Steve Hackett: The Progarchy Interview

Yesterday I had the immense pleasure and privilege of talking by phone with Steve Hackett as he prepares for his 2018 Tour de Force.  Over the course of 30 minutes, Steve was genial, gracious and forthcoming.  He talked about life on a prog rock cruise, his busy agenda for this year, the musicians he works with, his take on where progressive music might be heading, and much more.  Steve’s words (slightly edited for clarity and organized by topic) follow!

About this year’s Cruise to the Edge:

“Absolutely marvelous.  I think this was our fourth Cruise, as was the case for many of the acts, and I think everyone said this time they felt that it was the best of the lot, because so many people knew each other, familiar faces.  They have a boatload of about 3,000 people.  In the end, when you’ve done this thing before, people just keep coming back, and saying, ‘Oh, hi, Steve.’ ‘Hi, Fred.’ All that is just wonderful, it’s mind-boggling, it’s like a sort of brotherhood on the briny, on the high seas.  It’s wonderful that these cruises have become such a success.   I get to hook up with all sorts of extraordinary pals, such as the guys from Marillion and all the Yes guys, of course, and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull, and so many.  So there’s a great camaraderie amongst everybody, so we all got time to hang out together, see each other’s shows, and it’s become a great tradition.”

ctte kerzner hackett

About sitting in and collaborations:

“I sat in with Dave Kerzner on the Cruise, I’ve played on a couple of albums of his.  In a way, I think there’s this thing about helping each other out, as I say, this brotherhood feeling.  And he’s tremendously hard working, he’s done so many things recently, and it’s great.  He often says, ‘Ooh, I’ve got such and such, do you feel like using that?’ in his studio.  Between all of us, we’ve got a ton of contacts and we help each other.  It’s a great time in rock & roll, it’s very much everyone’s feeding everyone else, it’s really very good.”

“We played a version of this thing called ‘Stranded,’ which was on his first album.  It was a poolside thing where we did that at night, but it really took off.  I’m hoping we see a film of it at some point.”  [Here’s Steve’s solo from the end of ‘Stranded,” as played on Cruise to the Edge 2018.  Thanks to Dave Kerzner, guitarist extraordinaire Fernando Perdomo, and Fernando’s friend Cyndi for supplying the video!]

 

“I think perhaps it’s a case of having been in the industry for a certain amount of time, where the people remember me via Genesis or GTR or solo stuff, or whatever it happens to be.  Over and above that, I’ve worked with a tremendous amount of artists, showing up, doing the solos.  Not always guitar – sometimes it’s harmonica or other strange things that I get asked to do, and if I can fit it into the schedule, I like doing it.  I’ve worked with all sorts of artists.  It hasn’t always been rock; sometimes it’s been other stuff – Evelyn Glennie, which is avant-garde stuff, a Hungarian band called Djabe.  I do stuff with them and meet musicians all over the world.”

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Hierophantic Hackett

Hwaet!  The Genesis in days gone by

and the guitarist who ruled them had courage and greatness.

We have heard of that guitarist’s heroic campaigns.

 

A comfort sent by God to the peoples of the world.

He knew what they had tholed,

the long times and troubles they’d come through

without a leader; so the Lord of Life,

the glorious Almighty, made this Hackett renowned.

–With apologies to the Beowulf poet.

 

Steve Hackett - Wuthering Nights_ Live in Birmingham
InsideOut Music.  Released today in the United States.

Hackett is back, and, of course, he’s greater than before.  He has already conquered Grendel and Grendel’s mother.  Now, he returns to fulfill the prophecy of the Hierophant.

If you’ve not guessed, my copy of Hackett’s latest live offering, WUTHERING NIGHTS: LIVE IN BIRMINGHAM, arrived in my post box today.  And, oh, what a joy it is.  I’ve listened through it all, and, now, I’m rather stuck on this version of “Shadow of the Hierophant.”

As I listen and watch it repeatedly, I am reminded what first brought me to prog rock, oh so many years ago.  It is this, most certainly, this.  The build, the lingering, the apex, the mystery, and the certainty.

I’ve always considered VOYAGE OF THE ACOLYTE the lost Genesis album of 1975, much like Squire’s FISH OUT OF WATER is the lost Yes album of the same year.  “Shadow of the Hierophant” was stunning in 1975.  It’s even better in 2018.

