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Biographie de Steve Hackett
Source / Auteur : Official Website Date : 15/08/2005 Nb consultation : 5291
Steve Hackett's career has been an on-going love affair with music. Over the last 24 or so years has continued to amaze and delight both his fans and his critics with the breadth and depth of the music that he has produced.
It began with various bands in which he was very much a session player - Canterbury Glass and Sarabande to name but two. Steve's first foray into the world of recording came however, when he joined the band Quiet World in 1970. In a recent interview he recalled the circumstances in which the album came to be recorded
"It was three South African brothers, the Heathers, who wrote the stuff. Their father was a medium and they had lived in England and then moved back to South Africa only to return again later. Their father stayed behind in Africa and he used to send them tapes of various characters speaking through him and it was very strange as we used to sit down and listen to these tapes and one of these characters was called Kutumi who claimed to be the spirit of music ... it depends whether you like that album; I think of it more as a product of its time rather than a great album but ... he described the way in which the music could be written and he described it in visual terms ... he said what was going to happen ... there was going to be a mixture of cultures ... the white and black races as it were, were going to merge and there was going to be a kind of hybrid and modern music would include the sounds of the street and I still use it as an influence ... those were some of the things he said."
This album, titled 'The Road', was released in 1970 by Dawn Records and was also reputedly re-issued by that label in Japan.
Steve's career with Genesis has been exhaustively covered elsewhere however it would be inappropriate not to say something about his time with that most influential and enduring of seventies superbands.
Steve joined in early 1971 as a replacement for founder member Anthony Phillips when Peter Gabriel answered his ad in Melody Maker. His first contribution to the band came on the 'Nursery Cryme' album where His complex and distinctive playing developed an elegance and sophistication which have become his trademark. By the time of his departure the band had grown from cult status to have massive following worldwide.
Steve completed his first solo record while he was still in the group and this appeared in 1975 while the band were still in the throes of Peter Gabriel's departure. This album, 'Voyage of The Acolyte', was to give vital reassurance to the band that the fans were still interested in them by charting immediately upon release. Steve remembers the album fondly :
"Casting my mind back, I think it was during 1974 that there was a slight lull after touring ... anyway, at one point I had the Mellotron at home and I seemed to spend hours doodling on it ... one or two ideas got put together because I began to think without the restriction of the band and I wondered what I could come up with. I came up with one or two things that I was convinced they would hate and that seemed to goad me even further on in that direction and try the things that I felt they would avoid ."
The album featured both Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins and was reckoned by many to be the best album that Genesis never made! Several tracks became favourites in Steve's live set including the maniacal 'A Tower Struck Down' and the lyrically gorgeous 'Shadow of the Hierophant'.
After the conclusion of the highly successful 'Wind & Wuthering' Steve made a brave decision to leave the group, compelled to develop his own musical identity without the constraints of the committee writing style which the band then employed.
The first fruits of his search for a musical soul emerged with the album 'Please Don't Touch' which included appearances by Richie Havens and the first appearance in the UK by Randy Crawford who lent her soulful vocals to the track 'Hoping Love Will Last'.
For touring purposes it was impossible to have the musicians who appeared on the album so Steve selected several who were to become firm favourites with fans over the next few years including Pete Hicks on vocals, John Shearer on drums and, of course, Steve's multi-talented brother John on flute, guitar and bass pedals. Together they formed a tightly impressive outfit on stage and were invited to record with Steve as a band for his next release.
After the success of the 'Please Don't Touch' tour Steve was soon back in the studio recording new tracks, many of which had already been routined and arranged during that tour. Hilversum Studios in Holland is a venue that holds fond memories for him ...
"Spectral was recorded at the beginning of `79. It was very, very cold, 16 degrees below and very little sleep! I used to come in at 3am and the maids started to make up the rooms ... I swear they used to start at 4! ... It was a very big studio ... the whole experience was absolutely wonderful..."
The album was a massive success both in the UK and Europe where it was ecstatically received by the fans who packed theatres on Steve's first full length tour of the UK and Europe including a headline spot at the Reading Festival in August 1979. The album has it all, from lyrical ballads such as 'The Virgin & The Gypsy' to an anti-drug song in the form of 'Everyday'.
Fans didn't have long to wait for Steve's next album. Defector was released a little under a year after Spectral Mornings and it seemed that he was taking the words of the spirit Kitumbi from his Quiet World days quite literally in trying to express the idea that the defector from the old Eastern Bloc who forms the subject of the album's title is amazed upon his arrival in the West to find that everyone dreams in colour. The idea is a quite striking and Steve explained part of the rationale behind it ...
"Yes, in fact we found that when we toured later and went to Estonia, in what was then the Soviet Union, there WAS a limitation of colours. The buildings were painted in two colours, and the rest was concrete ... I found that the insides of churches were the only place where there was any imagination and colour ..."
Musically the album was far heavier than previous outings and Steve admitted the change himself in an interview with Hugh Fielder for Sounds in July 1980 ...
'Cured' divided Steve's fans to some degree. Many had grown used to his more melodic approach to rock and his regular band, most of whom were not to feature on the new record. Cured showed a more relaxed side to Steve and a more commercially orientated sound. Here he explains the change in emphasis ...
