New Nick Beggs Interview – March 2017

PMR Nick Beggs Interview

I caught up with bassist extraordinaire Nick Beggs in between legs of the 2017 Steve Hackett ‘Genesis Revisited and Classic Hackett Tour’. We discuss all things Nick Beggs related, The Mute Gods, working with Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson and much more………

Interview and photos by Tim Darbyshire

Tim Darbyshire (TD): So Nick, firstly thanks very much for taking the call.

Nick Beggs (NB): No problem

TD: Let’s start in the present. last Thursday and Friday we went to Oakville And Buffalo, two great shows. How was the Buffalo show with the orchestra, how were your preparations different?

NB: Well to be honest with you, there was no preparation needed on my behalf whatsoever. I think there was a couple of end cadences which changed due to the points at which they’re transcribed. They’d taken something from an earlier incarnation of the song, and we’d since developed the arrangements a bit. The end of Firth of Fifth, there was four bars different from what they’d done so I had to change what I played there, but that was it.

I think really, to be honest with you, the best thing to do is to just ignore it, carry on doing the gig as normal and they fit around what you’re doing – that was the idea of it anyway.

TD: Have they seen the music before, did they rehearse or I guess they’re just classically trained musicians that read off the sheet music?

NB: Yes exactly, that’s how all orchestras work. It’s too expensive to get a 64-piece orchestra together for rehearsals. Orchestras work on a very different kind of scale to musicians of the rock or jazz idiom. Time is money and of the essence, they have to take five minutes off every half hour or every fifty minutes whatever it is – it’s heavily union led.

So there is no discrepancy for error, the orchestrator will do all the work. He met up in London with Roger King and they talked a few things through. But no, from our part it was turn up, ignore the orchestra and get on with what you usually do.

TD: Hardly any interaction then between the band and the orchestra? Was it a case of they’re just sitting behind us playing the music?

NB: Yes, we talked with the conductor (Bradley Thachuk) and his brother, the arrangers, and they were great, we had interaction with them.

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TD: He seemed to be having the time of his life on stage – Bradley

NB: Yes, and Steve his brother, they’re both big prog-heads. It was a nice experience and it would have been better if the orchestra been sat on an angle, on terraced seating to be showed off more. From what I could hear, they sounded wonderful, but I couldn’t hear that much of them. It’s a distraction really, when you’re used to playing – and there is no rehearsal time for the band with the orchestra – if you’re hearing the orchestra playing new parts, and you’re ‘hearing’ the room it can be a distraction…….

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TD: Sure, I went on the balcony pre-show and it was a good view of the orchestra behind the band setup, but from the floor it was just the band, you could see the double basses on one side and some violins on the other.

NB: Yes I think the balcony was definitely the best vantage point for viewing the concert, I don’t know if sonically it was better or not.

TD: Sonically, to me the orchestra was helping Roger’s parts, filling in textures and colours. giving it a nice feel. From where we were, the bass was very quiet – but I guess it has to be so you don’t drown out the orchestra?

NB: Yes, generally on stage the sound was quite quiet. You’ve got so many frequencies occurring in an orchestra anyway you have to mix it accordingly. And you know with only four hours to get it together in terms of sounds and run throughs you’re not going to have an ideal scenario no matter how good your front house sound guys are, your conductor, it’s not going to be 100% right.

TD: But it was considered a considerable success, yes?

NB: Well it was sold out! That’s as much of a success you can expect on that level.

TD: Artistically though – everyone seemed very happy?

NB: Yes, we had a lovely time.

TD: The Oakville show the night before was a more traditional Hackett gig. A great theatre, compact venue and the bass sound goes right through you.

NB: Yes, probably quite a different mix to the one you got the next night, because of the shape of the room as well. It was mixed more for a rock ensemble, you didn’t have to leave headroom for the orchestra.

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TD: Where did you get the idea of using your fists for the bass pedals during Shadow Of The Hierophant?

NB: Well it’s really because it’s Gary (O’Toole)’s drum solo to be honest, and I didn’t want to be standing in his eye line. I didn’t want to be obscuring the audience from seeing what he was doing – turning all the rhythms round and doing all the polyrhythmic stuff you know, so I thought I should just sit down and hammer these things.

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TD: In a way, that’s what people were looking at – what’s he doing down there!?

NB: So it backfired then did it?

TD: Not really, it’s such a crescendo, the build up to the end of Hierophant, the whole place was shaking!

NB: Cool.

TD: So you’re back in Steve Hackett’s band – is that for the whole touring cycle or just until the UK and Europe dates are finished?

NB: It’s for this year.

TD: So there’s plans for more dates later in the year?

NB: Yes, there’s plans for later dates, they’re sorted of added on as we go, but we’re not too sure yet.

TD: Will that include a return to North America and specifically Canada?

NB: To be honest I really don’t know – it could do but I can’t confirm that.

TD: You had to learn to play the guitar touring with Steve Hackett. How was that?

NB: A challenge. I had to do it in three months and it’s quite complicated stuff although you’re not playing lead lines per se. You’re playing some linear parts – you know it was a challenge and I’m really glad that I took, because it sprungboarded me to The Mute Gods project really. After that I started writing songs in a different way and approaching the whole songwriting overview very differently.

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TD: So the Chapman Stick – isn’t that a guitar and a bass in one instrument?

NB: Yes it is. You can’t really play guitar music on the Chapman Stick, not to that extent. You play music that’s made for the Chapman Stick really.

TD: It’s really not like a regular guitar then

NB: You can play some of the voicings and some things work quite well, but it’s peculiar to itself you might say.

TD: It’s a touch guitar as opposed to plucked strings?

NB: Yes that’s right

TD: I did notice you didn’t use the Stick on the current Hackett tour, but you have before?

NB: I had planned on it, but it seemed each time the set was being revised, another Chapman Stick song was being dropped – for no reason other than the songs just didn’t seem to work as well, so I thought ok I’ll leave it behind this time and focus on other things.

TD: The set is based around Wind And Wuthering this time, do you have any songs that are your favourite Genesis songs to play or Steve Hackett songs?

NB: Well to be honest with you, all of his stuff I love. I always did, and the Genesis stuff too. With his departure I found the band not as interesting. And Then There Were Three was very good and a lot of people cite Duke as an album that’s worth listening to, but I never really listened to it. I think they lost something, and I realised that between him and Peter (Gabriel), that was the reason I really loved the band in the first place.

TD: I completely agree. People say they prefer Peter Gabriel era Genesis, but when you think about it more deeply, I think Steve Hackett era Genesis is more accurate. A Trick of the Tail……

NB: Trick of the Tail is amazing and so is Wind and Wuthering, and so is Seconds Out. You know the first Genesis Live album and Seconds Out are both quite ubiquitous live albums, that kind of informed a generation about what a live album should be really.

TD: I love the Genesis Live cover, the blue sheets the backdrops and the red box head – there’s just something about it, obviously the music as well…..It must be good to play music live that you grew up with?

NB: Very much so, it’s always great to have the opportunity to work with your heroes.

TD: I bet, and Steve always surrounds himself with amazing musicians.

NB: He’s very easy to work with. He’s very appreciative and always makes you feel very welcome and tells you how much he’s grateful that you’re in the band, and I think ah Steve we’re all here because of you, because we love you, you know.

TD: And that’s the reason we all keep coming to the shows. Rob Townsend as well, he adds such a different angle, a different take on the classic material, and of course he’s on the new Hackett albums.

NB: I think Steve needed another improvisational soloist in the ensemble you know, he needed someone who could extemporize ideas each night and sort of duet with him, duel with him. Rob is great like that, and using a soprano saxophone in that way – again thinking orchestrally – it doesn’t tread on anyone’s toes, and it always works.

TD: It does, I’ve seen the band many times down the years and never been disappointed.

NB: Great.

TD: Although you need to come back here as the shows I saw I didn’t get to hear One For The Vine!

NB: Yes, we did change the set around quite a lot for various reasons. We played One For The Vine on many of the shows but not the ones you turned up to. I don’t know why that was, it’s just the way it happened.

TD: I’m guessing you wanted to run through Supper’s Ready a few times before the performance with the orchestra?

NB: Yes that’s right

TD: I can’t really sit here and complain about hearing Supper’s Ready live can I?

NB: Yes I guess not!

TD: So, your other main touring commitment is with Steven Wilson, and has been for the last 5 years or so.

NB: And Kim Wilde

TD: Yes, Kim Wilde, is that still ongoing?

NB: I was going to be doing something with her at Christmas, but it got cancelled. But you never know with Kim, she might have some space that I can fit in with. A lot of time I’m too busy with other stuff so she’s had to get somebody else in when I’m not available. I do get back into the project from time to time, they’re such great people to work with.

TD: So who has priority then? Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, Kim Wilde or whoever asks first?

