Interview with STEVE HACKETT
It's difficult but pleasant, to be a Steve Hackett follower. Difficult because the veteran never stops, with a constant supply of new music; and pleasant because it's a top-notch music. More so, the former GENESIS guitarist retains a nice ability to surprise his listener, even when a project is long-gestating and well-documented. Like "A Life Within A Day" by SQUACKETT, Steve's collaborative effort with a fellow English progger Chris Squire, the backbone of YES. Which is a good reason to speak to both accomplices. Over to Hackett, then.
- Steve, looks like you and Chris forged a real friendship while working on this album. How much did it inform the feel of it? It's a warm one, isn't it?
Yes, Chris and I did forge a good friendship during the recording of the album. It helped the recording process to go smoothly and we were able to talk through ideas over a meal or a drink socialising too, which all added to the creative process and the warm feel of the album.
- More so, it's the lightest record you've done since, I'd say, "Till We Have Faces". How come it's quite different from the preceding albums - and why do you tend to hue them darkly?
It's a combination of Chris' style with mine, so it's different in overall style to my solo projects, even though some of the individual tracks are similar. I follow my inspiration generally with music ideas, and the darker areas can sometimes intrigue and lead the dance!
- After GTR, one could think you wouldn't go for another full-blown collaboration. Was it SQUACKETT's gradual realisation that made you commit to it?
Chris and I enjoyed working on each other's projects and we naturally came to the idea that we'd like to do something together. It was an organic process with just the two of us in control in a relaxed environment of my living room, unlike GTR, which was a much more corporate project.
- Was it a conscious idea from the off, to do a song-based album as opposed to typical prog rock record?
We just followed the ideas that came up between us. There was no particular plan to do either straight songs or progressive material. We just followed our instincts...
- On your latest albums you often applied vocal effects while this one puts clear harmonies to the fore. Was that Chris' - and YES' - influence?
Chris and I found that our voices harmonised well together. We both share a love of harmonies like those of Crosby, Stills and Nash and it felt like the right way to go to explore our own harmonies.
- Squire usually provides a very muscular bass, much in the vein of that which sounds on many of your solo records. How important, in your eyes, is to have solid bottom end under your harmonic guitar?
Chris' bass gave a strong sense of rhythm and a deep voice that complimented the voice of my guitar. The two wove naturally together.
- There's a considerable contribution to this new album from your band's keyboardist. Why didn't you include Roger King in the SQUACKETT equation?
Roger King is included in the SQUACKETT equation as far as we're concerned. He is an integral part of the project and had a strong hand in creating, developing and polishing the tracks.
- Your current line-up is arguably the best you had in years. How vital is their contribution to your shows and why you changed this ensemble for a while for some new players?
I'm thrilled with the band I work with on my albums and on stage. The line-up works well together and every member of the band is exceptionally talented.
- For many years, and I don't count the "Tokyo Tapes" supergroup, you played instrumental versions of GENESIS' songs but now Gary O'Toole blasts them out brilliantly. The drummer's been with you for some time, so how did you discover he was a good singer as well?
The band has often done harmonies and I could hear in soundchecks too that Gary had a strong voice. We were really pleased with the way "Blood On The Rooftops" came out and so then we extended the GENESIS aspect of the show further with Gary singing.
- What was the reason behind your decision to do another album of your old band's material? Will there be surprises in the vein of "Deja Vu" from the first "Genesis Revisited"?
I felt that there were still a lot of GENESIS tracks that I hadn't explored since leaving the band, and I wanted to give that extra something to those songs. There will be some surprises, and there will also be some tracks of my own that were influenced by GENESIS or which in some cases originally been a part of the GENESIS material.
- Many people divide the GENESIS history on the Gabriel and post-Gabriel periods, but their music actually changed once you left the band. How would you describe your role in the group and the aforementioned division?
I feel that I brought a harder edge to the band initially with my guitar rock sensibility. But then I was very taken with the sense of myth and melody with the band as well along with their adventurous spirit and I embraced what I felt to be the magical essence of GENESIS.
- By the way, Rick Wakeman recently stated prog is snubbed in Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, but you made it with GENESIS. Is there a sense of achievement?
Yes, I felt very honoured that we were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. It was a really special occasion and experience.
- Speaking of surprises, your latest solo album, "Beyond The Shrouded Horizon", features "Prairie Angel" which I suppose was a GTR outtake. Was it, indeed? And how many gems are still gathering dust in your archives?
Only part of the "Prairie Angel" riff had been a part of the GTR experience. There are always riffs that take years to see the light of day. Some seeds have to wait for years until the conditions are right for them to germinate.
- That album opens with "Loch Lomond". Was there a temptation to quote a Scottish folk tune of the same title, and if there was how did you resist it?
No, there wasn't any temptation to quote the other "Loch Lomond" song, because my song was symbolic of feelings and situations. It was not primarily about the Loch itself.
- "A Life Within A Day" is said to be a debut album by SQUACKETT. Will there be more, what with all of your other projects?
It's possible we'll do another SQUACKETT album. Who knows? It all depends on life's rich pattern and where our paths lead...
- Is there any other musician, save for Squire, who you'd love to join forces with?
There are lots of talented musicians I'd like to work with. In fact, I have worked with several musicians and singers on my new "Genesis Revisited" album.
- At one of your recent concerts, I saw how many people were struck by your looks. What's the secret for this eternal youth?
I guess it's partly in the genes! I'm also very happy these days, both personally and work-wise. Happiness allows you to smile a lot more and somehow you get younger.
Photo: © Eugene Veinard exclusively for DME