"Well at the time I was learning to sing and trying to develop a vocal personality which at times ran contrary to my musical leanings ... it wasn't a conscious decision to start writing commercial songs ... I think it was an album of finding my way..."
Whatever the reasons, Cured marked a change in direction with Hackett taking a much more studio based pop approach and abandoning the group feel for a high tech sound (the album features the first recording of the (then) revolutionary Linndrum), though still working with regular collaborators Nick Magnus and John Hackett.
Steve again took to the road with his largest European tour itinerary to date including several concerts in the Soviet Bloc where, as Steve was quick to point out in an interview with Rick Wakeman on the "Gastank" series a year or so later, he was actually a bigger draw than his peers in Genesis. The touring outfit included Chas Cronk of the Strawbs on bass and drummer Ian Mosely who went on to join Marillion.
1982 was to be relatively quiet for Steve. Apart from writing material for the follow-up to Cured he also participated in numerous charity activities including organising a benefit concert for the "Poland Aid" charity and a gig at Guildford Civic Centre for the Tadworth Children's Hospital at which he was joined on stage by old colleagues Peter Gabriel and Mike Rutherford. 1982 also brought Steve's first appearance since leaving with all the other members of the classic Genesis line-up at a wet and windy Milton Keynes Bowl on Saturday 2nd October in aid of Peter Gabriel's cash-starved WOMAD project, a nice gesture from the current band to their former lead vocalist and one which was greatly appreciated by the sixty thousand or so wet and cold fans who witnessed this one-off event.
Early in 1983 an indication of Steve's new direction was given by the release of a single from the new album in the form of "Cell 151" which was backed by a marvellous live version of "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare". It was ironic that this release was to give Steve his best ever chart position for a single at a time when things were not going too well with his record company, Charisma, who were in the throes of a take-over by Virgin with Steve stuck in the middle ...
"A&R were starting to make comments that didn't fit the MD's ideas and so that left me in the middle trying to steer a sensible course ..."
Disagreements were not just over A&R as Steve points out ...
"There were two things that I also disagreed with Charisma at the time. Firstly, so many fans were asking for a live album and I wanted to deliver one but they were firmly against that. I felt it was the right move and I still think it would have been the best thing to do. The other was the idea of an all acoustic album which I started doing in my own spare time and with my own money as it were, which was the album that became "Bay Of Kings". I started recording that in 1980 but it wasn't released until much later...."
1983 was proving to be a bumper year for Steve Hackett fans. His 'rock' album: "Highly Strung" had been his most successful since "Spectral Mornings" almost four years earlier. Only a few months after the end of the tour for that album, Steve was back again with another album and tour. His own labours had borne fruit in the form of "Bay Of Kings " and another extensive tour of the UK followed, playing halls and theatres where the more intimate nature of the music would be better appreciated. Steve's own view of the album was as simple as it was honest ...
"I viewed it as music without props and that pre-dated 'New Age' and 'Unplugged' so the derivations from classical and Flamenco and Folk and all those kinds of areas are still there... There's also the influence of the nylon guitar because with Genesis we had specialised in twelve string extravaganzas although I felt that nylon was the area I was most interested in because it had the widest range of dynamics of all acoustic areas .. .I think it was a reaction against dependency ... the pyrotechnics of rock, the smoke and lasers and dancing girls in the wings!"
Steve's next venture from took fans off into a realm which they had never explored with him before ... the area of "World Music".
"Till We Have Faces" was a rhythmically charged exploration of the percussion and samba music of Brazil, where most of the record was written. It came as quite a surprise to many of Steve's fans and the critics in the main loathed it although Steve explains it in the following terms ...
"I thought of it as a learning experience being involved with that amount of rhythmic percussion players who were ... I would meet them in the street and they would demonstrate their skills and we would put them in the studio ... the situation in Brazil was such that I could only get recording studios that started at midnight and when I got home at eight in the morning, they were doing renovations upstairs so I did that album on very little sleep! Then I brought it back to England and mixed it ... and again, it's an album that falls into two halves ... I think of the cohesive song element and the more improvised, the more rhythmic..."
As Steve pointed out in the sleeve notes to the re-issue of the album it was impossible to take a samba school on the road and so the album remained and still does remain in fact, as the only Steve Hackett album which has never been played in a live context. Steve however still thinks he didn't go far enough with the project ...
"I think with hindsight I would have gone even further with it and made it even more a world music album, if that's the term, and abandon all Western civilisation whatsoever..."
It's certain that had that project been released now, it would have been much more favourably received and that's another example of Steve being too far ahead of the game for his own good. His outlook on producing work of this type is typical of the attitude which has shaped his entire career...
"I've usually found that the best thing to do is do exactly what you wanted and then you've got a much better chance of pleasing the fans, but then you've usually got a very good chance of upsetting record companies so it's very difficult to please both the business and the public..."