NB: Well I’m sure you appreciate, as a musician you know you go where most of the work is, and there’s been times when Steve Hackett hasn’t been touring that much, and Steve Wilson has, and vice-versa. You know Steve Wilson’s not doing any touring this year so I’m with Steve Hackett.

TD: On the Wilson side, I know you were in the studio recently with him recording. Are all your parts finished?

NB: Yes, the album’s finished.

TD: Have you heard it?

NB: I’ve heard some of it, I haven’t heard the finished mixes obviously, but I’m meeting up with him probably later in the week to take the dogs out for a walk.

TD: You live quite close to him then? You’re in Leighton Buzzard?

NB: Yes he lives just down the road from me in a little town called Hemel Hempstead.

TD: So is Steven surprising us all again with this album?

NB: Well, I shouldn’t really talk too much about his album, because he’ll want to do that when it comes out, but suffice to say – yes you won’t be disappointed. It’s going to be quite a surprise, it’s going to be a great album.

TD: I heard he’s signed with Universal, is that correct?

NB: Yes

TD: I’m not sure how I feel about that. Happy for him if it moves him up to a higher league…

NB: Actually it’s a subsidiary of Universal….

TD: Ok so the album’s out later in the year but there’s no touring until next year?

NB: Yes, as far as I know.

TD: So, onto The Mute Gods. I guess you’re very close with Roger (King) from working with Steve Hackett, and Marco (Minneman) from touring with Steven Wilson. Did it just come about because you thought I’ve been playing other people’s music for so long, it’s time I did some more of my own?

NB: Yes, more or less, except somebody else said that to me. Thomas Waber at InsideOut put those words into my head.

TD: So you just needed a little push?

NB: Yes, well I said I don’t think anyone’s interested in what I’ve got to say. He said I think you might be surprised….

TD: Did it come together in hotel rooms on tour, or do you always have a collection of songs ready waiting for various projects?

NB: Yes, and I also always have a recording set up with me when I’m travelling.

TD: A laptop and…..

NB: A laptop and a soundcard and a keyboard or guitar.

TD: So you record any ideas as you get them?

NB: Yes, I came up with three new ideas this last month on the road with Steve Hackett.

TD: For The Mute Gods 3, the next album?

NB: Yes

TD: So the new album (Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth), I’ve read some reviews where people are suggesting you’re really ranting. To me it doesn’t sound like that, ok lyrically you’re having your say – as everyone should – but the album itself doesn’t sound like a doom-laden, morose angry rant to me. Some of the songs seem pretty ‘up’.

NB: I think it depends how much you want to distill it. If you look at the lyrics, I think the lyrics are very dark. There’s some dark melodic ideas and it’s quite gnarly. It’s not as ranty as a Rage Against The Machine album or something of that genre. It’s melodic, but it’s the angriest album I’ve ever made.

TD: You’re having your say on the state of the world. 2016 was a crazy year……

NB: The thing that always amazes me is just how much distance there is between the right and the left politically. So those who voted in a certain way, those who voted the other way – there’s no middle ground. And therefore if people don’t agree with what you’re saying they’ll come down on one particular side, and if they do agree they completely agree and know where you’re coming from.

But something I’ve learned from making this record is I’m not going to try and please anybody. I’m going to please myself and I’m not doing this to win friends and influence people. I’m doing this because I’ve got something to say – and that has to be the essence of why I’m making these records. If I’m trying to engender a fan base, it will come across as disingenuous. Frankly I hold very strong views.

TD: Well a lot of it makes sense to me

NB: That’s probably because we’re of the same political persuasion, but when the far right is gathering in the wings and you have idiots voting for Brexit and fuckwits voting for Trump you’re going to alienate people – I don’t care about that, that’s what I’m prepared to do. I’m prepared to call people out for what they’re doing.

TD: That’s right, in the artistic community, anyone you speak to, I can’t imagine them voting for Trump.

NB: No. Last night a guy came on The Mute Gods Facebook page and left a message saying Nick Beggs has lost himself a lot of fans by being very rude about the Brexiteers. I just went in and said thank you for inspiring the album, I’ve not finished with you lot by a long way!

TD: There’s a lot wrong the way we treat people in the world today, corporate power, government cover ups……history has taught us we should be very aware of the far right rising.

NB: It’s going to get worse. We are moving towards a very draconian time. Resources are going to be stretched to breaking point and it costs a lot of money to have care in the community, and to be considerate and altruistic, and when it comes down to it and governments are being squeezed, and people are being squeezed due to the trickle down effect, it’s going to become a very untenable society.

TD: We seem to have lost all the middle ground, over the last 20 years?

NB: It’s where we’re at. We had the boom period of the 80s, if we’d gone back to post war Britain you’d see a lot of austerity then, much more than extreme than this – but we’re heading back into a period of that kind of difficulty for large swathes of society. The disenfranchised are growing….

TD: The gap between the haves and have nots in society is growing, obscene corporate wages, the banking crisis etc, it’s all linked.

NB: It’s a perfect storm.

TD: So much greed at the top, I guess this is a whole different conversation……..

NB: Well it’s not really to be honest with you, this is the essence of what I’m writing about, this is what The Mute Gods is about. It’s about me turning the spotlight on the mechanisms that have got us here.

TD: The love song that closes the album (Stranger Than Fiction), is that the antidote? Love can save us?

NB: I think love is the only thing that can save the day. If you can find love in your life it will make sense of everything, it’s like a lottery win. But if you focus in on the things that are self-seeking and build walls around yourself and pull down the portcullis and pull up the drawbridge, as society is doing, then that’s where we’re heading.

I also take issue with religion – religion has sold us with the footnote that God is love, but we know that not to be true. We know that God’s representatives here on Earth and all the agencies thereof, do anything but love. We know that Christianity does not have the moral monopoly.

TD: You used to have religion didn’t you?

NB: Yes, I was a very very committed Christian for decades.

TD: So what changed then?

NB: I realised that every decision I had made appertaining to my faith had been based in fear and a desire to please something that I thought had my best interests at heart. And then I realised that you can’t build a life or a future on something there is no proof of, that actually on a daily basis seems to become less real, less potentially real.

On a global scale, on a universal scale, science is proving this. We are welcome to have our own thoughts and ideas, but that’s all they are. We do not have the right to push those beliefs or set up systems from which to govern over people and put down credos and dictums by which people should live. It’s time we came out of the dark ages and realised what stupid idiots we’ve been.

TD: All we hear about is Isis, but crazy right wing religious groups in America are
as bad.

NB: You look at the hate preachers in America – they are every bit as bad as Isis.

TD: I thought religion was meant to be based on love, all you hear about is hate.

NB: Well true love is totally un self-seeking, otherwise it can’t be true love. It has to be based in an act of kindness as a guttural knee-jerk response based on your level of humanity. When we see these poor people who have suffered terribly because the West have bombed them…..and you know the East as well because a lot of these terrorist groups have Russian weapons. We make these weapons, we put them out in the playground and all these children are being blown up, and we wonder why they want to come and live in our country? It beggars belief……

TD: Power, money, corruption….

NB: I feel all we need now is a couple of pints and we could put the world to rights!

TD: I’d love to , but I’m on the wrong side of the pond at the moment!

NB: I don’t have great hopes for humanity, I think we’re living on very thin times and don’t think we’ve got long to go. I think in the next hundred years we’re going to see life become very very difficult for the human race. I think there’ll be an enclave of the upper echelons who can afford to buy themselves in to a safe island somewhere, a safe haven. But I think society is going to become untenable for our children and our grand children.

TD: Very sad

NB: Yes but we’ve only got ourselves to blame, nobody else, and God is not going to save us. Nobody is going to help us, there will be no revelations, no second coming, no anti-christ.

TD: We’ll just fuck the planet up and that’s that

NB: Yes, that’s it, and it doesn’t matter, and when we’re all fossils…..you know

TD: Are you glad you’re 55? Not sure I’d want to be 18 again, life seems harder now?

NB: Well I feel like I am perennially 21, I have that sense of vitality, but the thing that I don’t envy is the folly of youth, the ignorance and the ability to think that you know everything – and the inability to take good advice. But that’s a good metaphor for humanity……

TD: It’s a sobering thought though, we both have kids.

NB: Well it is, my kids have a great outlook on life. They listen to me when I start talking about this stuff, but they’re going to live their lives, have good life expectation. My children are very fortunate and for as long as the world seems to rotate they will live their lives in a way much better than my parents did, or my grandparents did.

TD: We’re a similar age, I think growing up we expected things to get progressively better?

NB: There are things that are better, things that have moved on, and there always will be. We’re living ever more in a global village, where the effects of one country can have even further far reaching effects globally than before. Technology pushes the reality of nightmare scenarios under our noses.

TD: And everything’s so throwaway these days, no one has any attention span.

