Guitarist Steve Hackett talks upcoming North American tour, Genesis and GTR

As is the case with many venues, there's something about the atmosphere and environment that makes it conducive to the music being performed. But for world-renowned guitarist and composer Steve Hackett, visiting the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania goes way beyond the music of Genesis. It’s getting the chance to once again see familiar faces and say hello to an extended family.

Such will be the case when Hackett brings his "Genesis Extended Tour" for a two-night run at The Keswick on November 20 and 21.

Hackett will be in North America for the last leg of his extended and hugely successful "Genesis Revisited II World Tour". A tour which broke box office records in both the UK and Japan. With a set list that features all Genesis material as well as highly skilled musicians and a specially designed light show, Hackett’s visit to the Keswick is sure be one for the ages.

What’s more, in between Hackett’s intense touring schedule, he’s managed to squeeze in another studio album of all new material that’s set to be released in 2015!

I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Hackett about his upcoming visit to the Keswick, his new album and one of the lost treasures of the 1980’s: the GTR project with Steve Howe. He also lays to rest rumors of a possible Genesis reunion.

What can fans expect from you appearance at the Keswick?

It's always nice to bring back the Genesis string for people and I have a fine team that does a great interpretation of it. With "Genesis Revisited", it's not so much a case of feeling I have to give people something new. I’ve just completed a new album which addresses that. But if I'm doing anything with the classic Genesis material, then familiarity has to be part of the event. We're saying hello to an old friend with the implication of it being the soundtrack of your young life. Familiarity and the feeling of authenticity is the real thing. This is a set list that's put together as a real crowd pleaser. The idea is, if you want to sing along with every word and stomp along with your feet, then do it!

Can you speak a little about the musicians who will be joining you?

Absolutely. I've got Roger King on keyboards, Rob Townsend on woodwind/brass, Gary O'Toole on drums, Nad Sylvan on vocals and Nick Beggs on bass and 12-string. They are a formidable team who just seem to get better and better every night!

What can you tell me about your next album?

What I can tell you is that it's a rock album, but it’s not held for ransom by what you would expect. There are orchestral salvos the keep firing broadside against the mainstream of rock (to mix a metaphor or two). The whole aspect of what orchestras bring to the plot is that they surround you with this dark, storm like energy. Then there are the influences of [Edvard] Grieg and Tchaikovsky at their most elemental. I've really gone all out on this one. It’s got it's own character and an energy from everyone who was involved with it. There's been a tremendous amount of complacency in music lately. This album going to shake things up.

What is your writing process like?

When I write I have to become constructively schizophrenic with myself so that I can take on all of the multiple personalities that form the music. There's a side of me that will be working on drums and will think, "Would this have pleased Buddy Rich or Keith Moon or Phil Collins?" Then there’s another side that will be thinking about orchestral stuff and ask, "What would all of the great orchestral writers have thought about this?" I have all of these conversations going on in my brain thinking about how we can use the instruments. Every album is another chapter in addressing all of those various arguments.

I’d like to ask you about one of my favorite albums of the 1980’s: the GTR project. What are your thoughts on that album?

It was a great radio record and I'm still very proud of many aspects of that record. “When The Heart Rules The Mind” was a terrific song. It had great instrumental hooks and sounded wonderful on FM radio when it was ultra compressed.

You had been out of Genesis for a few years prior to GTR. Did you feel as if you had something to prove?

There was a time in the industry where once you reached the age of about 35, the record companies were no longer interested in you unless you had massive solo success. I had some hits while I was with Genesis and was determined to prove to both myself and the industry that I was relevant. When I first joined up with Steve Howe, there was a sense that perhaps we could make a record that bridged the gap between commercial considerations and doing whatever the hell we liked. I also remember that when GTR came out the five members of Genesis (myself, Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Peter Gabriel) all had something in the Top 20 that was mentioned by Time magazine. That was notable and I was extremely proud. I managed to lay to rest the suspicion that maybe I had just gotten lucky with Genesis and wasn't going to be able to do it again in terms of great commercial success. I always wanted to take tremendous risks and in my opinion, the success of GTR was due to the amount of ideas that went into it.

Every year rumors seem to float around about a possible Genesis reunion. Do you think that’s likely?

Although I've said publicly that I'd be up for it, I think it's highly unlikely. And for as much as I would like it, the real reason I’m doing the re-records and touring version of the Genesis thing is because I like to think that the star of the show is the music itself. Music that's free of politics is important. So although I love the music, I don't hold out too much hope for the recreation of 1975 if you see what I mean.

What makes progressive music so good?

It's because the story-telling aspect of the music facilitates a completely flexible use of style. If you think of it as a film for the ear or a storybook with music, it means by necessity that the music has to change scene by scene. It has to shape shift a lot with the actions being described. Progressive music has got its ear open and casts a net over things as diverse as Ornette Coleman and Mary Poppins. With progressive music, it’s possible to involve everything from jazz and pantomime to baroque, blues and opera. It's music without prejudice and the party that everyone's welcome to!

(Photo: Jim Buninx)