Steve Hackett releases his new album ‘At The Edge of Light’ on the 25th January and from the tasters I got to hear its fantastic.
I was really excited to be given the opportunity to interview Steve so I arrived heavy handed with my notebook of questions and lots of enthusiasm. Steve Hackett is globally famous as the guitarist from Genesis. My one rule for this interview was not to talk about Genesis but to meet and find out more about Steve Hackett
Steve spent his early years in Pimlico and remembers the bomb site playgrounds. He grew up living opposite the Battersea Power Station (Pink Floyd’s iconic ‘Animals’ album cover). He remembers when the station was in full cry and the four smoke stacks were bellowing out big puffs of smoke. “It was extraordinary growing up opposite that big cloud factory that belched out these fumes and I thought that was what made up the grey sky”.
At the age of four Steve and his family emigrated to Canada. They came back four months later. He was in and out of Pimlico for the next twenty years. Steve loves the history of this area and he tells me there is a connection with his family and the artist Turner. Turner lived above a dairy in Moreton Street and Steve’s great grandmother was given a drawing that he did of the lady of the house which got lost unfortunately. They moved south of Pimlico to Ponsonby Terrace so there has always been an memorable attachment for Steve to this curious part of London.
Steve’s favourite place to go and see bands was Eel Pie Island. This spit and sawdust venue seemed like magic to him. Newcastle Brown Ale, blues bands and girls was the place to be from the age of sixteen. Just before the venue closed Genesis played a gig there a year before Steve joined them. It was the refurbishment at Eel Pie that took away its true spirit and led to its closure two years later. In it’s earlier days it was almost like a dark witches coven that felt spooky and went with the blues music. It was a venue he had never seen in the daylight and remembers the hotel like a shadowy hulk over the Thames.
Steve use to venture into the west end where he would go and see bands at The Marquee, The London School of Economics and The Kensington Town Hall. At the age of two Steve was trying to play harmonica like his dad and was playing tunes before he went to school. He got first guitar at the age of twelve. His brother John picked up the flute so it seems the whole Hackett household were a creative lot and it comes as no surprise that Steve is a brilliant guitarist.
‘Under the Eye of the Sun’ is a beautiful track from this superb ten track album. Firing straight at you with an upbeat warmth and spoiling us with exquisite guitar rhythms. Smooth bass lines and speedy rocking drums and dreamlike like percussions compliment the ‘good feeling’ melodies and smooth vocals. It was Steve’s wife Jo who came up with the idea of writing about these amazing monuments that look like a sculptors hand had been at work on them. Whether its Monument Valley in Navaho Nation in the States (which is both Arizona and Utah now) or Sudona, Arizona where lots of Westerns were shot or Petra in Jordan, all of theses places share stunning natural rock formations. So the challenge was to write a song about these static constructions and give them a voice through the spiritual feelings they exude. To take into account the millions of years through natural elements they have become and will continue to change. The video is a a beautiful assortment of these places and really made me want to dive into the screen and touch the stones.
‘Beasts in Our Time’ another idea suggested by Steve’s wife Jo (clever lady), is a dreamy melancholic song that really reveals Steve’s diverse vocal range and hypnotic guitar playing Thinking of peace in our time – Neville Chamberlain its a very British quote. The track is very symbolic of the rise of nationalism. The strings evoke an unusual lift with a waltz like aspect. It led my imagination into dancing around and around in a haunted rococo ballroom almost like a dance of death. The lyrics are beautifully written. Jo’s added bass line idea really gave the track some oomph and Steve was really impressed by her suggestion and firmly adds “she’s a very clever lyricist”.
Steve didn’t want this to be an all rock album. He describes that the first track was meant to work like a mini overture with other elements and styles and for Steve it was and still is a mystical and magical journey. The whole album has many fantastic global musician’s that have contributed to various tracks. Including legendary Malik Mansurov from Azerbaijan on guitar. Drums have been put through a Marshall amp to add experimental sound. Steve is a risk taker and this clearly shows through every song.
The album will be released as a Mediabook CD plus extra DVD with 5.1 surround sound mix, hi-res stereo audio & behind the scenes documentary, double vinyl LP with Etching on Side D and CD, Jewelcase CD and digital album.
Steve will present the album live as part of his massive 2019 Genesis Revisited Tour celebrating ‘Selling England By The Pound’ and his classic ‘Spectral Mornings’ starting April 22, 2019.
Words Celine Hispiche
Photo’s Jeff Moh