NB: I have some hopes and dreams. I dare to believe that the spirit of certain types of entrepreneurial thinkers will continue to make life better. I saw somebody the other day who was selling a new patent – it was a fridge that worked on oxygen, and it could convert oxygen to the basic requirements to keep refrigeration. It was an oxygen engine and I thought , that’s the type of people that are going to save us.

TD: You’re right, it’s like the car industry, the technology is there for us all to be driving electric cars, but the car manufacturers and oil companies hold us back.

NB: Of course the petro-chemical industry own all the patents. One of the most polluted roads in the whole of the UK is in Swansea, you’d think there’d be a move towards cleaner cars, cleaner fuels, better environment the way we see things on TV, but the particulates issue is still a massive issue.

TD: On your social media you often post pictures from your garden, butterflies and the like. People seem ignorant to the fact that if we continue to kill our pollinators there will be no food left.

NB: People don’t have time to think about it. People are being waged war on by governments. Governments use silent weapons, they use commerce, they keep us in our places, keep us under the cosh. We have to pay this bill or that tax, we are in a perpetual battle zone of our own and for those poor souls that are financially unfeasible they just fall by the wayside and become a statistic. Governments are very good at silencing their dissenters. They use it with commerce.

TD: As we get older not everything is quite as perceived shall we say?

NB: The paradigm is always changing. The landscape is always changing politically and socially, environmentally everything is changing all the time.

TD: Yes, the environment is a big one. So Nick, anything else to add about The Mute Gods? Your favourite song on the new album?

NB: My favourite track on the album is The Dumbing Of The Stupid because I think it speaks to our generation.

TD: There’s no misunderstanding the sentiment, just from the title. I know you’re very busy these days, is Kajagoogoo still an ongoing project?

NB: No. We did something about nine years ago, and that was good. It was almost like a kind of revisiting of it for old time’s sake and I felt that we did quite a lot of good with that. But in terms of moving forward, there’s no point in revisiting that project.

TD: I guess that’s when everyone first heard your name

NB: Yes of course, it was globally quite well received but it was a pop act, it was very much of its time and it did what it was supposed to do which was to chart.

TD: It got you out there though, and has given you a life in music.

NB: Yes it got me started. It got me started in a way that was very disposable, but it was absolutely right and made for the 80s. It was made for the 80s, by the 80s, in the 80s.

TD: So despite your numerous live commitments, will we ever see The Mute Gods on stage?

NB: I really don’t know the answer to that question. At the moment, the interest in the band seems to be growing to such an extent that it’s likely, but I can’t really make a decision on that until the release of the third album. I want to give myself enough time to consider everything.

TD: Is The Mute Gods’ third album now your priority, after promoting the new album?

NB: Yes, that’s my next project. You say promote the new album, but to be honest with you, when you put an album out all the work’s done by the time the album’s out there, so it can be a real anti-climax. You’ve been working on it for maybe a year or so, had all this intimate detail, you do all the press and that leading up to it and then it goes out…..and it’s like, ok you have to let it get on with it really, let it have its life.

TD: You mentioned Thomas Waber at InsideOut earlier. They seem to do great work with prog bands and prog-metal bands.

NB: I don’t know if I’d have done it if it wasn’t for Thomas, he galvanised the whole thing. He made me start thinking about it, and on more than one occasion put the idea into my head. I kind of pushed it out initially, I thought nah…..

TD: I love the fact that in these days of streaming, they release deluxe editions, mediabook editions, 5.1 mixes and all that. Is that just for our generation?

NB: Well they know the demographic – they know what these things mean to that demographic, and it’s not just people in their 50s, younger people are coming to this…..they’re being seduced by the same things that we were, and for good reason. They’re good things, good ideas, they’re tangible, you can hold them, look at them and they relay information in a far more compelling way than a digital download will ever do.

TD: I obviously grew up with vinyl. Could you believe say 10 years ago that you’d be releasing your new album on vinyl?

NB: Well I was always incensed when I couldn’t buy stuff on vinyl. I remember the first time I went into a record shop and couldn’t buy a John Martyn album on vinyl. I got a bit angry with the shopkeeper! I thought hang on this is ridiculous, it’s not this guy’s fault but at that particular time I saw him as part of the problem because they’d turned their backs on something that was tried and tested – and something that I loved, and again I’m not the only person who thought that.

TD: It’s kind of like the perpetual software/hardware upgrade cycle.

NB: Yes, and I think those things are ok providing you accept that. You have to find your level, your entry point in to the digital realm. Some people like to digitize their vinyl – I know some of my friends do – now they’re getting crackles and everything but then they’re running it through filters and you’re in a whole other area of expertise.

5.1 mixing, you know it all depends what your comfort zone is.

TD: I love 5.1 mixes, listening to Close To The Edge, hearing the parts Steven Wilson has added back in from the multi-track tapes. It’s a great way to revisit classic albums you grew up with.

NB: He has a very nice way of referring to that, whenever he does a 5.1 mix he says he doesn’t want to change anything, he says ‘I just want to spring clean the Sistine Chapel’. Isn’t that great?

TD: That’s great, and he’s very good at his spring cleaning, he’s got a good ear.

NB: He’s the best. He’s great, he knows his stuff.

TD: Nick, thanks for all the live shows over the years, with Steven Wilson and Steve Hackett. You always seem to be having fun on stage

NB: Glad you enjoy it, I’ve got the best job in the world haven’t I?

TD: We could do with a few less nude shots of you but apart from that I think we’re ok……

NB: Au contraire! The world needs more nudity, you know you can trust a man with no pockets. Also when you take your clothes off and run towards a man with a gun when you’re naked, you know he’s going to run away.

TD: It’s the safest defence?

NB: (laughing)…I’ve done it a few times

TD: It’s a good job I can’t see you now isn’t it?

NB: Yes, I’m laying here completely starkers! …….No I’m not, only joking Tim

TD: Well Nick that was great, thanks again for you time. Hopefully we can do it again some time

NB: Alright, I’m sure I’ll be heading over the pond sometime. Have a good rest of the day, and thanks for your time and thanks for your interest.

TD: Cheers

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NEW Steve Hackett Interview – December 2016

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I caught up with Steve to discuss the forthcoming new album, the 2017 Tour and all other things Hackett-related. Many thanks to Steve for being so generous with his precious time, and also thanks to Jo Hackett facilitating the interview.

Tim Darbyshire – Hi Steve!

Steve Hackett – How are you doing Tim?

Tim – I’m good thanks how are you?

Steve – Fine thank you.

Tim – Thanks for your time tonight.

Steve – That’s alright.

Tim – Ok, so the new album, when is that due out?

Steve – Well, I think it’s going to be out in March.

Tim – Does it have a title yet?

Steve – We do have a title yes, but I haven’t officially given it out yet, so once the record company says ‘green light’ , then I will. All this stuff is being agreed at the moment – I’m just finally assembling the order of the songs. We had an order on Friday, but with some record company input there were a few changes, so we now have a new order as of today – and if it still passes muster tomorrow then that’s the one we’ll go with.

Tim – But the album is completely finished, it’s all in the can?

Steve – It’s basically in the can yes, bar the odd tweak it’s all in the can. It’s mastering at the moment, we’ve done the mixes so it’s basically down to the mastering. We’ve done a 5.1 mix as well as a stereo mix and we’ve done mastering for vinyl, except we’re doing it all over again due to the changed order. It’s a knock on effect, domino effect but in a good way I think.

Tim – So there will be a deluxe version with the 5.1 mix, maybe a double cd?

Steve – That’s right, yes I think in terms of formats there will be a blu-ray, and various things across the board basically. I’m finding it hard to keep up at the moment to be honest – I’ve been working flat out on this for over a year, but it’s coming to fruition and I’m very pleased with it. We’ve got people from all over the world on it.

Tim – So there are guest musicians besides your normal band?

Steve – Yes, there are guests on it, quite a lot of guests. There are about twenty people on it, from as far afield as Israel and Palestine working together on it.

Tim – That’s a good thing.

Steve – Azerbaijan, Hungary, The States. Some stuff was recorded in Italy, some in Budapest, some in London, it’s like an ‘on location’ kind of thing – and it’s got that kind of feel about it. I think it’s got a very….I’ve never used the word international before…… but it has a kind of international feel to it. There are aspects of World Music on it, it’s basically a rock album – but it does keep wandering off into other genres, crossing borders all the time.

Tim – Sounds like a very nice eclectic mix.

Steve – Yes, it is a nice eclectic mix and I’m just playing it to people for the first time. I’m just at my mother’s tonight in fact – she hasn’t been very well – and I’m playing it to her and she loves it already. It’s making her feel better, so it’s doing its job already! Music is supposed to heal, and that’s what it’s doing at the moment, and I’m pleased about that.

Tim – I hope she gets well soon, I know she’s a big supporter of your music.

