Interview With Geoff Downes by John Wenlock-Smith

The release of the first new material from Yes since ‘Heaven and Earth’ has been a long time in coming. During that time there have been many changes to the world of Yes, most notably the sad death of Chris Squire in 2016. There has also been the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc with most people’s plans, a situation that Yes have also been affected by. Here’s what Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes had to say about this period.

John Wenlock-Smith (JWS): Good day Geoff, thanks fore making time to talk with me, how have you been keeping during this time?

Geoff Downes (GD): I’ve not been too bad, I’ve managed to keep myself active. We recorded this new album remotely with Alan (White) and Billy (Sherwood) in the US, Jon (Davidson) in the Caribbean and Steve (Howe) and myself here in the UK, it’s a nice way of working I find.

JWS: Results Seem to be positive, you seem to bring out the best in each other somehow?

GD: Yes, I think it does, it also gives you the chance to sit back and look at it all. We’ve had to do that with this Yes album and I think that we’ve learnt quite a lot by doing it that way. It’s a different approach but, at the same time, it can be creative as well.

JWS: It getting interesting reviews (the album), isn’t it?

GD: Yes, obviously the days of the band being in the studio for months locked away doesn’t really exist these days, as they did in the ’70’s. It’s been difficult with having the rhythm section in California, they were sending us files to review on a regular basis. But, of course, we’re not alone in that we were all locked down for months on end and we’ve had to adapt and respond to that as best as we could. Without the benefit of being able to play any live shows it has put people on a different route forward. It meant taking a more flexible approach to things really.

JWS: I spoke to Steve Hackett recently and he was saying a similar thing, he has had to adjust to a new approach to his music, but at least he is able to go out on tour again now.

GD: Yes, I had an email from Steve asking if I wanted to see him in Cardiff tThe nearest place to where I am in Chepstow) but he was saying I can’t see you though, we do the show and move the whole bubble onwards. So I didn’t get to see him this time, but I’ve seen his show many times at various stages. He always puts on a great show. He really puts a lot into his shows, not just him and his band but in the staging and the lighting and the whole experience and performance really. I’m looking forward to catching up with him again when he comes back round.

JWS: Touring will be happening for Yes again soon though?

GD: Well, yes, we’ve got a tour booked for next May and June in the UK and Europe.

JWS: This is the ‘Relayer’ Tour?

GD: Yes, it’s been postponed twice so we’re hoping it’s third time lucky for it to go ahead.

JWS: Well, the album is very interesting, I’ve heard it all, and the bonus tracks, one of which is obviously a tribute to the Beatles. But the whole album is interesting lyrically, you’re not afraid to tackle some important and controversial issues like ecology and conservation?

GD: I’m not involved with the lyrics per se, Jon was stuck in Barbados for 5 months and I think that’s reflected in his lyrics, global warming, obviously, and I think The Ice Bridge reflects those concerns. There’s nothing worse than musicians standing on a soapbox telling people what they should be doing but, by the same token, it’s true that the band are all getting older which brings its own challenges.

JWS: So what’s happening with the Downes Braides Association? I loved the ‘Halcyon Hymns’ album and wrote a glowing review of it, I thought it was excellent!

GD: Well, Chris has moved back here now from LA and I’m hopeful that we can get together and work on the next one more directly, as opposed to being two oceans apart. So we will have to see how that comes about in due course.

JWS: You also had the Asia albums re-released recently (‘The Reunion Albums 2007 to 2012’) on BMG.

GD: The 40th anniversary of the ‘Asia’ album is in 2022, so those albums are being re-promoted again to mark that event. Those first three albums were very significant and its important to mark those events again fully.

I’ve still got unworked material from a session I had with John (Wetton) before he sadly died so there is potential there to craft something new. I feel that Asia has not run its course and that there is still some life left in the band. Again, we’ll have to see what emerges from those sessions.

JWS: What about a new solo album for you? Surely you must be due for another one soon?

GD: Yes, I have been thinking about doing something, although quite what that will be is very open. I think I’d like to do something in a similar vein to ‘The Light Program’ from 1987, a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ album of its time but worth revisiting again I think.

JWS: I also read recently that you wanted the keyboards on this new album, ‘The Quest’ to be more analogue than digital, more like earlier Yes albums?

GD: When I was growing up, I was hugely influenced by the keyboard sounds that Tony Kaye used on those early Yes albums. He was a monster on the growling Hammond and when we did the ‘Yes 50’ tour, Tony was a guest on some dates. He still commands the Hammond organ and we became good friends, so that was a big factor for me. Plus, I think the music Steve was making on the guitar leant itself to that classic type of sound, so that’s what I did, and I think it worked okay.

JWS: Tony Has a new solo album out, ‘End of Innocence’, have you heard it yet?

GD: No, but I want to hear it, it’s all about the World Trade Centre and 9/11 isn’t it?

JWS: Yes, it’s a good album.

GD: Does he play lots of Hammond on it?

JWS: Yes, throughout.

GD: I’ll have to ask management to get me a copy then.

JWS: You won’t regret it Geoff, it’s a fine piece of work, very worthwhile. Anyway, my time has gone, I’m afraid, thanks for talking to me.

GD: No problem John, thanks for interesting questions and for knowing your stuff, I’ve enjoyed talking to you, thank you!

‘The Quest’ by Yes is released on 1st October, 2021 and you can order a copy here:

The Quest (lnk.to)

Review – Steve Hackett – Surrender of Silence – by John Wenlock-Smith

Steve Hackett may be able to draw his pension these days but, even so, he has lost none of his fire or passion for making music as this, his second album of this year, clearly shows. A man who knows his own identity and is secure with his history and pedigree.

This album is his latest electric rock album unlike his earlier classical guitar album, ‘Under a Mediterranean Sky’, that was released in February of this year. On this release, Steve continues to mine the rich creative seam that surfaced on ‘At the Edge of Night’, ‘The Night Siren’ and ‘Wolflight’ and it fits well alongside each of those previous albums.

The album features all the members of his current touring band along with various guests, including Phil Ehart of Kansas who appears on the epic Shanghai To Samarkand. Big Big Train’s Nick Di’Virgilio appears on two tracks as does Christine Townsend, whose graceful violin and viola appear throughout.

Steve says on the album’s rear sleeve, “This album is a journey when no journeys were possible.”, meaning the worldwide covid pandemic that affected just about everyone. On this release Steve invites us to travel the world with him from the Urals to the Roof of Africa and on to the Himalayas. An epic album then for an epic voyage, let’s take a trip shall we as the album plays on.

Most rock fans will know the piece Eruption that was on Van Halen’s debut album or I’m A Believer from Giant, whose incendiary guitar intro made big waves in the early 1990’s. Well This album opens with The Obliterati which sees Steve using his tapping skills and arpeggio sweeps to craft a similarly striking prelude to the song Natalia, Steve said that with the orchestrations of Natalia he felt he had to stamp the guitar onto the track as a real presence and he certainly succeeds here. In fact I think if the wider rock community heard this blistering intro, they’d be amazed that a pensioner could play with so much fire, skill and technique.

