Ex-Genesis star Steve reveals he pretended to be Yes bassist Chris Squire’s roadie to get backstage for landmark 2007 concert
Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett has revealed how he ligged his way into the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion show – by pretending to be Yes bassist Chris Squire’s roadie.
And he admits he feels the need to rehearse more often as he gets older.
Hackett is preparing to start work on a second Genesis Revisited album and his collaboration record with Squire will be released in May.
He discussed his past and future, and how wife Jo fits into his career, with RND’s Martin Haggarty.
The reactions to your latest Album, Beyond The Shrouded Horizon, and the European dates before Christmas have been extremely positive. You must be looking forward to touring the “home” leg in the coming weeks.
Steve: Yes, I’m looking forward to it. Being on the road is where I am happiest, to be honest. Being at home, there are always so many things to do, but life is much simpler on the road for the most part. I know where and when I have to be, someone else does all the driving, the hotels are all booked and I basically just show up, sign in, do some interviews, eat, sleep and play guitar. At home I’m writing, rehearsing, recording, negotiating, doing interviews, and trying to be the best band leader, father and husband. And we meet so many great people, a lot of whom have become friends, like part of a big family
So how are rehearsals going?
Steve: Very well, although the older I get, the more rehearsal I seem to need to do. The old memory doesn’t hold as much as it used to, so I need to keep at it. You’d think after all these years playing some of these songs it would be easy, but you have to really work at it.
But when you think of how many songs you’ve recorded and played over the last 40-odd years, you couldn’t possibly remember most of it.
Steve: I remember doing a Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto many years ago with the London Chamber Orchestra. It went down very well, but I was taken by surprise at the end when the conductor, a lovely chap, turned to the audience and said, “And now, maybe Steve would play us some of his own music…” I was caught out – no one had suggested it before, so I hadn’t prepared anything. and I hadn’t done anything for a while. So I’m up there in front of all these people, trying to play entirely from memory and thinking, “What comes next? What comes next?” I had stage fright that night. I am very aware that as a musician, I am responsible for everyone’s evening.
People say that bands create the atmosphere, but I think it’s more the case that the crowd creates the atmosphere and the band feeds off that.
Steve: When I was young my mum and dad took me to this club. It was the first time I saw a band playing live and they were playing Shadows songs. It seemed so loud – although they would only have been small amps at the time – but I remember thinking, “How can they play so loud and yet control it?” They played those songs very well, although no one was really watching them but me.
I was at the Led Zep reunion gig at the O2 and it was incredibly loud. Chris Squire was doing a thing with Keith Emerson there that night and I only got in by being Chris’s roadie. I just picked up his bass and walked in with him. But that gig was so loud. I dare say on stage they were all wearing in-ear monotirs, but the guy mixing out front gave us an idea of what that band were all about. Instant thunder - the volume added to the mythology of the band.
After the February dates, what next ?
Steve: I’m currently on a recruitment drive – I’m recording a new Genesis Revisited album, a volume two. Like the first one, I.m reinterpreting classic Genesis songs in the way which I perhaps originally envisaged them. On the first Revisited album, I perhaps strayed slightly too far from the format on one or two songs, but overall I was very happy with that.
Ideally I’d like to feature a different vocalist on each song. I’d like to work with Steven Wilson again, for example. This time around it would also be my hope that we could do all these songs in a live format too – put something very special together, musically and visually, on a larger scale than my own band shows. Although it would take major investment, maybe sponsorship and certainly major promotion.
With the last incarnation of Genesis currently inactive, and the fact that they rarely dipped too far into the “classic” era material, you’ve really become the one keeping the flame alive for those songs.
Steve: Yes, I tend to be the one these days. I think the others maybe feel that the likes of Invisible Touch were such a massive commercial success, so that’s where the demand is. But while that was true at the time, these days the things that most people are interested in are the earlier albums.
You’re releasing Squackett, the Chris Squire collaboration, at the end of May. Will you be doing any live shows together?
Steve: We have discussed the possibility of it. We’re both very busy at the moment, so no promises, but we would both like to.
Who else features on the album ?
Steve: Roger King plays keyboards & produces, Jeremy Stacey, who played drums with Sheryl Crow, and Amanda Lehmann from my own band. I think anyone expecting a prog rock extravaganza like a cross between Yes and Genesis will be surprised. That’s not to say it doesn’t get interesting, but a lot of it you could tap your foot to.
Is it anything like GTR?
Steve: No, not really. It’s not that it’s more commercial, It’s just happened in a very natural, organic way really. It grew up around jamming and we incorporated a lot of the ideas really. I’ll be very interested to see what the reaction is to it.
You’re planning on writing your autobiography. Presumably it will lift the lid on the turbulent time when you split from both your then wife and your management. While it must have been traumatic, you seem to have been constantly writing, recording and touring ever since. Was that catharsis, financial necessity or both?
Steve: Not financial necessity, no. I think it’s just something most musicians feel they need to do in those circumstances – to climb that mountain, to overcome impossible odds.
And of course, you later met Jo, who you married last year and who has contributed to the writing process.
Steve: Jo has been fantastic. She helps me in so many ways, she makes it all possible.
Jo: I am a writer anyway, so I tend to help on the lyrical side more than the music, although I’ll make suggestions on melody.
Steve: Jo is a tremendous help with everything.
Jo: And we have a great team around us, Roger King helps with everything, Brian Coles our tour manager, Amanda with the website and Sharon our PR, lots of people.
Who would you most like to work with that you haven’t as yet?
Steve: I’d enjoy doing a record with Joe Bonamassa. He’s a very good guitar player. I’ve met him and he’s a lovely guy, and he’s also done a Yes song, and one by Genesis – Los Endos, in his own shows. I find it fascinating that he does those songs yet has this blues approach.
Can you see yourself still playing live into your nineties, like Les Paul?
Steve: I would like to carry on for as long as I can, yes. I’m aware of the ticking of the clock, but if I can play another twenty, even thirty years then why not ? But when I do eventually shuffle off into the afterlife, I’ll be there, pushing Butterfield to play with Hendrix, and joining the long queue to meet Chopin.
Steve Hackett’s UK tour kicks off in Farnham on 10th February. Full details at www.hackettsongs.com