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Taken from Ultimate-Guitar (Nov 06, 2020) and Ultimate-Guitar (Nov 10, 2020)

Steve Hackett Recalls 'Disagreements' & 'Fight to Death' in Genesis, Talks Personal Pink Floyd Connection / Steve Hackett Speaks on Why He Left Genesis, Shares Opinion on Peter Gabriel Leaving & Phil Collins Taking Over

The guitarist also remembers how Peter Gabriel approached him about joining the band. / The guitarist also discusses introducing tapping to rock as early as 1971.

by jomatami

Ultimate-Guitar courtesy
Steve Hackett | Genesis Collage. Ultimate-Guitar courtesy

During a recent radio interview, classic Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett looked back on his 1971-1977 tenure in the band, frontman Peter Gabriel leaving the fold in '75, Phil Collins taking over the vocals, how he joined the fold, his youth, and more.

You can check out Steve's latest album "At the Edge of Light" here via Amazon.

A part of the conversation is available below (transcribed by UG):

Steve Hackett Recalls 'Disagreements' & 'Fight to Death' in Genesis, Talks Personal Pink Floyd Connection (Nov 06, 2020)

Steve Hackett: "The 1950s that I grew up in, London, it was a very smog-ridden, smokey old place - post-war with lots of bomb sites and buildings that were falling to pieces.

"And in the heart of London, opposite the Battersea Power Station - made famous later, some 20 years afterward, by Pink Floyd, of course, with the flying pig in front of it.

"But that was the thing, for that was my bedroom window scene - that's what I saw as a child and I was always fascinated by it.

"Jump ahead a few years to joining Genesis; I used to advertise ever since I was 16. I left school at 16, and for about five years, every week, I used to advertise in the back pages of Melody Maker, which was the all-important trade paper at the time.

"It was the most popular one and lots of British bands were formed off the back pages. It was just the way it was. And Peter Gabriel phoned me up, I had this very wordy ad in there.

"At first, I was advertising myself as 'blues guitarist, harmonica player seeks work,' and then it gradually morphed over the years to 'guitarist, writer, receptive musician determined to strive beyond existing stagnant music forms.' And that was it.

"So that's what really got me the call from Peter Gabriel, and he said, 'We have this band called Genesis, have you ever heard of us?' And I said, 'No, but I'll give you a listen.' And then I joined them, and that was it."

What was the dynamic within the band? You could argue this is Genesis' most fertile period; you've got Peter Gabriel - genius songwriter, somebody described him as visionary and some of his stagecraft was something else - Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford - superb musicians - and Phil Collins, a veteran of stage and screen. So what was it like rehearsing, performing, and generally getting on with the rest of them? And did you know that you were creating something great, something that hadn't really been done before with those Genesis albums?

Steve Hackett: Well, I think Phil Collins has just joined - just before I did, three months before. And he was a little bit like... I guess, if you met him you'd say - oh, professional cockney, cheeky chappie, all that.

"And it was a persona that he was to exploit much more so in later life. But, working with Mike - my late great friend John Wetton said, 'I've read Mike's book, it must have been like working with the Duke of Edinburgh or something."

"And I love that line, and I said, 'Yeah, at times it was.' I think the educational system that was the so-called privileged situation that they'd undergone, they were brutalized by that, and often forbidden to play music, and forbidden to go to the local music shop and all that.

"So if beatings ensued, some of the musical... What can I say, I think they were designed to be the next Viceroy of India, you know, that that's it. I mean, I don't know if you went to a public school yourself, I went to a grammar school, but a lot of guys say the same thing - that there were harsh conditions and all that, so-called privilege.

"But at least I had a family that I could speak to, I didn't have to be stiff-upper-lip. So I think there was a lot of this repression, but I think it came out in the music and made it weird and wonderful and poetic, and all the rest."

No, I did prep school and I did grammar school, so I get where you're coming from.

Steve Hackett: "Yeah, I think it must have been tough for you. I think all education in the 1950s, so much of it was abusive, masquerading as education, but I won't go into that, that's the subject for many, many documentaries and films."

Exactly! Talk me through some of the processes there, the albums such as 'Nursery Cryme,' 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,' 'Selling England By the Pound' - the songwriting process - did you all turn up with bits, or did Peter swung in and go, 'I've got this lyric,' or did Tony's been working on this particular piece of wizardry...? How did it actually come, what was the actual process?

Steve Hackett: "Well, every song varied. But I joined the band on the basis that I was a full-time member and a full-time writer with them. So we could all write and so we contributed our bits.

