This afternoon, I had the grand pleasure of speaking with a man whom I have admired since at least 1978, Steve Hackett. Though I called an hour earlier than scheduled (by accident) and though I mislabeled Hackett’s latest box set, PREMONITIONS, as PROGENY, Hackett was as kind, as intelligent, and as interesting as one might possibly imagine.
I have a feeling that I could’ve easily talked with him for another hour or so, but I didn’t want to take advantage of his obviously gracious and easy-going nature.
We covered a lot of ground in our conservation.
I was mostly interested in how he wrote, structured, and reworked his own music. Growing up a huge Genesis fan, I have rather happily found that Hackett’s several GENESIS REVISITED II releases (live and studio) have reminded me yet again just how very layered and nuanced everything Hackett produces is.
His latest studio album, WOLFLIGHT, is no different. After all, it almost seamlessly incorporates classical, orchestral, ELO-esque pop, carnivallesque rock, and Brazilian-style guitar into a mythological whole. The lyrics, too, pull together Greek antiquity with the Norse Volsunga and shed light on modern psychological and personal dysfunctions.
Rather than take copious notes or record our conversation, I simply asked questions, listened with great interest to Hackett’s many excellent insights, and jotted down a note here or there.
As Hackett has become more comfortable with his own views on music and now willing to reassess many of his once strongly held opinions as a young man, he has come to love much of what he had once dismissed, he tells me.
He knowingly and sagaciously laughed about his “one-time prejudices.”
Now, while a certain style of music might or might not grab him at every level, he loves listening to how various peoples from various cultures use an instrument. What if one uses the guitar, for example, as a drum or as something primarily rhythmic?
Whether one calls his music “world or progressive,” Hackett doesn’t want a label or genre to narrow his own thinking or his own creativity.
He is, he says, “always looking for a good tune and a good lyric,” no matter where it is to be found.
At the moment, he tells me, he’s working on two new tracks for his forthcoming album (no time frame yet, as Hackett wants it to come as it comes). One track is influenced by flamenco playing and the other deals with his own recent (and wondrous) visit to Iceland.
In our conservation, he also notes how very interested he is in exploring how the smallest and most easily dismissed instrument can contribute to a larger whole. Imagine, he asks out loud, what “the humble triangle” brings to an orchestra. It’s critical, he explains, to see what color the triangle or any other instrument offers to the whole. Once we understand what the least obvious can do, we are ready to allow things to develop in a right “sort of way,” letting each thing breathe.
In my own enthusiasm, I told Hackett how much his various GENESIS REVISITED II releases reminded me just how very alive the music of Genesis was and is and always will be. I mentioned that the performances elicited not nostalgia from me, but admiration.
With GENESIS REVISITED II, he answers, he never “wanted to be slavish, but” he did desire “to be authentic. A perfect reproduction would” be nothing but boring.
Still, he says, some things he felt needed to be exact—such as certain parts of “The Musical Box.” They were properly written from the beginning and need to remain as is. It’s all a matter of judgment. The notes are just as right in 2016, he says, as they were in 1971. He sees the GENESIS REVISITED II project as “dusting off the exhibits” while presenting them in new light.
What more can one state? Hackett is a gentleman and an artist. How nice it is to find that’s one’s hero is fully human, but in all the glory that it attaches itself to humanity. Thank you, Mr. Hackett. I will be listening for years to come.
Here’s the press release and dates for the forthcoming 2016 tour: https://progarchy.com/2016/02/18/steve-hackett-north-american-tour-2016/