Australian Guitar - - Feature -

After 40 years of solo re­leases, Steve Hack­ett is en­joy­ing his great­est suc­cess in years with TheNightSiren: an al­bum which in­volved ses­sions in Sar­dinia and Hun­gary with a global mix of mu­sos. Yet, he’s also fully rec­on­ciled with his clas­sic Gen­e­sis pe­riod, and for his up­com­ing Aus­tralian visit in Au­gust (which in­cludes a stop-in at this year’s Mel­bourne Gui­tar Show – see pg. 6), he’s bring­ing the Ge­n­e­sisRe­vis­ited show – de­lighted prog fans can thank his pro­mot­ers for the nos­tal­gia trip. And if you lis­ten closely, you may even hear shades of the late, great Gary Moore.


Your re­cent tours else­where have mixed Gen­e­sis ma­te­rial with more of your solo work. Why are you bring­ing the full Gen­e­sis

Re­vis­ited show to Aus­tralia?

In a way, it’s an in­tro­duc­tion to Aus­tralia. In the past few years, I’ve ceased per­form­ing ex­clu­sively Gen­e­sis and moved into more of a ‘half and half’ setup. But it de­pends on the place, and as this is a new ter­ri­tory for me, I’m happy to come back with what I’m best known for. I fought hard for those songs back in the day – the ethos of the band and where it went – so it doesn’t feel too much like a com­pro­mise. I’ll do one or two of my own things.


And do you bring your very favourite gui­tars on tour, or do you have work­horses for the road?

It’s a mix­ture. Ac­tu­ally, some of the most valu­able gui­tars I’ve had on the road have since been re­tired. I’d rather use my Fer­nan­des live be­cause it’s got the Sus­tainer. The re­la­tion­ship [with Fer­nan­des] goes back to the 1990s, when some­one gave me a white Strat copy which had this in­ter­est­ing fa­cil­ity that sounded like an on­board EBow – for those ini­ti­ated in the joys and va­garies of EBow! I’d been wait­ing for gui­tar man­u­fac­tur­ers to make some­thing like that for about 20 years, and it fi­nally ar­rived. It didn’t play won­der­fully as a gui­tar, but the fa­cil­ity it­self was ex­tra­or­di­nary. I first used it on the clos­ing track of the BluesWithAFeel­ing al­bum.

I’ve had var­i­ous mod­els over the years, all slightly dif­fer­ent. Just re­cently, I ac­quired two of Gary Moore’s gui­tars, both Fer­nan­des Sus­tainer mod­els. We shared a gui­tar tech, and when Gary passed on – which was com­pletely un­ex­pected – I said to Gra­ham Lil­ley, who was han­dling the fam­ily es­tate, to please con­sider me if they were think­ing of sell­ing those at any point. So for th­ese shows, I’m play­ing Gary’s Fer­nan­des. We can’t tell the com­plete prog­eny of it — it’s about 20 years old, and Fer­nan­des made a gift of that to him at the same time they made a gift of one to me. The one they gifted me was the Gold­top Fer­nan­des, which was de­signed to look like a Les Paul Gold­top with the ad­di­tion of a Floyd Rose trim – the only cus­tom fea­ture, as far as I can tell. I used Gary’s one on “The Gift”, the clos­ing track of TheNightSiren, which is re­ally just gui­tars and some or­ches­tral sam­ples, so you get some idea of how the gui­tar re­ally sings un­der its own steam.


The new al­bum, The Night Siren, is prov­ing to be a suc­cess for you — you must be tempted to throw a bit of that into the live set?

‡Yes, it’s done very well — it reached the Top 20 in Eng­land, Ger­many and Italy. I haven’t had an im­pres­sion on the Ital­ian charts for many years! So iron­i­cally I’ve got one thing tak­ing off on the charts, and the pro­mot­ers and agents want­ing some­thing else live. It’s funny, isn’t it? Hope­fully there’ll be a next time — we’ll see how we go.


There are a lot of un­usual in­stru­ments on the al­bum, in­clud­ing a Per­sian tar and Peru­vian cha­rango. Do you col­lect un­usual stuff?

I do. It’s an ex­ten­sion of hav­ing made friends with peo­ple all over the world: it’s not hard to do

what I just did, with 20 peo­ple from all over the globe play­ing on the new al­bum and some­times bring­ing their in­stru­ments, some­times mak­ing gifts of those to me. So I’m able to ab­sorb a whole bunch of things be­yond what I’m best known for, which is the gui­tar.

And on “Other Side of the Wall”, is that the 1973 Yairi ny­lon – your “Blood On The Rooftops” gui­tar?

