Steve Hillage learned to play the electric guitar at an early age, forming his
first band, Uriel, whilst still at school. After leaving the band to
study history and philosophy at Kent University, he returned to London to play in several
short lived bands (Khan, Egg) before meeting up with Gong.
Joining Gong in January 1973, he played an important part in the band’s rise to prominence.
He appeared on all the Gong Trilogy albums, and found time to compose his own
solo albums (Fish Rising and L). The rest of the decade was spent alternatively
writing and gigging with Gong, and writing and performing his own material.
However, events at the Glastonbury festival in 1979 prompted him to reassess his role of ‘guitar hero’ and
live playing, and he decided to concentrate on studio work and production. And at the start of the 1980s,
he was Virgin’s in-house producer, and was selected to produce the new album of the
new signings to the label, Simple Minds.
After producing other acts as Murray Head, Robin Hitchcock and
Cock Robin, he met the Orb’s Alex Patterson when they
were both DJ-ing at the Land Of Oz club in 1989. This lead to Steve and long term
collaborator and partner Miquette Giraudy joining the collective of DJs, producers and musicians
called System 7. Informal jams lead to their first self-titled debut System 7.
It was also Mick MacNeil’s first post-Minds project, when he accepted
Hillage’s invitation to play on a track.
Steve Hillage is currently in great demand as a producer and remixer, as well as the front man of System 7.
StereoGum: The other collaboration I was curious about with [Big Music] was that you worked with
Steve Hillage again, for the first time since he produced
Sons And Fascination / Sister Feelings Call
in 1981. What was it like bringing him back into the fold so many years later?
JK: What had happened was, we did this thing about five years ago — it was interesting,
we repackaged the first five albums and put them out in a box. We called it X5.
[We did a tour] and we played five songs from [each of] those first
five albums. For a lot of people who love those albums it was really special, and it was special for us as well.
In doing that, we tuned into the essence of those earlier records again. To be honest, some of that process resulted
in some of the songs on Big Music. Steve
came to the London gig. It was great to see him, I hadn't seen him in the longest time. He said, "I've got a little
studio just off of Ladbroke Grove, where we used to work. [Ladbroke Grove is a tube stop in London, not far from
the Portobello Road Market — Ed.] We said, "Look, next time we're in London we’ll get a couple ideas and we'll come in
and just see what happens.” And, indeed, that’s what we did. We worked with Steve
on two or three tracks and it got the ball rolling.
JK: "I think the first track many people will hear from the new album, in fact some
people have already heard the track called Blindfolded
because we've been playing that live, although there
might be more – many more commercial tracks – I think Blindfolded is the
track with the most magic, the most artistry, I think it's the most unique track."
CB: "I totally love the chorus riff – the chorus guitar riff. To me it's quite punky
and there's a bit of an edge to it. It's very contemporary even though it's very retro in a way. I like that.
And I just love the atmosphere of that track."
JK: "And in a sense it's a track that got things going because we decided three years
ago to get in touch with Steve Hillage who produced our earlier
albums and we hadn't seen Steve for decades
so we thought 'let's just get the ball rolling.' We weren't quite sure at that stage whether we were recording
or not but we thought 'let's go in with Steve.'"
JK: "What was amazing was when we worked with Steve
all those years ago – at the time
the whole of the UK seemed to be on fire. It was the time of Margaret Thatcher and there were riots in Toxteth
and Birmingham and London itself where we were working at the time on Sons And Fascination
was the scene of riots
and all of this stuff. And here we were, about three days into recording, decades later, and you had the riots in
Tottenham – just actually half a mile down the road from where we were in Notting Hill Gate. A lot of that scene
had caught on as well. So we were going out in the middle of the night, and there were police cars everywhere,
people running to and fro, and of course, our heads were full of music. It's was just like the world hasn't changed.
It's like all those years after we made Sons And Fascination
we were walking into the same scenes. Not only did
it seem that the world had not changed, catching up with Steve
after all these years, it didn't seem anything had
changed either. He certainly hadn't lost any of his enthusiasm and Charlie
and I's desire to continue being creative
was wholly still intact and, if you listen to Blindfolded then I
would hope that that comes through."
Big Music Deluxe DVD
discography: mainstream singles
discography: mainstream albums
Simple Minds #46