"Sometimes someone would come in with a whole song and we would add to that. The songs tended to be very long at that time, in the main Genesis albums in the early '70s comprised of three or four songs a side, and sometimes two songs on a side.

"Like the 'Foxtrot' in '72, a little short piece called 'Horizons' that I wrote, which is 90 seconds long, then it gets into something that's 22 minutes long for the rest of things, so one long song.

"And everybody's competing, everybody's cooperating. Sometimes it would get pathologically competitive, other times when people dropped their guard and became their true valiant cooperative selves, it produced really top class stuff.

"Other times there were disagreements. And, yeah, sometimes it was a fight to the death, 'How about you, sir?'"

Steve Hackett Speaks on Why He Left Genesis, Shares Opinion on Peter Gabriel Leaving & Phil Collins Taking Over (Nov 10, 2020)

You had to bring a certain amount of intelligence to a Genesis album. So whilst other rock gods were doing the rock god thing - chalking off groupies on the bedpost or the back of the tour bus, a Genesis audience, and a Genesis concert, I suppose, it definitely wasn't one of those situations.

Steve Hackett: "Well, let's put it this way - I don't remember anyone throwing TVs out of the window until I worked with some other people down the line.

"But, yeah, there was a famous story about Led Zeppelin trashed the room and The Who did that in the same hotel.

"One of Genesis broke a teacup and even he phoned up at reception the following day. So we were known as perhaps we were the nancy-boys of rock, in that way."

Are you going to just divulge which member of Genesis it was?

Steve Hackett: "It was a joke by Chris Welch back in the days, like the idea that Genesis were nice and polite and all of that. But I think if you saw us in private, you wouldn't think that so much.

"I think that quietly, people did subscribe to the excesses that the other rock bands did. But it happened over a period of time, I think, we were perhaps motivated more by the music than by the need to...

"I mean, we didn't have any members who died on drugs for a start, so it wasn't a 'proper' rock 'n' roll band. Yeah, it's a great thing for a career if you can pop off by the time you're about 23, your future is assured."

Exactly, the record companies would love that. What were your relationships with other bands on the top? Because I mean, presumably bands like Yes you would kind of get on with. Would you describe yourselves, Genesis, as a prog-rock? Did you think of yourself as a prog-rock?

Steve Hackett: "No, nobody really used the term prog-rock. At the time, progressive - if people said 'progressive music,' that really meant free-form jazz in the 1960s... You said it's a catch-all looking back, but we didn't think that.

"We just thought that we were another band trying to do music that was not blues-based, anything but. There was this big emphasis on writing, and the songs had to be good. Yeah, you had to work hard at it.

"Songs might be driven by techniques or equipment; I came up with this thing called 'tapping' from 1971 onwards.

"With [1971'a] 'Nursery Cryme,' I was doing this technique where you when you're using the fretboard of the guitar like a keyboard, so both hands are on the fretboard rather than one hand picking and the other moving around the notes.

"So I was doing that. Well, people are driven by different things. Getting a Mellotron was really important to me. I knew that that would transform the band - I was keen on us getting a Mellotron and a synth so that we could be cutting-edge with the technology available at the time.

"Whereas the band that I joined - it was half-acoustic, it was almost like a concession doing some electric numbers and people used to wander out. They would show up expectantly then they would wander off to the bar.

"And then we'd do a couple of rousing numbers at the end and then we'd come back and I'd think, 'Oh my god, we've got to change the emphasis here to try and retain their attention all the way through.' And so we had a few disagreements about that; every band does."

[1973's] 'Selling England By the Pound' and [1974's] 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' - that is an album! I remember I would be early teens or whatever, and all the teens at school would have brought it out as an LP and put it on in the common room or something. It was the album - 'The Lamb' - and it was so dense and so... And then you'd just sit there in a blissful state. That sounds like it must have been an incredible experience to record!

Steve Hackett: "It was, although it was tricky because Peter Gabriel, our lead singer at the time, said that he would stay for the album and he would stay for the tour, but then he was going to leave after that.

"I think that he had an offer from William Friedkin, who directed [1973's] 'The Exorcist,' and Friedkin wanted Pete to write his next screenplay. And Pete said, 'Yeah, OK, I'll do that.'

"But what Friedkin hadn't realized was that was virtually gonna mean the breakup of the band. I think that Pete, perhaps more than anyone else, had the idea of having a solo career much, much earlier on. Although, ironically, I ended up doing the first solo album myself.

"But he left in '75 and that year I did my first solo thing. But then, we reconvened with Phil Collins on vocals, so the drummer came forward and was center stage with the mic, which is something that he'd been trained to do.