Steve – Thank you, yes she’s been a huge support and huge enthusiast, all of those things. I think she will recover, but for several weeks she’s been ill with the lurgy basically – I think she’s on the road to recovery, but she’s having to fight this and it’s a little harder for her because of her age. There aren’t too many concessions to age with my Mum!

Tim – So early 2017 sees you back on the road, and I see you’ve got Nick Beggs back in the band.

Steve – Yes, Nick Beggs and we’ve got Nad as well with the regular band. We’ll also be celebrating the 40th year of ‘Wind and Wuthering’, so we’re doing quite a bit of that album – not all of it – but we’re doing what I think are the strongest tracks.

Tim – I was reading online that you’ll be playing ‘One For The Vine’ and ‘Inside And Out’, which is an interesting selection.

Steve – Yes, ‘Inside And Out’ wasn’t on the original album, but if it had been a cd it would have been on the original album as I think it’s very strong. To my mind, stronger than some of the tracks that ended up on the album, but I think it’s a favourite of fans and deserves to be more widely heard, so we’ll be doing that as well and I’m looking forward to it.

Tim – What was your involvement in that track originally, from a writing viewpoint?

Steve – Mainly the instrumental stuff at the end. That and guitar parts in the song itself.

Tim – It has a kind of latter day ‘Cinema Show’ feel to it.

Steve – I think it has some aspects of that, in that it has 12-string then it expands away from that. It’s very much in the Genesis tradition – well shall we say early Genesis – where songs started small and became very big, so you’ve got that dynamic range being covered within a song that is also a story. I think that’s something the band did very well.

Tim – You did actually play it live towards the end of the 1977 tour didn’t you?

Steve – We did, we played it in 1977, it was part of the live show so it couldn’t have been so bad!

Tim – And ‘One For The Vine’, that’s another epic song isn’t it?

Steve – Yes it is an epic, it’s a favourite of many people, many fans including my wife who said ‘Why don’t you do that?’. I cracked under torture! I’m just kidding, seriously…..when I left the band I saw them playing it live a few years later at Hammersmith (1980), and I thought it was very very strong live – perhaps stronger than on record, it just seemed to work so very well. I thought, ah I finally see what this is all about, which is often the case, some songs work extremely well live, it’s all about the band, it’s all about the performance, the response of the crowd, the lights – the whole thing, the show, the presentation.

Tim – Will you be playing ‘In That Quiet Earth’, ‘Afterglow’?

Steve – Yes we will be doing ‘In That Quiet Earth’, ‘Afterglow’, we’ll be doing ‘Blood On The Rooftops’……what else, we’ll be doing ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’ again as well. We were doing that at the beginning of touring the Genesis stuff about three years ago, or was it four years ago, but then we sidelined it. To do a set of things from ‘Wind and Wuthering’ I think we really have to do that, I think that’s all of the ones that we’re doing…..the ones that are more dramatic live. I know there’s other songs on there which are catchy and what have you, but for my money that’s the strongest live stuff.

Tim – I also read you’re bringing ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’ back in?

Steve – That’s right, yes

Tim – And you’ll be playing ‘Anyway’ for the first time?

Steve – That’s right, yes, I’ll be playing ‘Anyway’ for the first time since 1975. Yes we haven’t done that one for a very long time, and I look forward to doing that one – at the suggestion of Nad funnily enough, he said why don’t you do that, so again I said ok if you like that. I think it’s a very good tune. I’m hoping I might be able to play the three-part guitar harmony because these days we have intelligent harmonisers, so I’m hoping I can get close to it, we’ll see how we go.

Tim – Will it be similar to the last tour where you do a set of solo material then a set of Genesis songs?

Steve – I’ve started a tradition of being two bands in one, I think. Whatever we play of the solo material – we’ll be doing some stuff off the new album – I’m fully aware what most fans tend to want is a reminder of what they were doing when their hormones were raging, and so the plan is to have one eye on the future and one on the past. I try to deliver all things to all people……

Tim – It seems you need to play two hours of solo stuff and two hours of Genesis then everyone will be happy!

Steve – Yep, I might get to that point, but I probably would have to have two bands, because I don’t think one band would be able to stand the pace of that….. then I’d be going one better than Bruce Springsteen wouldn’t I? Four hours on stage, we’re heading towards Wagner here if we do that.

Tim – Wishful thinking. There seems to be a trend these days of announcing part the setlist ahead of time. Is that promoter driven or fans wanting to know?

Steve – Yes, that’s true I seem to have given away most of the setlist off the top of my head. I think there’s a trend towards that, people like to know what they’re going get these days. It’s driven I think mainly by fans, so I’ve said I’ll do one of the tracks on ‘Darktown’ – ‘Rise Again’ – that was a favourite at the time and in a way it’s a vocal style I’ve adopted again on this new album – starting the melody down the octaves, a kind of intoning voice and then it becomes a cry. It’s a vocal style that I feel comfortable with, so very happy to be playing that. We’re also going to be doing ‘The Steppes’ – people have asked for that – and ‘Serpentine Song’ which I believe is off ‘To Watch The Storms’, another favourite. So, I do respond to people’s suggestions but I can’t keep everyone happy……

When we do the show with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra that’ll be a different set, that will involve ‘Supper’s Ready’ and various other things so we’re kind of learning two sets, kind of heading a little to what you were talking about, the three, four hour show, but often these sets end up being two and a half hours or slightly more.

Tim – We’re coming to the Buffalo show, so really looking forward to that.

Steve – I’m looking forward to that, I’m looking forward to the Cruise, I’m looking forward to the tour, to everywhere we’re going to play. I’m also looking forward next year to covering places I’ve not been to before like Australia, New Zealand, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Singapore – the world seems to be opening up to this music which has had quite a gestation period to achieve its…..if I said ‘target audience’- I mean hardly because back in the day it was all a shot in the dark. It’s nice that it’s survived in the affections of so many people.

Tim – It has matured with age?

Steve – I think so, yes, like a wine in a cask, I think for some songs the prime time is now, having been in that period of fermentation shall we say, fermenting in the affections of people for a very long time.

Tim – Going back to the Buffalo show, is there a lot of preparation work you have to do with the orchestra? I guess they’ll be reading sheet music?

Steve – Yes, they’ve been doing arrangements and there’s some arrangements which I played live when I was in Iceland doing two shows with the band called Todmobile – who have also worked with Jon Anderson, doing great versions of not just Genesis stuff, but Yes stuff as well. They did a great job, so there are some charts from that and some charts that the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra have come up with.

It’s all not so much dipping your toe in the water as jumping straight in. I love what orchestras bring to rock music, I love the marriage of the two. Ever since we started experimenting with mellotrons, using that as a kind of surrealistic time machine – I always felt that if for instance I talk about my early heroes The Beatles, they were at their most interesting when they had as wide a sound canvas as possible.

That use of the orchestra, the way it worked with them and obviously mellotron as well, it was a great combination of things, so we kind of use everything, anything we can lay our hands on. I think that’ll be a very interesting show. Obviously you have to take risks – the biggest risk is who’s going to count 1, 2, 3, 4? Normally it’s the drummer, will it be the conductor?! It all has to be in sync, you have to have an agreement with an orchestra.

Tim – Might this become more than a one-off venture?

Steve – Well it’s a one-off, but if it works of course it means that we have the facility and the possibility of working with this thing more in the future. Not that I would want to have an orchestra that I was carrying round – I don’t want to flounder on that rock – I think you’d have to use different orchestras in different places. But it is starting to happen with me more, I worked with an orchestra in Germany a while back, I worked with an orchestra or two in Iceland, and it went very well in both cases, and now we’re doing it with the Buffalo people. It’s all a case of the more risks you take, the more inclusive and immersive the whole thing can be.

Tim – So the Genesis days, 40 to 45 years ago now, six great studio albums you were involved with, as we’ve just been saying it seems to be getting better with age. At the time though was it a bit of a struggle, financially and personally?

Steve – Well yes, I think all bands have their problems, as you say to finance it…..to finance it there was a lot of investment, not just financial but emotional as well. But it was worth it, it was a huge challenge from beginning to end for me, but my heart is still very much there in lots of that music.

Tim – Why do you think maybe it isn’t for the other four?

Steve – I think in a way there are two types of Genesis. There is the earlier band, the pre-video era – I like to think of it as the pre-pop era as well – and many of the fans loved that music. In the end, for the last two years with the band we were playing arenas and filling them, so there was a huge audience for that kind of music, so I think it proved itself to be hugely commercial and has sold ‘billions’ since. It all depends on your perception, I can understand it in terms of a band that becomes more streamlined, less personalities, less politics……and so I think it’s very easy to throw out the baby with the bath water and for them say everything prior to that time was a problem because of da da da da da……

But I don’t think fans see it like that, and many fans that love the early work of the band – who I suspect are the same fans who listened to Pink Floyd and Yes, and ELP and Procol Harum and many bands who were very melodic with an emphasis on musicianship. I think that they felt disenfranchised by the new direction of the band, but I’m certainly not going to complain, because once you leave a band it’s going to become whatever it becomes, and I totally respect what it became and think the band was interesting in all its incarnations but obviously I’m drawn to something that is closer in spirit to this pan-genre approach which includes what orchestras can do and what big bands can do, and a kind of music that is able to turn on a dime and bridge generation gaps and do all sorts of things that I think a three or four minute pop single doesn’t do.