It really makes you go wow, even when Roger King’s orchestrations are introduced, this still sounds truly fabulous and it is a spectacular and fine way to open the album before the more mellow tones of Natalia begin. A very moving song about a Russian everywoman who suffered at many hands over the years. This song has great orchestrations to it and you can hear the Russian classical influences.

Relaxation Music for Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy) is another instrumental from Steve. It is a highly atmospheric piece with lots of great sounds and a very rocky and hard-hitting middle section where everyone is playing fast. Roger’s synth lines match Steve’s wah-wah guitar, the piece returning to a calmer state at the end, signifying that the feeding is over, well for now at least. Next follows a very African sounding song, Wingbeats, with Amanda Lemann. The McBroom sisters chant African vocals and the song has a very good chorus that sounds authentically African. The track based on Steve’s own trip to Africa a few years ago. The Devil’s Cathedral has a very gothic sounding organ, all ominous and portentous.It’s a song about unbridled ambition sung by Nad Sylvan, who is in fine voice throughout the album. The track gallops along at a fast pace, with lots of dynamism to assist its passage, all very impressive stuff.

Held In The Shadows is a far softer and more gentle song entirely, written by Steve as a love song to his wife Jo. This is a powerful and emotional piece of music, inspired by a lovely woman who has made his life better and completed him wonderfully. The album’s epic, Shanghai To Samarkand follows. Taking the route of the old silk road from China to the middle east through Turkmenistan as it’s inspiration, this track sees Steve working once again with Phil Ehart of Kansas (with whom he recorded the ‘Please Don’t Touch’ album) and this song is another excellent sonic journey with subtle but effective use of authentic instruments like the Dutar and Oriental Zither. This piece has the exotic world music influences clearly shown and, with its almost Kashmir-type riff played throughout, really impresses. Another excellent track of great music, I think l,ive it would be a powerhouse we may find out on his ‘Seconds Out’ tour this year.     

Fox’s Tango is a more political piece as Steve compares the haves and the have nots and talks about the inequalities of life these days. It could also be his view of the Trump era, short but worthy of inclusion, as is Day Of The Dead, a very dark nod to Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, territory Steve has visited before with the ‘Darktown’ album. Scorched Earth is an ecological song as Steve tells us, “Tomorrow’s trees, tomorrow’s seas, Can you breathe tomorrow’s dream…” This song has lots of Steve’s fluid guitar playing. The album closes with the acoustically driven instrumental Esperanza (which is Spanish for hope), a brief ,delicate track that brings everything to a peaceful close and leaves you to ponder again the sonic journey that you have just undertaken.

As always, the music is fabulous as are the booklet and sleeve. This release is every bit as strong as his earlier albums and Steve has already been contemplating what is next for him once he has completed his tour of ‘Seconds Out’. I Guess time will tell but, for now, enjoy this fantastic new album from the man with the golden touch and fleet fingers.

Released 10th September, 2021

Order the album here:

Steve Hackett | Steve Hackett (hackettsongs.com)

Review – Amanda Lehman – Innocence and Illusion – by John Wenlock-Smith

Amanda Lehmann is that rare article, A genuinely talented Musician who has, until now, never really had the opportunity to shine. Well, this solo album from one of Steve Hackett’s musical foils certainly impresses with its mixture of styles and textures and is backed by several of her fellow ‘Hacketeers’, including main man Steve on guitar on two tracks and harmonica on a third. Ex Hackett collaborator and all round Progfather Nick Magnus‘ keyboards synths and mellotron also come out to play on this short but enchanting release.

Consisting of nine tracks with a run time of just over forty-six minutes, this is a well-rounded set from Amanda who gets to show all her skills on this album, along with some fabulous contributions from the ‘Hacketeers’, who all add much colour to this fascinating album. Let’s have a listen to see what treasures await us in Amanda’s world…

Album opener Who Are The Heroes begins with keyboards and Amanda’s voice singing “Dreamers Dream, While angels fall…”, this is followed by the introduction of Amanda’s trusty red guitar that will be known to any who have seen her sharing a stage on Steve’s ‘Genesis Revisited’ shows in the past few years. Amanda lays down a strong guitar line over the burbling synths of Nick Magnus, who contributes a synth solo after Amanda has played a brief but emotive solo. Amanda has obviously learnt from the master, and it shows well in her fluid emotive playing, which is sublime and elevates the song upwards. This is a strong opener and her voice is in fine form as Tinkerbell follows, it’s another great song, full of wonder in the vocals, you can hear elements of both Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush in her vocals and in the imagery in the lyrics. This track has another brief solo from Amanda and a truly fabulous orchestral arrangement, especially the flying sequence in Tinkerbell, which conjures up a world of enchantment and magic in its melody. When tied to the chorus, it really captures something very special indeed and is one of the highlights of the album.

Only Happy When It Rains features a certain Mr. Hackett on harmonica where he gets to indulge his own unique take on the instrument and sounds equally at home here as he is on six strings. He is also accompanied by Rob Townsend who provides a sultry saxophone solo to the closing moments of the song, this song certainly swings. Next track The Watcher is the album’s longest and one in which Amanda gets to channel her inner Knopfler as she has a very Dire Straits tone to this song. Her playing on this song is highly impressive, very fluid and with a great tone to it. It is all very impressive sounding and makes it very strong track in its own right, one on which she stamps her own identity and authority on, showing that she has not merely called in favours from well-known friends and that she can deliver on her own.

Memory Lane features a beautiful orchestral arrangement by Roger King, who sympathetic melody lends magnificent support to this moving song, the graceful saxophone solo from Rob Townsend is also incredibly. This song is written about Amanda’s mother who died from Vascular Dementia and in the lyrics she recounts the memory loss that her mother faced. This is a very important track and one that will strike a chord with many as dementia is a growing health concern afffecting a lot of people as we get older. A brave song handled with dignity and compassion. Next is a rockier outing with Steve Hackett  playing in tandem and harmony with Amanda. The track is called Forever Days and certainly has a lot of power to it, along with a strident organ (again delivered by Nick Magnus) and a fabulous dual guitar riff that hurtles along very happily and nicely. There is some very impressive playing from all concerned, with a great dual solo as Amanda and Steve trade licks and runs, the muscular riff is very enjoyable and it’s all impressive stuff.

Next is a track that originally featured on the ‘Harmony for Elephants’ charity CD of a few years ago, remixed here by Nick Magnus. This song is a beautiful piece of music with fabulous words and is supporting a very worthy cause too. Childhood Delusions is another emotional journey, this time into childhood dreams and how Amanda feels that “The Man in The Moon Still Follows Me Home”, again, the imagery used in this song is evocative and memorable. The album ends with a duet between Steve Hackett on acoustic guitar and Amanda, whose voice is poignant and moving. The music marries the words and closes this highly impressive release on a high.

This album is a joy to listen to and has much to offer; great music, fabulous performances with warmth and depth and is a tribute to the talent Amanda offers, there’s no wonder Steve Hackett rates her so highly!

