presents an interview with
interview written and
Eric Paulos for mwe3.com
March 24, 2017, Steve Hackett unleashed the latest of his album
masterpieces, and this one is a stunner! After hearing Wolflight
in 2015, I thought I heard the best album Steve released since To
Watch The Storms or possibly the best album that Steve has recorded,
but this album is actually better! The Night Siren is an album
built around a concept of embracing diverse cultures, sounding the
bell of hope in tolerance, in both the social and instrumental sense.
Steve took a year to assemble the tracks for this album, sending and
receiving music files from people all over the world and often traveling
the world for inspiration. This material is fresh, bold, bombastic
at times, and extremely tender at other times. Steve's formula melds
medieval, classical, exotic instrumentation and musical programming,
with an amazing display of guitar chops within a variety of various
styles. Whether this album is classified as progressive rock, cinematic
heavy metal, alternative, or ambient soundscapes with beautiful vocals,
the material is laid down here in a memorable format. The material
can move from barely a whisper to an all-out sonic assault in seconds,
and after my first listen, I was left with the feeling that I had
traveled the world. An album with a very cohesive theme and much more
powerful when heard entirely in one sitting, The Night Siren is
like taking that feeling from Led Zeppelin's Kashmir,
but here you have an entire album that brings pieces of the entire
world into a rock and roll CD. On
March 21st, 2017, Music Web Express 3000 spoke with Steve Hackett,
who was kind enough to take time during a short break of his world
tour to chat with us. Steve is a rare and remarkable individual who
works endlessly and tirelessly to advance his ever-evolving musical
imprint, and never before has that point become more self-evident
than in this highly ambitious release, The Night Siren. Aside
from Steve's vast musical vocabulary and restless mind for developing
new musical ideas and textures, Steve is at once an amiable, musical
conversationalist. We have had the pleasure of interviewing Steve
Hackett several times in the past, and at all times, we were amazed
at the ease and personal hospitality that Steve demonstrates in answering
our many questions. In this sitdown, Steve takes us for a walk through
his philosophy behind the creation of his latest album, marking his
25th solo release, and revealing the methods behind the production
of The Night Siren and some further background on many of his
other remarkable past projects. The album invokes a broad spectrum
of musical influences that incorporates a multitude of cultural styles,
and including real and virtual bowed instruments that achieves a concept
that Steve describes as "infinite bass." Steve's statement,
which is bluntly political along with the promotion of multicultural
diversity, is written as a plea for the world to love one another
instead of fighting one another. Steves political views may
come across as direct and possibly challenging for some of Steves
fans that have alternative political views, but in the sense that
everyone would love to see a world that advanced beyond its fears
and violence on both sides, the album makes a bold and fine statement.
Steve discusses how he brought in players from around the world to
add Middle Eastern, Arab, Israeli, Celtic, Peruvian, Tibetan, Turkish
and European flavors to the selections.
The Night Siren Interview
Web Express 3000 caught up with Steve Hackett on March 22, 2017!
Im very honored to talk to you and I want to congratulate you
on this stunning album, The Night Siren. The first time I listened
to it, I spent an hour with the album and I felt like I took around
the entire world!
SH: Well thats pretty much how this fits together. There
were several journeys around the world to pull it off really
extraordinarily of course, but the journey goes beyond that. These
days Im starting to think that its about the journey of
MWE3: Yes, absolutely!
SH: Its part of that. Im concerned about that as
many people are. Im just trying to make a difference, in a way,
with the idea of peace and cooperation, getting Israel working with
Palestine, and trying to get the idea across that were all related
and extended family, and get rid of the idea of suspicion, infidels,
foreigners and Sassenachs, and all the prejudices. Take away all of
that and being musical migrants and travel and make friends everywhere
and try and turn people on to the idea of fellowship, friendship,
multicultural diversity, call it what you will, but just say hi to
your neighbor from time to time.
MWE3: You know, its wonderful what youre doing
and musically there are so many original and unique concepts. Theres
a lot to go over, but The Night Siren struck me as being a
response to the troubled times, possibly since the early 21st century.
What things disturb you most about living in 2017 and what do you
make of the shift to the right after the Brexit vote to leave the
EU and what do you think precipitated that?
SH: Yeah, frankly horrified, because when it came to the vote,
I tweeted at the time Instead of leaving Europe, I feel we should
lead Europe, in the interest of world peace and economic prosperity.
I think that was my take on it. I know Im not the only musician
to feel that way, Brian Eno put it very articulately recently with
something that was published in The Guardian, and I believe thats
online to be read, with its corrections strong enough. (Article https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jan/27/brian-eno-donald-trump-is-a-complete-disaster)
First of all, Richard Branson said on the day that the news came in
that we were about to pull away, he said Well thats 3,000
jobs Ill have to lay off myself straight away. So that
was it and I thought there would be a response and people would not
go passively to the slaughter quite so readily.
MWE3: Thats a shame.
SH: Lets think of this... maybe Ive used too many
long words like 'multicultural diversity
SH: I think pro-choice when it comes to dining out,
for instance. Whats the most successful food in the world? Probably
pizza, you know, but the English didnt invent it nor the Americans.
It was the Italians, wasnt it? No, it maybe it was the Berg
Men, or the Etruscans! So youve got to look a little further
afield, wouldnt you, for some of this stuff, but imagine a world
without pizza! Its strange, isnt it, walls are going up
everywhere, and I think it might be a British term, Scapegoat,
but it means basically finding someone to blame. All those guys,
they were there, lets blame them! I remember Mel Brooks,
when I was in New York for the first time. Ed Goodgold, who was the
American manager for Genesis at the time, made us sit down and listen
to Mel Brooks 2000 Year Old Man.
