John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett is certainly a very busy man of late, on the day we talk, he has just returned from time in Borneo and a few club dates in Japan, amidst a wider Australian and New Zealand tour. Even so, he continues to be his usual self-effacing and courteous host,  he is such a gracious interviewee and always has interesting things to say and learn from.

This interview is in advance of his upcoming season of shows entitled ‘Foxtrot At Fifty’, which will  see him delivering a complete set consisting of that entire album. The tour will see Steve and his band playing the album along with various other classic Genesis material and some of his own solo material from the ‘Surrender of Silence’ album from last year. It is looking to be a busy few months again for Steve.

John Wenlock-Smith: Good Morning Steve, so how are you sir?

Steve HackettI am all right, fine, it has been a busy time, how about yourself?

JWS: We have had Covid actually.

SH: Ooh, that is nasty!

JWS: With Sue having asthma, she had it worse than me but we are both on the back end of it now so, hopefully, will be back to normal soon.

SH: Well, next week we go to Germany and Italy as we are doing some outdoor shows, which should be good, I like festival shows, they are genuine fun.

JWS: Then, when you come back, you have ‘Foxtrot at 50’ starting?

SH: Yes, that is right, in the autumn. I am looking forward to it, it is an album that is worthy of a revisit, some of it I have not played in 50 years!

JWS: You have also got the ‘Seconds Out Live’ album coming out in September?

SH: Yes, it is the best live album I have ever done. It sounds good, much better than the original album, which was not a good production sadly, whereas this one really does sound good. The drum sounds are better plus we took the key down for Squonk.

I think Genesis did that as well because a lot of those songs were written by non-singers and they forget that voices change as people get older and they can’t reach the high notes as easily as they used to, I know Phil cannot do it now. This latest version is exceptionally fine indeed, I guess time will tell though?

JWS: Yes indeed, I was listening to a friend of yours last week, Nick Fletcher?

SH: Yes, he is great, an extraordinarily accomplished and amazing player, the best jazz rock player in Britain today.

JWS: I was also going back and listening to some early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green.

SH: Well I saw Peter Green many times over the years, he was always a fabulous player.

JWS: I also heard an album by Ryo Okumoto that you play on as well, a track called Maximum Velocity.

SH: Yes, a friend of mine is also on that album, Michael Whiteman, who sings and plays bass on the album. He is part of a band called I Am The Manic Whale, he is particularly good too, it is interesting that he is also on the album.

I have not heard the finished album though, so I do not know if I even made the cut or if I am one of several guitarists on there but enjoy it anyway.

JWS: There are some great keyboard players out there now like Ryo and, of course, your own Roger King, about time he did a solo album.

SH: I keep telling him he should but he thinks anything he did would not sell so he is reluctant to try.

JWS: Well, maybe he ought to cover songs he likes himself or something?

SH: I will tell him, but he is happy just playing on my stuff, although he will tell me if it is not any good, he can be vocal about it too. But they are all talented players and play like demons at times.

JWS: So what is next for you?

SH: We have been so wrapped up in touring that I have not been able to record much. I have got three songs ready but not had a chance to record them so, hopefully, that will happen before long and then we will be touring ‘Foxtrot’ around the world too, so busy days ahead.    

JWS: Right then Steve, I had best let you get on but thank you once again for your time. Stay safe and well and we will hopefully see you in Buxton in September.

SH: Thanks John, take care of yourself and keep well.

Foxtrot at Fifty – Interview With Steve Hackett – John Wenlock-Smith

Photo by Tina Korhonen, all rights reserved

It is always a pleasure to spend time talking with Steve Hackett, he is such a gracious interviewee and always has interesting things to say and learn from. This interview is about his recently announced uk tour that will see Steve and his band playing the Genesis album ‘Foxtrot’ in its entirety, along with various other classic Genesis material and some of his own solo material from the ‘Surrender of Silence’ album from last year.

John Wenlock-Smith – Good Morning Steve, so how are you sir?

Steve Hackett: Oh I am all right, I’m fine. How are you doing? We have just come back from a few days away on Dartmoor.

JWS – Dartmoor – bit cold for that surely?

SH: Well it was a bit nippy, yes but, what a fabulous place, very mysterious really. I have been in London mostly but we are off to see Jo’s sister (Amanda Lehmann) and her family in Norfolk at the weekend. I like Norfolk and enjoy going there really as I enjoyed Dartmoor too, all the standing stones and stuff, it’s all unusual really.

