John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Steve Hackett

JWS: Good morning Steve, how are you?

SH: Morning John, yes I am good, thank you.

JWS: You’ve just come back from South America haven’t you?

SH: Yes, we’ve done three weeks over there and spent the last week back here recording. In fact, I’m putting the finishing touches to a new album this very day.

JWS: What is that going to be?

SHIt is a new rock album.

JWS: So any nice long tracks for me to enjoy on this?

SH: Well I am trying to link it all together so it’s a continuous journey. I was actually talking to Jo about that earlier, about how much space do we leave between things. There a short guitar instrumental that I think my mother will like, it’s only short but it has the trill of the guitar that makes it exciting, There was a guy I was playing with in South America called Luis Fernandes and his band Genetics, I’d call him a jazz rocker really, we were trading solos, it was a lot of fun.

I was playing with my Fernandes (guitar), I have two of them, one was Gary Moore’s but I think mine is actually sounding better than his at the moment. These things change as guitars sound different every day. It’s very strange how it changes from day to day and, you know, I can tell the difference. Others say it sounds like it normally does but I can tell when it’s responding differently, some times its the electricity but other times it something else but I can tell.

I’ve just had to get my Iron Man pedal refined, it had stopped working, so I’ve had it rebuilt. It’s actually more of a treble booster that gives you a bit of an edge to your sound and it’s all good now after failing in South America.

JWS: So I’ve heard the new ‘Foxtrot at 50’ live album, I have to say it sounds really good, very clear sounding with good clarity to the vocals too.

SH: Well that’s because we had it mixed by Chris ‘Lord-Alge’ to get that clarity of sound. I’ve not heard the Blu-Ray of the concert yet though, I’ve seen it but not heard it properly. That’s all up in Norfolk at the moment but I’m expecting it to sound equally as good though.

JWS: We saw that tour in Buxton at the Opera House and we thoroughly enjoyed it, especially as it is such a great little venue, very old and very intimate.

SH: Yes that is a great venue, as is Holmfirth in Yorkshire, where they filmed ‘Last Of The  Summer Wine’. That is similar to Buxton, plus Buxton is easy for my brother John to join us as he lives in Sheffield.

JWS: I think John was with you when we saw you.

SH: Possibly, I am very pleased for how things are working out so well for him at the moment, his band, The John Hackett Band, are getting more recognition and getting good reviews, he deserves it and they are an excellent band musically too.

JWS: Actually my wife and I got married in part because of you.

SH: Really, why’s that?

JWS: When we first met we were talking and she asked what I did in my free time and I said I write music reviews and do interviews. Then I told her that I had spoken to you and she said the exact words my brother had said, “Steve Hackett from Genesis rang you!”

Then, when you did the first Genesis Revisited 2 shows in Manchester, we came along and she was overwhelmed by it all. She was very emotional, especially for Firth of Fifth, and the guitar solo reduced her to tears of happiness and joy, it was such an emotional time for her, she really enjoyed it so much.

SH: See, my mother says that I think the guitar solo does that to her, it seems to get to people, it’s a lovely melody to play as it sounds a little bit like Erik Satie. Of course, Tony Banks wrote it on piano and it has a kind of eastern melody a million miles away from what it sounds like on the guitar. It’s almost like an adagio where the guitar functions like a voice, it takes me back to my Quiet World days.

That solo seems to do things to people so a german, two French people an English guitarist and an English man came up with the whole thing. When I play that solo I feel quite secure in knowing that it’s a really good piece of music. With a nod to Bach and Erik Satie and even Ravel in the piano solo!

JWS: Anyway Steve, I think my time has gone so I’ll say thank you for your time, we’ll speak again soon I hope, keep well.

SH: Yes thanks John, you too, au-revoir for now.

Review – Steve Hackett Foxtrot At Fifty + Hackett Highlights: Live in Brighton

2022 Saw Steve Hackett fully re-emerging from the spectre of frustration over a few difficult years thanks to the pesky worldwide pandemic that affected much of the wield and disrupted how we lived and interacted with each other. It was, indeed, a turbulent, nay difficult, time for many, which saw lots of planned activities being thwarted.

