VOYAGE TO THE ACOLYTE:
A THEATRO-MATIC ENCOUNTER WITH STEVE HACKETT
Thoughts and enthusiasm by David Erdos
Film and sound by Keith Rodway
Music and Inspiration by Steve Hackett
Dedicated with thanks, to Jo Hackett
The web page as a stage for the Interviewer’s exchange and expression.
On film, the encounter which the interested viewer can share.
DAVID: The best art combines. The separate forms merge together. And above all, is music; the language of heart, mind and soul. Music means more as it is the purest expression. So the chance of talking to one of my inspirations is something I can only express in this way. I’m striving for a form that I hope appeals to you. How do we engage with those people who touched something in us when we were ourselves partly formed? Whether Rock, Jazz or Blues, Classical, Punk or Reggae,the genre is nothing when someone’s hand playing touches you, through the years.
Exterior. High Street. Day.
The ENTHUSER introduces.
Click here to see this.
Then read on.
DAVID (CONTINUES) Now, take a walk down the road. The Avenue is before you. You’ve been up since Dawn and you’re early, so you measure your steps as you go…
A pleasant Surburban street on the outskirts of London. The washed cars. The bright houses, hiding the masters within. As you walk, you think back on all of the things that helped form you. You feel detached but consider how you may engage with one source.
Between people, taste defines and divides and often gives way to judgement.
It is our task to resist that and to perhaps, unify.
As and if you read or watch, you are me, meeting one of my inspirations. Steve Hackett, Composer, Singer, Guitarist, chief of the specialist polls. Practically an Album a year since 1977, and before that an uncanny debut, whose skill and beauty created an unmatched atmosphere.
Music without prejudice: If you can.. resist style, and embrace substance. So called prog rock won’t bite you, as in its purest form, songs evolve. As you walk, you dream back to some of the songs that first formed you. Twelve years old, cassettes proffered..and one of these: Genesis. The song; Dance on a Volcano, a chime from a distant guitar drawing closer, before transportation to a world beyond your zone 6.
You’re still in the dark. I’m playing Voyage of the Acolyte. Listen. The hippy dream is updated with a classically charged mystic glow.
As a first album it shines. The title too is impressive. A young musician commencing and charting his journey to chase down his muse.
Aren’t we all Acolytes to the separate things that we worship?
Our enthusiasms explain us and this is how I become You.
And so you and I now become the Acolyte on your journey. A mythic quest with a bus pass. A brief conversation whose flow and rhythm forms a small symphony.
Your eyes open.
Inside, you select the next music: a Hackett guitar piece from his second LP. Side Two, track Four. A vocal air flows around you. A singing starts in you that you do not recognise. The Voice of Necam solo. The melody of which, will transform you. A single note lowers before you, taken with it, rise with hope, then reflect. Improvised words can’t contain what these notes do to your spirit. And yet they appear to form anchors, mooring you to the day:
(SINGS:) Then/ As we move from sleep/ To find out who we are/We lose the things a dream can keep/ In favour of the star…
The expert plays on as I journey out now to meet him. From my current day, back to childhood, before returning again to these words. How do you license the thrill of meeting someone you favour.. especially somebody bound to music, and its secret call on the heart. We are not what we eat – that merely assists our condition. We are what we value and what we choose to retain.
(The day finds its form as the front door opens. From childhood bedroom to doorstep, Guitar in hand, there he is..)
SH: Good morning..
DE: Hi, Steve..Thanks so much..
SH: Glad you found it. Come on through to the front room.
SH: This is the temporary studio for a while..as we build in the garden..
DE: Hello David..
SH: And this is the permanent, wife Jo..
DE. Hi, Jo.. thanks so much..
DAVID: Enter Steve’s wife and partner. An accomplished and impassioned poet, lyricist and activist in her own right, she sits me down, proffers coffee, and a childlike dream becomes concrete, coffee and chairs, in a trice..
(Lights rise. A comfortable living room. Bookcases, neat sofa, keyboard, guitars, table, plants. Steve Hackett sits as separate worlds move to settle. Jo Hackett, provides, sits and listens and then busies herself with her day.).
