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Selling Steve Hackett by the Pound

steve hackett

Steve Hackett is not a man who could ever be accused of possessing idle hands. Ever since he stepped away from his role as the lead guitarist in Genesis in 1977, the veteran British musician has released over two-dozen solo and collaborative albums, along with numerous live recordings. Hackett has also made a point of establishing himself as an international touring force, supported by a top-shelf backing band that has the collective chops required to expertly tackle the more progressive-leaning entries his always challenging setlists cull from the prime 1971–77 Genesis era that bore his compositional stamp—not to mention handling his own highly experimental solo material.

In fact, over just the last half-year alone, Hackett has seen fit to release a three-disc (2CD/1BD) live collection, Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith (InsideOut Music)—one that bookends multiple onstage performances from a beloved benchmark Genesis album with choice selections from one of his own best solo efforts—as well as publish a long-awaited autobiography, Genesis in My Bed (Wymer Publishing), plus serve up an all-new acoustic-driven, isolation-inspired travelogue, Under the Mediterranean Sea (InsideOut Music). 

In his autobiography, Hackett observes that “music doesn’t exist in splendid isolation,” which makes the scope of Mediterranean Sea that much more poignant. “I think what I was hinting at there was the idea that people design music in order for it to be received by others,” he clarifies. “If you were just doing it for yourself, it may well be that you would come up with a very different kind of product.”

Hackett’s pastoral sound leanings often hearken back to another era entirely, something he equates to his admiration for the legendary Spanish classical guitarist, Andrés Segovia. “His music is very poetic and very symbolic. There’s something about the way he bends the rhythm and takes time over a phrase, holding it because of the barre chord,” Hackett explains. “It’s a bit like an embrace. You get the feeling someone’s making love to the instrument, rather than just reading off the dots. It’s much more engaging. I’m told it’s a romantic, 19th century approach—and I’m just a 19th century guy, really. I like the way people played at that time, with lots of hammering on and hammering off to get different tones, and not articulating every note to the benefit of getting those varied tone colors.”

Classical elements permeate much of Hackett’s work—but it goes even further than that. “There are a lot of classical influences,” he allows, “but it’s a bit like classical meets blues. Blues was really the genre where guitar came alive, sonically. And then, of course, it was transmitted to all these other styles. I guess progressive music really attempts to bridge the gap between all these various genres. It’s also a generation gap that’s being bridged as well. The best progressive music certainly takes you places.”

The blues burble underneath the surface of everything Hackett does. “I think it’s what I’ve been all about. Certainly in my professional life, I wanted to be a blues guitarist and harmonica player. I wanted to be Blind Willie Hackett, actually,” he says with a laugh. “But I ended up doing something else, which was joining Genesis. And I found all the other guys were into very different things from each other—but everybody was pointed in the same direction.”

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