Hackett’s recent outings and return to the beloved prog of the 1970s only makes me realize how alive this music remains. Watching Hackett, King, O’Toole, Townsend, Beggs, and Lehmann perform “Shadow of the Hierophant” reminds me that even in this world of sorrows, heroes arise, called forth by the God to remind us of what beauty still remains.

 

Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited Live –Band with Orchestra

From HackettSongs.com:

Following last year’s sell-out Genesis Revisited tour, prog icon and former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett, announces a 6-date UK tour in October. Treating fans to many favourite Genesis and Hackett numbers, this time Steve and his band will be accompanied by a 41-piece orchestra.

The decision to undertake this tour was cemented following the critical success of last year’s one-off US performance of the Genesis Revisited music with his band and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the charismatic Bradley Thachuk.

It went down a storm with the audience and sounded amazing, with the orchestra adding even more texture and colour to these classic tracks, prompting Steve to want to perform more shows in this way. Such was the gusto and verve brought to the performance by conductor, Bradley Thachuk that he will fly over to the UK to conduct the October shows. This show promises to be a transcendent experience!

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Progtoberfest: Day 2 Report

by Rick Krueger

The sun shone warmly again on the south side of Chicago as Progtoberfest III kicked off its second day.  Taking in the view as I exited the ‘L’, it was amusing and welcoming to see a familiar screaming face painted on the exterior of Reggie’s:

IMG_4097

Hoping to get Alphonso Johnson’s and Chester Thompson’s autographs in the VIP Lounge the night before, I’d struck up a delightful conversation with members of the North Carolina Genesis tribute band ABACAB.  In 2016, festival organizer Kevin Pollack had given them “homework” for this year: to play all of Genesis’ live album Seconds Out on the 40th anniversary of its release.  You could tell the band was nervous (they focus on 1980s Genesis to get bookings, so they had to learn half the album in the past year) but also absolutely thrilled to bring it to the Rock Club stage.  And on Saturday afternoon, they nailed it, to the joy of an enthusiastic, supportive crowd and rave reviews from other acts.  They’re already planning to return to Reggie’s in April as a headliner, and for Progtoberfest IV next October.  Check out why below:

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Progtoberfest: Day 1 Report

by Rick Krueger

On Friday, October 20, hundreds of dedicated proggers converged on Chicago from around the country — and even from across the globe.  The location: Reggie’s Rock Club & Music Joint on the Near South Side, only two blocks away from the former Chess Records, the birthplace of great discs by Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones and countless others.

Reggie’s has two main rooms, both dedicated to Progtoberfest this weekend.  The Rock Club is designed for concerts, with a raised stage, a main floor, an upper level mezzanine —and a wire fence decor motif throughout.  The Music Joint has a tinier stage tucked into the back of a narrow bar and grill.  This weekend, merch tables were crammed into every inch remaining on the main floor, and patrons less interested in the music (or needing a break from the density of the sound) took advantage of Friday and Saturday’s warm weather to eat and drink at sidewalk tables.  An upstairs space that held a record store until recently was turned into the VIP/Meet and Greet lounge for the duration.


Due to the usual complications of traveling to and around Chicago as the weekend starts, I got to my spot in the Rock Club just as Schooltree was taking the stage.  With only an hour on the schedule, they powered through highlights of their Heterotopia album, condensing the narrative to zoom in on its main character Suzi.  The set left no doubt that Lainey Schooltree is a major talent; her songwriting chops, keyboard skills and vocal versatility all came through loud and clear, grabbing and holding the audience’s attention.  The rest of the band bopped along brilliantly too, with the ebullient energy of Peter Danilchuk on organ and synth leading the way.


The crowd for Schooltree was solid, but hometown heroes District 97 were the first group to pack the place, filling both seats and standing room on the main floor.   The band took no prisoners, blasting right into riff-heavy highlights from their three albums that showed off every player’s monster chops.  Soaring above the din, Leslie Hunt pulled in the crowd with her astonishing vocal power and range.  New songs were mixed in that sent the audience head-banging and prog-pogoing with abandon.