DAVID: We both tune up for a while as we settle into the air made together. As we dance around conversation the small volcano of my own fervour, fuels. We skirt and skip, move around, touching on songs, moments, albums. Ideas are conjured, reflections occur, thoughts connect. The Acolyte is now the Master. The spells have been conjured and in the room, today thoughts resound. You want to learn what made them and chart their inspirations. The audience making music with the favoured artist, perhaps. A jamming of thoughts you will read and see if you’d care to. Your younger self re-emerges as you follow on where he leads…
DE: You’ve been so busy of late. Your workrate is astounding. Thanks so much for this.
SH: Not a problem..
JH: It’s been a hectic time..
SH: We did three of four months on the road straight. We’ve got a few changes coming up. People are starting to fall over, you know..
DE: Yes. there’s been a lot of cross pollination. It must be wearying..
JH: Busy bees..
SH: Yes. Not all of them, sharp! But I’ve been revving up recently and making up for some years when things were more complicated and various people that I was involved with were making things difficult…
DE: On the management side..?
SH: Yes, that’s right. But in recent years, since Jo and I have been together full time we’ve upped the gig schedule and it means that I’ve been playing everywhere.. and with everyone..as well as doing my own stuff..I’ve been doing a lot of guest things for people..
DE: You’ve been very promiscuous, musically..
SH: Promiscuous, yes. Prolifically promiscuous..
DE: Putting yourself about a bit, as my Grandmother used to say..
SH: Yes, indeed.. I mean, there’s lots of things that are favours to people..so at one time, back in the day, if I did guest spots for people, I tended to charge them to do it, but then in more recent years there’s been more camaraderie in an industry that already feels marginalised in terms of those artists who specialise in greatly varied types of music..
DE: And your work’s become so varied..
SH: Yes. So I feel drawn to new standards and almost duty bound to assist..Its also good to be asked.
DE: Part of the cross pollination..Advancing the form..
SH: Glad you think so..
DE: Which to my ear you’ve always done. Its certainly there on Voyage of the Acolyte as your first album, but particularly evident on Please Don’t Touch, your second LP and first as a solo artist in which there are so many different styles of music, often in the same song.
DE: You’ve mentioned before that you felt exposed on that album..
SH: I did. Well I was out of the group for a start, so I didn’t have the comfort of saying, well here I am, let me set up my little stall in the marketplace, while the band were off elsewhere doing very well with all the numbers. Genesis was a monster and it was very hard to follow in its wake..but once you’ve been partly responsible for creating Frankensteins by product, its hard to complain that its run amok and done its thing..
DE: Was that element of exposure necessary, then?
SH: Well, it was certainly a springboard. It gave me a chance to – you know you had Tony Stratton smith who was the label boss, who took a chance on me. He was a great gregarious character who’d managed The Bonzo Dog Doo dah band, the Nice. Do you know much about him? He was an accomplished journalist, author, gambler, raconteur, drinker and impresario who then formed the label that housed The Bonzos, Genesis, Lindisfarne, Monty Python. He was a real force within what was then a new part of the industry..
DE: Very much the charisma that named the label..
SH: Indeed. I learnt a lot from him, you know. I was very happy to just sit and listen to him. Often into the wee small ones in various watering holes across Soho, or in the Marquee club’s after hours. I realised very quickly that I was the child and he was the grown up..
SH: So when I was ready to leave the band, he was right there behind me as I went on to do a whole series of albums..
DE: A kind of musical parent..
SH: He was wonderful, yes..
DE: So, we might say that under his stewardship, Genesis, as a band, in line with its origins at Charterhouse, with Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel and Anthony Phillips had become a very public school, in its own right, for your own education as a rock star.
SH: Well, yes. I very much fulfilled my role as a publicist for the band. I worked very hard to make Genesis happen. So the recent exclusion of my subsequent career from the Sum of the Parts DVD pissed me off, mightily. I got letters of apology from several members of the band and from the director who informed me that certain decisions had been made to favour some and downplay others (by others), so I actually retweeted that message as I had got a lot of flak from people saying that I seemed to have given little to it at all, when in fact I’d spent two hours being interviewed individually for it and then another two hours with the band, so somewhere along the way, there seems to have been a real imbalance.. even though we were approached as equals. And it all looked very good. And there were things contracted in and so on and so forth. And then things seemed to change. Phil wrote to me and said, well I rather naievely thought that we were all going to promote this together, but then, you know, I suppose the competitive element kicks in. So, yes. It did rankle. Its a strange one, Genesis, isn’t it? It seems to be incapable of moving forward as a viable unit, so its going to remain a band with a very interesting past – or a very promising past, I should say but not necessarily a future..unless Phil recovers enough for the others to talk him into doing it. So this once great bastion of..this that and the other..remains completely dormant. I do my best to keep that music alive by going out and playing it. I did two or three years of doing nothing else but Genesis stuff with the Genesis Revisited albums of course but I’m now changing that, so the last show I did was half and half, we did two sets, so we got the chance to show what I’m currently doing rather than just keeping the museum doors open, glorious though the exhibits are.
