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Steve Hackett on his musical legacy and revisiting his work with Genesis

With a career spanning almost five decades, legendary prog-rock icon Steve Hackett has served as an inspiration to countless generations of creatives.

Be it through his work with the seminal Genesis or his own illustrious solo career, musicians around the globe have Hackett's diverse style to thank for influence – and for the very first time in his life, he'll be heading to Australia, with both his Genesis Revisited tour and a very special performance to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Genesis' seminal prog release, Wind & Wuthering.
 
"It's 40-years young, but it's still high in the affection of fans," Hackett says. "We do very authentic versions of those things, but I do change the odd thing – the odd guitar solo and allowing some soprano sax. A few variations, but we do very authentic versions within the framework of how those songs were originally written. The spirit of it is intact."
 
Hackett has recently been performing experimental music around Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in settings as diverse as synagogues and cinemas. Despite his extensive experience, nothing ever quite dulls the thrill of live performance.
 
"For me, it sounds like it was always supposed to sound," Hackett says of performing Wind & Wuthering live. "I think various people look back and think what you did then was gospel – but of course, times change, techniques change, technology changes. But still, with an altered team, if you think of the music as classic you can reinterpret it and refresh it – revisit it. It feels very, very good to be doing that and I don't draw any distinction between what was Genesis group work and what's solo work. It's the same spirit that pervades it.
 
"There's this idealism – I'm still the same 15-year-old, thinking of ideal music that combines all these different genres and eras, and not having any rules. I still think of myself as a revolutionary, but many will say, 'No, no, he's establishment – he's been going a long time, that's it.' No one is ever unassailable – you can criticise anything – but the main thing is all the music that I do, I absolutely love it. That's the only qualification, that's the only music lesson that's worth learning – whether you're learning classical piano or jazz, you've got to love it. You've got to weather all those stones that are going to be thrown at you on the way up."
 
Hackett has recently released his latest solo expression The Night Siren, which has recently had huge success on music charts within the UK, Germany and Italy. An album of powerful eclectic elements battling for dominance, the work became a natural expression of unity for Hackett, against the backdrop of an England in the throes of political mayhem. With a series of incredibly talented musician friends from Israel, Palestine, Azerbaijan and Iceland working with instruments from countries like Peru and Armenia, The Night Siren was the result of striving for musical diversity and experimentation.
 
  "We use a mixture of things – preferably manpower, but I can't ignore 'the machine', either," Hackett says of technological progress in the industry. "I love all of it for what all of it can do. It does seem as if pop music is quite limited these days – there doesn't seem to be much of a social conscience with it – so I thought I'd fly in the face of all that and swim against the tide, as I've always done, and said, 'Well, it doesn't have to be limited.' Music which is full of surprise and doesn't really have any rules, I think, is what it's all about."
 
Once you leave yourself room to breathe and make mistakes, Hackett assures, you can surprise yourself with what's possible when not restricting yourself to artistic certainty.
 
"I like to think that I'm a very different person than the one who started out with very narrow ideas," Hackett says. "What is it about growing up? I heard nothing but guitars. I didn't even notice that there was a great drum beat that accompanied it. Over time, I became aware of the relevance of all these things that you might discard – you might think, 'What use is the triangle in the middle of a rock thing?' The idea is to not have any prejudice.”

Steve Hackett will bring the Genesis Revisited tour to The Palais on Saturday August 5 and both the Melbourne Guitar Show  and 170 Russell on Sunday August 6. The Night Siren is out now.