Steve Hackett
Genesis of a virtuoso

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Steve Hackett is a musicians musician; technically superb and equally at home as virtuoso performer or as the quiet driving force behind his band. But he has the added attraction of being more than just a great technician. He is capable of composing tunes that capture the imaginations and hearts of anyone who listens to one of his 20 or so solo releases.

Since he came to the general public's notice with Genesis in 1971 he has styled his art with a passion and creativity that few match. He transcends musical boundaries; it is not possible, as he admits himself, to tie his complex blend of rock, classical, jazz, humouresque - you name it - down to one classification. It was ultimately this diversity that led to his undoing, in the eyes of the corporate music world.
    Fortunately for us, their ignorant and blinkered approach to 'real' music forced Steve's hand. He set-up his own label, Camino, and has not looked back. With his creative control fully restored, and passion re-ignited, we now have some of his best work yet to immerse our selves into. His most recent work is To Watch The Storms. It seems a fitting title, as he goes from strength to strength while the commercial music business falls apart at the seams. To Watch The Storms has been successfully toured throughout the world, and now Steve is back with his band, by very popular demand, to tour the UK and Europe again.

counterculture caught up with Steve just before the second leg of his UK tour kicked off.

counterculture: Hello Steve, how's it going with the preparation for the next round of tour dates?

Steve Hackett: It's going really well, thanks. As you know, we've got quite a few shows coming up - I'm doing about a month of gigs in the UK and Europe - and really looking forward to it.

cc: I've just noticed it's Friday 13th today, does that hold any fears for you?

SH: [laughs] No! In fact I seem to remember I released an album on a Friday 13th . . .

cc: That was a brave move - or did you just not realise . . .

SH: It was the Defector album in '79 or '80 - well we either released it then or it went to number nine in the charts on that day - but something happened at the time and I thought 'this is good' and so I've never taken it seriously whatsoever. If we did we wouldn't go out of bed would we?

cc: There's some statistic that says more domestic accidents happen in bed than in any other place. I think trousers have something to do with it as well . . .

SH: Trousers can be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands . . .

cc: I reckon so . . . anyway, I saw your show in Deal [in Kent, UK] on the last leg of the tour. I'd never been to the place before and I turned up and thought, "Uh oh, this place just looks like some glorified Village Hall . . ."

SH: I know what you mean - I had that impression when I arrived, but do you know, I loved that gig!

cc: Are you into the smaller venues these days, and the greater personal contact they bring?

SH: Put it this way; I like to fill a theatre, but at the same time when you do a small place the pressure is off, particularly if it's sold well, and that one had sold out. I usually find the lads in the band tend to give the best of themselves. The cameras are not on it, it's more relaxed and you can really go for it.

cc: Do you tend to play for yourself or for the audience?

SH: Oh, for the audience every time.

cc: Some artists suffer from nerves and tend to block out everything but the first few rows, but with everything being so close . . .

SH: There's a number of psychological tricks that people play on themselves, but I remember seeing a number of great gigs in the old days, before I was professionally involved, in really small venues.
    I remember seeing for instance The Paul Butterfield Blues Band playing to about 20 people in a hut in Twickenham and that was just incredible. They thought "we'll show 'em" and they really did. I remember seeing John Mayall play small places, and I saw one of Cream's first gigs in the very early days when they just had the Fresh Cream album out. In fact I saw them three times. I saw them at the Saville Theatre which was owned by Brian Epstein at the time, and I saw their last gig at the Royal Albert Hall. And d'you know what their best gig was? It was by far their first gig when I saw them at the Ram Jam club. I remember meeting Jack Bruce years later and I said, "I saw you guys at the Ram Jam Club, did you do that one a lot?" And he said he only played it once, but he remembered it well as being a great gig . . .

cc: He'll probably always remember that one, and perhaps similarly for yourself, you'll probably remember the smaller ones where there's a greater intimacy, over and above some the stadium and arena gigs . . .

SH: Exactly. And I'll always remember that place in Deal, because it was so individual. There's this place in Glasgow called the Renfrew Ferry and that's an incredible gig as well - it's a ferry! You do this gig on a boat. And again the place was packed to the gills . . .

cc: I presume it's anchored . . .

SH: It was. You don't go drifting off to the Orkneys or anything. It was just great. It was only awash with drink. It was great and so was Deal. It was such a laugh doing that gig.

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