‘Ideas, emotions, energy and honesty’: Steve Hackett explores the strengths of early Genesis

Steve Hackett, who played guitar for Genesis over the bulk of the 1970s, makes no bones about it: He prefers the band’s early era. That’s been made clear over a pair of Revisited projects. He’s also planning a tour focused on that time.

Sometimes, it seems like he’s the only one playing Genesis music at all.

Longtime frontman/drummer Phil Collins has retired from music, while keyboardist Tony Banks has turned to classical styles. Peter Gabriel, Genesis’ first singer, has always avoided his former band’s songs on tour. Original guitarist Anthony Phillips, meanwhile, has avoided touring all together since leaving.

Mike Rutherford tours with Mike + the Mechanics, but only performed three Genesis songs during a tour last summer — all of them from the band’s second, more pop-focused era: “Follow You, Follow Me,” “Throwing It All Away” and “I Can’t Dance.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Anthony Phillips, Genesis' original guitar player, talks about the group's early days, and why he doesn't see them reuniting.]

That leaves Ray Wilson, who only fronted the band from 1996-98; and Hackett, who hasn’t performed on stage with his old band in 30 years — and last recorded with Genesis back in 1999. Hackett issued the initial edition of Genesis Revisited in 1996, and followed it up late last year with a double-album called Genesis Revisited II. Wilson is now set to join Hackett on some select European dates in support of the new tribute project.

The focus for Hackett is squarely on the band’s initial, progressive recordings, specifically his 1971-77 tenure — which saw Gabriel come into his own before departing in 1975, then Collins take over as a band leader. Not long after Hackett left for his own solo career, Genesis began a sharp turn toward more mainstream pop sounds, eventually earning its lone No. 1 hit with 1986′s synthesized “Invisible Touch.”

In a new talk with Anil Prasad of Innerviews, Hackett laments his former bandmates’ “dismissing that early work in favor of an era that followed, which had great commercial success,” then talks about the differences he hears between the two.

“The earlier work is less slick, but it excels in terms of ideas, emotions, energy, and honesty,” Hackett tells Prasad. “I think that’s where the true stuff lies for me. I think the era of Genesis I was part of was halfway between the sensibility of a jazz band and a pop group. We were in the middle somewhere.”

In a twist, Hackett accepts some small measure of blame for the more mechanized sound that Genesis eventually settled into rhythmically.

“I won’t argue that the production on Genesis music got slicker,” he says, “but ironically, I was one of the first people to get Phil Collins to work to a click track on my first solo album. Of course, the idea of working to a click track became the industry standard. Sometimes, you can be a frontrunner with these things and they’re not popular in their day, yet they become the norm later.”

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