Notes From An Artist

A Conversation with Guitarist Steve Hackett of Genesis

September 13, 2022 David C Gross and Tom Semioli
A Conversation with Guitarist Steve Hackett of Genesis
Notes From An Artist
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Notes From An Artist
A Conversation with Guitarist Steve Hackett of Genesis
Sep 13, 2022
David C Gross and Tom Semioli

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Legendary guitarist, composer, recording artist, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and longstanding member of the classic lineup of Genesis - Steve Hackett discusses his career, thoughts on how The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway usurped the punks, and his Genesis Revisited repertory ensemble. With hosts David C. Gross and Tom Semioli.

The Steve Hackett Playlist

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Legendary guitarist, composer, recording artist, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and longstanding member of the classic lineup of Genesis - Steve Hackett discusses his career, thoughts on how The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway usurped the punks, and his Genesis Revisited repertory ensemble. With hosts David C. Gross and Tom Semioli.

The Steve Hackett Playlist

Steve Hackett: Genesis Revisited, Revitalized & Relevant!


Steve Hackett - legendary guitarist, composer, recording artist, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and longstanding member of the classic lineup of Genesis discusses his career, John Lennon’s thoughts on the band, ruminations on how their classic, controversial double-album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) usurped the punk movement, and shares insights about his Genesis Revisited repertory ensemble which is doing brisk business – commercially and artistically - well into the 21st Century.

In September 2022 Hacket released Genesis Revisited Live: Seconds Out & More.

We spoke with Steve Hackett as he was taking an evening break from rehearsing his latest incarnation of Genesis Revisited featuring keyboardist Roger King, multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend, singer Nad Sylvan, bassist Jonas Reingold, and drummer Craig Blundell – in preparation for their Foxtrot at 50 + Hackett Highlights world tour in 2023. 


DCG: Who was the Lamb? Why did he lie down on Broadway? 


TS: Why not 5th Avenue…the Carnagie Deli, or Katz’s? 


DCG: If the lamb lied down at Katz’s – it would have been lamb shank! And the rest of the lamb would have been cooked as well! 


TS: We should create Leg of Lamb on Broadway for our next Notes From An Artist live performance. You know David, along with Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett maintains the progressive rock aesthetic that Genesis helped create in the early 1970s. 


DCG: I think the original Genesis lineup with Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett was the truer version of the group. When they got closer to pop stardom – Steve couldn’t hack it! He left the band. 


TS: I commend you on how hard you worked to get that joke in…


DCG: Let me explain further... if Martians came down to earth and accompanied me to the Felt Forum in 1973, and then returned in the mid-1980s – they would have seen that not only did my hair get longer, but that Genesis no longer rendered twelve-minute songs that traversed many time-signatures, key changes, moods, dynamics, and other elements they were known for.


TS: And you told me once the Martians moved in, they ruined your Upper West Side of Manhattan neighborhood, which is why you left.  All versions of Genesis are relevant. In 1996 Steve Hackett created a Genesis repertory ensemble – with alumni including Colin Blunstone, John Wetton, Ian MacDonald, Tony Levin, Alphonso Johnson, Pino Palladino, Bill Bruford, and Chester Thompson….


Of course, Genesis and Peter Gabriel had massive hits in the 1980s. Yet when you review Steve Hackett’s solo albums, there are many tracks that, again, to my ears, sounded as if they could have been hits as well. Hackett was with a small label in those days, and did not get the promotional push that would have garnered him more attention. 


DCG: Agreed! Steve’s entire catalog is well worth rediscovering. 


TS: David we are talking with Steve on the release of his latest album / DVD Genesis Revisited: Live Seconds Out and More which is available on LP, CD, and DVD formats. It is a document of his 2021 World Tour. We chat about his upcoming 2023 tour which revisits the band’s iconic Foxtrot album which celebrates its 50th anniversary! 


DCG: If you are new to Genesis, this is a great starting point! 




Steve Hackett enters the Notes From An Artist Zoom room! 


TS: David, behave yourself, we have a rock legend in our midst!


DCG: I can never behave myself…


SH: Hello chaps, can you hear me? 


DCG: Yes we can, where are you Steve? 


SH: I’m in Teddington, a suburb of London. I’ve been making a din all day with my band. It’s eight o’clock at night for us in the UK. 


