One of music’s most uncompromising and complex individuals, Steve Hackett has earned the reputation of being one of Britain’s finest composers and guitarists. Originally a key member of the ‘classic’ Genesis his complex and distinctive playing contributed heavily to their early success, developing an elegance and sophistication which have since become his trademark. He has since achieved consistent solo success internationally in both the rock and classical arenas.
Born in London in 1950, Steve was already playing harmonica as a four-year-old and by 12 was experimenting with his father’s guitar. During his teens he played with various bands in his spare time and had already started to place advertisements in Melody Maker in search of like-minded musicians. One of those ads was answered by Peter Gabriel and Steve gave up his day job to join him in Genesis for £15 a week.
Within a couple of years sell-out tours ensued across Europe and America and they were on their way to becoming one of the best loved bands of that decade and beyond. For most Genesis fans the Hackett years and the albums they recorded together represent the definitive Genesis. Some would even go further, saying that when Steve left, the true spirit of the band went with him, reappearing only on his solo albums, now totalling twenty one and covering a vast range from screaming blues to the most refined classical.
In 1975 Steve's first solo album, Voyage Of The Acolyte , featured band colleagues Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford and was greeted with rave reviews.
By 1977 Steve had decided it was time to diversify his music further and move on from the band. Since then they’ve enjoyed a couple of reunions, one at Milton Keynes to support Peter Gabriel's WOMAD project and another at a charity concert for Tadworth Children's Hospital.
Please Don’t Touch (1978) was Steve’s next solo project and included guests such as Richie Havens, Steve Walsh of KANSAS and Randy Crawford - who Steve had discovered singing in a downtown Chicago nightclub. "I wanted to get the most diverse and eclectic tracks that I could together on one album; a style mix between a European, structured approach to rock and a spartan Black American sound".
With his own regular team of musicians gathered, Steve started touring and released two further albums, Spectral Mornings (1979) and Defector (1980), both Top 10 albums in the UK and Europe. The strong lyrical instrumentals combined with the cutting edge of his guitar style not only received critical acclaim but were consistently used for many films and TV programmes.
On his next album, Cured (1981), Steve abandoned the group feel for a high-tech sound, though still working with regular collaborator Nick Magnus. Ian Mosely joined on drums for 1983’s Highly Strung , another very successful album which produced the hit single Cell 151.
During his time with Genesis Steve had become known for his intricate solo passages on classical guitar - "I have always believed that one half of me was born to be an acoustic guitar player, the other half to play rock guitar and to do both with equal passion". Thus Bay Of Kings (1983) with Steve on acoustic guitar accompanied by his brother John on flute was a natural progression. Although not strictly speaking a classical musician, Steve endeavours to enlarge the existing classical repertoire by writing timeless pieces for acoustic guitar. One of these was given the seal of approval by Yehudi Menuhin when he used it as the theme to his television documentary “From Kew To The Findhorn Foundation”.
Steve and his brother enjoyed a hugely successful acoustic tour during which the Financial Times reported that the only two concerts which had sold out the Barbican that year were The London Symphony Orchestra and Steve Hackett!
He followed this up in 1984 with another rock album, Till We Have Faces - the first album to be recorded using surround-sound ‘ambisonic’ techniques. The record was heavily influenced by time spent in Brazil and was recorded there with local musicians, presaging the subsequent trend towards 'World Music'.
In 1986 Steve formed GTR with Steve Howe. The venture produced a Top 10 US single - When The Heart Rules The Mind - and a platinum album as well as attracting immense media coverage from MTV and nationwide press and radio. It was noted by TIME magazine and BILLBOARD that during one two week period that August all of the current and past members of Genesis had albums in the Billboard Top 20! A total of five albums between them.
During this period with GTR Steve also found time to guest on the A Box Of Frogs album with such greats as Jimmy Page, Ian Dury and Rory Gallagher.
In the Spring of 1988 Steve released a second acoustic collection, Momentum , again recorded with his brother John on flute. They toured extensively throughout Britain and Europe that year and in the Soviet Union Steve entertained a record-breaking crowd of over 90,000 with just one nylon strung guitar. It is precisely this ability to successfully bridge the two ends of the musical spectrum that has earned him the admiration both of rock contemporaries and leading classical players and in 1992 he realised a long held ambition by collaborating with the London Chamber Orchestra on a performance of Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto at London’s prestigious South Bank. Later that year he assembled a brand new band and toured the United States in support of his live collection Time Lapse.