Steve made his first live appearance for two and half years at a charity gig staged by Marillion at the Hammersmith Odeon in February 1986 where he joined in with a performance of the early Genesis classic 'I Know What I Like'. Rumours abounded at the time that Steve had joined an AOR Supergroup with ex-Yes man Steve Howe. Many fans were naturally skeptical after Steve's involvement with Genesis but in March 1986 the debut single from the aptly titled GTR arrived in the form of the track 'When The Heart Rules The Mind' and Steve's fans had to sit up and take notice! ...
"Brian Lane, who was the manager of Yes, had offices in the area where I had been living but we bumped into each other funnily enough years later in Los Angeles and he had wanted to work with me not in a solo sense but in a group and I didn't really want to work in a group but we were talking one day and he said "Steve Howe's not doing anything at the moment, he's out of Asia", so he became very excited about forming a group with two guitarists and over lunch one day Kim said "why don't you do something with two guitarists?". I said I would meet Steve (Howe) and this very quickly became the idea of forming a band because we felt that if we just made an album and didn't tour it we wouldn't give the album the best chance so the group really grew up to facilitate the liaison between the two of us. Brian's association with Geffen Records was in the ascendant - at that time! - and they became very interested in the band, which I had always seen as a project. They were on the boil and then went off and Arista got involved. It was something that initially was going to take three months to record and ended up taking nine although it became a big success in the States. Not as well received over here though ... I don't think of it as the best record I've ever made..."
The creative output between the two guitarists was evident on the first single 'When The Heart Rules The Mind', co-written on their very first day together, which went on to be a huge success in the States and achieved a respectable chart position in the UK and Europe as well. A tour ensued to promote the album and culminated in sell-out shows at Hammersmith Odeon. The show was divided into three sections, the two Steves performing separate acoustic sets prior to the main event with GTR - as one review of the show at Hammersmith said 'three bands for the price of one'.
Almost two years were to follow before Steve's next outing and again it was an almost back to basics approach with another acoustic album in the form of 'Momentum' a further demonstration of Steve's prodigious talent with nylon guitar and his determination to :
"Just simply go out and play in front of people without any fuss, without the props, without the conglomerate, without the big budget and all that ... so I started doing acoustic shows and again there were different pressures because what's simple on paper is actually very complex when you have to go out and play it yourself.."
The tour of the UK & Europe was extensive and well accepted and the album also gained respectable chart positions in the charts and received warm reviews.
Steve had also been at work on a new rock album, in fact it was almost ready at the time of the tour - a heavily guested project with such as Chris Thompson, Brian May, Bonnie Tyler and Ian and Pete from Marillion. However, due to various contractual problems, the project has yet to see the light of day although a few tantalising snippets have been aired on various projects since then.
"I'm plundering ideas from that album which I'm using on some things now ... at the time it wasn't possible to release that, it wasn't contractually possible to release it ... although with the production we are capable of now it doesn't feel contemporary enough ..."
The following two years were to be spent on setting up a studio of his own and working on other charitable activities among which was the 'Rock Against Repatriation' single, produced to highlight the plight of the Vietnamese Boat People who were being forcibly returned to Vietnam from Hong Kong against their will ...
"a lot of artists were involved in making a version of 'Sailing'... we were looking for an emblem for the cause and it seemed perfect ... we even had a sale of rock memorabilia".
The period from 1988 until mid 1992 was a quiet one from the fans' point of view but Steve was far from idle and in 1992 Virgin released 'The Unauthorised Biography', a compilation album which contained a selection of his finest moments from the Charisma era along with two new recordings ...
"It was a respite ... we sat down and decided that we should include tracks which I hadn't perhaps received as much attention as others. So instead of doing an album of stage favourites, we decided to include stuff like the Randy Crawford track Hoping Love Will Last, Richie Havens on Icarus Ascending and Phil on Star of Sirius".
The live album 'Time Lapse' followed, drawing together two different concerts and two different bands with almost ten years separating them. The first was a performance recorded in New York's Savoy Theatre in 1981 and the latter a 1990 TV special and constituted a neat representation of the way in which Steve's live sound and style had changed in that time (in addition to its success proving Charisma wrong in their reluctance to release a live set!).
Live shows became very much a part of Steve's life again when he undertook a tour of the USA to promote Time Lapse and to experiment with material from his next studio album 'Guitar Noir' which was released in May 1993, his twelth studio album to date.
Steve's acoustic roots were to show through on that album ...
"I tried to marry the acoustic influences. In other words the acoustic guitar was incorporated into songs in a way I hadn't done before when it was either electric or acoustic ... now I see all music as terribly similar..."
The touring schedule continued into 1993 with Steve's first extensive UK tour in almost six years and visits to North and South America and Italy into the bargain. The set drew heavily from his new album keeping the older material for the latter half of the show and audiences certainly gave Steve and his new band a rapturous welcome.
Ever one to keep them guessing, Steve's next project was 'Blues With A Feeling', released in September 1994. With this album Steve has come full circle and pays tribute to the type of music that formed his earliest influences and inspiration. He explained his reasons in a recent interview...
"The great thing about the blues is that it's nice for playing. You don't have to worry too much about the song. You start blasting away. If you're working on a new song you've got to invent a whole new language, a new style. With the blues you're not required to re-invent the wheel."