It may seem some time away and we have the whole summer ahead of us but are you looking forward to your UK tour in October?
I am looking forward to it very much. Some of the shows are sold out which is always great to hear.
You`ll be playing 8 shows around the UK in some wonderful halls. Did you pick the venues including the Royal Festival Hall in London, Manchester Bridgewater Hall and The Sage in Gateshead specifically to add to the atmosphere of the performance?
The promoters suggested the venues and I`ve played in many of them before and know they are wonderful venues with a great Classical tradition. The Sage was designed acoustically to be able to handle anything from a solo performer to a band and a full orchestra. It`s a wonderful place to play.
The tour will be based on your Genesis Revisited shows but this time you`ll be backed by a full-blown orchestra. When did you first come up with this idea?
We did a show with a Canadian conductor, Bradley Thachuk, in Buffalo last year and that worked so well. That`s when the seeds of this tour were first planted. I done an orchestral show in Iceland in the past so we had charts from that and Bradley and his brother, Steve, worked on the orchestral arrangements and came up with charts too and the combination of the two make it sound like it`ll be a mighty show.
Have you toured with an orchestra before?
I`ve played odd shows in the past with an orchestra but I`ve never done a tour with a Rock band and an orchestra before so there’ll be the regular six-piece band with a 41-piece orchestra called the Heart of England Philharmonic orchestra.
It must be a logistical nightmare to coordinate everything?
It is. The first thing we had to decide upon was who was going to count everybody in, was it the conductor, the drummer or me? Brad was great and he told Gary, the drummer, that he would count in and everyone else would follow him.
It`ll be pretty expensive too?
Nobody takes an orchestra out on the road to make money and thankfully a lot of shows are sold out so that`ll mitigate some of the costs so I don’t think I`ll have to sell my house.
What songs will you be working on with the orchestra for the shows?
I`ll be doing some classic Genesis stuff like Supper`s Ready, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight and Firth of Fifth which work wonderfully with an orchestra. They`re great tunes. I`ll also be doing some solo stuff and maybe doing Shadow of the Hierophant if we can fit it in or at least the crescendo section. We may do the whole song if Amanda Lehmann is available. Some of these songs were just made to be played with an orchestra.
It`s such a natural progression to add orchestral arrangements to some of the Genesis classics. When you originally recorded these songs with Genesis in the `70`s did you ever talk about adding orchestral parts at the time?
When I first joined Genesis they didn`t use the Mellotron, which could make a sound like an orchestra and I`d seen bands using them live and thought it sounded terrific. We ended up buying a second hand Mellotron from King Crimson. It`s the same model that the Beatles use, the Mark II Mellotron. We used the Mellotron to get the orchestral sound in those days as it just wasn`t practical to work with a full orchestra but a Mellotron and an orchestra are two totally different things, both sound great but you can`t beat a full orchestra with everyone playing together. I think if you have music with space, an orchestra can work really well.
Were there any songs that you tried to add orchestra too that just didn`t work for one reason or another?
When we did Watcher of the Skies, I really thought the orchestra would be able to outpace the Mellotron at the start of that song. What we found was that they sounded completely different and you couldn`t reproduce the engine like sound of the Mellotron with an orchestra. The brass section just doesn`t growl like the Mellotron so we ended up using both to get a much wider sound.
What about the ones that surprised you? Did any songs really spring to life in an unexpected way following the orchestral makeover?
I think they all come to life in a different way. I think something like Dancing With The Moonlit Knight and an epic like Supper`s Ready both work really well. It sounds very grand.
On the road will be your regular band but you will be joined by Jonas Reingold from the Flower Kings on bass. Was Lee Pomeroy not available for this tour?
Lee has been working with so many people from ELO, Take That and is currently with the version of Yes with Jon Anderson so he`s very busy. I`ve worked with Nick Beggs too but he`s on on the road with Steven Wilson. It seems as though every other year I get to work with Nick Beggs but this time I`ve got Jonas who is another Swede like Nad, my singer. He`s a brilliant player and is a legend amongst bass players. He plays the Rickenbacker bass and reminds me of Chris Squire at times but he also plays upright bass and a wonderful fretless bass too.
You released your last album The Night Siren last year and that featured an array of musical styles and instruments from around the world. Do you hope to continue to explore music in such a way on your next record?
We`ll be doing more of that research and development on the next album. We`ll get plane tickets to different places and return with a variety of instruments that we can use to create new music. In the past we have used the charango and canar, a type of flute, from Peru. We also used the duduk which is from Armenia and we had a tar from Azerbaijan which is related to the sitar so we hope to continue to explore different instruments from around the world. Once you have the cake it`s easier to add the icing in the form of these fascinating instruments from around the world.
How are you progressing with the new album?
I`m recording at the moment and we have a lady sitar player from India and we`ll also have some Indian drummers too. We are also working with the McBroom Sisters who sing backing vocals with Pink Floyd who are such powerful singers. They have a real Gospel quality to their voices. I`d say we are more than half way with the recording at the moment. The early stages of making an album are always very difficult. As you gradually polish the ideas you realise that the devil is in the detail and then I fall in love with the process all over again as things start to develop into complete songs. It should be out in early 2019.
Other than the orchestral tour what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
This year I`ve already done North and South America and Japan and then we tour all over Europe. In between times we`ll be recording the new album so it`s going to be a pretty busy time and not a lot of time for much else.
Steve Hackett`s UK tour starts on 1st October at the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham. See http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html for details.
Interview By Mick Burgess