Steve Hillage: 'Being part of Gong was both exhilarating and exasperating'
As well as his extensive solo career, Steve Hillage has been involved with Gong, Khan and System 7, worked as a producer, and bagged himself a Prog Award. We chat with him below
When Prog catches up with Steve Hillage he is in a very good mood, having finally got his hands on the finished artwork for Searching For The Spark 1969-1991. This 22-disc boxed set collects his official studio and live releases, as well as copious demos, outtakes and other sonic artefacts and curios, many of which are previously unreleased.
Representing the most comprehensive collection of his work gathered together in one place, complete with a 188-page book, it is without doubt the Holy Grail for Hillage fans. “It looks absolutely great,” laughs the guitarist, with more than a hint of parental pride in his voice.
Several times during our conversation, Hillage sounds slightly surprised at the sheer variety of musical settings he found himself exploring for over five decades as a professional player. Rising to prominence with Gong, he shaped much of the musical direction on the Radio Gnome trilogy, all now widely regarded as classics. As he turned in his echo-infused cosmic spiral soloing, his beatific grin became as much a part of the group’s visual identity as Daevid Allen’s Pot Head Pixies. Though his 1975 solo debut Fish Rising was recorded while he was still in Gong, it was with 1976’s L that he stepped into the spotlight as a solo artist. “It was a whole new episode for me. I wasn’t consciously trying to make it not sound like Gong – I was just running with the ball basically.”