DE: So, you’re showing a tremendous integrity in doing that, rather more perhaps than the band itself, in archiving or curating that work; songs that will never be done again, by the original players – which is something that a fan base always wants to see.
SH: Yes, I suppose its wearing a curators cap in a museum of my own making to some extent. But I do care about it. Whereas I find that what they tend to say about the albums that let’s be honest still sell the most, is that, well, yes, we did all that when we were young..and bearded..
DE: You mean in a dismissive way..
SH: Yes, it sounds extremely dismissive..and of something that as an art form has I think exonerated itself, with time. Now, I’m getting really serious here but I do believe that there’s something valuable about a genre that tries to include within itself all other genres of music in both small and large ways. For instance I’m using a charango guitar from Peru on the latest piece I’m working on and then it’ll be a deduk from Armenia and an Oud from Iran as we go on..and there’ll be players from Hungary and so on.. so I’m not sure that there’s a distinction between what is now known as world music and that of progressive music, apart from the fact that one seems to be more hip and is considered more worthy. You know at one time its seemed that the prog rock was terminally unhip. It still had its supporters, but people weren’t talking about it, almost to the extent that you felt you couldn’t really talk about it. Publicly. But under the umbrella of progressive rock..advances, extensions and rejuvenations can be made.
DE: Music as the collection of different voices..
SH: Yes, yes..
DE: As well as flavours and tones..Its a question of style, or even life choices; to move from a food and onto a fashion analogy; the dressing up of music in new clothes rejuvenates on all sorts of levels. Its fair to say that Robert Fripp for instance, has always been a truly progressive musician on all sorts of levels, but clearly by advancing the musical form from the template set down by 21st Century Schzoid Man through new wave, into the avant garde and on into the areas of soundscaping.. and certainly your recent albums, Wild Orchids and Out of the Tunnels Mouth have been concerned with similar advances.. Do you feel that music now, or the form by which the music industry has currently defined itself is damaging and indeed limiting in a final, even fatal sense?
SH: Yes, I think to bridge both a generation gap and a style gap, to use your fashion analogy, is the true aim. Music without prejudice is where we need to pitch the tent. So, that’ll take me from the Ukele to the Stratocaster.
DE: It sounds almost evangelical.
SH: Well, yes. Irrespective of whether there is a God or not, Music is certainly the God for me, and in line with man and mammon, music is its own currency or code of belief, if you will, so I no longer worry how well or badly an album does. I mean with a case of the recent Box set, Premonitions, it wasn’t a case of ‘Oh, well that was the hit album,’ and that one didn’t do so well..’ but now its all in a box. And therefore part of a whole anyway. I mean in one sense, all achievements seem so small in retrospect. The whole point is in keeping going. Its the marathon for me. Its the run that interests me, not the finishing line.
DE: And this explains the prolific output.. so many new albums, guest spots on others work, hectic touring schedule..you’re in one sense, rewriting new ways to appreciate this music in terms of itself and in a grander sense, music as a whole..
SH: I think so, yes. I get as turned on by flamenco strumming techniques as I do blues finger vibrato. They’re all subcultures, aren’t they? They’re all inward looking and people perfect their crafts with these individual concerns. For instance I’m writing this new piece about Iceland as Jo and I went there recently, so this Peruvian charango may provide a link between inspirations. Music is landscape, writing the story and simultaneously painting the picture, so I’m trying to get all those elements in there. I find most of the music that resonates for me tends to come from this sense of having a story. Even the love songs I like tend to have accompanying narratives, whether its in terms of dreams and incident or something like the moonlight sonata, or other similar pieces of musical romanticism. Separate schools of thought is the issue… I mean, I know that I’m moving between subjects to some extent here, but separate schools of thought that really should be listening to each other is my idea of heaven. Everything’s passed. Everyone’s achieved what they set out to do, so Bach can have a conversation with Miles Davis and the idea that they all start to see the value in each other’s abilities and we get beyond the zeitgeist excites me greatly. I’m attempting that on this side of the pearly gates! I thought at some point I’d do a compilation, ‘Blues, Bach and Beyond’ as I’ve done each of those things in separation..
