“The desire to want to do it live, to be honest,” he said. “I did the album as an excuse, which turned out as a great sounding album. The amount of guest performers we had on it transformed what was once a group into basically an orchestra’s worth of guest appearances. So I was very pleased with the way the album turned out. It was far stronger than I’d hoped it was going to be.”
Reproducing the classics from his run with the group from 1970-77, Genesis Revisited II does give Hackett his wish to get back on the road (he and his band play the Best Buy Theater in New York City on Wednesday), but at the same time it gives the fans fresh sounding versions of the songs they love while allowing the Londoner a chance to play perfectionist.
“When I listen back to the early recordings I think ‘I don’t believe I let that through,’” he said. “I can hear the early struggles. I realize these early efforts are hailed as an industry standard and of course the things I hear are: out of time, out of tune, struggling, overdubbing in headphones not a good idea with electric guitar.’ It’s all the things I don’t do now, a lifetime of mopping up all the filthy habits I had in the early days.”
Rock was never supposed to be perfect, even though progressive bands like Genesis were expected to be simply because of the genre they belonged to, one that got negatively pegged at times as bombastic and favoring technique over feel. And make no mistake, there was and is those negatives in progressive rock, but one listen to the Revisited II discs will remind you that Genesis was writing good songs and making good music long before they hit the pop charts on a regular basis in the 80s.
“Now this might come as a bit of a shock to some people, but I think it is very easy to rely too much on technique and that doesn’t help you to write a great song,” said Hackett. “There are plenty of people with bulletproof technique, and one has to admire the dexterity, and there’s no reason why someone shouldn’t practice music in the same way that sportsmen attempt to run faster or throw the ball further. But I think to write a song, you’ve got to experience something, you’ve got to open yourself up to life, you’ve got to have a fairly wide range of activities, and I think it helps to be interested in other people. I always think that The Beatles wrote the book to a certain extent. You’ve got a number of untrained young musicians, but their songs are all about being interested in other people, it seems. And I find it hard to better that really. It’s hard not to be a Beatle fan.”
That’s not to say Hackett has turned off his musical ear to anything post-Let It Be. On the contrary, as he listens to a varied array of music that keeps things fresh for him as he creates his own. There is a caveat though.
“I don’t look for originality anymore and realize there’s no such thing,” he said. “I’ll accept authenticity, passion, energy and honesty. Dexterity, for a musician it’s a given and there’s a danger that musicians can start off with passion and end up with technique. But I think it’s important that less is more. Try and write a good song if you can.”
He’s got plenty of them to choose from on this current tour, and as far as he’s concerned personally, he’s going back to basics.
“I’m mainly being the guitarist,” he said. “I’m going back to my early role of just the six strings, or 12 in some cases.”
And if he can educate some newer fans to the reality that there was a version of Genesis before the Phil Collins-Mike Rutherford-Tony Banks incarnation that most think of immediately, that’s a bonus and a task that he isn’t bothered by.
“I realize that a lot of people got on board with Genesis post-1980,” said the 63-year-old, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his bandmates in 2010. “The band existed in some shape or form from the late 60s, and that’s an awful lot of decades. You can’t expect everyone to know everything, that Peter Gabriel sang with the band at one time, that I played guitar with them. But whatever point that people get on board, I’m happy to have been a part of it – it’s a band that went through a number of really interesting incarnations and I was part of it in the 70s and I think it was a fine band that came up with a lot of really great stuff.”
Steve Hackett plays the Best Buy Theater in NYC on Wednesday, September 25. For tickets, click here