As a guitarist and music lover, I take great pride in having been around to experience some of music’s finest moments. From the '80s success of Van Halen, Alex Lifeson and Randy Rhoads to the rise of Joe Satriani, Kirk Hammett and Joe Bonamassa.
Although I loved being able to bear witness to the great players from my high school years, I lament not being “around” (or in diapers) during the heyday of some of the influential artists from the '60s and early '70s, particularly The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to experience what it was like for one such great, as guitarist Steve Hackett revisits songs from the era that made the band Genesis kings of the progressive rock movement.
Steve’s new album, Genesis Revisited II, is two-disc compilation containing nearly two and a half hours of monumental music from his tenure with Genesis in the 1970s. Newly recorded versions of songs like “Horizons," “Supper’s Ready” and “The Musical Box” sound as fresh and exciting today as they did 40 years ago. No small undertaking, Genesis Revisited II includes no fewer than 35 guest musicians and took nearly six months to complete.
I spoke with Steve and discussed Genesis Revisited II as well as his plans to take the “new” music out on the road.
GUITAR WORLD: What do you remember most about your tenure with Genesis?
It was an interesting period in time, and I think the band with Peter [Gabriel] was particularly interesting. That’s the period I’m going back to on this album. I’ve done quite a lot of other types of music since Genesis. Most of it has been rock, but there have also been occasional albums of nylon guitar work and everything from Bach to blues and beyond. I’m going back to an early love of mine, which is this Genesis music. I’m very proud of it. It was great music. Complicated and complex, but still very soulful at heart.
Was there a reason you decided to revisit these songs?
It was the desire to tour this work again. I wanted to take it out on the road and show people what great songs they were and present them in a certain way. But rather than get into a rehearsal straight away, I figured the best way to get the band to remember this music was by recording it. Once they’ve done the definitive versions of these songs from their own point of view, it makes it that much easier to go back and relearn what you’ve already done. I tried to lay it out like a journey. It’s two CD’s, both of which are roughly 73 minutes long. It took six months to put together; the longest project I’ve ever been involved with.
You have a lot of guests that contribute to the album as well.
It is a rather huge cast I have to say. Of course, I won’t have all 35 of them on the stage at the same time though [laughs]. The plan is to take a core band which will feature certain people who’ve worked with me over the years plus the addition of Nad Sylvan (Agents of Mercy) on vocals, who sounds very much like a Genesis singer. At times, he sounds like Peter Gabriel and other times he sounds like Phil (Collins). It was great to come across him and I’m looking forward to working with him live.
What was it like when you first joined Genesis?
When I first joined the band, I barely owned a Gibson. It was the beginning of my life as a professional musician. It gave me the ability to work with any guitar and amp that I wanted. I also had a burning desire to work with Mellotron; to work with a band that sounded like an orchestra at a push of the button. I achieved many of my aims and way beyond.
I didn’t think at the time that it was going to become a world force when I joined the band. They were doing free concerts and playing in clubs, theaters and universities. We were signed to a very creative, committed record company headed by Tony Stratton-Smith, who had the brilliant idea of putting together three bands that he had signed to the Charisma label off on tour at a rock bottom ticket price playing the town halls of England and Scotland. That worked out well because for the price of fish and chips, you could buy a theater ticket. These shows were well sold immediately and were an instant success.
We took the summer off that year and wrote and recorded Nursery Cryme, the first album featuring myself and Phil Collins. We got a Mellotron at that point; a second-hand one from King Crimson. The same brand and model that The Beatles had used. It was a good creative time for all of us. There was everything to be done and many bridges to cross. I was thrilled at the progress.
Are you still in contact with members of the band?
Yes. I saw several of the guys recently at an awards ceremony held in London. A few years back we were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That was a great moment for us all. Fascinating, in that we got to connect with the people who had been our heroes. The Hall of Fame also celebrates the writers who delighted us in our youth. It was a very emotional evening.
Do you ever foresee the possibility of a classic Genesis reunion?
I’ve always been up for it, but I think it’s improbable. Some of the guys have started to retire, and Phil says officially that he will not be playing in the future. Whether he’ll manage to do that I don’t know, but that seems to be the case. There also seems to be unwillingness in the band to honor the early years. Whereas I think of it as a nadir, the epitome of the form of what we now come to call in retrospect, progressive rock.
We did not know at that time that’s what we were doing. We were covering everything from the past five hundred years or so: classical, folk, blues, rock. All of that, including social comment and humor. No one told us that we couldn’t. We thought that if The Beatles could do it, we could do it. No one told The Beatles they couldn’t work with an orchestra in the 1960s.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.