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Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett wants to take you on a trip

January 27, 2021
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Ever-prolific guitarist Steve Hackett has released his first acoustic album in more than 12 years. "Under a Mediterranean Sky" is inspired by his extensive travels around the Mediterranean with his wife, Jo. "Because we can't really travel at the moment, I hope the album will take people on that journey," Hackett says. Ever-prolific guitarist Steve Hackett has released his first acoustic album in more than 12 years. "Under a Mediterranean Sky" is inspired by his extensive travels around the Mediterranean with his wife, Jo. "Because we can't really travel at the moment, I hope the album will take people on that journey," Hackett says. (photo courtesy of the artist)

Iconic progressive rock guitarist Steve Hackett says he’s had a most productive lockdown.

The former guitarist for Genesis (1970-1977) has just released his 25th solo album, his first acoustic offering since 2008. Hackett says the 11 pieces of music recorded for “Under a Mediterranean Sky” take inspiration from his extensive travels in and around the Mediterranean with his wife, Jo, whom he credits with the idea.

During an interview with The Maine Edge, Hackett says his goal was to not only pay tribute to the extraordinary beauty of the Mediterranean but to offer a transportive experience for listeners who’d like to break away from their current inertia and take the journey with him.

When Hackett’s live performances last year vaporized in the wake of COVID, he rescheduled his Genesis Revisited tour “Seconds Out and More” for this fall in the U.K. with forthcoming dates to be announced soon for the U.S.  

Last summer, Hackett released his memoir, “A Genesis in My Bed,” an engrossing and revealing read that shed light on his life in and out of music, his years spent creating classic prog-rock albums with his former band and the myriad musical journeys undertaken during his solo career, all delivered with a hefty dose of levity.

Each piece on “Under a Mediterranean Sky” is devoted to a different part of the Mediterranean landscape while highlighting the regions’ cultures and indigenous instruments. It’s a beautifully written and recorded album centered by Hackett’s classical guitar playing and longtime collaborator Roger King’s orchestral arrangements.

The Maine Edge: Are these places you’d visiting while touring, vacationing or both?

Hackett: It’s a mixture of both. Some places I’d toured extensively like France, Spain and Italy but other places like Greece I’ve only visited. Some of it was also inspired by some of the beautiful places in the Middle East, like Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

The Maine Edge: Was the creation of this album related to the fact that you were in lockdown?

Hackett: It was, absolutely. My wife, Jo, had the idea that I should do something loosely based on the various countries and cultures in and around the Mediterranean. She suggested an album of original pieces with exotic instruments in addition to the guitar. All together it’s like a virtual journey, pure escapism at this time when we can’t really travel safely. It’s a way of not being locked down in the imagination.

The Maine Edge: Playing acoustic or classical style guitar is much more unforgiving than playing electrically, would you agree with that?

Hackett: Absolutely, there’s nowhere to hide with it. It’s like photographing fairy’s wings in a gale. It’s very easy to clatter and make mistakes and it can take many takes to get this stuff down, especially new material like this. You have to forgive yourself if you make a mistake or two but I am trying to do this to a challenging standard.

The Maine Edge: You’re working with some of your regular collaborators on this album, including keyboardist and producer Roger King. Did they contribute in person or virtually?

Hackett: All the stuff recorded with Roger was done face to face, so we had to take the chance of infecting each other, but we kept our distance even in the same room. I’d already collected a performance from Rob Townsend and my brother (John Hackett) both playing flutes on one of the tracks. A few things were flown in from other areas of the world like Denmark, Paris, Hungary, and a wonderful oboe player from Arizona named Franck Avril sent his contribution. The violin and viola were recorded face to face. It’s as real as I can make it but it’s not quite a test tube baby.

The Maine Edge: Who’s making music today that inspires you? Have you been doing some listening during lockdown or mostly working on your own?

Hackett: There are a couple of British bands I like very much that are progressive in spirit and also enjoying great commercial success. One is Elbow. I just befriended the head honcho who recently interviewed me. We were talking about Kate Bush’s work, so Guy Garvey and I have become pals. I also listen to Muse. I find it interesting that their work is so broad based and I gather they also put on great shows. I hope to hook up with them at some point.

On the American side, I love guitarist Joe Bonamassa. He and his producer have done some tremendous things and I’ve met them both. The late great Chris Squire (YES bassist) introduced me to Joe. It’s interesting, he played a piece by YES when I saw him and he had recorded something from Genesis at some point.

Joe is a great virtuoso blues-oriented player who’s reinvigorating the blues, which I grew up loving when I was a kid. All of these sonic developments were happening in electric guitar and blues was at the forefront with bands like The Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

Of course, they were standing on the shoulders of giants like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and all the rest. I’ll be forever haunted forever by stuff like “Smokestack Lightning” (by Howlin’ Wolf). I love the singing, the approach, the intent. Without them, you wouldn’t have had The Rolling Stones.

The Maine Edge: You wrote of your love for the blues in your memoir released last year. What are the chances we’ll see a Steve Hackett blues record at some point?

Hackett: I did one many years ago and it probably sold the least well of anything I’ve ever done. I don’t think a progressive audience can subscribe to that. I think they can stretch to something a little more classically oriented or flamenco but because blues is not a complicated form, they don’t necessarily respond to it. That’s not to say I won’t do one. Maybe what I’ll have to do is do a freebie. In other words, yes, people would have to pay for it, but I would give the proceeds to my crew. We’ve talked about it and the longer we’re in lockdown, the closer to reality those things become.

The Maine Edge: Is it too soon to know when you’ll be able to return to the stage?

Hackett: It’s a funny thing. My shows in the UK have been on sale for the autumn, and I just noticed this morning that Genesis had cancelled their tour due to start in April (already postponed from last fall) and booked it to happen at exactly the same time. So when we’re playing in Manchester, they’re scheduled to play in the same town on the same night (laughs). The best I can say is that as soon as the world is open for business, we’re open to music, and I can’t wait to get back out there. We’re all with our crystal balls trying to find out when we are going to get out and do what we need to do.

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 January 2021 08:06

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