Exciting times for Mr. Hackett as he was recording his first solo album while completing the first Genesis album without Peter Gabriel. It must be said that it all went very well. His solo album “Voyage of the Acolyte” reached No. 26 in the UK and No. 191 in the US. The album recorded with Genesis, “A Trick of the Tail”, was a even greater success, reaching No. 3 in the UK and No. 31 in the US.
Good times for Genesis and Steve Hackett, indeed.
Hackett relieves himself
… with a solo album. The Genesis gent reveals all to Barbara Charone, who doesn`t mind a bit.
Having failed his driving test for the second time that very morning, Steve Hackett was in surprisingly good spirits. Perhaps his orthodox examiner disliked long haired musicians.
Soft spoken, you`d hardly believe that Hackett was lead guitarist with Genesis. Still, the examiner complained about faulty steering. If only he knew the true identity of this aspiring driver, the examiner might have been lucky enough to obtain the collected works of Genesis for a niece or nephew.
Despite the fact that Hackett had arisen at the ungodly hour of 7 am, he had much to smile about. With the rest of Genesis, he has been working on their next album for several weeks now at Trident, already pleased with the results. Fresh from his first solo project, `Voyage Of The Acolyte` Hackett has come up with an album of high quality. None of the usual self-indulgence here.
“I deliberately kept away from trying to prove how fast I could play,” Steve said taking a break from group recording. “I didn`t want the album to sound like a guitar record. There`s snatches of flash playing but that`s not really my scene.
“What I wanted to do was try out as many ideas as possible. I wanted to fulfill a number of roles basically writing for instruments like cello, mellotron, flute and voice which I had never done before. I used as few people as possible, keeping the nucleus small. It sounds a bit like a group because I like using combinations of instruments.”
Various blends of sounds and tempos make the album quite a departure from the average `solo` flight. Taking full advantage of the Genesis rhythm section of drummer Phil Collins and bassist Mike Rutherford, Hackett wisely sacrificed one man virtuosity for a more sophisticated sound. It was a gamble that paid off handsomely.
“It was definitely a risk,” Steve laughed recalling earlier inhibitions. “I honestly didn`t know if it would work. I didn`t know if the rhythm section would spring out of each track. The whole venture was a gamble. It`s just very different from what people expect of a solo album. It really isn`t even an actual `solo` album,” he frowned at the mention of that confining term. “My main role was directing.”
Musically, the atmospheres created could easily serve as a background film soundtrack, filled with images and visuals of faraway places and large chunks of dream like fantasy. Each song is related to a specific tarot card. This idea was used more as a springboard for composition and inspiration than a clever gimmick. There`s no journey to the centre of the earth thematic pretentions here.
“I tried to interpret different cards musically and took the strongest ones. `Ace Of Wands` symbolises the beginning of a new venture. Wands represents fire, initiative, and skill,” he grins sheepishly. “What better way to begin the album.
“I`m not trying to lay tarot cards on people or get heavy about it. They were just sources of reference really. `Star of Sirius` is an optimistic looking to the future. After some of the heaviness and introspection of some of the other tracks, I wanted something lightheaded with a bouncy pop song feel.”
The album has done much to strengthen Hackett`s personal self confidence, destroying previous frustrations that inevitably come from playing in a democratic band. Now he feels strong enough to step forward within the group hierarchy.
“I`m definitely more confident about submitting ideas to the band now. The album showed me that once I was happy with an idea there was really no reason why it shouldn`t work. I wasn`t particularly confident about my abilities as a writer and arranger before I did the album. In a band one relies heavily on the group for ideas. With us, the strongest things are always group written. Especially now.
“I`m less frustrated now,” Hackett admitted, seemingly more secure even in conversation. “But I`ve got to live up to now. I couldn`t come up with a solo album of quality every year. This was just something I`ve wanted to do for a long, long time. But my main committment right now, is to the band.”
Genesis have always painfully laboured over each and every album project. Having spent the last few months writing and rehearsing for the group effort, studio recording has not only been productive but fairly quick. Obviously, this is a crucial album for Genesis, one that needs to be good to maintain followers and attract new ones. The band need to creatively and artistically survive Peter Gabriel`s departure.
“I was disturbed over a spate of letters in the music papers that assumed because we were involved with solo projects that Peter left. The decision was totally his own and quite separate from any course of band action. Don`t I sound like a politician?”
He also sounds like a musician. The next album from Genesis should be finished by the end of November. The band will not immediately promote the record on the road as plans for the stage show will require much careful thought and consideration.
“We want people to digest the album before we return to the road so they will be aware that Peter is no longer with the band. If we went out as a four piece now and people hadn`t already digested the situation, they would find it difficult to accept. It`s much easier for us to concentrate on the album now.
“What can I say?” Hackett said remaining purposely mysterious. “Maybe we will have that fifth member. Maybe we`ll try him out on one or two numbers in the studio, possibly even use a name singer on several tracks to get a mixed bag of vocal abilities. No one should worry that we`re going to turn into a totally instrumental band. We`re still very much songwriters,” Steve stressed.
“If people are patient with us I`m certain things will be all right in the long term. The short term problem is finding the fifth member. There won`t be any quality decline from us.”