Released 20th August, 2021

Order the album here:

AMANDA LEHMANN – INNOCENCE AND ILLUSION CD | Steve Hackett (hackettsongs.com)

Steve Hackett Launches Video For ‘Natalia’; 3rd Single From ‘Surrender of Silence’

Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett, releases his new studio rock album Surrender of Silence on 10th September 2021, via Inside Out Music. The album features 11 new songs as Steve has been working hard through Lockdown and, for the first time, has completed two studio albums for release within the same year! 
Today sees the release of the third single taken from the album, ‘Natalia’. Watch the animated video here:
Steve comments: “The weight of the Russian nation – my music at its most Slavic, inspired by all those stunning Russian classical composers and telling the story of that emergent nation with its struggles for power. Natalia is a Russian Everywoman, constantly thwarted by a series of oppressive regimes.”

Watch the video for the first single ‘Wingbeats’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8qOFpMaRLo

Watch the video for the second single ‘Fox’s Tango’ here: https://youtu.be/H3syJOPqdC4

Surrender of Silence is released on 10th September 2021 as a Limited Edition CD+Blu-ray Mediabook in hardcover slipcase, Standard CD Jewel case, Gatefold 2LP+CD & LP-Booklet and Digital Album via Inside Out Music. Pre-order now here:https://stevehackett.lnk.to/SurrenderOfSilence

Hot on the heels of his classical-acoustic travelogue Under A Mediterranean Sky, which was released in January and hit Number 2 in the UK Classical Album Chart, Surrender of Silence is a further exploration of Hackett’s love of world music, discovering different sounds, moods and textures to deliver a rock album of extraordinary variety, power and beauty.

As with Under A Mediterranean Sky, Surrender of Silence was also recorded during Lockdown and, again, Hackett has called upon some of his musical friends from across the world to contribute. Hackett’s regular touring band of Roger King (keyboards, programming and orchestral arrangements), Rob Townsend (sax, clarinet), Jonas Reingold (bass), Nad Sylvan (vocals) and Craig Blundell (drums) are supplemented by Phil Ehart and Nick D’Virgilio (drums), the vocal talents of Amanda Lehmann, Durga and Lorelei McBroom, Christine Townsend (violin, viola), Malik Mansurov (tar) and Sodirkhon Ubaidulloev (dutar).

This new album is full-on electric…

“Lockdown cobwebs are blown away in one fell-swoop here!” says Steve Hackett. “With the monster rhythm section of Jonas, Craig, Nick and Phil along with Rob’s soaring sax and bass clarinet, Nad, Amanda and myself on vocals, Roger’s darkly powerful organ and my guitar, we plunge full-pelt into that wild release of energy.”

Our journey takes us from the classical orchestrations of Russia (Natalia) to the plains of Africa (Wingbeats) to mysterious Eastern shores (Shanghai To Samarkand), all via the ocean’s depths (Relaxation Music for Sharks (featuring feeding frenzy)). The Devil’s Cathedral pools the talents of Hackett’s entire touring band and features King’s atmospheric Gothic organ and a powerhouse rhythm display from Blundell and Reingold.

Hackett’s vocals have never been bettered and his duet with Amanda Lehmann adds emotion to Scorched Earth a lament for the environmental horrors facing our planet. Throughout Hackett’s guitars add a rich tapestry of colour with soaring solos and intricate weaving melodies.

“It’s a ‘no holds barred’ album,” adds Hackett, “riding that wave, unleashing those demons, dreams and nightmares, all crashing together over the shore.

“I enjoyed the power of this album allowing my guitar to scream in joy and rage… and once again flying across those oceans to distant lands. It’s terrific to connect creatively with musicians from far flung places, particularly when we’ve all been unable to meet. We all have a voice in our cacophony of sound and we cry out together in the Surrender of Silence!”
Steve Hackett “Surrender of Silence” track listing:
1. The Obliterati (02:17)
2. Natalia (06:17)
3. Relaxation Music For Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy) (04:36)
4. Wingbeats (05:20)
5. The Devil’s Cathedral (06:31)
6. Held In The Shadows (06:20)
7. Shanghai To Samarkand (08:27)
8. Fox’s Tango (04:21)
9. Day Of The Dead (06:25)
10. Scorched Earth (06:03)
11. Esperanza (01:04)

Steve Hackett shares writing credits with both Jo Hackett and Roger King on several tracks. All tracks were recorded by Roger King and produced by Steve Hackett with Roger King at Siren.Surrender of Silence is released on 10th September 2021 as a Limited Edition CD+Blu-ray Mediabook in hardcover slipcase, Standard CD Jewel case, Gatefold 2LP+CD & LP-Booklet and Digital Album via Inside Out Music.

All tickets remain valid for the re-scheduled shows.

For full details and to book tickets for all shows for the Seconds Out + More Tour go too https://myticket.co.uk/ and venue box offices.


About Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Hackett’s intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Wind And Wuthering (1977) including the classic Selling England By The Pound.

After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett’s solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, has demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar. Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognised in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of YES in the supergroup GTR.

Hackett’s compositions take influences from many genres, including jazz, classical and blues. For his later studio works The Night Siren (2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019) Hackett has explored the influences of world music. Recent tours have seen Hackett celebrate his time with Genesisincluding a spectacular 2018 tour in which he realised a long-held ambition to perform the works of Genesis live with his band and an orchestra.

The lockdown enforced by the 2020 global pandemic has proven to be a particularly creative period for Hackett. He began by releasing Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith, a live recording of 2019’s hugely successful tour celebrating that Genesis classic together with the 40th anniversary of one of his most-loved solo albums. Lockdown also gave Hackett the opportunity to write and record two new studio albums, the UK Classical Chart hit Under A Mediterranean Sky and the forthcoming Surrender of Silence.

Surrender of Silence out 10th SeptemberPre-order now here:https://stevehackett.lnk.to/SurrenderOfSilence

John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Steve Hackett

Photo by Tina Korhonen, all rights reserved

It is always a pleasure to spend time talking with Steve Hackett, he is such a gracious interviewee and always has interesting things to say and learn from. This interview is about his new album ‘Surrender Of Silence’ and his forthcoming tour celebrating the album ‘Seconds Out’ recorded whilst Steve was still a member of Genesis. This tour will see the album played in its entirety along with selected tracks from both his new album and from his extensive back catalogue of releases.

John Wenlock-Smith: So how are you sir?

Steve Hackett: Oh I’m alright, fine, how are you doing?

JWS: Yes, we’re ok generally, keeping alright with all this lockdown and stuff.

SH: Well it’s been an unusual time, an extraordinary time really. We’re just about to go out on the road with a tour, having not played a show (well, not properly) for about 18 months. Apart from the odd virtual thing over the airwaves, I’ve done a bit of that and I’m doing one tomorrow with the Hungarians, I haven’t done a live gig in front of an audience for a very long time.

JWS: I’ll bet you’re looking forward to that then?

SH: Well I am, yes. Once we get through rehearsals and everyone knows it, those rehearsals start on Monday.

JWS: You have a new album out soon too?