DE: So, in moving across the forms as you say, your advances are perhaps spreading, or almost collaging as you create new work. When I teach acting and writing, I seek new definitions and often say that the best things in each form create and perhaps merge in terms of the connections made. So we could say that Harold Pinter’s plays are more subject to his poetry than most people believe, or that Caryl Churchill’s plays are a kind of sculpture..So, what you’re doing now is a form of musical painting..
SH: Exactly, yes. So I now feel that I’m applying my influences, like paint. My Father was a painter.
DE: So, what you do now, in fact, honours him.
SH: I think it does, yes. I hope it does.
DE: I’m quite sure.
DAVID. A Pause. You connect. Empathy is a music. And as the thoughts settle, both interests now combine. You start to feel more relaxed as at the start you were nervous. Soon your exchange will come into focus, represented for you as a film..
These words have been ways for you to empathise with me. I have been sharing something that means much to me, because it dates back to a carefree time in my childhood, in which what you discover, shows you in time how to be.
SH: You were talking about Harold Pinter. Of course he started as an actor..
DE: Yes, but before that he was a poet, so there’s a fusing of inspiration and practise, right at the start of his career..
SH: Its funny that, isn’t it, as genesis started very much as writers, they thought they were going to write and other people were going to do their songs: wrong. Same with Elton John. Although of course now people are doing Elton John songs, rather more than genesis songs of course, although they have been covers of them. Although I suspect people are far more likely to go away and do Phil Collins songs, of course..
DE: R n B artists, for sure. As his solo work is still very highly regarded in that sphere..
SH: He’s had a nod to that genre, hasn’t he? I’ve had classical guitarists do some of my stuff.
DE: Yes, but I was wondering Steve, do you define your work in that way at all? It strikes me that there’s two very different sides to your music, separate to its experimentation of genre and style, from the blues based electric side to the classical acoustic work. Do you see yourself as a classicist working within rock structures or vice versa?
SH: Well, I never really did my lessons with the classical stuff. I didn’t want anyone to slap my wrist. I wanted to get there on my own. So it was a slow burn really, all of that. But I was passionate about it and in fact, put off playing finger style for a very long time until I could ignore it no longer and i thought playing with the nails might be seen as unmanly, a little like knitting! Real men don’t use nails!
DE: Ah, that wasn’t how it was in Pimlico, then, back in the day?
SH: No. But I have been known to put a bit of laquer on..
DE: Your body is a tool. And the machine needs oiling..
SH: Indeed. Although I remain a classical groupie to extend the glamour analogy. In one way of course, I’m a fraud as I’ve never studied in the dedicated sense, but on another level, because I’ve got there on my own and didn’t want to learn to do anything properly, I’ve found a connection to the early style of classical guitar playing which I must prefer, because I find it has far more varied tone colours. People that are taught these days tend to be told that they must lay into and articulate every note equally, where the more vibrato Nineteenth century approached as practised by Segovia where you slow down between phrases is so much more romantic. So every note doesn’t require the same value or dynamic and things become far more varied..
DE: You might say you’re ingraining, or weaving, or indeed mixing..we might even say progressing classical approaches..?
SH: Yes. It’s a word that my friend Theo Cheng, whose a very fine classical guitarist, said, is that what you’re actually doing is orchestrating. The bass strings are like brass if you go bright here, and if you’re doing harmonics its a little like a glockenspiel and then this is almost piano like… Its a bit of a stretch. But if you move from the sound hole and closer to the frets you start to lose less of the low frequencies and it starts to sound a bit more like a harp.. So, all of those things fascinate me. And at the moment I’m trying to do some flamenco things. I’m having a little trouble with some of the rhythms but I’m having an interesting time getting there and am then discovering other wonderful things along the way..
DE: Was this a conscious decision that you’ve devoted some time to recently, or a series of progessions since you first started playing?
SH: I had this idea right from the start that I wanted to be someone sketching in a number of styles. I didn’t want to be someone who relied or was defined solely by technique. But inevitably the more you practise and play correctly, speed becomes an inevitable consequence of that..
DE: And something to perhaps resist?
SH: At the correct times, absolutely.
