Steve Hackett (SH) has a music career spanning 5 decades. The former Genesis guitarist is in the middle of a very busy year, with a new studio album, retrospective box set and an extensive tour. We caught up with him as he passed through York to chat about his year and look forward to the appearance at Leeds Town Hall on 20th October.
LMS: You have a huge box set of your early solo career being released, 'Premonitions: The Charisma Years 1975-1983', tell us a little about how that came into being?
SH: "It's an idea that came up about five years ago. It contains the Charisma albums that I made between 1974 and '83. We had some remixes by Steve Wilson. He had approached me a while ago. He was very keen on 'Please Don't Touch'. He'd heard it when he was 11 years old and I gather it was influential for him. So we did stereo remixes of that and 'Spectral Mornings' and we got some surrounds from him. Funnily enough, we are using surround sound in the shows, as I've been heading that way myself. The other albums were some remasters by Ben Fenner, who did a remarkable job. It's really been an extension of taking the past, brushing it up and giving it a new coat of paint. We've made it sound better than ever before. The nice thing is that when you are doing an album at the time you are flying the flag for it and fighting the cause, but it means something else when you look back at it. I'd done some work on a couple of tracks with Richy Havens around the time of 'Please Don't Touch'. He passed on last year, so to hear that stuff again and hear it remixed, it sounds really great, it sounds lovely. The set contains some BBC sessions, live recordings and even some unreleased stuff too."
"We approached Roger Dean to do the cover for it. My wife, Jo, and I are both fans of his work. He was very keen to help. He has done such a lovely cover for it. I'm very pleased with that. There are lots of photos and commentary in it too. It feels lovely to have it all in one package, and is definitive in that it is those early years after Genesis. It contains all the stuff I was doing that was flying in the face of the burgeoning commerciality that was around during the early 80s. It is very much an idealist's collection."
LMS: You also have a new solo album, 'Wolflight', tell us about that and whether you have changed the way you think about albums in the light of the way the music is consumed these days?
SH: "It has been well received, I was really pleased about that. It did has done well in the charts, not just in this country. I love making albums. I think what we did in the 1980s flew in the face of the industry at the time. I don't want to make a collection of songs that are potential hit singles, I've had enough of those in my time. An album can be an extraordinary journey through the imagination. It depends whether you are engaged by music. As a child, in the 50s, I used to listen to the sweet and powerful sounds of Mario Lanza, Elvis Presley and Glen Miller. Later on that gave way to Bach and Segovia at the same time as Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. I'm very aware of music roots."
LMS: You are supporting the releases with an extensive tour, tell us a little about life on the road.
SH: "We are doing a very long tour that keeps us busy for four months. We are nomadic creatures. We have a great time on the road. I have a band of great musicians who happen to be extraordinary comedians too. It makes life very entertaining. The tour features the musicianship of those on stage. Whether it is Gary with his drumming abilities. We have Rob, a music Professor, who is just a great with woodwind and brass. Or the other guys, we have two Swedish guys. Nad Sylvan on vocals for the Genesis stuff, while I do the solo stuff. Roine Stolt from Transatlantic and The Flower Kings, who is a great guitarist in his own right. It is an extraordinary team full of big personalities."
LMS: Given the diversity of your work, what can those coming to Leeds expect on this tour?
SH: "I wanted to arrange the tour so that it had two sets. One is solo stuff and the second is Genesis stuff. It is three hours almost continually on stage. That takes in more recent listeners, those from the past and the Genesis crowd."
"I want to do the latest stuff, from Wolflight, and responses have been great to that. It's also the 40th Anniversary of 'Voyage of the Acolyte', which was my first solo outing. It's amazing that so much of that works well live, because it wasn't designed that way when I originally did it. I just wanted to go mad in the studio and fulfill all those early ideas that I had to put on the backburner because of being a band member of Genesis"
"We then take a little break and come back on with the Genesis stuff. The band are very well versed in that because we did that stuff exclusively for about three years. We don't do slavishly accurate versions of the songs, but they are authentic. I think if you closed your eyes you would swear you are listening to the records, only bigger and in surround sound, which is lovely. What I don't do is have a band that comes on and tries to be Peter Gabriel. There are no bat wings for instance."
Steve Hackett is playing Leeds Town Hall on 20th October 2015. Tickets are available from the Leeds Town Hall website and other online vendors.