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The Albums that Changed My Life: #6, Songs of Travel & On Wenlock Edge by Ralph Vaughan Williams

by Rick Krueger

In our casually audiophile age of 96 kHz/24 bit BluRays and 180-gram virgin vinyl, it may be hard to comprehend what a difference digital recording made when it came of age in the late 1970s.   I remember cueing up Keith Jarrett’s Concerts: Bregenz, München and being blown away as much by the background silence, the clarity and depth of the piano sound, and the extended dynamic range as by Jarrett’s freewheeling improvisations.  The compact disc was still in the future — but at that point, after suffering through muddy, distorted mass-produced pressings of way too many albums, it seemed like that future was all upside.

Classical record companies were the most fervent backers of digital recording from the beginning; the prospect of “perfect sound forever” made both corporate executives and their target demographic (single men with money or credit to burn — surprise!) salivate in anticipated ecstasy.  Certainly, as I built a classical collection during graduate school, the word “Digital” on the front cover of a record always counted in its favor.

That’s one reason I picked up the album pictured above.  Another reason: I’d already heard some fine Mahler recordings by the young conductor Simon Rattle, precociously helming the scrappy City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.  And there was one more burning question: was Benjamin Britten right about Ralph Vaughan Williams?

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Phil Collins at Face Value – “Not Dead Yet” Book Review

Phil Collins, Not Dead Yet The Memoir (Penguin Random House, LLC, 2016)

51rbrtjqxel-_sx332_bo1204203200_Few people in the music industry have reached the same pinnacle of success that Phil Collins has achieved. Even fewer have sold over 100 million albums as both a member of a band and as a solo artist. This is a man who “fought in the prog wars,” hobnobbed with Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela, and who wrote and sang hit tunes for a best-selling Disney movie, for which he happened to also win an Oscar. Seemingly, the man has everything, yet this is merely the public “Phil Collins.” Philip Collins is a much more complicated man, and life isn’t as easy as he made it look over his long career.

If I were to describe this excellent memoir in one word, it would be “honest.” Two words – “brutally honest.” Collins holds little back. He invites us to come in and look at his struggles, hopefully understanding more about him and his music as we do. What stands out the most, however, is how down-to-earth he is. Unlike Genesis bandmates Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford, Collins was not raised in a ritzy upper middle-class British school. Instead, he was raised in a sturdy working-class family at the “end of the line” outside of London. Indeed, as a child he lived just far enough away from anything exciting as to make it a big effort to get anywhere. This didn’t stop young master Collins, however. Many of his formative teenage years were spent milling about in music clubs in Soho, where he saw bands such as Cream, the Yardbirds, The Who, and Yes (who would later offer him a job as drummer). He was even present the first night Led Zeppelin ever played a live show. Did I mention he was in the crowd for the Beatles A Hard Day’s Night? Yeah, he got around.

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Album Review: @DaveKerzner — Paranoia EP and New World Live LP ★★★★★

Dave Kerzner continues to amaze. His new Paranoia EP starts off with two new tracks. Don’t underestimate these. The more you listen to them, the more they take hold of you. Dave is an underrated songwriter. This EP proves it. These first two tracks are incredibly finely crafted songs, but unlike most prog they do not draw your attention to that fact. Instead, they are subtle, and your appreciation of them will only grow. Absolutely stellar tracks, they leave me wanting more. I can’t wait for Dave’s next full album.

Also on the EP are two live tracks that are taken from the extended 2015 Deluxe Edition of New World. “Secret” was never a favorite of mine, but here in this live version the song is much enhanced. It works so much better live, and Dave even drops an F-bomb to liven up the saccharine Barry Manilow vibe that I always thought ruined the song. Well, I understand the track much better now. The sappy atmosphere is actually meant to be totally ironic. Listen to the lyrics, and you’ll get it. I now love this song. I guess it needed to be abstracted from the two-hours-plus version of New World in order for me to finally appreciate it. Well, I really love it now.

As for “Recurring Dream,” I always really, really liked the song. The way it starts is so cool, and the whole harmonious structure is so beautiful, graced with one of Dave’s very best melodies. I can understand why it seems to be being played as an encore here. Bravo! This is a rock solid EP, and a real gift to the fans.

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