So all I can say is that I’m interested in prolonging the life – certainly live – of the music that I considered to be weird and wonderful and a kind of musical odyssey and journey and all those things that Peter Gabriel still describes it as. There’s a lot of good stuff, and I’m only too happy to go and play that stuff again.

Tim – Would you say that ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’ sowed the seed that maybe you’d rather go out solo on your own?

Steve – Well I think certainly composition by committee has its limitations for groups. I think groups can write wonderful things together, but at the same time it’s impossible to keep a lid on it. If one guy wants to go and do solo things, and you know the others don’t really want him to go and do it…… Pete wanted to have a solo career in parallel with Genesis and certain factions in the band made that impossible, so in the end one’s allegiance has to be to the music, or the totality of what music can become – at the same time it doesn’t mean that I disown those songs, those songs don’t become orphans just because I say ‘no son of mine’ (to quote a particular song).

I still love those songs, they’re all shared-brain children with the other guys and I care hugely about them, otherwise I wouldn’t be playing them again.

Tim – Have you had any feedback from the others? Have they seen the show at all?

Steve – No no, the other guys don’t come to the shows. Genesis is a very competitive band, the individuals are all very competitive.

Tim – Even now?

Steve – Yes, they don’t do that sort of thing, it’s an unspoken rule. You have to be able to speak ‘Genesis’ to understand it, and I totally respect it you know, if you’re that competitive with your thinking you won’t do that. I think everyone wants the other guy to do well, but maybe just not quite as well as you’re doing yourself if you know what I mean? It’s a very British repressed fucked up kind of thing, but hey, what the hell.

Tim – So ‘Wind and Wuthering’ is forty years old, when you recorded it was the writing truly on the wall for you?

Steve – Oh yes, the writing was on the wall for me at that time I think, it wasn’t that I didn’t love the album – I certainly thought the album was very strong, but politics played its part with all of this, and you can’t keep a good Hackett down! I had to get out there and work with other people, I couldn’t have still-born brain children and that was what was on offer so I had to go out and work with other people. Wonderful people as it happens, wonderful then and wonderful now.

I still love all the guys of course, all hugely talented and they’ve all written wonderful songs and done wonderful stuff, you can’t knock that you know. Genesis was a force of nature, it’s sad there is no band at the moment but you’ve got to respect everyone’s right not to play that stuff or not to be that thing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate those early years because I gave it everything I could, gave it my full attention, writing and shaping the live show and trying to do some things by stealth – noticing things that other people didn’t notice, trying to put those things right. I’m writing a book at the moment, so I’ll put the record straight for all those that have collective amnesia with this.

Tim – Great, I was going to ask about an autobiography as it’s been a few years since Alan Hewitt’s book.

Steve – Yes, I’m working on it at the moment, once I’ve got the album out of the way I’ll be concentrating on that.

Tim – You’re always so busy.

Steve – I’m a busy boy, yes!

Tim – I’m sure it’ll be a very interesting read, I did enjoy Mike Rutherford’s, Phil Collins’ and Peter Gabriel’s recent books.

Steve – Yes, Phil has just done his and I enjoyed reading their books and I’ll get my own back with mine!

Tim – Is there any thought to doing any more studio recordings of Genesis material?

Steve – I’ve got it on a back-burner, but it’s not a priority at the moment. There are many things that we’ve done live that I haven’t recorded, or re-recorded, so there’s always the possibility of that at some point but I’m not looking at ‘Genesis Revisited 3’ at the moment. I think it’s also important for music to have a future, much as it’s nice to keep the museum doors open, I think to pension yourself off is not a good idea if you’re hot to trot in terms of new stuff – look what guitars can do now for instance, look what technology affords one and what experience brings to it, so I’m still as passionate about it all as I ever was.

Tim – It sounds like you have a nice balance between creating new music and celebrating the past?

Steve – Oh well that’s it, that’s the whole point isn’t it? I think if I saw for instance a Paul McCartney gig, I know I’d be very happy to hear him do ‘Band On The Run’, but I’d also be very happy if he breaks into ‘Eleanor Rigby’ you know, and ‘All My Loving’ and all that – I think they’re gorgeous songs from out of the jewel box.

I have much the same affection for the songs that I think were rather wonderful that we did at one time – I’m allowed to be a fan of the other people in the band, a team of great writers who came up with wonderful stunning material and it’s great to have been part of that, it’s great to have written with everybody.

Tim – It’s important that you’re keeping it alive.

Steve – That’s the idea, keeping it alive.

Tim – Great Steve, thanks for you time tonight, looking forward to seeing you in Oakville and Buffalo next year.

Steve – Brilliant, I look forward to it as well, absolutely. Thank you.

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For all the latest Steve Hackett news visit Steve’s website.

Steve Hackett 2017 Tour Dates:

sh-2017-north-americash-2017-europe

Read my April 2016 interview with Steve Hackett here.

Read my Steve Hackett 2016 Live review and see photos here.

 

NEW Interview with Geoff Downes (14th August)

TD GD InterviewPhoto by Sue Hegedus

Pre-show at The Egg in Albany, I sat down with YES keyboard genius Geoff Downes to discuss the current tour, Drama in 1980 and the future for YES…….

Tim Darbyshire – Firstly thanks a lot for agreeing to this interview.
Geoff Downes – No problem at all.

TD – 2015 was obviously a difficult year for everyone involved with YES
GD – Yes, obviously because of Chris, it was tough, it took us all by surprise we were pretty shocked because we all thought he would pull through. The last diagnosis we had was he said I’m going to have this treatment then be ok. When it got more in depth and started to look more serious that’s when he decided he wouldn’t be able to do the tour, so that’s when we brought Billy in – we’d already brought Billy in before unfortunately circumstances prevailed. So yes it was a tough time – I mean thinking about Chris’ contribution, he was essential really to all YES’ music.

TD – After a difficult 2015, it seems YES in 2016 is invigorated, everything’s come back with a vengeance
GD – It was all going quite well until Alan got sick, but I think that again, you know, he knew only a week before the tour when he had the operation on his back – and his recuperation time was longer than anticipated …

TD – So I guess he’s out for the whole tour?
GD – I don’t know, he’s hoping to maybe make an appearance when we get to the West Coast, but at the moment he’s in convalescent mode recuperating. I speak to him every day or two, he gives me updates and says he really misses not being there. I think he feels that he’s letting the side down in some way, but I tell him, no, you just get well. And of course Jay is the guy he appointed, he said this is the guy that can do it if I can’t.

TD – So he could play it from the off? What was the rehearsal like?
GD – Well we looked at it about a week before and Alan said I don’t think I’ll be able to do it, so effectively he (Jay) had a week to learn the set.
TD – Is that different for a drummer than say a keyboard player, to learn the set quickly?
GD – I don’t think so necessarily, none of it’s easy you know, YES music is particularly demanding in every department, it’s not something that people can just walk on and start playing. There’s also a lot of ways that the numbers aren’t absolutely parrot fashion to the albums – so in that respect he took on quite a lot to get that together within a week, but as you’ve seen he’s playing brilliantly.

TD – Yes, we saw the show a couple of weeks ago
GD – It’s got very very tight as time has gone on – people always used to criticize YES saying they never rehearse enough, but I think we did enough to make sure everyone was at the same place.
TD – It sounded pretty tight two weeks ago, so I’m guessing tonight will be even tighter.
GD – Yes

TD – Billy of course has just shoehorned in there, a perfect fit
GD – Yes, it’s not easy for anybody you know, as I say, YES music is pretty demanding, not just musically but physically as well, especially for a drummer, which is probably one of the reasons why in Alan’s case unless he thought he was in tip-top shape physically he felt he might be doing a disservice – but he’s getting better and hopefully he’ll be fully fit by the time we get to the West Coast, or certainly by the time we go to Japan.

TD – So, onto this tour – when I saw what you were going to play I thought that’s a brave set list. You know the Summer tours in the States tend to be a safer set list normally?
GD – Yes, it’s adventurous for the band in its own right because we’re not playing stuff that’s mainstream, familiarity stuff – a lot of the Summer tours are, you know… if you see Kansas you know you’ll hear ‘Carry On Wayward Son’, ‘Dust In The Wind’ and a few others. I think it makes a nice change, because we’ve played a lot of the mainstream core material for quite some years now and it’s two years since we brought an album out. The last couple of years has been relying on the old standards. Now we’ve shown the band has got some spirit to be playing two of the non-mainstream albums.