So what did Steve do? he decided to mark the 50th anniversary of this ground-breaking album by touring it with his band, first playing a set of his solo material and then, in the second half, playing ‘Foxtrot’ in full and in sequence, along with a few other select tracks to round it out to a full two hour show. I have to say this set certainly makes an impression, you may ask why do we need another meander through the Genesis archives or do we actually want or need one? Well, on the evidence of this fine live document the answer is a resounding yes! We do both want and need this documented in such style.

On this album you will find Steve and his band are on top form and really making their mark with the sublime music and enthralling the added demographic audience of Brighton in the process. Okay, there is nothing new here, recent but not actually new, but still this is so beautifully recorded and wonderful sounding that it brings fresh insight and the realisation of the sheer quality of the material being performed. Steve especially is on very fine form here making his guitar sound sumptuous and masterful at the same time. His tone on Spectral Mornings alone puts many other players to shame, such is the clarity of the album. It is truly exceptional in sound, crystal clear with great separation between the instruments and clear vocals and harmonies bring heard, it’s almost like the band are in your front room, so good is the sound.

Standouts of the first set for me are The Devil’s Cathedral with it’s dark tones, hint of menace and some suitably gothic touches in the tale of an ambitious theatrical understudy who takes thing into his own hands to achieve success, a lively spirited take on Spectral Mornings and an urgent Every Day. Along with this are an effect laden A Tower Struck Down with all sorts of creaking noises occurring This has a swagger and muscular thrust to it missing from other live versions, it really crackles with energy and menace and it really sounds excellent and extremely well performed. There is also, of all things, a bass solo, thankfully this doesn’t overstay its welcome unduly and, in addition, it does reveal Jonas Reingold to be an inventive player, his addition of a well known riff will make you smile.

Camino Royal comes over very well, this song with it roots in New Orleans music and benefits greatly from the jazzy interludes of Rob Townsend’s woodwinds before a blistering guitar solo from Steve takes the track forward, a wonderful piece that most definitely impresses greatly. Then we have the final part of the short set of Steve’s own material with a shortened section of Shadow Of The Hierophant that features Amanda Lehmann on vocals. This is only a truncated version though, not the  full length one. However, even so, it is still great to hear this in any form as it is such a graceful number. The clever use of dynamics really makes this a memorable version of this slow burn of a song, it builds in its intensity very well indeed, all reaching towards its heady conclusion. Then oddly, on the CD, we have the evening’s final two songs Firth of Fifth and Los Endos.

Firth of Fifth needs little introduction really but here we receive another fine rendering of this all time classic song. Once again, the vocals are clearer than on many other versions, all of which lends a fresh appreciation for this majestic track and, as always, the manner in which it builds up to that guitar solo, possibly the most famous one in the whole Genesis canon, when it arrives you are rewarded not only by the solo but also the busy bass that underpins it so eloquently and adds to it impressiveness. This in itself is a new revelation to the jaded listener, another impressive take on a classic song, utterly sublime. We have the short but very impressive drum solo from Craig Blundell that leads into Los Endos which is faithfully reproduced here, with lots of input from Rob Townsend.

The second disc contains the rest of the ‘Foxtrot’ album in sequence and begins with the excellent and stylish power of Watcher Of The Skies with it’s menacing mellotrons that create an atmosphere of impending doom most convincingly and more than adequately. Nad Sylvan has been on top form throughout these sets and he really comes to prominence here delivering a near perfect vocal performance. At times a lesser known and certainly less celebrated track but here it is well covered and the eloquent bass from Jonas Reingold raises its profile dramatically in a really delicate and moving rendition. Next we have the ever relevant political comment of Get ‘Em out by Friday, about unscrupulous landlords evictions of undesirables (in this instance, refugees). Well, fifty years after it was written, nothing has changed, landlords are still doing the same things to gentrify and basically make even more money.

