Steve Hackett on Quitting Genesis: Band Democracy ‘Rarely Works’
In a new Genesis biography, Steve Hackett recalls his reasons for quitting the band in 1977 — a major career move he claims followed a blunt ultimatum from keyboardist Tony Banks.
“Tony said I couldn’t do more solo albums [following Hackett's debut, 1975's Voyage of the Acolyte] and be a member of Genesis,” the guitarist says in Genesis 1975 - 2021: The Phil Collins Years (out July 15), in a newly published excerpt via Prog. “Tony was assuming leadership at that point and [bassist and guitarist] Mike [Rutherford] was backing him up, so there was no guarantee of a proportion of the songwriting being divided up equally. Tony said: ‘If you don’t like it, you know what you can do.'"
Hackett joined the prog-rock outfit in January 1971, shortly after the addition of Collins on drums. And he became a key contributor to six classic Genesis albums (from 1970's Nursery Cryme through 1976's Wind & Wuthering) and one EP (1977's Spot the Pigeon) before his exit, which he announced to the band during the mixing of their 1977 live LP, Seconds Out.
While Hackett felt confident in his songwriting following Acolyte, he said his bandmates were becoming less receptive to his ideas.
"I don’t think group’s members should be competitive with each other, you should try to bring out the best in everyone,” he tells writer Mario Giammetti in the book. “If I work on a solo album for someone else, whoever they are, I do what they want. If Tchaikovsky asks me to do a guitar solo, well, he’s the boss. … But in a group it shouldn’t be like that. But one person always wants to be the fuhrer.”
The guitarist said he "wasn't really getting what [he] thought [he] should" in terms of writing credits, despite "providing a lot of material for the band" at that stage.
“I had already managed to get a hit album on my own, so I needed to be respected as a writer, and I don’t think I was getting that from Mike and Tony," he said. "I think their agenda was always to run the band. Pete [Gabriel], who had been an enormously important part of the band, had always wanted a democracy, as had [early Genesis guitarist] Anthony Phillips. Democracy in bands is a great ideal, but rarely works in practice because to achieve it you need to [recognize] everyone as being equally talented as yourself, and I think that’s difficult for certain people to take on board.”
There was a silver living to his departure: Hackett already wanted to work with other musicians — and was ready to see if he could thrive on his own. "There’s a voice that tells you that you’ve got to see whether you’re up to scratch or not," he said.
Hackett has remained a prolific solo artist ever since: His 27th album, Surrender of Silence, is out Sept. 10., following eight months after the acoustic instrumental set Under a Mediterranean Sky. The trio Genesis lineup, meanwhile, recently announced the North American dates for their pandemic-delayed reunion tour, The Last Domino?