Interview Steve Hackett

"Every time I make a new album, it's a real challenge to do things better than I did in the past"

(March 2022, text by Martien Koolen, edited by Peter Willemsen)

The British Master guitarist Steve Hackett (72) needs no further introduction. He's the only ex-member of Genesis who still intensively performs on stages all over the world. Moreover, he records new music on a regular basis and of a high standard quality. Last year he released his 28th studio album Surrender Of Silence and on March 7 and 8 he played in Tivoli/Vredenburg (Utrecht) for a sold-out venue. Hackett also wrote an autobiography called A Genesis In My Bed, so there are some interesting topics to talk about with this excellent guitarist, and polite and friendly human being. After some small talk about the stormy weather (Eunice), I cut to the chase and asked Steve about his new solo album.

Unfortunately, I couldn't witness neither shows. Would you please say something about the setlist you played?
“Well, during the first set we played two new songs from the latest album Surrender Of Silence, namely Held In The Shadows and The Devil's Cathedral. After the interval we played the Genesis album Seconds Out in its entirety which we will really enjoyed.”

So, from Squonk till the last track Los Endos?
“Yes, indeed. I think it will always be a treat to the Dutch audience.”

Yes, it will, as Seconds Out is considered to be one of the best live albums ever made, right?
“I don't know about that, and I beg to differ, although it is a great album of course, but I miss a couple of songs on there.”

What was the lineup of the band?
“On drums Craig Blundell, on keyboards Roger King, on vocals Nad Sylvan, on bass guitar Jonas Reingold and on saxophone, flute and keyboards Rob Townsend, so the best band ever indeed!”

From L to R: Steve Hackett, Jonas Reingold, Nad Sylvan, Graig Blundell, Rob Townsend and Roger King.

Speaking of Surrender Of Silence, how did you approach the songs on that album? Did you have a concept or theme in mind?
“Writing or composing a song is actually an organic process these days and I need to have an idea of a few songs to start off with. Every time I make a new album it's a real challenge to things better than I did in the past. In former days we had a band in the studio, and we played and rehearsed but nowadays there is no band in the studio. It's more like Roger King, maybe my wife Jo and me of course sitting at the computer and doing my thing there. There also needs to be room for expression of course and I have to focus on my guitar playing, but normally that's no problem as the guitar rather plays me, so... The first track that was ready to record was Scorched Earth, followed by Natalia which is filled with lots of orchestral passages. In fact, there is lots of orchestral stuff going on, on the entire album and it's a hugely detailed album, very full-on indeed.”

Some people even called it a kind of metal album...
“Yes, I saw that in a couple of reviews. It is weird, isn't it? Maybe it's due to my guitar tapping, something that is done in metal music a lot, I guess... I was obviously the first one doing that, although lots of guitarists claim that they were the'inventors' of the guitar tapping modus.”

As far as I can remember you did that for the first time in the classical epic track The Musical Box with Genesis. Am I right?
“Yep, that might be absolutely correct, as I also experimented with tapping in The Return Of The Giant Hogweed, but never mind that, musically Surrender Of Silence is indeed a rather heavier album, with also more social comments in the lyrics and a lot of anger as well!”

Surrender Of Silence (click for review)
Where does that anger come from, seeing the fact that I know you as a rather quiet and satisfied character?
“Well, that maybe so, thanks for the compliment, but I'm rather angry and worried about the way how refugees are still treated these days, as I really have a compassion for these people. Governments are becoming increasingly anti-social and the only thing that counts in this world is, sad but true, how much money and power you have. So, in fact, Surrender Of Silence is one long protest album and I hope that people understand where my anger, or better said, my frustration, comes from.”

Surrender Of Silence is your 28th solo album. When you left Genesis did you ever think of making that number of solo albums?
“Well, when I was younger, I really didn't think about that and when you look at the fact how you produce an album these days, I can probably make twenty-eight solo albums more, ha, ha! As a musician I'm not dependent on the money machine that you need for example in making a new movie, that is massive and costs a fortune indeed, Nowadays, as a musician, you sit in the studio behind your computer screen and your musical devices, which can be stored in a small cigar box, and you compose and record new songs. Lots of times I really marvel at all the musical devices that exist. It's really amazing!”

Will there be a Genesis Revisited album number 3 in the near future?
“Let me ask you, would you like to hear a Genesis Revisited number 3?”

Yes, I would indeed, very much so actually...
“Well, I think that it will be possible at some point, but no epics anymore. Let's pick some other unexplored Genesis gems, although I'm not sure which ones. I would and have to take some of the songs that were less memorable and do them to a memorable standard and make the things that sounded weaker sound stronger. There are a couple of songs that sounded better during rehearsals than they did when they actually were recorded, and I would have to make that sound spectacularly good indeed. So, when something is recorded in a less than spectacular fashion then it is possible to make it, so that would be the challenge for a Genesis Revisited number 3, right?”

Are you already working on new songs for your next solo album?
“As a matter of fact, I am, indeed. I already have composed and rehearsed a couple of new tracks, which all honour the musical past by the way, think of influences from The Beatles and ELO, such as in songs like For Absent Friends that Genesis recorded in 1971 for Nursery Crime. It was the first song I ever wrote actually. Speaking of The Beatles, I recently read that John Lennon was a true Genesis fan and that really made me proud!”

What is your ambition in life?
“Getting better, play the guitar better, sing better. I still need to find that voice, an authentic universal musical message to touch people as much as I can.”

Steve Hackett
Is there any record that changed your life?
“Yes, several, like for instance Bolero by French composer Maurice Ravel, or albums by The Shadows, The Beatles and of course John Mayall.”

Do you have some musical guilty pleasures? Well, you know, mine is ABBA...
“Ha, ha, ha, nice one, my friend. Well, Johann Sebastian Bach, I must confess, is one of my heroes. I'm really a fan of his music, and of course I love the blues. Think of Peter Green (former guitarist and singer of Fleetwood Mac, MK) and the American blues harmonica player Paul Butterfield. I love it!”

You also released an autobiography called A Genesis In My Bed. How were the reactions?
“The reactions were really good actually, especially from older people.”

And did you get feedback from your former Genesis band mates?
“None whatsoever, absolutely not indeed.”

You are 72 now, and forever young I guess. How do you motivate yourself as you are obviously not thinking about retirement?
“Everything still seems to function very well in my body and mind, so I keep on going. I like performing, I like playing my guitar and so I feel the need to redouble my efforts. As I told you before, I will go with another album, so watch out for that.”

Thanks for your precious time to answer my questions.
“Thank you and yes it was a real pleasure to play in the Netherlands again in the lovely Tivoli/Vredenburg venue!”

More info about Steve Hackett on the Internet:


       review album 'Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth'
       review album 'Live Rails'
       review album 'Beyond The Shrouded Horizon'
       review album 'Genesis Revisited 2'
       review album 'Genesis Revisited: Live At Hammersmith'
       review album 'Wolflight'
       review album 'The Total Experience Live In Liverpool (Deluxe Edition)'
       review album 'The Night Siren'
       review album 'Wuthering Nights: Live In Birmingham'
       review album 'Live At The Royal Festival Hall'
       review album 'Selling England By The Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live At Hammersmith'
       review album 'Blues With A Feeling'
       review album 'Surrender Of Silence'

       review DVD 'Spectral Mornings'
       review DVD 'Fire And Ice'
       review DVD 'The Bremen Broadcast'
       review DVD 'Genesis Revisited: Live At Hammersmith'
       review DVD 'The Total Experience Live In Liverpool (Deluxe Edition)'
       review DVD 'Summer Storms And Rocking Rivers'

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