From The Vault - Steve Hackett

Interview and photo by John A. Wilcox

It was January 17 of 1986. I was told that I had exactly 15 minutes. Steve Hackett was in the studio working on a new project with Steve Howe called GTR. Hackett got on the phone sounding relaxed but enthusiastic. Here's how he was feeling about the project on that day...

PS: How did GTR come together?

SH: Well, by way of a change, really. A change is as good as a rest. I thought it would be an interesting combination - two guitarists - and to see what they came up with. Two guys that everyone's said have very similar styles, but at times are poles apart. It's made me think differently about writing. Previously I'd orientated approach toward relying perhaps on chord structures, rather than single lines. Chord formations really have been the domain, practically exclusively, of keyboard players.

PS: Are there keyboards in GTR?

SH: There are, actually unbelievably, no keyboards in the band. Although you would never know to hear what we do. I think that area in terms of what we've done, is unbelievable in terms of what the guitar can trigger.

PS: How do you and Steve Howe decide who takes on the lead parts to any given number?

SH: Well, it just happens, basically. We have been in rehearsal for a long time and certain things follow the rehearsal pat. Other things have changed drastically. Sometimes one of us will sit back and let the other do the bit. Other times it's different. You can't play lead all the time in a situation like this. So there's a lot of give and take.

PS: How is the writing divided up?

SH: I think the same is true for any musician, really. Basically, you can never say that when you form a partnership every song will be the joint product of the two of you. Some will be what the two of you do, other times it will be the brainchild of one. But, we basically agreed to credit the two of us with all of the compositions. Bar the occasional thing, it's pretty much that way - a songwriting partnership. Kind of Lennon / McCartney.

PS: Who else is in GTR?

SH: The vocalist is Max Bacon, on bass we've got Phil Spalding.

PS: From Toyah's band! He's quite good!

SH: He is. He's very good.

PS: Drums?

SH: Jonathan Mover, the American, on drums.

PS: Wasn't he in Marillion?

SH: I think he was with them for about five minutes.

PS: Will you still be making solo records now that you have this new band?

SH: Oh, absolutely. There's still going to be solo records, I think it's just taking a break from solo activities. It may well be that these things go on in parallel. I've done a number of things recently, in fact. Although it seems that not so much has been released recently. Some years I released two albums. Last year I did some stuff on the Box of Frogs album, but they haven't been released yet. They've kinda been messing around with it, the reformed Yardbirds guys. So there is an album knocking around which has got myself, Jimmy Page, Rory Gallagher, not to mention whoever else they decided to get.

PS: A bunch of unknowns!

SH: That one's kind of interesting. I think that the album I've got, I think it will change quite a lot. It's a matter of opinion. There's a lot of freshness about the new album. Things are a long time coming, but I expect to do an awful lot all at once. So I'll probably flood the market with things very soon.

PS: Will GTR be released in the US?

SH: We've got a record deal for GTR, which is the name of this band. Arista Records, Clive Davis, to whom I'm very grateful at the moment for being so enthusiastic about the project. He virtually signed us on the strength of the idea, having heard very little. So his faith was enormous.

PS: Is Arista a label you're pleased with?

SH: I think they could be very good. I hope for great things.

PS: Will this be a touring unit?

SH: Most certainly. We will be touring in America. We will be touring in England. We will tour Europe. We will probably tour Japan. It's an open book really. But we haven't finished this album yet. But then, I don't know about release dates, we are hoping for a spring release. It's been on the fence for quite some time, really.

PS: Good things take time!

SH: Good things do take time. There's a lot that one goes through in this kind of situation. It has to be right for so many people. It's also been fun, I'm looking forward to getting on the road.

PS: The last time you were in the states was the tour for Cured I believe.

SH: I think so. I think that must've been the last tour.

PS: You played a club here in Connecticut called Toad's Place...

SH: That was a great gig actually, if I may say so. I enjoyed the gig immensely. I had a lot of laughs that night. It was a nice vibe. That night I was just having a ball and that was the night the record company decided to turn up. They kind of caught me "au naturel" as it were. They caught me just enjoying myself in an unpressured kind of way. Places like New York are much more pressure. But you kind of think, "It's not the end of the world if I don't go down great in this club." You enjoy them so much more because of that. I've had a lot of fun in the clubs and that was one I remember specifically. I remember clowning around a lot.

PS: Will the GTR album be all electric, or can we expect a good deal of acoustic material as well?

SH: That's hard to say because most of it's electric on the album. And most of it's filled. So it's a case of I would personally like to see us use more acoustic stuff. It's still up in the air. Who knows, at the end of the day it may work out that we have a more sort of acoustic feel to some things. With a band situation, one never really knows how a song is gonna turn out. It's got this kind of fifth personality to it - or sixth personality, with this band. I can only really guess how it's going to eventually turn out.

PS: Who's handling the production?

SH: Geoff Downes of Buggles, Yes, and Asia fame, is doing the production. That's interesting because you have a keyboard player producing two guitars. Kind of weird!


Thanks to Dawna for the transcription!

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