❉ The former Genesis guitarist discusses his new live film and other musical projects.
“Did Brian May borrow the finger tapping technique from me?” the Genesis guitarist muses, as thoughtful a speaker as he is a guitar player. “I know he played it, so did Eddie Van Halen who credited me with it, and I played it in 1971 with Genesis, so I must have invented it. Though perhaps it was invented by an Ancient Egyptian [laughs]”
Steve Hackett is here calling about his new live DVD, Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham, a film taken of Hackett and his band at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Filmed during his Genesis Revisited & Classic Hackett tour, the DVD’s title (and concert itself) is a fitting tribute to the recent fortieth anniversary to Genesis’ record Wind and Wuthering.
‘Wuthering Nights: Live In Birmingham is a fine concert film. When asked what it was like to perform at Birmingham that night, Hackett responds “Great gig. Always a great audience at the Symphony Hall, very chilled out, very appreciative.” This atmosphere is prevalent from the behind the scenes footage (featured as part of the DVD/Blu-Ray extras), most of which was filmed on the day in Birmingham.
A nice mix of Hackett’s solo material and Genesis tracks, the concert opens with the cracking Every Day, which features one of Hackett’s most textured guitar codas, closing the first half with the colossal Voyage of The Acolyte epic Shadow of the Hierophant (Hackett utilising one of his trademark finger-tapping techniques). Discussing his guitars, Hackett explains “I played a Gibson Les Paul on the record [of Everyday], but live I play one of Gary Moore’s Fernandes. Gary was a fabulous guitar player, a great loss when he passed on, and we once shared the same guitar tech Graham Lilley. I acquired two of his guitars. Gary was very approving of my harmonica playing, ironically enough”.
As well as these great Hackett hits, this film is a treat for Genesis fanboys, much of the second half of the concert is of Hackett and his band playing Wind and Wuthering tracks. There’s a majesty to these performances, Eleventh Earl Of Mar and One For The Vine’ have a power to them driven by Hackett’s guitar, Gary O’Toole’ s drums and Roger King’s keyboards. Hackett turns to an acoustic guitar for Blood On The Rooftops, bringing an intimacy not heard on the album version. Hackett and band perform Genesis classic Inside and Out (“a personal favourite” he tells his audience) for the first time they’ve ever played it – and it’s met with rapturous applause. “I believe Inside and Out was the first lyric Phil Collins brought to Genesis, the seeds of the great songwriter are there. In hindsight, many of us feel it should have been included on ‘Wind and Wuthering.” [the original track appeared on Genesis E.P Spot The Pigeon]
These Genesis songs are sung by Nad Sylvan (Hackett sings much of his own solo stuff in the first half of the concert), with enough shades of Gabriel/Collins in delivery to appease fans, but distinct in his own right, angelic in voice, stately blonde in Zeppelin-like mane. “When I first met him, he described himself as a vocal chameleon. When we do Richie Havens tracks, I love what he brings to those covers. And like the other guys [Gabriel and Collins], he brings variations to the songs live not heard on the records, which I think are fantastic and very encouraging, especially when we do ‘The Cinema Show’. Lovely guy, has released his own music as well”
Wind and Wuthering sits nicely as an album alongside Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, remaining a fan favourite to this day (many, myself included, consider it the best of the Post Peter Gabriel albums). It’s an album that Hackett’s very fond of. “Wind and Wuthering and Selling England By The Pound sit very nicely when played together, a lot of great song-writing and they were albums I had more than just a look in, shall we say. Blood On The Rooftops was me and Phil [Collins], I basically wrote the lyrics and intro, he came up with the title and what we called in later years the chorus- the bits where the drums kicked in. We were still writing stories for Wind and Wuthering, whether about the 19th century or the injustices of the nineteen fifties.” Hackett left Genesis shortly after Wind and Wuthering, leaving the remaining three members to record the fittingly titled …..And Then There Were Three… with Mike Rutherford playing the dual role of guitarist as well as bassist.
Early in 2017, Hackett released The Night Siren, Hackett’s twenty fifth solo album, a nice mixture of world influences, the Eastern-tinted Behind The Smoke sitting nicely beside the Celtic tones of In Another Life (complete with uilleann pipes). As an Irish writer currently living in Scotland, this is a track I’m particularly drawn to; the Celtic chords aged but contemporary. Hackett agrees. “I met Troy Donockley [uilleann pipe player] when I went to a wedding out at the Yorkshire Moors. He was playing at the reception and something happened, I thought, he has to play on one of my mine. When he played, I told him do your own thing, bringing nice Celtic Scottish chords to it and it sounds fantastic on the album”.
John Hackett, Steve’s brother, is an accomplished flautist, performing with his brother on many of Steve’s musical ventures, including on some spots on Night Siren and Wuthering Nights. John and Steve have an undeniable musical symbiosis, which Steve is the first to point out. “I’ve always considered myself a classical groupie, and John has a rock band as well as his classical stuff. He was my sounding board on Voyage of The Acolyte [Hackett’s debut], and then we went off and did other things for a while, I didn’t have any band for a bit, but now we play together again and I hope we keep playing on each other’s albums”.
Family is certainly an important of Hackett’s musical journey – his wife, Jo, features as a writer on The Night Siren.
Hackett recently wrote the foreword to Jerry Ewing’s Wondrous Stories, a new in depth history of Progressive Rock. “Prog was great back in the day, but then it was untouchable for a bit, and now it’s back on top and Jerry’s done a fantastic job charting it all”. Does Hackett consider Prog a dirty word? “No, I never have. I was never into the battle of the bands of Prog vs Punk. If something’s good, and has something to offer, then it is all good”. Hackett certainly has an eclectic taste; he’ll listen to Jimi Hendrix as easily as he’d listen to Satie.
What’s in store for Hackett in the future? “I’m about halfway through a new studio album, which I’m planning to bring on the road, but right now, it’s all about Wuthering Nights, a celebration of Wind and Wuthering and other projects”. Wuthering Nights is worth celebrating, indeed.
❉ On 26 January 2018, Inside Out Music release Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham, the new live release from guitar legend Steve Hackett. Wuthering Nights was filmed at the Birmingham Symphony Hall during Hackett’s recent, critically-acclaimed Genesis Revisited & Classic Hackett tour. Available as Special Edition 2DVD + 2CD Digipak, Blu-Ray, Digital album and Blu-Ray in stereo & surround sound. Pre-order here: https://store.hackettsongs.com/