TD – Yes it would have been so easy to play it safe.
GD – I mean obviously it’s a bit more relevant in the case of Drama because I was on Drama, with Steve and Alan, so that was a given that we’d be doing that album at some point.

TD – It must feel good to be playing an album you featured heavily on and co-wrote?
GD – Yes, when Benoit was in the band and I first rejoined we were doing Tempus Fugit and occasionally Machine Messiah, but obviously the other 4 tracks have not been played live since the original Drama tour ….well Run Through The Light has never been played – even on the 1980 Drama tour.

TD – Live it seems it goes so fast (the Drama album)
GD – I know, I know, time flies
TD – Tempus Fugit…..

GD – But for me it was very interesting to look at Tales, because that’s really a kind of holy grail type album for a lot of YES fans, the real dedicated fans are really into that album. I’d kind of moved on, it passed me by.
TD – So it wasn’t an album you were heavily into at the time?
GD – No, no – and again, both albums that we’re doing were quite controversial. Tales From Topographic (Oceans) was controversial because of the way the music was presented on the album and I suppose Drama was controversial due to the fact that Trevor Horn and myself joined the band – and took YES in a …I would say more of a kind of …not a rock direction, but it was more of a kind of hard hitting edge and not so many dreamy sections and all that sort of stuff. It was a very powerful album.

TD – Let’s talk about Drama, the first time around and the circumstances around you joining – I remember as a 16 year old hearing Tommy Vance’s announcement on the Friday Rock Show (UK radio show)
GD – I remember that too, I was driving my car listening to the radio…
TD – All he said was Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman have been replaced by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes also known as The Buggles – and that was it, no information. Today you can get information online, find out what’s what…..
GD – Yes he (Tommy Vance) had the Friday Rock Show, it used to run quite late didn’t it?
TD – 10 till 12 I think
GD – Yes that’s right, 10 till 12 and that was his breaking news that night, and I remember thinking oh yeah I guess it is pretty strange you know….

TD – Was the announcement well after it had happened then?
GD – Oh yes, that was after we’d agreed to do the album. Up until that point, we’d really just been providing them with some ideas because we had the same manager.
TD – Brian Lane
GD – Yes Brian Lane was managing both The Buggles and YES, and it was Chris who heard ‘The Age Of Plastic’ and said it sounded really interesting. We were rehearsing in the room next to them, they kind of came in and we started talking and they asked if we had any material they could use.
TD – Didn’t you find that quite strange?
GD – Well yes but we had some material that was not so mainstream Buggles, so we said we’ve got these couple of ideas. We did a demo – I think we got Bill Bruford to play on it at one point – it was actually the basis of Fly From Here. So that was the first track we came up with and Chris came and played bass on it, and said he quite liked it and did we have anything else. I think we had I Am A Camera which became Into The Lens and that kind of got incorporated…..so we started building these things up and Yessifying them, Machine Messiah sort of came out of all that. It started to escalate and at that point Chris said why don’t you guys join the band then?

TD – So you knew by then that the other two had lost interest? Jon and Rick had left the band?
GD – Yes, they were doing other things, Jon was working with Vangelis and Rick was doing his solo stuff. They’d had a disastrous attempt at an album in Paris with Roy Thomas Baker producing, which never really saw the light of day although I think some of the tracks that Steve, Alan and Chris were rehearsing at the time were parts of those reworked ideas.
TD – There’s a few tracks from the Paris sessions on the Rhino reissue of Drama
GD – Yes, I think some of the riffs and some of the sections they already had those, but the general vibe of the album was that it generally wasn’t happening, you know, what happened in Paris.

TD – So this was something you jumped at? Joining YES? I mean you were already a successful pop artist with ‘Video Killed The Radio Star?
GD – Yes but it was a totally different ball game, you know venturing over to the other side, the Prog side, even though a lot of people gave The Buggles credit for being a very musical pop outfit, there was subtlety not only in the production but also in the song writing. We were just kind of condensing it down to a very radio friendly format and I think when we joined YES and did the Drama album I think it showed – and Chris was particularly receptive to it – that YES could utilize that sound and take it even further into the mainstream, without you know selling out – some people say they sold out with 90125, I don’t think they did, they just redeveloped a different side of YES’ music. They’d done all the long albums, Tales, Close To The Edge in the 70s and Tormato their previous album, I don’t think they were all wholly satisfied with that album…

TD – I have a soft spot for Tormato as it was the new album when I got into YES
GD – We have considered playing it as one of the albums in The Album Series, but Steve doesn’t think it’s strong enough as an album.
TD – I think Side 1 is stronger than Side 2
GD – Alan feels the same, it’s not got that depth that the other albums have got, you know in terms of the writing. That album never really surfaced as a real possibility to be played. Relayer is up there as a possibility.
TD – I was going to ask if Relayer might be added to The Album Series?
GD – That would be particularly demanding from my standpoint you know, Moraz’s parts are exceedingly complex.
TD – Sound Chaser?
GD – Yes, and Gates Of Delirium you know – we’ve played Soon but that’s only a small section.
TD – Is it an album you like?
GD – Yes, it’s a very very masterful album, all the players are playing at the top of their game.
TD – I read that To Be Over might have been close to making the set list this year?
GD – Yes, we’ve actually discussed doing that at some point because we were going to do that on the Cruise, but it never happened, so we did Soon instead.

TD – If you continue the album series, which album will be next?
GD – We’re still discussing whether to do that or not, nothing is set in stone, the balls are up in the air on that front, but with this line-up I don’t see us doing any other full album other than Relayer, if we were to do anything.
TD – Well that would be worth travelling a long way to see.

TD – So the Drama tour first time around – how was that?
GD – In 1980? Pretty formidable from my standpoint really, I’d never done anything like that before.
TD – As in touring?
GD – Well, being in front of that many people – it was quite an eye opener, as The Buggles were just a video band you know, appearing in magazines and stuff like that. We were never forced to get up there and play, but we had a fairly lengthy rehearsal period and I’ve heard some of the stuff from that period – when we actually got into the tour we sounded pretty good.
TD – Yes I dug out a few tapes from that tour, by the time you got to the UK, the audiences weren’t as receptive. I think that’s a British thing isn’t it? The Buggles are a pop band let’s knock them down?
GD – Yes the British are a bit more cynical when it comes to things like that. The Americans were very open about it and of course you had the spectacle of the stage being in the round and stuff like that – it was much more of an experience for the American fans to see it that way, because it was a show whereas when we got to the UK we were in the theatres you know. It wasn’t so much of a show, it was a case of let’s listen to the music and there was a lot of resentment from the diehards – not so much against me but more to do with Trevor. Obviously he was the first replacement for Jon Anderson, and now….. the ‘fairy’ figure wasn’t there anymore.

TD – Whereas you were on stage surrounded by keyboards…..
GD – It wasn’t so bad for me…..Rick Wakeman wasn’t the original keyboard player, that was Tony Kaye and they had Patrick (Moraz)….so the focus was less on me, although there still was a certain amount of resentment, no doubt about it – there still is you know.

TD – I know you keep half an eye on what’s being said online – at Yesfans.com. Straight after the tour you pretty much all went your separate ways – was there never any impetus to carry on?
GD – The negative response did have an effect on us. By the time we’d finished the UK shows – I think we ended up at the Finsbury Park Rainbow, I remember Chris saying I don’t think this is going to work.

TD – Yet you’d enjoyed being in the studio, making a good album?
GD – Yes but I think it was something he didn’t think was working anymore, although more recently he changed his mind on all of that. Chris was very much the guy – not necessarily the guy who made the decisions because YES is you know a very co-operative kind of unit – but he just didn’t think it was going to go anywhere, and then Steve and myself were at loose ends really. Chris and Alan were working with Jimmy Page……
TD – On the XYZ sessions…
GD – ….and I’d got on very well with Steve and we had a really good understanding between guitar and keyboard and you know, he wanted to preserve that……and that’s really how the ASIA thing started. John Wetton’s wife was working in Brian Lane’s office, so we kind of got mingling and talking about stuff and then somebody gave Carl a call, and it just came together like that.

TD – That’s 4 very talented musicians in ASIA, you just mentioned 90125 – it seems to me in the early 80s, a lot of this kind of music was going towards a more radio friendly rock sound?
GD – Definitely. 90125 is YES’ biggest selling album by some margin….
TD – But nowhere near ASIA’s first album…
GD – Not in the same division as that, no. But even when you think about Close To The Edge or Fragile or whatever…..90125 managed to strike a chord and they had a Number 1 single in America, which was unheard of for a band like YES.
TD – It’s still what the casual fan equates YES with – Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
GD – It set them on a course, they became more widely accessible to a lot of people, who would not normally be into YES music. And also the musical climate was changing, you know obviously MTV was out, starting to affect people’s perception – it wasn’t just the rock radio stations calling the shots anymore. There was a whole different world out there – people had this brand new shop window, so it was affecting the way people wrote music I think.