DE: And its been done very artfully in your work. I’ve found that when progressive artists are too obvious with their classical influences, the work can veer towards levels of emotional detachment and dare I say it, sound quite ugly. Your work in that area remains fused with warmth and sensitivity..
SH: I suspect rock versions of classical pieces usually don’t work for me but then I want the spirit of those melodies to be evident in what I choose to do. Where Grieg left off, Led Zeppelin flew.
DE:The Hall of the Mountain King is currently to be located in or about..?
SH: Kashmir, certainly. Now that may not be a conscious thing for any of those guys. But having done some work in japan with John Paul Jones, I know of course that he was a one time orchestrator for Dusty Springfield, so the classical, string driven thing –
DE: Powers many an airship.
SH: Yes. I’m certainly interested in bands that carry an element of Grieg on board! There aren’t that many, but I do find that a great deal of Grieg sounds less classical and more magical, mystical, more pagan if you like and that connects strongly with what I do. A string orchestra can sounds as vital and as alive as a rock band..but can of course also sound like a frumpy maiden aunt, leaving you to wonder, ‘What is she doing there?’
DE: Whereas a wall of marshall stacks can at the very worst turn you into a disconsolate teenager..
DE: I suppose the natural province for classical stylings away from the concert hall lays with soundtrack work. Which you’ve not done a lot of, have you?
SH: No. There was the theme tune to the ‘Second Chance’ TV series in 1982 which was on Bay of Kings album, and then a recent lightning fast commission for an HBO documentary called Outwitting Hitler, which was mainly comprised of a series of edits of things I had already or was working on, but that was a case of the contract arriving on Friday and them needing the pieces on the Monday. So, no, Hollywood hasn’t come calling. I get the odd actor who’s interested in certain things. For instance Bruce Willis approached me..
DE: He didn’t want to sing, did he?
SH: No. We were talking about harmonica players. I’m a harmonica player as well. He came along to a show in New York, so we had a very nice time harmonising on that theme..
DAVID. My attempt at humour (at last) brings the hopeful ease into focus. And with that an image, as if you were thinking clear, seeing clear. You are now in the room. The Theatromatic approach has allowed this. The play form progresses into the filmic view. In this way the form tries to mirror the subject. A small attempt to do something a little different on this page…
SCENE THREE: FILM
DAVID. A question on the blues. You’ve never really grasped its importance, or indeed its connection to the complex songs Hackett plays..
Interior. Lounge. Day.
STEVE HACKETT explaining.
Click here to see this. You’re in the room.
The page, as the stage, once again.
DAVID: So, now you’ve stepped clear from me to come to your own conclusions. You were in the room and continue, if interested, to be. But there was more to be said as I could have talked until evening about songs and moments that have contributed, to me. And so the words carry on, hoping to turn this page into music. As enthusiasm takes over and in just an hour, allows the constrained mine to roam, free.
DE: You’ve never done a voice and guitar album have you, more of a folk singer style. Roy Harper’s son, Nick Harper specialises in that..
SH:Yes and he’s very good. Funnily enough, I’ve tried to talk (original Genesis guitarist and founding member) Anthony Phillips into perhaps doing something like this as he’s very keen on harmonies. He was on a couple of tracks on Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth and did a fantastic job..
DE: That would be wonderful, an album of you two together..
SH:Well, I said to him; ‘Do you fancy doing an album of harmonies and twelve string – so far he’s said no..
DE: But the future of the form if left to the hands of its antededents, could lay in projects like this?
SH: Well, we’ve spent quite a lot of time together. Once every three months or so we have a get together..
DE: Fascinating. A Genesis that never was!
SH: I said to him many years ago, ‘had we been in Genesis together, I suspect we’d have gotten on very well..’ as I think, essentially he’s a non competitive character, so we could have been and perhaps could be in a situation where it doesn’t matter if we do your song or my song, as we’d be working together in that pure way in which nobody’s counting..
DE:And what’s interesting is that you’re both so prolific. The only people I can think of that have the same level of output, not only in the prog rock form but music in general are you, Anthony Phillips, Peter Hammill and Steven Wilson of course..
SH: Yes. And I find that many of the songs I’m drawn to that are to do with the early band before I joined, are things that he wrote; such as Visions of Angels – which is a beautiful song, we never managed to do it live, but I would have done that and if anybody said to me, I’d like to do that and would you play on it? I’d be only too happy to – and other pieces such as Dusk, which is an extraordinary song, lyrically. I suspect we were listening to the same things, such as Country Joe and the Fish and what have you, early on, so there’s a real joing of forces and inspirations and approach to the guitar and composition..