SH: Yes, ‘Surrender of Silence’ is the new album, the second one this year after ‘Under A Mediterranean Sky’, and it’s completely different to any other one, I really enjoyed making it.

JWS: I’ve heard the album and I like it, it’s very different.

SH: Yes, it’s different in places to what I’ve done before, I don’t think I’ve ever done an African themed song before, after our visit to Ethiopia. I’ve never done a Russian themed song either, They are journeys that became songs, having visited these places and, of course, a good deal of the influence comes to bear on some of the album.

One of the tracks, Shanghai to Samarkand, had the idea of trying to cover the whole of the east in a song with the odd instrument like the Vietnamese Dan Tranh (Zither), related to the Japanese Kyoto, and getting players to play in an oriental style. We got Christine Townsend to play her viola solo with those long bending, sighing notes at the end of phrases, I very much enjoyed that.

I enjoy the virtual travel that’s possible with music, although I am missing the real-world travel too, but that’s all about to change as we get out there again, visiting the British isles in the coming months.

JWS: Is it true that you are getting all over the place, you’re even playing in Stoke-On-Trent?

SH: Yes, I’ve got all the dates here, that’s on the 12th of September, I’m looking forward to that one. It’ll be good to play some places we’ve not been to in a while, it will be good to go anywhere and see anybody!  

It’s strange, lots of people have got tickets and we hope they all make the effort to come, but we can’t force people to come, so folks may decide to stay at home and wear a mask and only talk through the letterbox etc.

Obviously, we’ll be very careful, we’re not doing much interaction with the crowds, we are isolating and in a bubble much of the time. There will be no meet and greets this time around, the venues set the rules that we have to follow, but we’ll do what we have to to be able to play the shows and have a party.

JWS: I did notice that you have Phil Ehart of Kansas playing the drums on the track Shanghai to Samarkand.

SH: Yes, that’s right, I haven’t worked with him since ‘Please Don’t Touch’ back in 1977/1978. He’s one of the drummers on the album, we’ve also got Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train) and we also have Craig Blundell (Frost* and Steven Wilson). There are several people involved on the album from right across the globe, we have a guy from Azerbaijan, Malik Mansurov, on the Tar and a guy from Tajikistan on Dutar called Ubaidullev Sordirkhon Saydullevich, so right across the world really.  

JWS: You like your international collaborations don’t you?

SH: Yes I do, I like doing that. I like my local band but even that is spread across 4 countries now, Nad Sylvan is in Sweden, Jonas Reingold lives in Austria, Rob Townsend lives in Denmark now and we’ll all convene for ten days of rehearsals before being unleashed on the great British public.

JWS: So where did the album title come from?

SH: I prefer not to explain an album title, however, I would say all music flies in the face of silence. The surrender of silence is somewhat applicable when you make music for a living. Other than that, there are some aspects of social comments made in the lyrics where previously I haven’t been quite so vocal. I’m thinking of Fox’s Tango referring to Fox News.

There’s also social comment on the environment in Scorched Earth. Other things, Natalia is more of a story but there is social comment involved with that and then there are the instrumentals and the fun things, so it’s not all soapbox. As you scout around for subjects, I write all the time and my wife Jo writes certain things for lyrics too, we bat the ball back and forth between us and out of it all comes ‘The Surrender Of Silence.’

JWS: There’s an interesting first track in The ‘Obliterati’?

SH: Yes ,well that’s tapping with a kind of tongue in cheek title for all those familiar with certain books and certain writer. I thought it was a way to lead into Natalia but they are really the same tune in a way. I’ve separated them out so that you have a sort of mini overture or kind of underture at the front of the album and exposed tapping.

The last time I used that in isolation was ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’ back in the early 1970’s when I was exploring that the guitar functioning on its own but I decided to add some orchestral backing to it to bring it in line with what was to come with Natalia, which was more of a nod to Russian composers and orchestrators. The song is about an ordinary Russian woman, it’s almost like South Park in that she dies in every scene, in every verse but it’s a different woman and a different time.

The difficulty is that there is lots of orchestration and not a note of guitar playing until we are well into the track and I thought I’d better claim identity so The Obliterati came up as something to kick off the album.

JWS: It’s a commanding start to the album, I was listening to it this morning and wondering if it was a homage to Eddie Van Halen, who I know was greatly influenced by your tapping in his early days?

SH: Well, it’s a funny thing, I’m sad about his passing and that we never got to meet, it’s great when you hear of a fellow professional you’ve been an influence on or they just listen to you.

Earlier this year I was talking to an American journalist who told me that Pat Metheny had been listening to the ‘Under a Mediterranean Sky’ album and I also think of Pat Metheny as an atmospheric jazz player. Then you realize that in the world of jazz you’ll have people like Bill Evans being interpreted by folk like John Mclaughlin, another guitarist of note of course, he also liked the music of Eric Satie, I did an album of interpretations of Satie with my brother John Hackett in the early 2000’s.

He is brave enough not to fall back on technique, jazz is largely technique based and I greatly admire his ability to seek a bigger picture or canvas for his music to be drawn against. So it was interesting to hear that about Pat Metheny, I must reach out to him and talk with him. Perhaps similarities between musicians are greater than we give credit to.

JWE: I had a conversation with your brother John a few weeks ago about the album he recorded solo during lockdown, ‘The Piper Plays His Tune’, he was a lovely chap.

SH: Yes, John is a very gentle man and doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. We’ve been working together on somethings beyond this album too. John has been playing some scat flute like Roland Kirk, most people think of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, but scatt flute goes back further than that to the Mid 1960’s and the Beatnik area in the USA. I’m all for revisiting those eras, wandering in and out of different genres, it’s all possible under the progressive banner. John also has an excellent guitar player in Nick Fletcher.

JWS: Yes, I interviewed him too, he is a fascinating guy as well.

SH: I was greatly impressed by him and his album, I wrote a comment on the album which appears on the rear sleeve. I think Nick is one of the great hopes for British guitar, if there’s a chair to fill with the departure of another musician, then there’s a chair for Nick to fill.

People ask me who I listen to and, whilst there’s Andrés Segovia and Jimi Hendrix who get a lot of publicity, there is also Nick Fletcher, a phenomenal guitarist. Something of Bach and Handel and at the same time they’ll be listening to Miles Davis.

JWS: Nothing wrong with a bit of Miles Davis.

SH: Yes, he’s very interesting and very out there but recorded albums that are very different and was not afraid to do those. At the top of his tree, as a band leader, the people he worked with or chose him, there is this central pivot that is Miles Davis. Logic isn’t always the best seam to wander when writing lyrics.

JWS: I’m part of a writing group and we were doing abstract poetry using lines out of other books to create different words and lines with.

SH: Well poetry is very challenging, you must have music in the words. Stand-alone poetry, if you can draw some music from it, that can be very inspiring. Someone said to me some years ago that it’s no good reading Shakespeare unless you have a good grounding in all the myths and a good knowledge of language. Rather that you should read it for its music first and or its sound.

