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Steve Hackett of Genesis and GTR

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If progressive rock had a Mount Rushmore, we would surely see Steve Hackett’s face carved there.  

As lead guitarist for Genesis (1970-1977) and cofounder (with Steve Howe of Yes and Asia) of short-lived mid-80s ‘super group’ GTR, Steve Hackett’s influence is vast.  From Phish, Van Halen, Queen and Rush to Kate Bush, Trans-Siberian Orchestra , Porcupine Tree and Spock’s Beard – Hackett’s impact ripples through them all.  

Brought up on Bach, opera, blues and pop, Hackett was one of the first to successfully marry rock and classical music in his solo career (21 albums and counting).   A wildly inventive musical journeyman with a penchant for collaboration, Hackett is as keen to see where new ideas will lead as he is to recast old ideas in a new light.  

2015 has seen a whole lotta Hackett.  His new album “Wolflight” is his first in four years consisting of newly crafted material.  Last month, a DVD documentary on his life (“The Man, The Music”) hit No. 5 on the UK sales chart followed days later by the release of a 14-disc box set from Universal/Virgin called “Premonitions:  The Charisma Years (1975-1983).”  The box contains his first six solo albums, unreleased material, live recordings and new remixes by Steven Wilson.   

Just added to the parade of Steve Hackett-related releases is a newly remastered  edition of the GTR album.  The two disc set includes a bonus live CD recorded in Los Angeles in 1986 during the band’s only world tour.

Home in Norfolk, England on a brief tour break, Steve Hackett takes stock of his past while looking to the future.  

“To be totally honest, I’m proud of all of it,” Hackett told me in a phone interview  last week.  “Both the work with Genesis and GTR and beyond that – all of the solo stuff.”

Since the release of his first solo album in 1975, Hackett has called upon an impressively diverse group of collaborators.   

“I worked with some of the guys from Genesis – Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford - on my first solo record.   I next had help from an Anglo-American team.  Richie Havens helped me and sang wonderfully on a couple of tracks.  Also Steve Walsh and Phil Ehart of Kansas were on that album as was Randy Crawford of The Crusaders (“Street Life”),” he says.  

Hackett says he intentionally set out to bridge English and American culture in his early solo work.  

“I was trying to make the kind of music that sounded like it had English roots but with a tremendous amount of American influence,” he says.  “There were a number of black artists on that album including Chester Thompson.  It was a real kind of cross-cultural thing that I’m very proud of.”

Nearly 30 years later, how does Hackett see GTR?  The band gave him a US top 20 single with “When The Heart Rules The Mind.”   

“We were very lucky to have had a hit single and we had great support from Clive Davis and Arista records at the time,” Hackett says.  “MTV took us under their wing and we had a very successful album.”

Then why did GTR decide not to continue?  Hackett says it had less to do with money than the belief that many fans came to the band because of the novelty involved with its formation.  

“With anything presented as a ‘super group,’ you have the first rush who come through wondering what the synthesis of ideas might sound like if you take a guy from Yes and put him with a guy from Genesis,” Hackett explains.  “Something that was given as high profile a launch as that album, it’s as if you have one shot at it. Whatever you might do after that is not going to attract the same degree of interest.”

Last year, Hackett reunited with his former Genesis band-mates, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks for a BBC documentary on the group called “Alone and Together.”  

“It was very nice to see them all again,” Hackett says.  “It was basically all of the guys wishing each other well.  Most of the guys in the band are still very active musically.  It was a great get-together.”

Hackett says that he wouldn’t hesitate to agree to a Genesis reunion, whether for charity or a one-off show filmed for Blu-ray. 

“I’ve always said ‘If you’re interested in having me involved, please call.’  As an outfit, Genesis has gone in several different directions at the same time and gotten involved in the whole spectrum of music.  Whether it was rock stuff, classical stuff or, in Phil’s case, big band stuff.  I remember telling Bob Geldof that if he ever does another “Live Aid” to give me a call and I would push for it from my end.  That would be nice.  I’m very proud to play with all of those guys.”

Steve Hackett and his band are on tour in the United States and Canada beginning this week and continuing through mid-December.  

“The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow” can be heard on Big 104 FM – The Biggest Hits of the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor/Ellsworth)  

  

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