TS: Steve, I understand you’re pressed for time, but we wanted start off by asking question that’s been on our mind for decades which you mention in your autobiography The Genesis In My Bed (Wymer 2020). Recall for us the punk rock onslaught of 1977 in Great Britain and how journalists treated you and the band unfairly. They portrayed your band and music as ‘dinosaurs’ yet you were all of 27 years old. 


DCG: How is your relationship with the press nowadays?


SH: Oh, it’s fine. At that time we went through a period where we couldn’t get any good reviews for anything. The British press had gone into the accusatory sort of style. I was just trying to establish myself at that point but they saw me as part of the old guard. An old man of 27 as you say. 


But Genesis did Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and what was the story about? A Puerto Rican punk! No, we didn’t start punk, but we were head of that trend! And where does the word ‘punk’ come from? In literature the first use of the word ‘punk’ is in Shakespeare. He refers to a ‘rubbishy person.’ So that’s the idea of punk as it was in the dictionary of the 1600s. What can I tell you!


DCG: Punk was really something that came from the promotional mind of Malcolm McLaren. Many of those bands could actually play their instruments pretty well. 


SH: Exactly…


DCG: My late brother-in-law Ian MacDonald pointed that out to me…


SH: I loved Ian, he was a huge influence on me. Ian was also a big influence on Genesis. He was a great loss and I hope he’s in a good place now…


DCG: I learned more about mixing records from Ian than anybody else. He was a great musician, and as a producer, he paid attention to even the smallest details.


SH: Yes, a fantastic multi-instrumentalist. Not just the competency, but the writing of the songs…


DCG: Didn’t Ian introduce King Crimson to the Mellotron?


SH: Yes and then, Genesis bought our first Mellotron from Ian! They must’ve had mellotrons to spare. They named the one they sold to as the ‘black pig.’ It was huge but it had a great sound. 


A few years back I did some work for Mellotron. Instead of them paying me money I asked them to give me the tapes of the violins before they went through the Mellotron – so I had the cleanest sweetest sounding Mellotron strings you could get. Probably recorded sometime in the 1950s by three women in upstate New York for all I know! 


From the very first time we heard ‘Strawberry Fields’, we thought it sounded like a calliope. But it worked well with rock instrumentation. We’d come back to the Mellotron time and time again in Genesis, often we’d mix other instruments with them – so essentially they were part of our ‘orchestra’ – they provided so many colors to work with. I never felt that they replaced an orchestra – they were simply part of it. As for the other sounds, I think we really wanted the flutes to have that grainy quality. But it was a great tool for us. 


TS: You started Genesis Revisited in 1996…what were your intentions then? 


SH: I wanted to do some re-recordings – for instance ‘Watcher of the Skies” from Foxtrot (1972) – which I’m doing now on the record’s 50th Anniversary Tour. When I was first talking about revisiting this material it was keyboardist Julian Colebeck who came up with the idea - after we played it just as keyboards and guitar – that Genesis Revisted’s real future with be playing live as well as recording. 


[Notes From An Artist Notes: Genesis Revisited was Steve Hackett’s twelfth studio album – essentially a repertory tribute to his former band, Genesis. The album features songs released by Genesis during Hackett's 1971-77 tenure with the group. The previously unreleased song "Déjà Vu" was started by Peter Gabriel in 1973 during the Selling England by the Pound sessions - Hackett completed the song for this album. Two new compositions "Valley of the Kings" and "Waiting Room Only" inspired by an instrumental track on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway are featured as well. Among the all-star cast of musicians on the album include Colin Blunstone, John Wetton, Paul Carrack, Ian McDonald, Tony Levin, Pino Palladino, Bill Bruford, Chester Thompson, and Alphonso Johnson among others.]

What I set out to do was to play definitive versions of these songs. I hired an orchestra -with a Mellotron playing side by side. So, what you have on that version of Genesis Revisited is a Mark ll Mellotron with the London Symphony Orchestra. In a way there’s a ‘fan-fair-ish’ aspect that goes along with that. 


I did that whole album with guys I had always wanted to work with and with musicians I had played with previously whom I thought would make the best contributions. It really was a dream team. We really went to town with it. All these musicians had been in hugely successful bands. The goal was for me to have them give their take on my old musical expressions.


And I knew they would bring something new to it rather than just having reverence to the material. They brought variation and interpretation. You mention Ian – we’re talking about fallen brothers here – John Wetton was an important part of the Genesis Revisited album. Or brothers-in-law as it is in your case David. 