Years ago, when I was doing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that’s how I went at it, I know diddly squat about Pyramus and Thisbe but I loved the music of it, you’re allowed to do that in poetry, you can do what you want. Peter Gabriel was very gifted at making up new words, as was John Lennon, some of us take longer to come up with new words.

JWS: Well Steve, my time has gone so I’ll say goodbye for now. Thanks for talking as always, good luck with the album and tour

SH: Thank you and good luck with the poetry too.

‘Surrender Of Silence’ is released on 10th September, 2021.

Pre-order the album here:

SURRENDER OF SILENCE – CD – SIGNED [Pre-Order] | Steve Hackett (hackettsongs.com)

Steve Hackett Launches ‘Foxes Tango’, second single from ‘Surrender of Silence’ & Full Dates For ‘Seconds Out + More’ Tour, Starts 10th September

Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett, releases his new studio rock album Surrender of Silence on 10th September 2021, via Inside Out Music. The album features 11 new songs as Steve has been working hard through Lockdown and, for the first time, has completed two studio albums for release within the same year! Hackett also starts his 31 date UK Seconds Out +MoreTour on 10th September.

Today sees the launch of the second single from Surrender of Silence, and you can watch the video for ‘Fox’s Tango’ here: 

Steve comments: “A protest song at life’s inequalities – in other words, the poor versus the rich. With current conflicts, if we can’t learn to share the land, we’ll find ourselves sharing the graveyards. A song for an unbalanced world. Fox’s Tango has my playing at its angriest. I really let rip here!”

Surrender of Silence is released on 10th September 2021 as a Limited Edition CD+Blu-ray Mediabook in hardcover slipcase, Standard CD Jewel case, Gatefold 2LP+CD & LP-Booklet and Digital Album via Inside Out Music. Pre-order now here: https://stevehackett.lnk.to/SurrenderOfSilence

Hot on the heels of his classical-acoustic travelogue Under A Mediterranean Sky, which was released in January and hit Number 2 in the UK Classical Album Chart, Surrender of Silence is a further exploration of Hackett’s love of world music, discovering different sounds, moods and textures to deliver a rock album of extraordinary variety, power and beauty.

As with Under A Mediterranean Sky, Surrender of Silence was also recorded during Lockdown and, again, Hackett has called upon some of his musical friends from across the world to contribute. Hackett’s regular touring band of Roger King (keyboards, programming and orchestral arrangements), Rob Townsend (sax, clarinet), Jonas Reingold (bass), Nad Sylvan (vocals) and Craig Blundell (drums) are supplemented by Phil Ehart and Nick D’Virgilio (drums), the vocal talents of Amanda Lehmann, Durga and Lorelei McBroom, Christine Townsend (violin, viola), Malik Mansurov (tar) and Sodirkhon Ubaidulloev (dutar).

This new album is full-on electric…

“Lockdown cobwebs are blown away in one fell-swoop here!” says Steve Hackett. “With the monster rhythm section of Jonas, Craig, Nick and Phil along with Rob’s soaring sax and bass clarinet, Nad, Amanda and myself on vocals, Roger’s darkly powerful organ and my guitar, we plunge full-pelt into that wild release of energy.”

Our journey takes us from the classical orchestrations of Russia (Natalia) to the plains of Africa (Wingbeats) to mysterious Eastern shores (Shanghai To Samarkand), all via the ocean’s depths (Relaxation Music for Sharks (featuring feeding frenzy)). The Devil’s Cathedral pools the talents of Hackett’s entire touring band and features King’s atmospheric Gothic organ and a powerhouse rhythm display from Blundell and Reingold.

Hackett’s vocals have never been bettered and his duet with Amanda Lehmann adds emotion to Scorched Earth a lament for the environmental horrors facing our planet. Throughout Hackett’s guitars add a rich tapestry of colour with soaring solos and intricate weaving melodies.

“It’s a ‘no holds barred’ album,” adds Hackett, “riding that wave, unleashing those demons, dreams and nightmares, all crashing together over the shore.

“I enjoyed the power of this album allowing my guitar to scream in joy and rage… and once again flying across those oceans to distant lands. It’s terrific to connect creatively with musicians from far flung places, particularly when we’ve all been unable to meet. We all have a voice in our cacophony of sound and we cry out together in the Surrender of Silence!”

Steve Hackett “Surrender of Silence” track listing:
1. The Obliterati (02:17)

2. Natalia (06:17)

3. Relaxation Music For Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy) (04:36)

4. Wingbeats (05:20)

5. The Devil’s Cathedral (06:31)

6. Held In The Shadows (06:20)

7. Shanghai To Samarkand (08:27)

8. Fox’s Tango (04:21)

9. Day Of The Dead (06:25)

10. Scorched Earth (06:03)

11. Esperanza (01:04)

Steve Hackett shares writing credits with both Jo Hackett and Roger King on several tracks. All tracks were recorded by Roger King and produced by Steve Hackett with Roger King at Siren.

Seconds Out +More UK Tour 2021
Full Tour Dates.

Fri 10th Sep Leicester De Montfort Hall (SOLD OUT)

Sat 11th Sept Liverpool Philharmonic (SOLD OUT)

Sun 12th Sept Stoke Victoria Hall

Tue 14th Sept Birmingham Symphony Hall

Wed 15th Sept Cambridge Corn Exchange (SOLD OUT)

Fri 17th Sept Cardiff St David’s Hall (SOLD OUT)

Sat 18th Sept Basingstoke The Anvil (SOLD OUT)

Mon 20th Sept London The Palladium (SOLD OUT) 

Tue 21st Sept London The Palladium (SOLD OUT)

Wed 22nd Sept London The Palladium (NEW)

Fri 24th Sept Manchester O2 Apollo

Sat 25th Sept Edinburgh Playhouse

Mon 27th Sept Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Tue 28th Sept Dundee Caird Hall

Thurs 30th Sept Scunthorpe The Baths Hall

Fri 1st Oct Bradford St George’s Hall

Sat 2nd Oct Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (new)

Mon 4th Oct Croydon Fairfield Halls (new)

Tue 5th Oct Guildford G Live (SOLD OUT)

Thur 7th Oct Brighton Dome (SOLD OUT)

Fri 8th Oct Poole Lighthouse (new)

Sat 9th Oct Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion (SOLD OUT)

Mon 11th Oct Southampton Mayflower Theatre

Tue 12th Oct Plymouth Pavilions (new)

Thur 14th Oct Carlisle The Sands Centre

Fri 15th Oct STOCKTON GLOBE (new show)

Sat 16th Oct Newcastle O2 City Hall  

Mon 18th Oct Aylesbury Waterside (new)                                       

Tue 19th Oct Oxford New Theatre                                                      

Thur 21st Oct Peterborough Cresset (new)

Fri 22nd Oct  Harrogate Royal Hall (new)

All tickets remain valid for the re-scheduled shows.For full details and to book tickets for all shows for the Seconds Out + More Tour go too https://myticket.co.uk/ and venue box offices.

About Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Hackett’s intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Wind And Wuthering (1977) including the classic Selling England By The Pound.

