Van Halen hacked Steve Hackett – but he’s not bitter
Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett believes it’s a matter of fact he introduced the finger tapping technique later made famous by Eddie Van Halen.
But he’s not bitter the American is better known than him for the effect, even though iconic VH track Eruption appeared seven years after Genesis were heard tapping.
Hackett tells Music Radar: “I’m the inventor of tapping on record. We haven’t found anyone who tapped earlier than me, unless somebody did it in the 1930s – but I doubt it.
“Eddie is a fine player, of course, and he’s the one who named the technique. When you see old films of Genesis from 1971 on, you can see me using the technique. It’s there on many recordings, as well. The important thing is that you play as fast as you’d like, but you do it all on one string – and you have to use a finger from your picking hand instead of the pick.”
Hackett came up with the trick while trying to perform a piece by classical composer JS Bach. He believes no one else used it in the studio until Van Halen came along.
He says: “All I know is that it became part of the language for heavy metal players, and it became one of the glossaries of terms that you can dip into if you’re playing electric guitar. You can play it on a nylon-string guitar, of course, or acoustic steel, but it’s really going to work best on a electric through an amp with some distortion.”
But Hackett has no problem with Van Halen’s finger tapping fame. “Eddie and I have never spoken about it,” he explains. “I’m not protective of any techniques. I’ve learned from every guitarist that I’ve watched. Everybody plays slightly differently; everybody has been my guitar teacher. I guess I’ve shown a few moves to some people.”
Years-long speculation over a Genesis reunion have fizzled out recently with drummer Phil Collins’ apparent retirement and singer Peter Gabriel’s comments about difficulties with the size of such a project. All Hackett knows is he’ll take the call if it comes.
He says: “I’ve always said that I’d be up for a reunion if anyone wanted to do it. They approached me some years back, but it seemed to be far too complicated. As far as I’m concerned, with some of the guys saying they’re going to retire, I feel that nobody should hold his breath. Although I won’t be the reason why it won’t happen.”
Hackett will release a double-A side single on May 21 featuring Til These Eyes and Enter The Night, with proceeds going to the Childline Rocks charity. He’ll appear at the Isle of Wight Festival on June 24.