I considered them both to be brothers, I absolutely love Ian and John to bits! It’s very emotional for me to think about them as departed from this world as we know it. They were so committed to the music that in my mind they must be refined in some purer spiritual state. It was the music that drove them. 


DCG: I saw Genesis the first time you played the Felt Forum in New York City around 1971. And a topic Tom and I often discuss is that the American jazz fusion scene was very aware of what was happening in progressive rock. 


Especially artists such as Return to Forever and Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House. The was also the combination of music and literature that was very prevalent in both those genres as well.


SH: It seems to me that fusion was developed by many international musicians. Certainly the New York scene was part of that. You had Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Airto Morera, among others. So right there you have Eastern Europe, Brazil, all of these places that are coming together with the idea of inclusive music. 


So I ask ‘where does jazz fusion stop and progressive rock begin? Where does world music start and all of that?’ We have all the labels but at the end of the day you’re either open to all of these influences, or you’re not! 


The wonderful thing about music is that sometimes you can’t speak the language of the man that you’re working with but he’ll communicate something to you via their instrument and you’ll find a commonality – and in the process you somehow invent a third language! 


At times you have to put ideas of professionalism to one side in order to allow things to happen. Things that you would normally control as a writer. You have to allow spontaneity, and let their personality come through as well. 


Sometimes you have things that you record and you have to incorporate them and find some sort of framework to allow all of this new blood to come through! 


TS: Steve, when you started putting together the Genesis Revisited, recall for us what it was like to go back twenty, thirty years and revisit your youth? 


SH: Enjoyable! I’ve been working on the whole of Foxtrot recently – which is fifty years old! I’ve never played the second track on that album live – “Time Table.” It’s a very gentle, nostalgic track full of whimsy. It doesn’t have an ‘American feel’ but somehow there is something in there with the use of instruments and I found it absolutely delightful to go back and render an authentic reproduction of this thing where the whole band were not being rock musicians but playing at ‘cabaret’ level in order to support the vocals. 


It’s a very gentle little song. I hope that’s not too pejorative a term! It’s electric but nobody is pushing it! I’ve got a little hint of distortion on the guitar, but that’s it. 


Now it’s closer in spirit to a Beatles track – think of it as The Beatles meet Henry Mancini. 


DCG: Now that you mention it, Genesis had the approval of John Lennon!


SH: Yes, we did! I’ve listened to that interview where he said that recently. John commented that there were two bands that were ‘sons of The Beatles’ – one of them was the Electric Light Orchestra – and I can understand that totally. I am a big fan of them as it happens. Interesting that he mentions Genesis as the other band. 


I would never have realized that he engaged with us. When I listen closely now, I realize that the little stories, the narratives and the quirky things we did – such as wordplay, social commentary blended in with science fiction – especially on Foxtrot – was hugely imaginative.  It goes backwards and forwards like a time machine. 


I’m very proud of that album and I’m really looking forward to going out and playing the whole thing. We’re deep in rehearsal, I’ve been working long hours with the band – learning everything. 


But getting back to your question, I find that I am also enjoying listening to the original album. 


Now I wouldn’t say the originals couldn’t be improved – I’ve been doing nothing but trying to improve them with Genesis Revisited or with whatever I’ve done. 


There is no such thing as writing to me. I’m always re-writing, and re-writing. I’m always striving to improve if I can. Now I am working with different guitar tones and different boxes. I have a treble booster which cleans up the overtones – I learned that from Brian May (Queen). 


TS: Given the advances in technology, it must be a lot easier to tour Foxtrot in 2023 that it was in 1972!


SH: Oh absolutely. But it’s not any easier to play – I have to be on my mettle! 


But over and above that we now have the technology to reproduce everything extraordinarily accurately but then we can now add other things too. We put in other samples – sometimes we have real brass or real woodwinds. So, the spirit of something that may have been orchestral – now we can make that happen on stage. 


In the rehearsal room today Foxtrot was sounding absolutely mighty! I can’t wait to get out in front of people with a light show. That will keep me very busy for the next year! 


TS: Young audiences are embracing Genesis just as David and I did in our youth. 


SH: Yes they are. I think because they rediscover bands such as The Beatles. With The Beatles there is such a wealth of songs and technology. It is stuff that is highly unrepeatable, highly characteristic, idiosyncratic and hugely imaginative. As you can hear, I’m a big Beatles fan. I’m starting to watch the Get Back documentary.


