John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Steve Hackett Ahead of Release of ‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’

In this Interview Steve Hackett gives John a pretty in depth walk through of his forthcoming album ‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’.

JWS: Hi Steve, good to talk to you again, let’s Talk about the forthcoming album ‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’, out next month. I believe it’s a concept album of sorts?

SH: Well it’s more a themed album, autobiographical in nature, but with some fantasy elements included. It has been incredibly well received by those who, like yourself, have been allowed to hear it in advance. It’s actually my 30th solo album release that began with ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’ back in 1975, all those years ago.

The album is not actually a concept album as such, rather it is a collection of tracks with a central theme of my life growing up in post-war London in the 1950s and 1960s and going through the momentous changes of those years, living in Pimlico and experiencing the magic of a musical revolution.

The album begins with radio sounds of the 50’s moves onto a soundbite of listen with mother and a baby crying. That first song, People Of The Smoke, has a wonderfully evocative video which encapsulates that era very well. It’s by Paul Gosling and captures the black and white, smoky, foggy and murky London of those times, its an interesting video.

The album also has a number of instrumental tracks, each with different styles and flavours, all of which allowed me to stretch out a little in my playing.

JWS: What is the track Taking You Down about?

SH: That one is about a friend I had at school, he was rather a character and was always up to something, running a wheeze or wheeler-dealing or similar. We had lots of escapades and got up to fair amount of mischief I suppose. We both shared a love of music but, ultimately, our paths diverged and we went our separate ways in life. I often wonder what he is doing these days, probably running drugs from some African country or South America or something! He’s probably still up to no good though.

Found And Lost is about first love, my first love actually. She was lovely, came from  a good family and was very intelligent. After a while she decided I wasn’t what she wanted and dumped me, I was heartbroken and it took me a while to get over her. Later I found out that she’d gone off the rails and got involved with drugs to the extent the she ruined her life and was incarcerated, I used to get letters sent from her in prison. It’s a terrible tragedy really, although it did serve as a warning to me and the love of music saved me from many pitfalls, like excessive drinking and drug use, for which I am very thankful. Music both provided a goal and direction, doing so certainly saved me from such excesses.

Enter The Ring is about the circus ride of fame I experienced with Genesis. We were all over the place and frantically busy, with little time to draw breath, it was a wild ride for sure. During that time I had the ideas that were to lead to my first solo album, ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’, which came out in 1975.

JWS: You were still with Genesis at that point though?

SH: Yes, Peter had just left after we toured ‘The Lamb’ album and before Phil took over the vocals. We recorded ‘Trick  Of The Tai’l and then ‘The Wind And The Wuthering’ and ‘Seconds Out’. After which I’d had enough, I was feeling increasingly marginalised and so decided to do my own thing.

As mentioned, Enter The Ring is about my life as part of Genesis and the circus ride it became, whilst Get Me Out is about the frustrations I felt towards the end. The trio of Mike, Tony and Phil were a very tight unit and that resulted in me feeling that my contributions were dismissed lightly, which left me feeling marginalised, resulting in me keeping my material for my own future use. Whilst I loved being a part of it all, in the end I was glad to be out of it and able to concentrate on my own efforts completely. Also, the success of ‘Voyage’ caused a rift that was never fully addressed or resolved and, while we are all still amicable, somehow it was never quite the same again.

Ghost Moon And Living Love is combination of heavy and softer tones in the same song, I get to let it out a little and play some fiery guitar lines. I know some folks don’t like love songs and just want rock but it’s part of who I am. Love is important to me, celebrating and expressing my feelings and not just in my playing. Jo (my wife) says this album combines both of these aspects, from the rage and the fury through to the flames of love, which I think is a good summation of the album.

Ghost Moon And Living Love is the albums longest track and a centrepiece of the album, this is followed by the Circo inferno, again more circus imagery to express a crazy period of my life. The track Into The Nightwhale is about facing your Demons and overcoming them, resilience and the like. When we started the album the term Nightwhale was not as widely used as it is now but, overall, it reflects a big part of my Life Journey.

Wherever You Are is unashamedly romantic and, again, it has heavy sections and much fiery guitar lines. The album booklet explains the songs far better but I don’t have a copy myself as yet, but I will be signing them in Birmingham and London when we tour.

JWS: Steve, I’d like to thank you for this immersive look into the songs on the album and wish you all the best.

‘The Circus And The Nightwhale’ will be released on 16th February, 2024.

Order the album here:

Steve Hackett – Wherever You Are (

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