"You've got to realize - he knew how to carry a tune, and he was very, very good, I think, to be able to hold the audience in the palm of his hand. It was something that Phil had because he had the common touch.

"Whereas I think Pete's approach was perhaps a little bit more like Bowie, the sort of personifying the songs and living them and acting them out. So I think of Pete more like an actor, really, than a singer at that time.

"And the rest of us just used to sit around like Pete's orchestra whilst he was the show, visually - dressing up in all sorts of things. And it was the thing that got us on front pages of magazines and was hugely important.

"So, by the time, everyone had had their say and we've been able to control the environment with our own show. And as the show became more focused and as the keyboard arsenal grew, we were able to sound like an orchestra.

"We could give people, like, talking about people like Alice Cooper, we could give him a run for his money in terms of theatrics, and presentation, and films, and slides, and various, various things.

"And it was cutting-edge, and I'm glad you said you liked 'The Lamb Lies Down' at the time, which was a great album and a very happy memory. But the previous album, 'Selling England By the Pound' - John Lennon had picked up on the band and said Genesis was one of the bands he was listening to in 1973.

"So we were still at a kind of early stage of international touring and we were in America when we heard that news, desperately trying to get a gig anywhere."

Yeah, it's an interesting time but it says something for Genesis, that the fact that Peter Gabriel leaves and Phil Collins comes to the fore and the fans stay with him because of so many times when a band loses a lead man, nine times out of 10 that's normal.

Steve Hackett: "Yeah, well - there were a lot of different things that the band liked. Pete liked soul music and blues, he liked Otis Redding and Nina Simone. Phil liked big-band stuff - Buddy Rich with Mel Tommy on vocals, that was his big thing.

"Mike Rutherford was more Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell. Tony was more church music and Williams and Shostakovich. And I liked all of those things, and I also liked the idea of the mixture with atonal jazz and lyrical stuff so that they would contrast.

"So it was a band full of writers and sometimes that went smoothly, other times it led to massive disagreements. But when you've got five writers all trying to get hold of the pen or the key to the songwriting cabinet, you can imagine that it doesn't always... The path of true love doesn't always run smoothly through music."

True words indeed. At some point, you thought, 'Well, my time in Genesis has come to an end.' What sort of sparked that one off?

Steve Hackett: "I did an album in 1975 ['Voyage of the Acolyte'] and I had a hit with it - and I don't think anyone was expecting it to be a hit, least of all me, and so that created problems with the band.

"Sometimes it was that the very people who'd helped me make the album were turning around and saying, 'We don't feel as though you're giving everything to the band, Steve.' And they wanted me to forget about having a solo career in parallel.

"Meanwhile, I had various record companies breathing down my neck, saying, 'We want the next album, Steve.' So I was between a rock and a hard place with that. And I thought, 'Well, actually, if I step on my own, I'll at least have the autonomy; at least I'll be my own boss, the captain of my own ship if I sink or swim."

"And so I worked with lots of really extraordinary people, some of whom Genesis had already been a fan of, such as the late great Richie Havens. So I got to work with Richie - and so did Peter Gabriel some years later with his 'Story of OVO' for the Millennium Dome.

"And I loved working with him, he was great, but he was just one of many; on the same album, I worked with Randy Crawford, who hadn't had anything released in this country, and then she became a huge star, and her singing was beautiful.

"And after making the kind of album that was full of European chord changes but with the sensibility of soul singers and American black blues stuff, with this kind of mixture - this sort of mixed-race band that I had an idea reforming at that time...

"To that's what the [1978] album 'Please Don't Touch!', a year after I left Genesis, that came out in '78. And I guess that's still going, and people like Steven Wilson - he said for him, when he was 11 years old, that was something that set him on a path of thinking about lots of different types of music.

"So I had an idea of doing a kind of songwriter's album, really, or a bit like a sampler album, a bit like those 'Rock Machine I Love You' CBS albums, where it would sound like each track was done by a different artist - and in some cases, it was.

"I guess that it was a very diverse album and Tony Stratton-Smith, the owner of Charisma Records, the record company at the time, said, 'Well, it's both - its strength and its vulnerability. It's his strength and his weakness, the fact that it's so diverse."

"That's what happens when you try and do something that's got the influence of classical stuff and also all these other genres. But that idea of the pan-genre approach producing work that borrows from many different styles had to become a calling card for me.

"It's what attracted me to Genesis in the first place. I've never really shaken off those roots, the idea of having work that's as varied as The Beatles were doing."

Check out Steve Hackett's latest album "At the Edge of Light" here via Amazon.


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