After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett’s solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, has demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar. Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognised in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of YES in the supergroup GTR.

Hackett’s compositions take influences from many genres, including jazz, classical and blues. For his later studio works The Night Siren (2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019) Hackett has explored the influences of world music. Recent tours have seen Hackett celebrate his time with Genesisincluding a spectacular 2018 tour in which he realised a long-held ambition to perform the works of Genesis live with his band and an orchestra.The lockdown enforced by the 2020 global pandemic has proven to be a particularly creative period for Hackett. He began by releasing Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith, a live recording of 2019’s hugely successful tour celebrating that Genesis classic together with the 40th anniversary of one of his most-loved solo albums. Lockdown also gave Hackett the opportunity to write and record two new studio albums, the UK Classical Chart hit Under A Mediterranean Sky and the forthcoming Surrender of Silence.

Steve Hackett launches ‘Wingbeats’; first single from ‘Surrender of Silence’ album

and 
Tour Dates for Seconds Out + More Tour

Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett, releases his new studio rock album Surrender of Silence on 10th September 2021, via Inside Out Music. The album features 11 new songs as Steve has been working hard through Lockdown and, for the first time, has completed two studio albums for release within the same year! 

Today he launches the video for ‘Wingbeats’, the first single from the new album. Watch the Paul Gosling directed video here:

Surrender of Silence is released on 10th September 2021 as a Limited Edition CD+Blu-ray Mediabook in hardcover slipcase, Standard CD Jewel case, Gatefold 2LP+CD & LP-Booklet and Digital Album via Inside Out Music. Pre-order now here: https://stevehackett.lnk.to/SurrenderOfSilence

Hot on the heels of his classical-acoustic travelogue Under A Mediterranean Sky, which was released in January and hit Number 2 in the UK Classical Album Chart, Surrender of Silence is a further exploration of Hackett’s love of world music, discovering different sounds, moods and textures to deliver a rock album of extraordinary variety, power and beauty.

As with Under A Mediterranean Sky, Surrender of Silence was also recorded during Lockdown and, again, Hackett has called upon some of his musical friends from across the world to contribute. Hackett’s regular touring band of Roger King (keyboards, programming and orchestral arrangements), Rob Townsend (sax, clarinet), Jonas Reingold (bass), Nad Sylvan (vocals) and Craig Blundell (drums) are supplemented by Phil Ehart and Nick D’Virgilio (drums), the vocal talents of Amanda Lehmann, Durga and Lorelei McBroom, Christine Townsend (violin, viola), Malik Mansurov (tar) and Sodirkhon Ubaidulloev (dutar).

This new album is full-on electric…

“Lockdown cobwebs are blown away in one fell-swoop here!” says Steve Hackett. “With the monster rhythm section of Jonas, Craig, Nick and Phil along with Rob’s soaring sax and bass clarinet, Nad, Amanda and myself on vocals, Roger’s darkly powerful organ and my guitar, we plunge full-pelt into that wild release of energy.”

Our journey takes us from the classical orchestrations of Russia (Natalia) to the plains of Africa (Wingbeats) to mysterious Eastern shores (Shanghai To Samarkand), all via the ocean’s depths (Relaxation Music for Sharks (featuring feeding frenzy)). The Devil’s Cathedral pools the talents of Hackett’s entire touring band and features King’s atmospheric Gothic organ and a powerhouse rhythm display from Blundell and Reingold.

Hackett’s vocals have never been bettered and his duet with Amanda Lehmann adds emotion to Scorched Earth a lament for the environmental horrors facing our planet. Throughout Hackett’s guitars add a rich tapestry of colour with soaring solos and intricate weaving melodies.

“It’s a ‘no holds barred’ album,” adds Hackett, “riding that wave, unleashing those demons, dreams and nightmares, all crashing together over the shore.“I enjoyed the power of this album allowing my guitar to scream in joy and rage… and once again flying across those oceans to distant lands. It’s terrific to connect creatively with musicians from far flung places, particularly when we’ve all been unable to meet. We all have a voice in our cacophony of sound and we cry out together in the Surrender of Silence!”

Steve Hackett “Surrender of Silence” track listing:
1. The Obliterati (02:17)

2. Natalia (06:17)

3. Relaxation Music For Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy) (04:36)

4. Wingbeats (05:20)

5. The Devil’s Cathedral (06:31)

6. Held In The Shadows (06:20)

7. Shanghai To Samarkand (08:27)

8. Fox’s Tango (04:21)

9. Day Of The Dead (06:25)

10. Scorched Earth (06:03)

11. Esperanza (01:04)

Steve Hackett shares writing credits with both Jo Hackett and Roger King on several tracks. All tracks were recorded by Roger King and produced by Steve Hackett with Roger King at Siren.

Steve brings his Seconds Out + More Tour to the UK in September and October. Full Re-Scheduled and Additional UK Show for The Seconds Out +More Tour below:

Fri 10th Sep Leicester De Montfort Hall (SOLD OUT)

Sat 11th Sept Liverpool Philharmonic (SOLD OUT)

Sun 12th Sept Stoke Victoria Hall

Tue 14th Sept Birmingham Symphony Hall

Wed 15th Sept Cambridge Corn Exchange (SOLD OUT)

Fri 17th Sept Cardiff St David’s Hall (SOLD OUT)

Sat 18th Sept Basingstoke The Anvil (SOLD OUT)

Mon 20th Sept London The Palladium (SOLD OUT) 

Tue 21st Sept London The Palladium (SOLD OUT)

Wed 22nd Sept London The Palladium (NEW)

Fri 24th Sept Manchester O2 Apollo

Sat 25th Sept Edinburgh Playhouse

Mon 27th Sept Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Tue 28th Sept Dundee Caird Hall

Thurs 30th Sept Scunthorpe The Baths Hall

Fri 1st Oct Bradford St George’s Hall

Sat 2nd Oct Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (new)

Mon 4th Oct Croydon Fairfield Halls (new)

Tue 5th Oct Guildford G Live (SOLD OUT)

Thur 7th Oct Brighton Dome (SOLD OUT)

Fri 8th Oct Poole Lighthouse (new)

Sat 9th Oct Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion (SOLD OUT)

Mon 11th Oct Southampton Mayflower Theatre

Tue 12th Oct Plymouth Pavilions (new)

Thur 14th Oct Carlisle The Sands Centre

Fri 15th Oct STOCKTON GLOBE (NEW SHOW)

Sat 16th Oct Newcastle O2 City Hall

 Mon 18th Oct Aylesbury Waterside (new)                                       

Tue 19th Oct Oxford New Theatre                                                      

Thur 21st Oct Peterborough Cresset (new)

Fri 22nd Oct   Harrogate Royal Hall (new)

All tickets remain valid for the re-scheduled shows.
For full details and to book tickets for all shows for the Seconds Out + More Tour go too https://myticket.co.uk/ and venue box offices.

About Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Hackett’s intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Wind And Wuthering (1977) including the classic Selling England By The Pound.

After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett’s solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, has demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar. Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognised in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of YES in the supergroup GTR.

