Steve Hackett has created a career and a legacy out of pushing music forward. For his current tour, however, he's returning to his roots and, with his six-piece band, revisiting the works he helped create with legendary rock band Genesis. "It's surely nostalgic and a chance to reinterpret them in the way that I play them now, with the guys I am working with to also put their own stamp on it," says Hackett, from his home near West London.
In the early '70s, Hackett and fellow players Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Mike Rutherford helped create what became known as progressive rock, which fused elements of classical and jazz, often-cerebral lyrics and theatrical stage performances. "There's a spirit and respect for the genre that runs through this that I think my generation and later generations appreciate," he says of the musical template he helped design. "But it wasn't quite the Sermon on the Mount, if you know what I mean."
Yet many were listening. Never one to casually toss around compliments, John Lennon was an outspoken fan of Genesis' 1973 album Selling England by the Pound, and the likes of Queen, Rush, Iron Maiden and Phish have all cited early Genesis as a crucial influence. Contemporary neo-folkies Fleet Foxes have pledged their allegiance, too, and the late Jeff Buckley recorded an engaging cover of 1974's "Back in NYC."
"That's great and certainly flattering, but as any young player, you're influenced by what you hear. Nobody comes out fully formed," Hackett says. "I'm very influenced by the other guys in Genesis. On the first day that I worked with Phil, he said, ‘We are bound to influence each other.' And we did."
Hackett acknowledges the blues and baroque music as two of his earliest influences, a pair of disparate genres that are fitting inspirations for a guitarist whose career has been incredibly varied and widely inventive. Post-Genesis, his brilliant solo debut Voyage of the Acolyte raised the bar for the possibilities of the then-nascent jazz-fusion scene. Over the course of more than 20 solo albums and dozens of collaborative releases, Hackett has shifted from electric guitar explorations to meditative, nylon-string classical guitar albums. In the mid-1980s, Hackett returned to pop fame with the band GTR, whose hit "When the Heart Rules the Mind" claimed the No. 3 spot on U.S. charts.
"Music is always a huge shot in the dark," Hackett says. "You always need an element of risk to get to that place you're thinking of. Yet it slowly reveals itself."
While many legendary bands break apart and retain equally legendary resentments, Hackett is still on amicable terms with former bandmates.
"The guys in Genesis have all become leaders in their fields," he says. "And as a bandleader myself, I can book a gig and don't have to negotiate that across three governments. But having said that, we are still pals, we still love each other, and we still talk."
In fact, the 64-year-old guitarist is still receptive to the idea of a reunion. "I've always been open to the idea, and who knows? My doors are always open." o