Steve Hackett & the Optigan Some of the earliest email I ever received regarding the Optigan concerned the appearance of our little brown friend on the song Sentimental Institution by ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. Recently I received email from Hackett’s management concerning the Optigan and was able to pose a few questions to the man himself:
PH: How and when did you come into contact with the Optigan?
SH: At ‘Relight’ studios Hilversum in Holland 1977 whilst recording ‘Wind & Wuthering’ album with Genesis – the studio is now defunct I believe.
PH: What kind of mods did you do on your Optigan to make it more roadworthy?
SH: Only flightcased it really. The jack socket was always pretty ropey and had to be taped in place every night!
pH: How did you deal with the tuning issue, or did you simply use the Optigan by itself?
SH: We always used it solo – the star of the show!
PH: Which model # and serial # is your Optigan?
SH: Serial no 58273. The model? Don’t know …it’s just The Optigan!
PH: Any random Optigan-related anecdotes you’d like to confess?
SH: I wrote a track with Pete Hicks [no relation!] called ‘Sentimental Institution’ which appeared on my 1980 ‘Defector’ album featuring the ‘big band sound.’ We recorded the Optigan in the gents lavatory at Wessex Studios in North London to get that authentic, dodgy, 1940’s sound and recreate an era when the music business was still in diapers. We used to play this live with ’40’s lighting – ie uplit curtains (a la ‘cinema of the period’) plus art deco table lamps and a mirrorball – thus the audience was catapulted back in time to an era of crooners and bobbysoxers… It went down a storm every night – people definitely appreciated the humour. I used the Optigan for odd other numbers live but it came into its own as a deliberately non hi-fi send up – a kind of flexible record player with options on whichever chord you preferred – an arrangers dream! Totally convincing!