On that fla­menco-in­spired in­tro­duc­tion, yes. That’s ac­tu­ally more than one Yairi – one of them was wrecked in a plane sit­u­a­tion re­cently, so I’m now back to work­ing with some older ones. Luck­ily, I’ve ac­quired a few of them over the years. Easy come, easy go, I guess.

How about elec­tron­ics, do you have a se­cret weapon on the road? We pre­sume the Giz­motron has long since been re­tired.

Fun­nily enough, Giz­mos have re­con­sti­tuted them­selves and I’ve been sent a new one, so I’m in­ter­ested to find out what it does; I haven’t had time to ‘en­gage’ it yet. Of course, there’s lots of good ped­als out there at the mo­ment — I don’t think I have a ‘se­cret weapon’ as such, but I use a San­sAmp for dis­tor­tion and a Line 6 for a dif­fer­ent kind of dis­tor­tion. There’s an a Iron Boost made by Pete Cor­nish, which is so old that even he can’t re­mem­ber what he put in it – no chance of a re­place­ment there. And I have some ana­log mics: there’s a Beano Boost, which is very basic but very ef­fec­tive, and if I use it with a clean sound, it vir­tu­ally turns my Fer­nan­des into a Stra­to­caster; sound-wise, it’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween sin­gle­coil pick-ups and hum­buck­ers. I use a DigiTech Whammy pedal, and I’ve got a Mini POG for oc­tave changes. Many of th­ese things have since been up­dated, of course, but I’m work­ing with things that I think do the busi­ness. At times, I’ve gone back to antique kit such as an MXR Phase 90 – iron­i­cally, I use the Ed­die Van Halen model of that [the EVH Lim­ited Edi­tion]. I had the originals back in the day, and now I have a very brightly coloured one!

How do you keep in prac­tise? What’s your daily gui­tar habit like th­ese days?

Right now I’ve been on the road for al­most two months non-stop, so I get to play three or four hours a day, what with sound­checks and re­hears­ing back­stage and play­ing for al­most two and a half hours with the mix­ture of solo and Gen­e­sis stuff. I was mar­vel­ling re­cently about the fact that my fin­gers don’t seem to crack quite as much as they used to, and hav­ing good cal­louses means you can slide around more. I’m not a great be­liever in hit­ting ev­ery note – I like to slide with salvos and ca­den­zas, and I pre­fer to slide be­tween notes.

And you were tap­ping and sweep play­ing well be­fore most peo­ple took it up — who in­spired you there?

I think I was try­ing to chan­nel Bach at the time; try­ing to fig­ure out how he would have played a cer­tain phrase if he had been a gui­tarist. The great man must have spo­ken back to me and said, “Why don’t you just do it all on one string, and use the flat of the nail to ham­mer on and off so you get more ham­mers from that?” And so it was 1971 when I started us­ing that method with Gen­e­sis — the first recorded ex­am­ple was the Nurs­eryCryme al­bum, on which a cou­ple of tracks use it quite fully: “The Mu­si­cal Box” and “Re­turn Of The Gi­ant Hog­weed”. We used it quite ex­ten­sively back in the day, and I chanced it live a few times. At first, I wasn’t able to do it in time at all – I was all over the place with it – but I found that by cen­tring your­self and think­ing more like a key­board player, per­haps, it was pos­si­ble to be the fastest gun in the West there – for a few sec­onds, while peo­ple were try­ing to fig­ure out what I did.

The Bach is in­ter­est­ing — the cor­re­la­tion be­tween com­plex gui­tar play­ing and clas­si­cal com­posers.

With clas­si­cal play­ing and com­pos­ing, it’s a given, isn’t it? In Bach, you’ve got to have great tech­nique, oth­er­wise you won’t go any­where near it. Those guys were so drilled back in the day that what we might con­sider ex­cep­tional in rock’n’roll terms wouldn’t be at all ex­cep­tional for a clas­si­cal ge­nius such as the great J.S. him­self. I’m sure he’d shoot my tech­nique full of holes. “You must go back and start again from the begin­ning, Herr Hack­ett!”

Let’s run through some quick-fire ques­tions! True or false: You’re a dis­tant cousin of AJ Hack­ett, who in­vented the bungie jump?

That would be some­thing! But as far as I know, it’s just a co­in­ci­dence. I can’t say for cer­tain, of course...

True or false: “Spec­tral Morn­ings” was ac­tu­ally recorded at night.

Much of it, yes! 

And fi­nally, Gen­e­sis leg­end #37: you crushed a glass and hurt your hand when you heard the fi­nal mix of TheLam­bLies

DownOnBroad­way. Is that true?

That one is partly true. I did ac­ci­den­tally crush a wine glass in my hand and sever a ten­don and a nerve, but they got stitched up and it works pretty well, luck­ily. It wasn’t be­cause I heard the fi­nal mix... Though it wasn’t ter­ri­bly good.


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