DCG: What is your opinion?


SH: I’ve only watched a tiny bit so far. I’m very interested to see where it goes. I think it has a great beginning. 


What I’m trying to get to is that young people will discover Genesis in the same way they discover The Beatles and things that went on one hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, and beyond. 


TS: Foxtrot was an album made by young musicians hence it will continue to be appreciated by young audiences. 


SH: Absolutely!


DCG: Tell us how you chose the musicians for this version of Genesis Revisited. 


SH: I’ve been working with some guys in the band for a very long time such as Roger King because he is an incredible keyboard player, engineer, and producer. He’s written film scores and he’s trained as a cathedral organist. And he’s another Bach fan – perfectly capable of playing the Baroque passages… Roger is extraordinary. Rob Townsend is probably the world’s best soloist and is also a jazz professor. He’s a fun guy so we vibe off each other like crazy – very spontaneous. Those two are both very, very creative. 


Nad and Jonas are the two Swedes. Both virtuosos. And Craig beats those drums to death every time! It really is an incredible collective. 


I won’t name names but a few of the former members of Genesis Revisited have commented that this version of the band is best.  My response is ‘let’s see how long I can keep it together!” 


TS: I appreciate the new Genesis Revisited Live: Seconds Out & More release replicates the 1977 Genesis Seconds Out album cover! 

 SH: Yes!


TS: And as I said to David earlier, I hope Steve replicates one of my favorite Hackett album covers – Cured (1981) – wherein you are pictured drinking a Pina Colada! 


SH: Yes, that photo was taken in Florida! In fact, that was my second Pina Colada that day. I’d just been out on a Boston Whaler boat – which is basically a rowboat with an outboard motor. I was buzzing around, having a great time so I thought I’d have a drink and then I had another…


DCG: That was around the time the “Pina Colada” song was a big hit.


SH: I remember that, who did that song?


TS: I think it was Phil Collins!


SH: No! (laughter) Something about Pina Coladas in the pouring rain… (the artist in question was Rupert Holmes) 


TS: Steve, one of the questions we ask all our musical guests is the state of the album as a viable platform in the 21st Century of streaming and downloads. Genesis and your solo work epitomize the concept of the album as an artistic statement. Your thoughts?


SH: Albums changed the world! Perhaps you have to be a musician to realize that. When I was growing up, an album was a highly prized thing. I don’t think a gem is no longer a gem because it’s out of fashion. 


Two Beatles albums come to mind Revolver and Sgt. Pepper – which to me were the absolute zenith of their career – developing and marching on into the future. 


And then King Crimson’s In The Court of The Crimson King - I would happily get in my grave if I had nothing else to listen to! It was such a fusion of ideas – the classical world meets the pop world meets the jazz world!


It’s hugely important that we are able to mix those things together. You cannot get that across in one single – all of those influences. 


If someone says ‘no I would rather watch a film with music accompanying it’ – that does not give me the idea of the true visualization of the music. 


If a song is going to break my heart or fire me up I’ll want to have my own pictures in mind and the echoes of my own experiences with the subjects of lost love or something truly exciting… like the Rolling Stones doing “I Wanna Be Your Man.” 


I can still remember the first time I heard it and thinking ‘ah yeah, this guitar sounds truly alive to me! This is the best electric guitar sound I have ever heard!’ 


When you listen back now, it doesn’t have the same effect of riding a Harley-Davidson – it was that for a young teenager like me. It was a rocket firing on all cylinders. 




“The Court of the Crimson King”              King Crimson     In the Court of the Crimson King 

“Watcher of the Skies”                                Genesis               Foxtrot 

“Strawberry Fields Forever”                       The Beatles        Magical Mystery Tour

“Supper’s Ready”                                         Steve Hackett     Genesis Revisited: Seconds Out & More

“Firth of Fifth”                                              Steve Hackett     The Tokyo Tapes

“I Talk to the Wind”                                     Steve Hackett     The Tokyo Tapes

“One and One”                                             Miles Davis         On The Corner

“The Carpet Crawlers”                                Genesis               The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

“Escape – The Pina Colada Song”             Rupert Holmes Partners in Crime

“I Wanna Be Your Man”                              Rolling Stones    Singles Collection 





A Genesis In My Bed: The Autobiography