Steve Hackett: "My first professional gig with Genesis was a complete disaster. I forgot every single note I was supposed to play"

Steve Hackett performing live
(Image credit: C BRandon/Redferns via Getty)

My guitar hero...

"Hank Marvin influenced me to pick up the guitar. I was influenced entirely by listening to the guitar tunes The Shadows were playing. That was very important to me."

I got my first real six-string… 

"My dad was able to play guitar, and would play these country tunes and whistle the melodies. He had brought me back a guitar from Canada in 1958. It was such a big guitar that I couldn't get my hands around it.

"It had such a brutal action with really heavy strings, so I started wrestling with that from the age of 12 onwards. When I turned 15, he bought me an electric guitar and an amp."

Learning curve...

"I probably stumbled through everything at first, trying my hand at tunes like Wipe Out by The Safaris and Pipeline by The Chantays – songs you could play on the guitar’s two bass strings. 

"I’d play these tunes for people and they’d say, 'Oh, you can play guitar?' And I’d reply, 'No I can’t play guitar, all I can do is play these two strings on these three frets.' The first tune I was able to play properly was Guitar Tango by The Shadows, but I think I tried to also play it all on one string."

Steve Hackett performing live

(Image credit: Steve Jennings/WireImage via Getty)

My first time onstage...

"The first few times I played live was as a semi-pro amateur, and I generally found that whatever you played would go down like a led balloon until the audience was completely [drunk]. Then they loved everything you’d play all night!" 

Embarrassing moments…

"It was with my first professional gig with Genesis. It was a complete disaster. I basically had a new fuzz box that did nothing but feed back all night and made me forget every single note I was supposed to remember to play. 

"Phil [Collins] was drunk and missed a lot of the drum parts, so the show was a shambles. There was a big row after the gig and I thought they were going to sack me. But they didn’t. It was a baptism by fire for sure."

Still got the blues...

"As an early fan of sonic developments within guitar, I loved blues then and I love the blues now. Of course, blues is the grandfather of rock. I used to go and watch Peter Green play live on many occasions, long before he formed Fleetwood Mac. I was absolutely smitten with his playing, so I fell in love with the blues." 

My favorite piece of gear... 

"I’ve got a 1957 Gibson Les Paul, which is a gorgeous-sounding guitar that I’ve been recording with a lot in recent times. I also have a Fernandes that used to belong to Gary Moore and I tend to use that a lot live. 

"Les Pauls – I've had too many of those guitars stolen over the years, so I never take one out with me on the road, and haven’t since the 1970s. I made the switch from Marshall to Engl, so I have a couple of 100-watt Engls I’m using live, but only one at a time, as the other is a spare. 

"I'm finding they are a very responsive guitar amp, and I use a SansAmp with them as well to get the overdrive. It’s got that authentic tube overdriven sound." 

Advice from the master...

"I don’t think you can give any advice to young guitar players. All you can do is advise parents to tell them that, if they are absolutely mad about it, they will do it. 

"Whether that is with a guitar teacher or down the route I went, which was to make mistakes, make your own progress and teach yourself, then every guitarist you watch that you like the sound of becomes your teacher. I think the single biggest lesson, which I don’t think can be taught, is to learn to love it, too." 

Looking to the future...

"I’ve just released Under a Mediterranean Sky, which is my first acoustic solo album since Tribute [2008]. I thought it might be nice to do something that was an image journey – the kind of album where people could absorb it with a glass of wine or two and drift off with it. 

"In a way, it’s a lockdown album, inspired by many of the places I've actually visited. I’m also working on a rock album to follow up this one, which will probably come out in late 2021. 

"It’s no secret I tend to work on a number of projects at any one time, whether they be like this recent book [A Genesis in My Bed] or recordings in different genres. It doesn’t mean I am not satisfied by each of these things – far from it."

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Joe Matera

Joe Matera is an Australian guitarist and music journalist who has spent the past two decades interviewing a who's who of the rock and metal world and written for magazines such as Guitar World, Total Guitar, Rolling Stone, Goldmine, Sound On Sound, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and many others. He is also a recording and performing musician and solo artist who has toured Europe on a regular basis and released several well-received albums including instrumental guitar rock outings through various European based record labels. Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera has called him, "... a great guitarist, who knows what an electric guitar should sound like and plays a fluid pleasing style of rock".