JWS: Very bleak?

SH: Yes, but you do not get the feeling of being alone or uninhabited, you can sense the spirit’s presence.

JWS: So Jo’s sister, that’s Amanda isn’t it?

SH: Yes, along with her Father. Where she is in Norfolk, there is a fabulous tearoom there does great cake too, so we will be heading there I think, it is in a place called Haven and I recommend it highly, its fabulous.

The last time I was in Norfolk I bought a Mandolin, so I have been dabbling with that in advance of the European leg of the ‘Seconds Out’ tour. I have also been finishing off a live album that captures the ‘Seconds Out’ tour that we recorded in Manchester at the O2 the old Apollo theatre. Then, later in the year we start the next tour, ‘Foxtrot at 50’.

JWS: How can it be that that album was 50 years ago? Barely seems possible really!

SH: Yes indeed, hardly bears thinking about that 51 years ago I joined Genesis on that journey and look where it taken me. It is incredible when I stop and think about it all.

JWS: I had always hoped I would be retired by forty after having had a hugely successful music career but, sadly, that was not to be.

SH: It’s never too late!

JWS: It is for me, after my stroke I can barely play the guitar these days. I have tried learning the piano, but I am nowhere near on that either.

SH: Did your stroke affect your ability to play?

JWS: Yes, I have weakness on my left-hand side. I have a friend who also had a stroke and he has the same difficulties and is very frustrated by it really. I am less so, but I would say check your salt intake and your sugars and check your blood pressure regularly. Strokes strike without warnings. Get the message out about the dangers of strokes.

SH: I think us men tend to be poor at taking care of ourselves, thinking that we are invincible when we are not at all, thanks for the warning.

JWS: The ‘Foxtrot’ tour is playing at Buxton Opera House?I think I might try and see you there. I have never been to a concert in Buxton, I was Going to see Asia there but that did not happen, although I did see a puppet show there many years ago with my children.

SH: I am trying to think of something witty to say about music and puppets but failing, it’s cultural gap between the two!         

JWS: So ‘Foxtrot’, that means we will get Suppers Ready, Watcher Of the Skies, and Can-Utility etc.?

SH: Yes, ‘Foxtrot’ is an incredibly special album, all killer no filler as it were. Certainly one I am immensely proud of still. I do not think there is a duff song on the album.

JWS: So, after that, what will you do next as you will have done most of those Genesis albums (apart from ‘Trick of the Tail’)?

SH: Well I have always tried to do the best and not any of the dross, so I reserve the right to do that still. I want to concentrate on the good stuff and not just do anything lesser really, keeping the flame alive as it were. We all know what the classics are, don’t we?

JWS: So, have you had chance to see your old colleagues this time around?

SH: No, I have not as I was on tour at the same time as they were doing the rounds sadly, I hear that they’ve have done well though.

JWS: Yes, we saw them in Liverpool in October and they were fantastic, so much so that we are going to see them again in London in March as a Christmas present to each other. A few days at a hotel in Tring then Genesis on the Friday evening, should be good.

SH: Yes, I hope you enjoy that then, last time I spoke to them Mike Rutherford thanked me for keeping the flame burning for them. I would like to think that that helped them decide to do this last lap, as it were.

I spoke to Peter (Gabriel) recently and asked him if he had heard that Ian Macdonald had gone and he said that he had not but that he was a fan of his work. Peter and I were born a day apart from each other and it is always good to catch up with each other.

JWS: It is getting easier now?

SH: Yes, touring was interesting but, as we were in a bubble, we could not meet anyone.

JWS: We have got to look after everybody as much as we can, those Lateral flow test s are a pain though.

SH: Yes, but we have got to do it really, the best for everyone.

JWS: So, have you been working on new material at all?

SH: Yes, I have been fiddling with a few things, refining, and polishing things a little. It is a balance between immediacy and a polished performance. Bill Wyman says that blues is the more emotional side of improvisation.

JWS: I saw your brother John in Bilston recently, he had Nick Fletcher with him, who was on fire, incendiary. They were incredibly good indeed, I really enjoyed them a lot.

SH: I will tell him that when I next speak to him.

JWS: Anyway Steve, my time has gone so I will let you go and hopefully see you in Buxton on the ‘Foxtrot At Fifty’ tour!

SH: Thanks John, take care of yourself and keep well.