Former guitarist of Genesis, Steve Hackett, reflected on how his work influenced other guitar greats, like Eddie Van Halen and Alex Lifeson. Hackett, who was a member of Genesis when they were deeply into their prog rock phase, discussed this during an appearance on the “Backstage With Byrd” show on 97.1FM The Drive radio.
“Yeah, Eddie was a fabulous guitarist, as is Alex,” said Hackett after asked about his work impacting Van Halen and Rush guitar legends (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs).
“I haven’t met them yet,” he admitted, “but sometimes I’ve had messages and that’s quite wonderful.”
According to Steve, this is all a part of the general trend of positivity among guitar legends who are incredibly respectful of one another:
“I think, generally speaking, guitarists can be pretty generous about each other and say, ‘Oh, well, I took that from them. I took that from him.'”
“And they’re all great and wonderful because we have the passing of somebody that a number of us consider to be the king of rock guitar — Jeff Beck passed only recently, but I know that Brian May has also worked with Eddie, so they were very well aware of each other.”
Discussing this further, Hackett also looked back on the generation of guitarists before him and how it all influenced his own work. After all, we all stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us, and for Steve, it’s Hank Marvin of The Shadows. He continued:
“There’s a sort of guitarist club [that] was a very strange thing years ago. One of our early influences was Hank Marvin, [who] played with The Shadows, which is where I think most of us — most of the British guitarists of distinction, of a certain vintage — got to hear electric guitar for the first time.”
And when Hank Marvin was planning to move to Australia in the mid-1980s, his biggest fans at the time, and respectable guitar players themselves, organized a special event for The Shadows legend:
“He was going to relocate to Australia, and Fender Guitars arranged a get-together for him. We all had lunch, and it was extraordinary. It was Eric Clapton, it was Jeff Beck, it was Steve Howe — always working with the GTR [supergroup] at the time — it was David Gilmour… And we were all in the room together, paying homage and wishing well to Hank Marvin.”
“So that was an extraordinary get-together, but an unrepeatable, unforgettable moment. I spent so much time in the company of those guys. Had they but known it at the time, young ears were glued to what the Shadows were doing then. Hank was a very modest, self-effacing man, but Cliff Richard and The Shadows were a big deal in England at that time. That’s where we first heard electric guitars — maybe not cranked up to eleven, but getting that way.”
During the interview, Hackett also discussed his classical music influences and how it affected his own work. Although he was into the music that all other rock guitar players were listening to back in the day, he did have his own “guilty pleasure” of sorts. Steve continued:
“I grew up listening — as well as everyone else around in the ’60s — there was Peter Green, there was Eric Clapton, there was Jimi Hendrix. Any night of the week, you’d go and see these guys in a club near you in London. So it was a good time to be growing up then.”
“But it’s funny when you look back because my guilty pleasure was listening to Andrés Segovia, at the same time listening to classical and thinking, ‘Oh, yes, this guy, what he can do with his ten fingers, this is extraordinary stuff.'”
Hackett was always open about his love of Johann Sebastian Bach’s works. So much so that he even based some of his original music on Bach’s pieces. He added:
“So years, decades later, I ended up recording some of that stuff, the Bach pieces, the difficult stuff, the stuff that you don’t expect to make any dent on the charts whatsoever. But you do it because it’s a bit like an act of doing Shakespeare. You do it because you add your footnote to all the greats who’ve done that work.”
“The Bach stuff — a lot of it [was] written for solo violin, solo cello, the lute — that sort of stuff. Seriously difficult stuff, but very, very beautiful, and very, very lovely.”
However, Steve wasn’t the only one. Bach’s music proved to be a major inspiration to many other rock musicians, even today.
“I thought that that would have no impact on rock and roll whatsoever,” he continued, “and I was very wrong. When bands started to appear with classically trained guys — Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, all of these guys, obviously, had all enjoyed that guilty pleasure themselves — and music started to fuse from these separate backgrounds, baroque started to talk to blues, [which] started to talk to all the rest.”
“And you started to get this very interesting combination of things for music becoming truly inclusive, not merely rock and roll and rootsy, but also with those extraordinary disciplines and convolutions that came from all that classical stuff.”
“So I like to think that what I got involved with was sketching in a number of styles and taking on board these various influences so that you didn’t have to ‘disclude’ — if there is such a word — anything. The inclusive style was what I was always after.”
“I’ve been very lucky to be still making a noise for a living, and I am so happy to do that. It’s been great to be over here and play to audiences that maybe didn’t hear this stuff the first time through. So the album that sprouted legs that we hoped for is now spreading wings, and it seems to span going back over 50 years or so. So I’m doing my best to keep that music alive.”