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STEVE HACKETT: AUSTRALIAN TOUR & MELBOURNE GUITAR SHOW INTERVIEW

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Renowned UK guitarist, composer STEVE HACKETT made a name for himself as lead guitarist in the pioneering progressive rock band Genesis in the early 70s. He was part of the classic Peter Gabriel era line up which produced acclaimed albums such as The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Foxtrot and Selling England by the Pound (a favourite of John Lennon). With Genesis, Steve’s guitar playing produced some of their most memorable moments, from the sensitivity of his acoustic sound on Horizons and Blood on the Rooftops to the dramatic rock guitar solos of Firth of Fifth and Fountain of Salmacis. Yet, when Steve left the band after six years and seven albums, his career was merely beginning. He forged on to record more than 30 albums of his own and collaborated with many other respected musicians such as Yes guitarist Steve Howe in the highly successful GTR. Steve also worked with notable musicians such as Paul Carrick, Bonny Tyler, John Wetton and Brian May, who has credited Steve as an early influence.

Now the legendary Genesis guitarist will embark on his first ever Australian tour with his celebrated Genesis Revisited show, as well as an exclusive acoustic-based performance with trio at the MELBOURNE GUITAR SHOW on Sunday August 6th, followed by a Q&A.
Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up with Steve for a chat about his Genesis days, his guitar gear, the upcoming Australian tour and his special Melbourne Guitar Show performance.

Five decades on since Steve Hackett left the influential british band Genesis, he decided he’d like to ‘revisit’ the Genesis material that he played such an integral role in creating. Initially he turned to Genesis bandmate, drummer Bill Bruford to assist. Bill’s immediate and cheeky retort to the invitation was, “Ah, you want to get it in tune and in time at the same time!”  Despite Bruford’s jest, Steve claims that there is actually much truth in the friendly jibe.

“Back in the day, the difference was that albums were done very quickly on a shoestring and recorded between tours,” he explains. “When you have had decades to reflect on it,  you work out what people really like and what they are not so keen on. I think with the benefit of hindsight, it means that when I re-recorded a number of those things, I was able to draft in an orchestra from time to time and do enlargements of the original ideas.  Something that might have been a classical sounding sequence back then, may have sounded nice on a Mellotron but it is not as good as the Royal Philharmonic or real players tracked up.”

It’s not just in Steve’s recording of the music where he sought to improve on the Genesis originals, on stage he’s able to draw on the advances in technology to deliver an epically grand sound too. Plus, he also contributes to the blend with a very special guitar from the past.

“It is better sonically now,” he states categorically. “And we keep it as real as we can live but for instance, we do a two drum thing just on one song. You’ve got a guy playing real drums … toms in the main and then there is a  moment when Bill Townsend,who plays sax and various woodwind things, goes over to pads, triggering single note samples. He’s playing them in time with the drummer but then it really is like a wall of drums. I was amazed how it sounded, even in the rehearsal room. You couldn’t have done that back in the day. If Tony Banks wanted to smooth out the Mellotron back in the day, he would put an organ with it. I fell in love with those sounds back in the day, thinking they were great but then you hear modern stuff smoothing it out and it sounds much more orchestral. That’s a big part of it for me, making it sound sonically as good as possible. I mean guitars can do things too that they couldn’t do back in the day. The guitar that I am playing live actually belonged to Gary Moore originally. Fernandes built several of these custom made things. They did one for me and one for Gary and I was using his as a spare from time to time. When he passed on, Graham Lilley his guitar tech that we both shared at one point, said to me are you interested in this guitar and I said yes. So that’s the one I play live. The beauty of these Fernandes guitars is that they sustain without any tyranny of volume. The note really goes on, it’s like a violin. You can decide whether you want it to reproduce the notes you are playing or a harmonic of that note or a mixture of the two. It has a slightly violin-like quality or vocal-like quality to it. It has a Floyd Rose trem on it and as I say, they built the same one and I suspect they gave it to him as a gift as they did for me as they knew we both played Les Paul Goldtops. Mine is overly bright but his one is always solid sounding. On record it is not just the Japanese Fernandes but my old favourite Les Paul tends to come into play. I don’t take it on the road anymore. There was an accident and the neck was sheared off but I had it glued back and it is a fantastic sounding guitar but it is fragile. I’ve had three Les Pauls stolen in my time. I think it is unlucky to take it on the road but I do have the Gary Moore Fernades now.”

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As Steve ventured into gear geekdom without much encouragement, we kept the theme running and asked about the amplifiers he has used over the course of his career.
“I was using Hi Watts to start off with and I switched,” he tells me. “When I was recording I was using a Hi Watt or a little Fender Champ or Pignose even. I was with H&H for a short time then I was with a Roland Jazz Chorus set up. Then I switched onto something more durable like Marshalls, less clean but has the poke. I think Marshalls are a bit of a warhorse for any touring act. It’s interesting recording with those things, you tend to turn them up to 12, never mind 11 and get a wonderful sound out of them. In recent times I have become a fan of virtual amping and the kind of simulation that goes with it. I use a mixture of things, ended up using a virtual Orange amp with a Tube Screamer in front of it sometimes. Lots of things, you can switch from one cabinet to another or one head to another. It’s a lot quicker set-up time wise. Miking lots of things, you could spend a week doing that sort of stuff. I have seen bands do it. Going down to the farm doing sessions for Wind and Wuthering, there was an American band, I think it was Foreigner and there was a room that was just full of amps with every kind of miking imaginable. They would have spent the week doing that. Nothing wrong with that. Joe Bonamassa does it and gets a wonderful sound. When we did the last Revisited album, I had a studio in Twickenham and we had the amps up really loud and you could hear them through the floor. Then we did the virtual amps and I said to Roger King, who was engineering, I can’t believe I am not hearing it through the floor. I am not a luddite I don’t smash things just because they are new and I don’t decry the old way either.”

