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What's On, Culture, Literature, Music

Steve Hackett

Doing Things Piecemeal

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Sam Bennett
SteveHacket whole band green by Simon Lowery 43
Simon Lowery

This month sees the publication of A Genesis In My Bed – the long overdue autobiography from former member of Genesis, Steve Hackett. In lockdown the guitar great has been answering fans’ questions, chatting on camera about the music of Genesis and his own solo work. A simple concept, even though the music is at times quite complex. “Music can seem very complicated unless you’re actually playing it,” he points out. “It seems less complicated once you’ve got your fingers around it.” You rehearse privately, he says, then with your band, before hitting a live audience. A tour’s early shows “might be a little shaky” but then things slot into place – “I find towards the end of a tour, people are playing like they really mean it.” His US schedule this year was cut short by Covid – even his flight home was almost cancelled – but he’d never heard his current band play better than in its final couple of gigs. In autumn, they’ll bring Genesis Revisited – Seconds Out + More to Oxford, part of a tour during which “people will get more than they perhaps bargained for.” Before then, he chats about his fellow Genesis bandmates and today’s music charts.

Congratulations on finishing your autobiography – had publishers been asking you to write it for some time?

Yes, and it’s taken about 15 years to really knuckle under and do things piecemeal. Writing a book is very different from writing a foreword for a book or the lyrics for a song. It’s the kind of major commitment I would normally put into an album – or a double album. It’s not easy.

Were there any bits in particular that you struggled with?

I was anxious to be fair about everybody I’ve worked with, talk about their abilities and not just their shortcomings. There’s a danger you might not have a friend left in the world if you just lambast and caricature everybody. It’s important to not be acrimonious and to celebrate the positives. In the main, I haven’t had a problem with that.

It’s called A Genesis In My Bed, is that in any way a reference to the fact when you’re in a band you live in each other’s pockets, as if you’re in bed together?

It’s actually not – you have to read the book to realise why I’ve given it that title. But when you are in a band like Genesis, yes, it is a bit like a five-way marriage. We were spending more time together than a lot of people do with their wives and husbands. A ménage à cinq, rather than à trois.

Did you speak to the other members while writing the book?

I have done over time. As I say, it started 15 years ago and I’ve met them several times since then. But I didn’t say to anyone, ‘do you mind if I say this?’ or ‘don’t say that?' I haven’t pulled my punches in that way. I am basically honest about everyone – everyone had strong points. I’m certainly not dismissive, it’s not the kind of autobiography where I say I did everything – at the same time, I don’t say I did nothing.

You’re from a different sort of background to other Genesis members, aren’t you?

The guys in the band came from privileged backgrounds; the Charterhouse connection, Phil [Collins] the child prodigy-cum-star-cum-singer-dancer – performing in Oliver!. But I think at a public school, you are designed to be prime minister or the like and nothing less is expected of you. You’re required to obey on one level but at the same time learn to give orders at a very early age. The danger is you remain in the foetal stage sociologically. I don’t envy their backgrounds, I think mine was more balanced – perhaps more balanced than Phil’s. I did five years of jobs once I left grammar school, and came into contact with people from all walks of life. It was important to mix freely with both ends of society. They’ve both got something to say, they’re both right – the book goes into that in great detail.

What do you make of the music in the charts right now?

A lot of the time I’m quite disappointed in contemporary music. So much of it sounds like people have just chained up a sequence, gone off and made a cup of tea, come back and changed the details slightly. Whereas when I heard ‘I Am the Walrus’ – I didn’t know who it was when I first heard it on the radio – I thought ‘that’s marvellously detailed, it sounds more like a film, I like that.’ There were cartoons in there, all sorts of stuff. That level of surprise in the charts now? I think you have to look outside.

A Genesis In My Bed is out 24 July (Wymer Publishing). Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited bring Seconds Out + More to New Theatre Oxford Tue 19th Oct 2021

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