity concert in Guildford. It has a very nice
and memorable twelve string guitar part. Lyrically itís both very honest
and personal. Obviously Pete was ready for change.
Whilst looking back, it was obvious that Phil
(Collins) was the man, but how near were you to employing a new singer
in the band - there were many auditions?
Phil was perfectly capable of becoming the voice but initially he was
not sure he wanted the job, as he thought it might go with a pair of
batwings and a cloak! He had built his adult career up as a drummer. He
happened to have a great voice too, so one thing led to another...
Your departure from Genesis marked the end of an
era, this was borne out of frustration with many of your ideas not being
incorporated? I have to say that the Wind and Wuthering album was a fine
swansong, but would have benefitted from Inside and Out particularly
being on there over say something like Wot Gorilla? The Voyage of the
Acolyte prior to Wind and Wuthering must have shown you a different way
of working which you enjoyed more?
Wind and Wuthering was a fine album. On the reissue it has the three
extra tracks recorded at the time, Inside and Out, Match of the Day and
Pigeons, plus we also rehearsed up what later became called Please Donít
Touch. It was a very productive period, but not enough to hold me back
from pursuing my own muse.
The rest of the band must have been shocked at
your leaving? Do you think the collaborative way the band wrote
subsequently would have suited your style?
We often wrote collaboratively refining jams that became songs but once
I had the taste of a solo career I wanted to follow it through. It was
difficult to fully express my own ideas within the band, subsuming my
own musical identity when I had songs that were crying out to be done. I
felt the need to be my own boss and to be free to make my own mistakes
like all musos in order to be able to write and play in every style in
You presumably felt unshackled from band
restraints and obvious compromises?
It was good to be free to be myself in so many styles, including Blues
and Bach, which have inspired jazzers for years. Music is a constantly
It was a testimony to Friars reputation and its
place in your career that you insisted on one of your dates on
your first solo tour (Please Don't Touch) be at Friars in 1978. And it
was the biggest stage production ever seen at Friars till that point.
What are your memories of that first tour? Presumably the reactions were
good and you didn't feel pressured to do Genesis favourites synonymous
with you such as Firth of Fifth or the like?
I didnít start playing Firth of Fifth in its entirety until recently as
it was so well known and I wanted to carve out my own niche. These days
I welcome my old faves particularly if they have a great guitar melody.
I want to help everyone to feel they are a kid again. In any band
thereís compromise, but whilst Iíve enjoyed my solo projects, Iíve also
felt nostalgia for the past.
I also think itís obvious to anyone listening to
that first post Genesis album, Please Donít Touch, that Genesis were
going to miss something special. That album is so good and arguably more
Ďaccessibleí than itís predecessor Voyage of the Acoylte. Then again How
Can I is your Solsbury Hill isnít it?
Please Donít Touch told everyone that I wasnít going to stick to format.
It was always going to be a trip around the world, particularly by
Spectral Mornings, from Hong Kong Harbour to Brighton Pier, as Armando
Gallo put it. How Can I was a song that Ritchie Havens made possible
because he worked so quickly Ė a singerís singer and a lovely guy to
Did the more commercial direction Genesis
eventually went in surprise or disappoint you?
I still liked a lot of what Genesis did, particularly in production
terms. Who wouldnít thrill to Philís drum sound?
When you co-founded GTR, did you have set
parameters to avoid some of the problems that had befell you in Genesis?
You must have enjoyed the success though?
GTR was tremendously enjoyable, but hard work too. Steve Howe (Yes) was
and still is a great player. We had some considerable success with
Arista Records led by Clive Davis pulling out all the stops.
I have (and still play) the Genesis Revisited
album you made with some fine musicians including Genesis drummer
Chester Thompson - what prompted you to make this album twenty years
after you left the band? Do you feel that your interpretations are what
could have been? You appear to feel that way with say especially Los
Endos? Or was this approach to Los Endos based on some of the work you
did in the early 1980s on albums like Cured and Highly Strung?
I approached the Genesis Revisited album in a slightly different way to
the approach I would have now, as current technology would make it
simpler. Of course live Los Endos is still a great tour de force. I
still get a kick out of it. I felt it would be good to both celebrate
and add something to the tracks.
Do you still feel that your best work solo and
Genesis wise is Spectral Mornings and Lamb Lies Down On Broadway?
Spectral Mornings remains a favourite. Lamb has its high points, but
Selling England By The Pound is still my fave Genesis guitar album. Itís
such a rich history that itís hard to know where to begin.
Those who have seen the Genesis Songbook DVD will
have seen you showcasing some of your astonishing classical guitar
talents - do you feel at home best with the classical side or the rock
side, or both? Your Tribute album also showcases some incredible
musicianship on the classical acoustic side. I really would recommend
anyone to check that album out.
Iím glad you like Tribute. I feel thatís a
personal triumph and it was a labour of love. I always wanted to pay
homage to the great J. S. Bach. Those are my musical roots, where I
realised the unaccompanied guitar was capable of great intricacy. Both
the classical and the electric fire me up in different ways. I always
like to embrace the full spectrum.
With regards the 2007 Genesis reunion, you put a
brave face on it, but you must have been frustrated that the intended
five piece reunion to do The Lamb didn't come off? There are still
persistent rumours this will happen. What's your take? Do you feel this
will happen? You playing the encore at The Six Of The Best reunion in
Milton Keynes in 1982 remains still the only time you've all performed
together since 1975. Out of curiosity, what were the legal reasons that
prevented that gig being billed as Genesis with Peter Gabriel? Oh, and
course you re-recorded the Carpet Crawlers in 1999 with the band for a
Milton Keynes was a very happy memory for me. You can see everyoneís
obvious joy on stage in the photos. Iíve no idea about the billing, but
I flew 3000 miles to be part of the encore. It was great to join them
all. Iím sure itíll happen again sometime if they ask me and everyone
else is up for it. In the meantime Iíve got a great band that Iím very
happy playing with.
Thanks for the interview. Must scramble... guitars are calling!
Steve, thanks for your time.
Steve Hackett website
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