Hackett’s compositions take influences from many genres, including jazz, classical and blues. For his later studio works The Night Siren (2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019) Hackett has explored the influences of world music. Recent tours have seen Hackett celebrate his time with Genesisincluding a spectacular 2018 tour in which he realised a long-held ambition to perform the works of Genesis live with his band and an orchestra.

The lockdown enforced by the 2020 global pandemic has proven to be a particularly creative period for Hackett. He began by releasing Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith, a live recording of 2019’s hugely successful tour celebrating that Genesis classic together with the 40th anniversary of one of his most-loved solo albums. Lockdown also gave Hackett the opportunity to write and record two new studio albums, the UK Classical Chart hit Under A Mediterranean Sky and the forthcoming Surrender of Silence.

Steve Hackett Announces Release of ‘Surrender of Silence’

Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett, releases his new studio rock album Surrender of Silence on 10th September 2021, via Inside Out Music. The album features 11 new songs as Steve has been working hard through Lockdown and, for the first time, has completed two studio albums for release within the same year! 

Hot on the heels of his classical-acoustic travelogue Under A Mediterranean Sky, which was released in January and hit Number 2 in the UK Classical Album Chart, Surrender of Silence is a further exploration of Hackett’s love of world music, discovering different sounds, moods and textures to deliver a rock album of extraordinary variety, power and beauty.

As with Under A Mediterranean SkySurrender of Silence was also recorded during Lockdown and, again, Hackett has called upon some of his musical friends from across the world to contribute. Hackett’s regular touring band of Roger King (keyboards, programming and orchestral arrangements), Rob Townsend (sax, clarinet), Jonas Reingold (bass), Nad Sylvan (vocals) and Craig Blundell (drums) are supplemented by Phil Ehart and Nick D’Virgilio (drums), the vocal talents of Amanda Lehmann, Durga and Lorelei McBroom, Christine Townsend (violin, viola), Malik Mansurov (tar) and Sodirkhon Ubaidulloev (dutar).

This new album is full-on electric…

“Lockdown cobwebs are blown away in one fell-swoop here!” says Steve Hackett. “With the monster rhythm section of Jonas, Craig, Nick and Phil along with Rob’s soaring sax and bass clarinet, Nad, Amanda and myself on vocals, Roger’s darkly powerful organ and my guitar, we plunge full-pelt into that wild release of energy.”

Our journey takes us from the classical orchestrations of Russia (Natalia) to the plains of Africa (Wingbeats) to mysterious Eastern shores (Shanghai To Samarkand), all via the ocean’s depths (Relaxation Music for Sharks (featuring feeding frenzy)). The Devil’s Cathedral pools the talents of Hackett’s entire touring band and features King’s atmospheric Gothic organ and a powerhouse rhythm display from Blundell and Reingold.

Hackett’s vocals have never been bettered and his duet with Amanda Lehmann adds emotion to Scorched Earth a lament for the environmental horrors facing our planet. Throughout Hackett’s guitars add a rich tapestry of colour with soaring solos and intricate weaving melodies.

“It’s a ‘no holds barred’ album,” adds Hackett, “riding that wave, unleashing those demons, dreams and nightmares, all crashing together over the shore.
“I enjoyed the power of this album allowing my guitar to scream in joy and rage… and once again flying across those oceans to distant lands. It’s terrific to connect creatively with musicians from far flung places, particularly when we’ve all been unable to meet. We all have a voice in our cacophony of sound and we cry out together in the Surrender of Silence!” 

Surrender of Silence track listing:

1. The Obliterati (02:17)2. Natalia (06:17)3. Relaxation Music For Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy) (04:36)4. Wingbeats (05:20)5. The Devil’s Cathedral (06:31)6. Held In The Shadows (06:20)7. Shanghai To Samarkand (08:27)8. Fox’s Tango (04:21)9. Day Of The Dead (06:25)10. Scorched Earth (06:03)11. Esperanza (01:04)

Steve Hackett shares writing credits with both Jo Hackett and Roger King on several tracks. All tracks were recorded by Roger King and produced by Steve Hackett with Roger King at Siren. 

Surrender of Silence is released on 10th September 2021 as a Limited Edition CD+Blu-ray Mediabook in hardcover slipcase, Standard CD Jewel case, Gatefold 2LP+CD & LP-Booklet and Digital Album via Inside Out Music.

About Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Hackett’s intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Wind And Wuthering (1977) including the classic Selling England By The Pound.

After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett’s solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, has demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar. Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognised in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of YES in the supergroup GTR.
Hackett’s compositions take influences from many genres, including jazz, classical and blues. For his later studio works The Night Siren (2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019) Hackett has explored the influences of world music. Recent tours have seen Hackett celebrate his time with Genesis 

including a spectacular 2018 tour in which he realised a long-held ambition to perform the works of Genesis live with his band and an orchestra. 
The lockdown enforced by the 2020 global pandemic has proven to be a particularly creative period for Hackett. He began by releasing Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith, a live recording of 2019’s hugely successful tour celebrating that Genesis classic together with the 40th anniversary of one of his most-loved solo albums. Lockdown also gave Hackett the opportunity to write and record two new studio albums, the UK Classical Chart hit Under A Mediterranean Sky and the forthcoming Surrender of Silence.

Interview With John Hackett – John Wenlock-Smith

In this piece John talks to John Hackett about his latest album, a collection of songs recorded during lockdown in spring of 2020 in which John plays all instruments and produced and mixed the album on his own. The album ‘The Piper Plays His Tune’ is the result, released on his own Hacktrax label.

John Wenlock-Smith: Morning John, are you keeping well?

John Hackett: Yes, I have been doing quite a few walks with my wife trying to lose the lockdown tummy that has emerged because of watching Netflix at night whilst eating chocolates!

JWS: We have been doing that as well. The dog starts barking at a pigeon outside and is removed out of the way, lockdown, thank goodness it is coming to an end eh?

JH: Yes, it has been a tough time for many people.

JWS: Unfortunately it has, especially for people like yourself who have been without any income for over a year.

JH: I have been fortunate as my wife works from home, so I have been able to do a bit from home.

JWS: Well, I am retired now as the result of a stroke which has left me with vascular dementia but I get support from my local stroke survivors group. I have heard your new album and I like it, it is quite mellow though.

JH: Well, it is a collection of songs that I guess you would say is quite melody driven as I have spent most of my life as a flute player, which basically means you are following the tune.

JWS: So your wife works from home you say?

JH: Yes, she is an administrator for the church and she is particularly good with technology, which has been especially useful.

JWS: I have been listening back to some of the older stuff you worked on, starting with ‘The Geese and The Ghost’ and ‘We Are Not Alone’, then ‘Another Life’ and ‘Sketches of Satie’ with your brother Steve, I like the live CD that came with that album.