DE:You also need to do an album with Alan White to complete your Yes triumvirate (of GTR with Steve Howe and Squackett with Chris Squire), and then move on to Anthony Phillips!
SH: Well, I’ll tell you proudly that Chris once asked me to join Yes. I turned him down but should have said , well let’s do a Yes album and if it turns out well, we’ll tour it. But at the time I was in the middle of a divorce and various other things, so I was fighting on the homefront and to do more of a rear guard action seemed a better option. I loved working with Chris. I’m sure we would have done more stuff together. I think Chris was a great force in music.
DE: That’s what’s wonderful about the Squackett album. You would have thought it would be a certain thing –
SH: But it wasn’t at all..
DE:No. Its a wonderfully joyous, Pop Rock record, a more satisfying version of what you were attempting in GTR and the Feedback 86 projects, perhaps? Tall Ships is remarkable. That bassline is just stunning.
SH: That was the first thing to be written. He had a new bass one day and we were out my other studio in Twickenham and he said, ‘I just want to try this out..’and I said, ‘Chris, that’s really good, if you can remember what you just played – as 99 out of 100 musicians rarely can – we can turn that into a song..’ If you ever hear the surround sound version of that, the chorus from that song is the best thing on that album, because we use the same thing from the front and back, so its just enormous..
DE: The Summer Backwards is a beautiful song..
SH: Yes. There was some stuff intended for solo things, be it his or mine..but what was lovely about him, was that anytime that anyone had an idea, we used it. And then you might add a variation or whatever. So everything was longform..
DE: Expansive.. painterly, to return to our previous theme..
SH: Yes. I had a lot of joy working with him. As I did with..
DE: With Steve Howe?
SH: Yes, we worked well together, although there were some eventual differences. But no, I was going to say Richie Havens.
DE: Oh. One of my favourite singers. A beautiful, beautiful voice..
DE: There’s an old Sight and Sound concert from 73, 74 which I have recorded with him and a small band and the intensity of his playing.
SH: Yes, all he needed was a guitar and his voice..
DE: He often did that thing that Kevin Coyne did, just wrapping his hands around the neck and strumming furiously..
SH: Well, he liked to play barre chords on an open tuning, but he also liked doing this thing – I saw him once at the Jazz Cafe –
DE: I saw him there..
SH: Did you? Did you see him, doing this kind of field holler thing…
DE: Yes, I did!
SH: Extraordinary. He’s singing into the floor and he’s just getting louder and louder and this voice is just filling the room.. I mean, how is that possible? He has the power of an operatic singer. I don’t know if you’ve ever stood next to an Opera Singer in a big Opera House, and how loud a singer can be. I believe someone like Bryn Terfel can be as loud as 200 others.. in the Albert Hall! No Mic!
DE: Ah, but you sing of course through the guitar..
SH: Well, yes..
DE: And early on perhaps you were shy about your voice, or you disguised your voice a lot, in pieces like Carry on up the Vicarage and so on..but its a charming voice..
SH: Well, thankyou. Its a smaller voice than Phil or Pete, but I think I can go higher and sweeter and it allows me to explore character at the expense of technique perhaps. But I have amassed more technique with time. But its notoriously unreliable. What a bastard thing! Roy Orbison will always be Roy Orbison.
DE: And Richie Havens, too. The soul in that voice.
DE: The voice is the key, isn’t, to unlocking the love or connection we feel to the song itself. I have the same thing with Anthony Newley, although of course its a very different thing, but I can listen to two minutes of him and it fills me with joy..
SH: Yes. He was very interesting, wasn’t he? I remember that series..
DE:The Strange World of Gurney Slade..
SH: Yes, that’s it..
DE:When they released it on DVD I went to a tribute evening at the NFT and people were calling it a sit com..I got quite incensed and spoke up, saying that it was one of the most original and compelling things ever made and incredibly important, responsible for many of the techniques and devices, still in use today…
DE: Form..Quite progressive..
SH: Sure, a forerunner for many of the things seen in things like Python and so on…
SH: Its a good little island, this, isn’t it? Its come up with lots of ideas. Its probably something to do with the weather. We don’t get out much, etc..
