The latest “15 questions” feature is with guitarist Steve Hackett.
…I believe it’s the earliest recorded use of both hands pummelling the fretboard…
Ask a serious music fan, in particular an individual who appreciates melodic, creative guitar playing and you’ll be sure Steve’s name will be high up on their list as a guitarist who’s been hugely inspirational over the past few decades.
If you’re unsure who Steve Hackett is, his legacy goes back 30+ years, when he was thrust into the limelight with the leading British group, Genesis.
Guitar Jar catches up with Steve and quizzes him on his technique, guitar equipment and asks if he’s working on any new material.
Steve’s ’57 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop
- Hi Steve, can you give Guitar Jar readers an insight to why you first picked up the guitar and how long you’ve been playing?
I started trying to make a noise with it since I was twelve. It was a calling. I felt the guitar needed me.
- Can you give our readers an insight into how you had the opportunity to join Genesis?
Five years of adverts and eventually a call from Mr Gabriel. Nothing instant…
- My favourite Genesis moment is the guitar solo in “Firth of Fifth”. You may have been asked this (many times!), but how did you get that sustain when recording the part, and do you use the same method now when playing the song live?
I got the sustain by standing or sitting next to the amp. These days I achieve it with a Fernandes guitar and onboard sustainer pick up.
- Guitar Jar reader “Oliver Tiger” is a long-time fan and asks: Your Genesis Revisited album is my favourite work of yours. Do you plan on releasing any additional “revisited” material of your early Genesis or solo work?
I’m making plans for a sequel…
- Guitar Jar reader “RevGeoff” is another fan and asks: You left Genesis after the “Wind & Wuthering” album. Do you regret leaving the band at that particular time (as the band went huge in years to come)?
The band was already huge enough as far as I was concerned. I was always more interested in the quality of the music than having a no 1 single. I don’t regret leaving the band, even though I’d enjoyed working with them.
- I really enjoy listening to your “There Are Many Sides to the Night” album as it showcases what a hugely versatile guitarist you are. “Black Light” is a particular favourite song of mine and I’m curious to know how long it would take to write a piece of music like that?
I can’t remember how long it took to write. It was based on a guitar technique that I’d worked on for several years.
- Your tapping technique was heard many years before a certain young Van Halen appeared on the scene. Did you copy this from another guitarist or do you feel you pioneered the technique?
I feel I pioneered the technique. I believe it’s the earliest recorded use of both hands pummelling the fretboard.
…I’m working on a really good riff at the moment…
- Please can you tell us about your choice of amplifier? Do you prefer combos or do you use the head & cab approach?
I usually use two Marshall 50 watt heads with separate cabs.
- How much does the use of effects contribute to your overall style and tone? Would you feel “naked” if you were left to play with a guitar plugged straight into a good amplifier?
Yes, I would feel restricted because of the wide dynamic variation I like to employ.
- Do you still enjoy playing live and is there a particular city or venue where you particularly look forward to performing?
I love playing live everywhere. I have no favourite place – the stage itself is a favourite place.
- Have you had any nightmare experiences whilst gigging?
Often, but bad experiences just strengthen the ideas. Don’t go on stage if you’re afraid of being embarrassed – it’ll happen soon enough! There’ll be a moment when a string will break, the power will be switched off, the amp will blow up or there’ll be a fire from the lights, but still the show must go on…
- Are you working on any new material?
I’m working on a really good riff at the moment. I just need the rest of the song! Ideas often arrive during the most inconvenient moments, but I always try to put them down on paper.
- Let’s say there’s another “Live8”. Would you do a “Pink Floyd” and consider joining your old band mates on stage for a one-off event?
I’ve always been flexible about this, but it’s up to everyone else too.
- If you could form a super group using famous musicians past or present, who would you have on drums and why?
I always had great admiration for Keith Moon’s approach. He massacred many a drum kit but what energy, what fire!
- And finally, Lager or Cider?
I don’t drink much these days. It’s usually PG Tips I’m afraid… But when I was a teenager, I’d drink anything!
Steve is due to tour in 2012. If you’ve never had a chance to listen or watch him perform, make sure you catch him during the coming months.
For more information about Steve’s tours, gigs, equipment and music, visit: www.hackettsongs.com.
Main photo by Dominique Vassart.