British group Genesis easily slips off the tongue when recalling acts that shaped the rock sound that permeated the charts both in the UK and abroad during their reign from the 1960s to the ‘80s.
The group initially included Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. It expanded to include guitarist Steve Hackett (1971-1977), who has recently released his newest solo album 'The Night Siren'. At 67, Steve is visiting Oz for the first time this winter.
Managing his career with wife Jo, Steve controls his destiny nowadays: a far cry from the heady days of Genesis who scored six Top 10 albums in the UK in the ‘70s. “I urge everyone to self-manage. Or else your manager might just turn down Live Aid for you! Good managers are very hard to find.
“The major difference now is that I can cherry pick across the [Genesis] albums the best songs – the songs I co-wrote. I won’t do anything other than choose what I think what is best for the audience. Time and time again, Genesis sidelined very good ideas because there would be internal politics.
“If there was a really good idea and someone kept banging on enough about it, eventually it would get done and occasionally turn into a hit. So the moral, if there is one, is that you really have to stick to your guns and just because an idea is turned down, it just means that its time is not now.”
Steve left the group in 1977 as the band were hitting their heights and the most high-profile members – Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel – forged their own, successful solo careers in the ‘80s. “I wanted to have a parallel solo career because I felt that there was an insufficient guarantee that my songs would get done by the band at that time,” muses Steve.
“Tony tended to write the majority of the songs and the rest of us were left with the crumbs, although officially we were known as a collective. But once Peter Gabriel left, there was a sense of a takeover bid. Mike would always back up Tony.
“And Phil and I were writing less things although we were totally capable. Basically Mike and Tony wanted to control it. And once a band starts to haemorrhage members, they went back to the original ethos.
“I don’t think there’s been a collective of songwriters like it. Each guy could write songs that were exciting, or hits or songs to break your heart. There was this big emphasis on ‘you’ve got to be a writer to join’. I saw a lot of developments with the band when I was with them. And I thought the band had achieved everything I’d needed to do.
“It was never going to work if my hands were tied. There was, and is, a very healthy Genesis afterlife. Essentially, I’m coming to Australia with a Genesis show; that was what was on offer and I see no sense of compromise with that to play songs I fought hard for back in the day is an absolute joy.”
Back to the new album. “It flies in the face of current populist right-wing politics,” Steve says.
“I think I’ve gained more listeners than I’ve lost. I think rock’s shoulder should be broad enough to take on other things, so if you’ve got a fabulous player who happens to play an instrument that might not be familiar to other people, more reason to involve that and break this tyranny that Britain and America dominate the airwaves. There’s great musicians everywhere.”
And his thoughts on today’s musos? “I’m disappointed in the lack of a visible protest movement. Because music doesn’t deal with social issues anymore other than what Pink Floyd has continued to do.
“It seems almost unfashionable to say anything of any real meaning other than for songs to orientate towards the mating ritual. Just like science needs another Einstein, we need another Dylan. I’m certainly not going to shirk away from issues if they feel right.”
'The Night Siren' is available now.
Steve Hackett ShowsWed 2 Aug - The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)
Fri 4 Aug - Enmore Theatre (Sydney)
Sat 5 Aug - The Palais (Melbourne)
Sun 6 Aug - 170 Russell (Melbourne) special performance of Genesis album 'Wind And Wuthering'
5-6 Aug - Melbourne Guitar Show @ Caulfield Racecourse