DE: That’s interesting. A climate based retreat to within, summoning the elemental forces in the internal and external senses..
SH: I think if Shakespeare had grown up in California, we might not have had quite as many Plays..
DAVID: We laughed..
DE: Innovation is another key of course. I mean IT is very much defined by its beginnings in the 60’s, but its always struck me that that was the last great decade. Obviously your career is more defined by the 70’s, but the root is there..
SH: No, I agree. The 50’s was very much the era of Light Entertainment but in the 60’s, the shackles were off and we were free to then capitalise and create in the decade that followed, once we came of age.
DE: And to do so in this very artful way. I was going to ask you about lyrical concerns and the means of expression. You’ve explained elsewhere that your song Fire on the Moon was about the end of your second marriage, but its not immediately evident. So, do you find that a tangential approach is the best way to express and indeed be creative in an artful way about painful or troubling issues?
SH: Yes, that song is about divorce and depression. But it was also about facing upto the fact that one way of life wasn’t going to work anymore and that people were pulling apart. But working with Jo, living, loving and working with her has been a huge rejuvenation. My comeback started absolutely at that moment. She has been hugely generous and put me back on my feet. And hugely patient. So that I have now arrived at the point when I realised I could no longer function without her. And the fact that I wasn’t looking for a songwriting partner, but I found one. Again, its this integration, beyond something that I am capable of and it stretches me.
DE: You progress in all senses of the word.
SH: Yes, I do. I now try and think with her brain and we have great moments of telepathy and spiritual things and premonitions. She’s hugely attuned to people and knows instantly who’s going to be a good guy and a bad guy, useful and not useful and she’s also highly concerned about the plight of the world.
DE: So you feel released from the box and perhaps for the first time, properly supported; to have someone truly fighting for you.
SH: Yes. We’re a team. We’re a force. But you know, she cares about everyone. She cares about the world. Even as a kid she told her parents to donate her pocket money to the hungry and deserving.
DE: That’s lovely.
SH: It started very young with her. I’d never met someone so engaged.
DE: Its remarkable to have found that. I’m in a solitary period of my own life, having lost my Mother and having no family either, so it gives one hope, seeing it in others. I wish you both, Mazeltov.
DE: The jewish congratualtions..
SH:Ah, yes, of course..
DE: Thankyou, Steve.
Fade to Black.
DAVID. And with that we are done. No masks on the face and no positions adopted. Just the chance of connection at the start of his day. We would leave. He would write. We filmed the introduction, which in fact was the ending of this most rewarding foray.
As I made my way home, I remembered the tape that my first friend had gifted and heard at once the playing that had made the briefest time appear long. Then music did its work and memories became albums. Books of photographs are still called that as each contained image has the power and reach of a song.
Steve’s gallery frames old and new connections, collected. As he walks through, his hands capture all he has seen, known and done. I attempt this now, thinking back, as his playing soundtracks me. I’m listening to Genesis with my Father. I’m playing The Voice of Necam to my Mum. I have returned to the past and made it my present bassline. A guitar is now playing, leading me on. I’ve begun.
To Steve and Jo Hackett
For your happiness
I offer this small dedication;
As the musician asks questions
The audience answers them.
In the means to go on
Lays the truth we take from the silence;
In the comparison and the difference
We will learn to sing the same song.
April 3rd 2016
Filmed by Keith Rodway
for International Times
The Voice of Necam – composed and performed by Steve Hackett, from the Charisma Records album PLEASE DON’T TOUCH, copyright Virgin records Ltd 2005
Blood on the rooftops (Live version) – composed by Steve Hackett and Phil Collins, from the Inside Out Records Album Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth, copyright Hackett Songs Ltd, Inside Our records Ltd 2010
Steve Hackett Wolflight album cover, copyright Maurizo and Angela Vicedomini 2015
Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited 2 album cover, copyright Maurizo and Angela Vicedomini 2012
Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited Live at the Royal Albert Hall album cover, copyright Maurizo Vicedomini 2014
Sketches of Hackett (Yellow) by Alan Hewitt, book cover photo by Alan Perry
Steve Hackett playing Oud photo, copyright Jo Hackett
Steve Hackett smiling with Gibson photo, copyright Lee Milward
Steve Hackett band live photo, copyright Jutta Fassbinder
Steve Hackett live photo (B+W), copyright Ian Rogers
Sunblender photo and effects pedals photos copyright Jo Hackett