Can Utility and the Coatliners follows and this almost pantomime track is lively enough but I don’t really get it, somehow its meaning is hidden from me. The brief solo classical guitar piece Horizons is the forerunner to the album epic, and much loved, Supper’s Ready, which here receives a very warm welcome and we are treated to a wonderful version of this astonishing track with all its parts performed to the always high standards that Steve expects. This is a masterfully delivered take on the classic and brings this album and concert to a close.

The Blu-Ray is equally as fine and has a 30 behind the scenes sections which are well worth seeing. Overall this set is excellent and the Blu-Ray makes it even more worth the money. It is another fine milestone in Steve’s career and, with new music well underway, watch this space.

Released 15th September, 2023.

Order direct from the artist here:

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Steve Hackett launches live video for ‘A Tower Struck Down’; taken from ‘Foxtrot at Fifty + Hackett Highlights: Live in Brighton’

Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett presents his brand new live audio/visual extravaganza, with the release of ‘Foxtrot at Fifty + Hackett Highlights: Live in Brighton’, set for release on the 15th September 2023.

 Filmed & recorded live on his 2022 UK tour, in the coastal city of Brighton, UK, this release documents Steve and his band celebrating the 50th anniversary of the much-loved Genesis album ‘Foxtrot’. Played in full, this album features fan favourites including ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ and ‘Supper’s Ready’. The show also features a set of Hackett solo material, including ‘The Devil’s Cathedral’ from his latest studio album ‘Surrender of Silence’, and the powerful ‘Ace of Wands’. 

Today they are pleased to launch a live video for the track ‘A Tower Struck Down’, a song that originally appeared on ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’:

Watch the previously released video for ‘Watcher of the Skies’ here:

Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge & mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, the album is now available to pre-order on Ltd 2CD+Blu-ray & Ltd 2CD+2DVD, both including bonus behind the scenes interviews, as well as 5.1 surround sound. A Ltd Deluxe 180g 4LP edition will also be available, and you can pre-order now here:

The full track-listing is:

1.    Intro / Ace of Wands

2.    The Devil’s Cathedral

3.    Spectral Mornings

4.    Every Day

5.    A Tower Struck Down

6.    Basic Instincts

7.    Camino Royale

8.    Shadow of the Hierophant

9.    Watcher of the Skies

10. Time Table

11. Get ‘Em Out by Friday

12. Can Utility and the Coastliners

13. Horizons

14. Supper’s Ready

15. Firth of Fifth

16. Los Endos

Steve Hackett & band continue their busy touring schedule with further “Foxtrot At Fifty & Hackett Highlights” dates in North America beginning in October. For the full list of dates, head to:

Steve Hackett is joined live by Roger King, Rob Townsend, Nad Sylvan, Craig Blundell & Jonas Reingold, as well as on occasion special guest Amanda Lehmann.

About Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Hackett’s intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Wind And Wuthering (1977) including the classic Selling England By The Pound.

After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett’s solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, has demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar. Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognised in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of YES in the supergroup GTR.

Hackett’s compositions take influences from many genres, including jazz, classical and blues. For his later studio works The Night Siren(2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019) Hackett has explored the influences of world music. Recent tours have seen Hackett celebrate his time with Genesis including a spectacular 2018 tour in which he realised a long-held ambition to perform the works of Genesis live with his band and an orchestra.

The lockdown enforced by the 2020 global pandemic has proven to be a particularly creative period for Hackett. He began by releasing Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith, a live recording of 2019’s hugely successful tour celebrating that Genesis classic together with the 40th anniversary of one of his most-loved solo albums. Lockdown also gave Hackett the opportunity to write and record two new studio albums, the UK Classical Chart hit Under A Mediterranean Sky and the forthcoming Surrender of Silence.

In 2021, Steve and his band returned to touring, celebrating the classic Genesis live album ‘Seconds Out’, on what was one of his most successful tours to date.