TD – When do you think that stopped? When did it become alright again to look back and start playing things like Close To The Edge live….I mean there’s nothing new out there anymore….
GD – No, there was a wave of alternative bands, the grunge stuff, bands like Maroon 5 came out of that…and then the BritPop bands, Blur and Oasis and Snow Patrol, you know all those kind of bands……but they didn’t have the depth of the music that YES had.
TD – Coldplay.
GD – Yes exactly, Coldplay. They’re sort of billed as the latter day Pink Floyd, in terms of the significance of them in modern music. You know, it’s not my bag, but good luck to them. It’s really only the last 5 or 6 years where a lot of reissues have come out – King Crimson deluxe editions – that’s really helped to revitalize the catalogs of the Prog rock bands.

TD – Some of the classic YES albums are out now in 5.1 surround sound, is there any talk of Drama getting the 5.1 treatment, even though it’s a decent sounding album and maybe doesn’t need the work maybe Tormato does?
GD – It’s a tricky one that because they don’t know where the multi-track masters are at the moment.
TD – That’s the same with Going For The One
GD – Yes, so there’s nothing you can do unless you locate the multi-tracks….

TD – Are you interested in that, or do you feel it sounds good as you made it?
GD – I like to listen to the albums the way they were originally recorded. I know Steven Wilson does a very good job, and it’s interesting to some fans but the problem I have with 5.1 is that unless you’re in the sweet spot – right in the middle of the 5 speakers – you don’t really get any perspective because if you move from that point….
TD – Or lie down….
GD – Yes, you have to be sitting there – which is maybe how some people like listening to music with the sensory surroundings, but if people are just listening to music as a general thing or as background or while having dinner….it’s a bit pointless you know because you really have to be a hi-fi specialist to be sitting there in the sweet spot.

TD – I guess at least it’s better than just another release of an old album, they are offering something new…
GD – Well the good side of it is it generated a lot of interest in that album, I think Close To The Edge benefitted from that.
TD – Yes, extra vocal parts were added back in to the quiet section of the title track for example, that’s on the new stereo mix, so you don’t have to listen in 5.1….
GD – That’s interesting to some fans, stuff they hid from the final mix originally. But I think you have to be a mega mega enthusiast to get into that side of it.

TD – So, the future for YES? It’s not long now until the 50th Anniversary and I guess do you as a band, or individually have mixed feelings about the upcoming ARW tour?
GD – I think we’re just, you know, we let them get on with it really…I don’t think there’s any……we just wish them luck. Anything that’s going out promoting the music of YES is good for everybody. It’s not a kind of us versus them scenario.

TD – Do you see a repeat of the late 80s/early 90s when 2 bands came together for the Union album and tour?
GD – Ummm, I’m not seeing that at the moment but you never know what might happen. YES is a very strange band (laughs…..) weird things happen with YES.
TD – I don’t really know what I want, as a fan – do I want Union 2? It seems a bit final to me somehow.
GD – I don’t know….if that would, I don’t know….there’s a lot of talk about the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, which members of the band would be inducted if YES ever got in there…I don’t know, I don’t really concern myself with those kind of things.

TD – I see a future for YES (this YES) with Jon D and Billy……
GD – Yes, I mean Billy’s done a tremendous job to replace Chris because, well a lot of people said you know Chris is irreplaceable, I think he couldn’t have done it any better you know, that’s for sure. It all sounds great – Chris’ parts are not easy for anyone to emulate, not just his bass parts but his techniques as well – his vocal techniques, because his voice was such a close blend with Jon Anderson’s, and Chris’ vocal parts were as important as his bass parts.

TD – A couple of general questions to wrap things up. When you write do you write for ASIA or YES or DBA, or does it depend on the style?
GD – Probably in my own mind I think it’d be more suitable if I get a basic idea of what something is for, like when I work with Chris Braide (DBA) or I just bag some ideas up that I think relate to that project, same with John Wetton you know. Generally in my mind I kind of split them up, there are obviously blurry elements, whereas sometimes you think maybe I should have worked more on that for another project…..

TD – There was a talk of an unfinished longer song with Jon Davison.
GD – Yes that’s still there, it’s not completely on the back burner.
TD – So is new YES music maybe in the plans for next year?
GD – I hope so yes, I think it’s always good to do new music, it enables the touring to have a different angle, I mean we’ve been doing The Album Series for a while now but when you have a new album out it’s always nice to throw in a couple of the songs.

TD – As a creative person you always want to keep creating.
GD – Yes, it not only keeps the fans interested I think, but it shows that we’re not just prepared to sit back and play the part, we always think about the future.

TD – OK, so was it always going to be a life in music for you? Your family were very musical I believe.
GD – Yes, a lot of music. I didn’t really feel like I had any choice.
TD – Well it sounds like a good non-choice to have!
GD – ..and I went to music college in Leeds as you know.

TD – Yes, 71-75 – did you venture down to Elland Road often?
GD – Yes I used to go there sometimes, and the cricket at Headingley.
TD – So I guess you lived near Headingley as a student?
GD – Yes, Hyde Park Headingley near the cinema.
TD – I was a Roundhay boy
GD – Oh yes, Roundhay Park
TD – I lived a 10 minute walk from the park.

GD – Yes it’s quite a ground Elland Road
TD – An old ground, apart from the East Stand – does Martin still have his season ticket and box there? (Martin Darvill – YES manager)
GD – Yes he shares it with a guy that runs that firm ShowCo, Mark Harding – a big Leeds fan, and a couple of other guys from the music business. They converge in the posh part, and have a bite to eat.
TD – The prawn sandwich brigade…
GD – Yeah yeah.

TD – Ok Geoff thanks very much for your time.
GD – Ok Tim, good to see you mate, enjoy the show tonight.

 

My review of the Albany show is here, with photos.

My review of the Lewiston show is here, with photos.

Steve Hackett Interview – Quebec 8th April

I caught up with Steve Hackett in Quebec City before the first of his three Canadian shows last weekend.  Below is a transcript of our conversation, where Steve answered questions on the current ‘Acolyte to Wolflight’ tour,  the recent ‘Premonitions’ box set,  his days in Genesis, and other stuff. Special thanks to Jo Hackett for helping to arrange the interview and of course to Steve for being so generous with his time.

I began by welcoming Steve back to Canada…..

Steve Hackett: Thank you. Thank you.

Tim Darbyshire: It was a real surprise that you came back to Canada so soon because we just saw you in Ontario in November last year.

Steve: That’s right. Yes

Tim: Why so soon?

Steve: Why so soon … well, I think we left it long enough and it’s time to come back and do it again. I’m very pleased to be back here because we were doing other parts of Canada before so it’s very nice to be back here in Quebec. Usually we leave it about two years at a time.

Tim: We saw the shows in Lindsay and Oakville last year. So are we expecting any set changes this time around?

Steve: No, it’s basically the same show.

Tim: Ok

Steve: Same show, same personnel, same show because as I say we are doing places that we didn’t do with that show last time.

Tim: I guess we are running out of Genesis songs you want to perform now?

Steve: Well, I don’t know about that, it’s funny, there’s a lot of stuff from the Genesis canon that I never thought I’d be doing again including stuff in the set at the moment.. Yeah you know some of the favourites, I wouldn’t say they’ve been done to death but they’ve certainly been exploited thoroughly…Supper’s Ready first and foremost. I’m also answering the call of fans for certain songs which they wanted to hear such as Cinema Show.

Tim: I’m pretty surprised that you played Cinema Show last time around.

Steve: Yes well I think that it has got something – there’s a nostalgic feeling to it. The first part of it is a love song, and the second part is a work out and I think it works very well live, people like it very much.

Tim: Absolutely

Steve: Then we go straight into Lamb Lies Down On Broadway … and keep it coming into Musical Box, so in many ways they are all favourites of various factions of the audience, … I’m sorry if I sound a little bunged up I’ve got a cold at the moment I’m struggling with.

Tim: Snap, me too.

Steve: Yes it’s really taken over in the past 24 hours, it’s gone ballistic.

Tim: I hope you’re okay to perform anyway.

Steve: Well yes I mean many a time I stood there with a cold, yes that’s par for the course.

Tim: The show must go on.

Steve: The show must go on indeed. The show is the most important thing.

Tim: It seems like the first few shows you’ve hit the ground running. You and the band seem on top form from what I’ve read.

Steve: Yes the band have been doing very well – the response has been terrific to this stuff. Many of the areas we haven’t played before with the band have received it with open arms, you know, sold out, it’s done very well.

Tim: That’s great.