JH: Well, that was early days for the band, I think that was about the fourth show as a band, recorded at the Classic Rock Society who were very generous to us as a band, allowing us to record that show for posterity. I suppose that album is a bit more ‘proggy’ than some of the more classical stuff I’ve been involved with, especially the opening track Take Control and also the track Winds of Change, in which Nick Fletcher, our guitarist, gets room to play a little. My Brother Steve said recently that he thinks Nick is the best jazz rock guitarist in the country at the moment. High praise indeed, I do not know if you have Nick’s album ‘Cycles of Behaviour’ but it is a real testament to his playing.

JWS: Yes ,I have that album, I have just done an interview and album review that will be published on Progradar shortly. I especially liked Philosopher King, the longest track on the album.

JH: I am glad you like that one.

JWS: I like long songs, it gives them room to stretch and breathe a little, give me a longer song anytime.

JH: Sounds like a song title, I might use that in a lyric sometime.

JWS: Go for it, you can have that one for free.

JH: Good, I will look forward to reading that John, he (Nick Fletcher) and I have a lot in common. He has spent a lot of time as a classical guitarist and I have spent a lot of my time as a classical flautist, although we both love rock music and we both feel comfortable working in both fields. I used to think that I had to make a choice, one or the other, but Nick and I both feel that they can feed off each other, in that you can apply some of the techniques used in classical pieces in the rock stuff. Really, the rock stuff benefits from playing the classical pieces too, with the rock stuff you are always thinking about keeping it strong and I think that background can really help in with the energy and direction you create.

Nick and I worked together on the ‘Beyond The Stars’ album and he had a vision for the album. It has a fabulous long track, That Ship Has Sailed, on which Nick gets a chance to really stretch out, it is his Pink Floyd moment, his Comfortably Numb, as it were.

JWS: So what was your first love in rock music?

JH: Well I started off as a blues guitarist, my brother taught me House Of The Rising Sun and showed me a few bits, then we saw King Crimson with Ian Macdonald playing the flute and Robin Miller on oboe. That got me into learning to play the flute, which I did at University in Sheffield. In 1978 I joined Steve’s band as a flautist/bass player, recorded ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’, amongst his other earlier albums, and toured extensively with him as part of the band. Good times! we still work together occasionally, usually doing a Christmas show at Trading Boundaries in which I play flute, along with Roger King on keyboards and Rob Townsend on sax, that is always a good venue as the audience are at tables near the stage.

JWS: Yes, we have not got to Trading Boundaries yet as it is too far from where we are in Cheshire, although I do have a Downes Braide Association album that has a live show from Trading Boundaries with it.

It certainly looks like a great little venue; we have seen you with Steve Hackett a few times on his more recent tours in Manchester, often with Amanda Lehmann in tow too. I suppose Sheffield to Manchester is only about an hour away?

JH: Yes, not too far at all and it is always great to be a part of Steve’s shows, I really enjoy those appearances.

JWS: Obviously gigging is coming back slowly,

JH: We have our first gig in August at the 1865 in Southampton.

JWS: Are you playing in Bilston at the Robin 2?

JH: Yes we are playing there as part of an all-day festival.

JWS: Will there be a new John Hackett Band album soon?

JH: Yes, I certainly hope so, we need to do something soon, watch this space.

 JWS: Have you had your vaccinations?

JH: Yes, I had those at the Sheffield Arena, I am not sure if the others have had theirs yet, I guess we will find out soon enough. I had to take my shirt off and I was wearing a John Hackett Band T Shirt and the nurse said what’s your T shirt and I said it’s my band, I said I’d always hoped to get to Sheffield Arena as a band appearing, not as an OAP getting vaccinated! 

JWS: You have some nice guitar playing on the album.

JH: Thank you, I was listening to an old Tamla song and heard some bongo’s and I thought I could do with some of those. I went out shopping and I found some in Lidl, I thought that was a sign to get on with it!

JWS: Would you do another album in that way?

JH: I would not rule it out but not yet. 

JWS: Well I think that’s all I must ask you about, thanks very much for talking to me and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

JH: Yes, Thanks for your time John, I’ll drop you an email later, so you have my email too, nice talking with you.

‘The Piper Plays His Tune’ was released 18th November, 2020.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

The Piper Plays His Tune | John Hackett (bandcamp.com)

Review – Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi – by John Wenlock-Smith

When  I was growing up there was no internet, we used to have to use encyclopaedias and other forms of reference books to find out about things. Nowadays, of course, it is all there waiting to be delved into and discovered for yourself.

It is a whole different ball game now, although there was a time in the late 1980’s /early 1990’s that you could ring up the reference people at Birmingham City Library and they would find things out for you. This was especially useful, and was well before Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded what we now know as Google, this company that they founded as students at Stanford university is now one of the world’s premier search engines. Folk now often say ‘google it’ to find information.

I did that whilst listening to this album as it is largely music set to poems that were written by William Butler (W.B) Yeats (Born in 1885 Died January 1939). Yeats is widely acclaimed as one of Ireland’s most famous poets, dramatists, and prose writers, in fact, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923.

Spiritus Mundi’ sets those poems to gentle and orchestral sounding pieces with vocals from Nad Sylvan and guitars from Andrew Laitres, a US based composer and musician, who Nad had worked with previously on his last album, ‘The Regal Bastard’ – The final part of his Vampyrate trilogy.

Nad is joined by some famous guests on this album, namely Tony Levin and Jonas Reingold on bass and Marko DeMaio (The Flower Kings) on drums with Steve Hackett also featuring. The bulk of the lyrics are taken verbatim from Yeats’s poems, apart from the first bonus track, You Have Got To Find A Way, that has Sylvan’s own lyrics. This approach has left the music room to breath and allows the beauty of the words to shine through clearly with the music clearly supporting and enhancing the impact of the words. That intention has paid off excellently giving the album dignity and weight.

The tracks are mainly short and as they focus predominantly on the words the album will take several listens before it really begins to make sense. Having said that, the longer tracks, The Second Coming and Sailing To Byzantium, work the best for me as there are musical interludes within in them that work well. The instrumentation is supportive and sympathetic, you will not find long ego fuelled solos here, you fill find empathy and delicacy throughout. The whole album lasts about 52 minutes including the two bonus tracks.

I think this album is a great, intensive listening experience and will appeal to any who like Yeats’ poems or who are fans of Nad Sylvan’s earlier solo albums as he is certainly in fine voice on these songs. This project is certainly different and a brave, bold move by Nad, as an album this is certainly different and somehow the lyricism of Yeats’ poetry works well in this format and will hopefully bring it to a whole new audience of people. They may find much within the words of these pieces that speaks clearly to their hearts and minds and hopefully leads them discover more of Yeats’ works for themselves.    

The sound of the album is sparse and the space between the words and the music is wide and open allowing subtle nuances to be realised and appreciated with repeated listening. There is a fabulous slide guitar part contained on the last track on the album, The Fisherman, (performed by Neil Whitford) that really drives the piece along.

It is not an album that is immediately easy to access but I sincerely recommend that you persevere as it is truly worth it when you finally do click with it and its treasures and beauties are finally revealed to you. ‘Spiritus Mundi’ is a journey of discovery into a different world, but it is a journey that you need to decide to undertake. 

Released 9th April 2021

Order the album here:

Spiritus Mundi (lnk.to)