3SteveHackett-LeeMillward-DSC_9395Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited theatre shows in Australia will be a wonderful sensory overload of many classic Genesis tunes that inspired so many other great bands and were also a soundtrack to the lives of many discerning music fans. Plus he’ll touch on some tunes from his brand new solo album The Night Siren. Hackett has never made it to Australia before and is excited to play to as many people as possible.

Australian Musician is particularly pleased to present an exclusive acoustic-based performance on Sunday August 6th at midday at our Melbourne Guitar Show. The purchase of a limited release premium ticket to the event will allow you entrance to the only Australian performance by the Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio. In this more eclectic and informal setting, Steve will play an exclusive up-close and personal acoustic-based show featuring musical director Roger King on keyboards with woodwind/ brass virtuoso Rob Townshend. Following Steve’s performance, doors will then be open to the general guitar show public to enjoy a Q&A with Steve.
“Well with the guitar show, I don’t really know what to expect,” he says, not giving too much away.  “It’s essentially acoustic but it can vary and have other instruments there. But I’m no stranger to guitar shows. Of course I did the GTR thing with Steve Howe back in the day. I think we managed to sporn a whole bunch of spin offs, variations on the word guitar. We had 2 or 3 or more players. It’s an interesting way of doing things. I’m not sure about guitar battles, where one tries to play faster than everyone else. I never really wanted to reduce music to the level of sport where you are trying to shave nano-seconds off the sprint. It’s nice to have moments like that in a set but I don’t want to play in top gear all of the time but I’m quite looking forward to the trio performance. It will be completely different to the theatre shows. It won’t be the same material. We’ll touch on some Genesis things but it will be the more gentle moments. My band has that capability to turn on a dime and do solo stuff, Genesis or go off on a tangent into a jazz odyssey. We keep it moving. It is a very flexible band, very chameleon like. They’re a very clever bunch.”

After having such a wonderful career in music spanning five decades, there is much for Steve Hackett to look back on and celebrate but I wondered what he is most proud of …
“I tell you what I am most proud of,” he says without skipping a beat.  “Back in 1973, I remember hearing that John Lennon said that Genesis was a band he was currently listening to. It was said during an interview he gave in New York. Then some years later when I just left Genesis, the album I did was Please Don’t Touch. There was a short piece on it for guitar and flute and Yehudi Menuhin (Violinist/conductor) was doing a film based on gardens and all the pieces used on it were from Bach and Mozart and what have you and then there was this piece of mine which cropped up in it. I couldn’t quite believe it. The reason why I mention those two seemingly disconnected things, is that I saw them both on a chat show together and they were arguing, having a really heated discussion. I just thought, well those two guys arguing are obviously from different sides of the divide. There was a bit of a class war going on but somehow, whatever I did, managed to get under the radar on two different occasions and gained their approval. So I am actually most proud of that rather than the hits. You might think I am most proud of that but I am quite interested in the fact that perhaps there’s an area in progressive rock, that in a way bridged a generation gap, where the very separate world of rock and blues came together for a while and that started to happen in the late sixties, partly due to the legacy of The Beatles. I wanted Genesis to become an orchestra. Occasionally I have been out there doing Genesis stuff with an orchestra and that is an absolute joy for me to do with Genesis, what I think George Martin did for The Beatles. So my idea is to always heal the divide, so yes there is room for people who have been academically trained and yes there is room for people who play instinctively and do it all themselves as I have and there doesn’t have to be any prejudice. I like the idea that music can be surprising and not follow rules and a song can be any length. I think the shortest thing I have ever done with Genesis was something I wrote which was 1minute 43 seconds long (Horizons)  and the longest thing, which followed that ironically was about 23 minutes long (Supper’s Ready). Music without rules and without prejudice is what it is all about for me.”

Steve Hackett: Tour Dates:
Friday 28th July – AUCKLAND, Town Hall (Genesis Revisited extended show)
Wednesday 2nd August – BRISBANE, Tivoli (Genesis Revisited extended show)
Friday 4th August – SYDNEY, Enmore (Genesis Revisited extended show)
Saturday 5th August – MELBOURNE, Palais (Genesis Revisited extended show)
Sunday 6th August  (midday) – MELBOURNE, Melbourne Guitar Show, Caulfield Racecourse (Exclusive acoustic-based trio)
Sunday 6th August (evening) – MELBOURNE, 170 Russell St. (Wind and Wuthering 40th anniversary celebration show)

Steve Hackett Theatre show tickets here
Melbourne Guitar Show show premium ticket info (includes Steve Hackett trio performance) here
Steve Hackett Q&A to follow his trio performance will be open to general guitar show ticket holders

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