Steve: And of course, here in French Canada – you know a long term supporter of this genre and all the other genres …..so no problem with that.

Tim: Rob, Roger, and Gary have been with you so long now as well.

Steve: They have. They have.

Tim: Team Hackett seems like a well-oiled machine.

Steve: Well you know there are times when the people that inhabit it.…that team… sometimes they are stretched to the limit to make it all happen. There are various things that we do, sometimes conditions have to be made in order to keep trucking … that’s part of the game too.

Tim: So future tours then, have you thought about doing whole albums? That seems to be quite in vogue at the moment.

Steve: Well it has been suggested to me, I know it’s in vogue, but I’m inclined not to follow the crowd. I tend to think that to cherry-pick and do the best of available things creates more of an element of surprise. And I do think that to do an entire album from start to finish, even though that’s possible – you are embracing the entirely predictable and so far I haven’t done that. I won’t say that I’ll never do that. I am tempted with certain albums but I think that variety is what drives me with this stuff and I also like doing the solo stuff as well – it’s nice to be doing solo stuff again rather than just Genesis stuff which is tried and tested. I was out there as you know for many years with solo stuff that was also tried and tested and did very well, but you know I wanted to make people’s dreams come true with this Genesis Revisited thing and I did nothing but that for about three years.

Tim: Well you are the only one keeping that dream alive – and thank you for that.

Steve: Well that’s right I am keeping that dream alive I think it was hard fought for back in the day and I think that music always needs to be hard fought for – it’s got to be what you believe in and I believe in that stuff – music that meanders takes its time and allows itself to breathe. And back in the day when I was first doing those Genesis selections it felt like much more vulnerable because they weren’t yet regarded as classics but with the passing of time people will indulge in quieter moments whereas at one time with Genesis every time we would go quieter we would get heckled … and that doesn’t happen in general these days unless we’ve got an audience that’s shared with someone else, but in the main … people will accept ..they will accept things that they wouldn’t accept way back in the day.

Tim: So I mean you must be pleased how people are taking to the Wolflight material as well.

Steve: Yes that was a surprise because I hadn’t recorded any solo material for a while and the nice thing is it’s done as well as the Genesis re-recordings did – it validated itself. I guess the Genesis stuff has created a bridge to the past but also a door to the future in terms of saying – I am at one with the spirit of the great music that we once did and here’s my version of it.

Tim: It’s good like you said it’s a bridge between the old and the new – is there going to be a new album, is that what you are working on after this tour?

Steve: I am working on a new album and that’s taking shape very nicely. We are I think about two and a half songs into that at the moment and it’s going very well.

Tim: The creative juices are flowing.

Steve: Yes it’s all still going on and I’m very happy that the fingers are working and the imagination is working and I don’t think any musician can ask for anything more.

Tim: That’s great. Can we talk about the Premonitions Box Set and the reissues?

Steve: Sure.

Tim: Are there any plans for Highly Strung and Cured to get the 5.1 treatment?

Steve: Well at the moment we don’t have the source material for that. In the case of Defector and Acolyte the upmix is something that is created by the push of a button. Having said that, they actually sound very good – those surrounds that were done from the remasters – the L1 Stereo widening remasters that were done a few years ago.

Tim: By Ben Fenner?

Steve: By Ben Fenner that’s right, and created the basis for those upmixes and I find there’s some extraordinary things that happened within that and I think that technology works in a way that makes it very creative so I am thrilled with the level of surprise that that brings.

Tim: And the new Steven Wilson mixes … are you happy with those? They sound good to me.

Steve: Yes, very happy with those – I particularly enjoyed the Spectral Mornings remix, the surround version of that. The albums you mentioned Highly Strung and what was the other one?

Tim: Cured.

Steve: Cured, yes – it’s entirely possible that we can do something similar but it will have to be an upmix rather than anything from the masters unless those masters present themselves.

Tim: So this is the record company that actually lost the masters? Is that correct?

Steve: Well back in the day I gave them all to Charisma for their safe keeping.

Tim: Or not so safe keeping.

Steve: Not so safe keeping in that the ownership of that stuff ended up going – at least for 25 years – from Charisma to Virgin to EMI and all around the houses – and a lot of the stuff has been lost.

Tim: So these are the only albums not under your control then, the first six?

Steve: Well they aren’t under my control until about 5 years time – probably 4 years by now actually – and then they will be under my control. So I might do something with them.

Tim: It’s a lovely box set.

Steve: Good I’m glad you like it. Thank you. I was very proud of the box – I thought that it worked very well. And it’s a proud moment for me to have a box set.

Tim: And there’s three cds coming out standalone aren’t there very soon?

 Steve: Yes there’s going to be some more stuff coming and there’s also supposed to be a vinyl box set …

Tim: I know a lot of people still love it.

Steve: Exactly. Yes there are many people who love their vinyl – we try to please.

Tim: I love holding it and touching it but I like the blu-rays and the 5.1 stuff now.

Steve: Sure of course. I think you find most artists prefer the cleanliness, compactness, and all that. I do like to hold something physical I must admit – I don’t get off greatly on the idea of something that’s streamed from another planet.

Tim: I think we’re a different generation.

Steve: I think so. It’s as close as owning the music as you can and I think anyone who owns the record owns the music. The true owners of course, are never the artists. It’s always the audience. It’s always the listeners. And the listener is the true owner.

Tim: Do you have a few moments to chat about the Genesis days?

Steve: Sure. I’m probably okay for about 5 minutes because I have to get my stuff ready to go to the show soundcheck.

Tim: So you joined in 1970/71 – I think the albums got better ; Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – which would you say is your favourite?

Steve: Purely in terms of the material – I think Selling England By The Pound, that takes some beating….but whether those are the definitive performances or not doesn’t really matter – be it live versions or whatever, they change over time, I’ve done revisits to this stuff but I think it’s the thinking that went with that material at that time. I think all of the albums have got something to offer – they all have something extraordinary to offer – all of those albums that I was involved with with Peter Gabriel and the subsequent two albums with Phil – for me they are all extraordinarily imaginative.

Tim: Absolutely, I think people used to ask ‘do you like Gabriel Genesis or Collins Genesis?’ but now for me anyway, I like Hackett Genesis … Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering are great albums too.

Steve: It’s nice that it survived and it certainly feels good to me.

Tim: Were you aware you were in a special band at the time or did it just become obvious afterwards?

Steve: I was aware I was in a band that…..how can I best put it ? In 1973 when we were touring America for the first time, and John Lennon mentioned that we were one of the bands that he was listening to, it reinforced my opinion, at the time, that we were probably the most exciting band on the planet when we were doing the best of Selling England, the best of Foxtrot, and the best of Nursery Cryme, doing that live, you know those three albums we were drawing on, it felt like the band was mighty – even though we were only playing to 500 people a night. It still felt that the band had transcended it, perhaps the limits of the audience.

Tim: Yes, I listened to tapes from back then and there’s a certain energy in the room, definitely.

Steve: Yes, that’s right. I know that there have been a lot of bootlegs from that era which personally I would sanction, and release ourselves, but yes there’s lot’s of good stuff, especially from the Roxy in LA in 73, good stuff, very good stuff…

Tim: There’s some great Lamb soundboards out there as well.

Steve: Yes, there’s a whole bunch of Lamb ones that hit the streets.

Tim: It seems amazing that you finished the Selling England tour in May 1974 and by November – six months later The Lamb was out and you were playing it – four sides of new music to American audiences … It just seemed so quick.

Steve: I know yes, there was a healthy output at that time. But we even felt it was slow at that time that we weren’t managing to write as quickly as we needed to but .. we were going it some, back in the day.

Tim: What was Headley Grange like then?  Was it really as spooky as they say?

Steve: Yes, it was kind of run down and spooky and dangerous – all sorts of things. I nearly lost my life there.

Tim: With the wine glass was it?

Steve: It wasn’t that, no, I was in a bathroom and I had just washed my hands at the sink and then I walked back to the door and the whole of the floor gave way. I could have been standing there. We had to tape that off. Whether you put that down to anything malevolently supernatural or whether it was just extremely dilapidated we’ll never know.

Tim: But you were staying there, weren’t you, sleeping there?

Steve: Yes, we were staying there. There were weird sounds at night that would keep me awake night after night. It was probably the rats.

Tim: It just sounds like it was a tricky time anyway, for a lot of you personally as well. Peter had well documented issues and I know you were in a difficult time as well, I mean, the whole period seems crazy that The Lamb came out of it.

Steve: Yes, that’s right it was a difficult time, no doubt about it.

Tim: Difficult birth but it certainly flourished.

Steve: Yes, fraught with problems but then anyone who hears it, is not necessarily aware of what we were going through individually.

Tim: It’s an incredible piece anyhow. Thanks very much for your time Steve.

Steve: It was a good talk, all the best.