They asked the 2000 year old man, What was the first national
anthem?, and he said God Bless All Those In Cave 13 And
To Hell With All The Rest!
MWE3: (Laughter) So thats where you got that!
SH: Yeah, I know that I coined that at this certain time, because
you can say more in jest than you can by beating people over the head!
MWE3: Sure, and you can say more with music, because music
is the universal language.
SH: Yeah, exactly, music is the universal language and we get
a chance to be ambassadors of peace! We get a chance to show our wares.
MWE3: Steve, does this go entirely back to Brexit? Because
over here, we had November 8th. Do you think that your concerns go
back further in time?
SH: Yes, I think my concerns go back further in time, and I
think that the rise of the right has happened practically by stealth.
I think that the people have seen that the freedoms that were hard
won like the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s... its very
easy for things to get to the point where, I remember seeing T.V.
and seeing students get shot for peaceful protest in America at Kent
State, Berkeley and all that stuff going on. I just saw in London
over the summer, Victoria and Albert Museum had a wonderful '60s retrospective,
where first you had the music with the leading lights of the time,
and then you went into another room and it dealt with the civil rights
issues, the rights of African-Americans and womens rights, the
idea of equality and peace, the monk who sets himself on fire, and
youd watch a film of it, about the life and death of the man,
and you realize that he wasnt freaked out... This was a peaceful
protest where he turned himself into a human sacrifice because he
didnt want to part of this world. Whatever you make of it, I
realize that all those hard won freedoms can be lost overnight. And
Im quite sure that if Hitler were standing for election today,
Ive no doubt that he would be elected in so many countries because
thats whats going on.
So I think its the job of media, artists of all descriptions,
and anyone who can see that were just going on the fast track
to hell at the moment. Im so much a fan of the judiciary, the
last bastion that can prevent narcissism from running riot into politics.
Weve all got to be on our mettle here and anyone whos
got any feelings whatsoever, we need to have a voice and weve
got to be effective. Ive watched a tremendous amount of T.V.
recently and theres never been a time like it in my lifetime.
And the things that are going on here, were witnessing the breakup
of Europe, so yeah, were all going back to the cave and the
trenches. Thats whats happening, everyones being
classified as economic migrants, infidels, any kind of insult that
can be hurled is being thrown around at the moment. Theyre herding
them up in Hungary, and what happens once you start arresting that
many people, then you find that youve got no place to put them
and then you get the final solution like Oh yeah, well it worked
all right for Hitler because he managed to dispense with so
many millions, or you get a situation like Stalin and eventually you
do away with so many people that your wife kills herself. Thats
reality. I dont know if there will be enough time to outgrow
our politics, there ought to be, but unless youre listening
to everyone, youre not really getting the full picture, so yes,
Im deeply troubled by the agendas of those who really havent
thought it through.
MWE3: Very well put Steve.
SH: Well Im trying in the face of not having been terribly
articulate in this area and I feel at this time that the record has
its voice at least with two songs, one which addresses the refugee
situation and the fact that I came from a refugee family myself.
MWE3: Youre from Hungary?
Not from Hungary, from Poland. Were talking just over a hundred
years ago, on my mothers side, Polish refugees allowed into
England, and same for my wifes family. Her fathers family
were Polish-Jewish refugees, who fled from religious persecution.
I was saying to American audiences when I was touring there that without
all of that, and those people being let into England, I wouldnt
be here to play for you now. We will see what happens but we live
in deeply troubling times.
MWE3: Ill say we do! So youre on a three week break,
so youre in the eye of the hurricane, actually able to sit for
fifteen minutes before your yearlong tours! How is the new tour going?
SH: Well it went very, very well in America with the Caribbean
Cruise To The Edge Tour. That was wonderful with great responses
to both new and old material, and celebrating Wind And Wutherings
SH: We culminated in a show in Buffalo with the Buffalo Philharmonic
Orchestra which was an unforgettable moment and totally sublime as
far as I was concerned. I was thrilled to do that and Id like
to more of it in the future. I love working with orchestras, and would
like to incorporate it into some new album material.
MWE3: Speaking of orchestras, in your past two albums, Wolflight,
and to more of a degree in The Night Siren, these albums have
deep orchestral roots and what occurred to me from listening to your
catalog is did you learn a lot from your A Midsummer Nights
SH: I think I did. I was lucky to work with a great orchestra
then with the Royal Philharmonic. Its difficult to describe
recording that album but I was trying to write something that was
program music, music that tells a story, and I wondered if I could
come up with even that amount of music for the orchestra, and although
it follows my classical guitar influences, nonetheless, its
a bit like I liked most of all when I stop and the orchestra takes
it, because then you get to hear the ideas and what can be done when
a great team plays it, so its a lovely combination. Ive
heard it many times before by people who have written wonderful things
for that combination or music thats arranged for that combination
of nylon Spanish classical guitar, whatever you call it, and orchestra,
and its a very warm, romantic, heavenly sound. You can do a
lot with that.
MWE3: Was it Bay Of Kings where you first played mainly
acoustic guitar? In the introduction to one of the tunes on your Night
Siren album, on the Anything But Love track, you kind
of lay out a parfait of really nice nylon string technique. Youve
got flamenco with the nice rasgueados, tremolandos, right-hand arpeggios,
and correct me if I am wrong, a touch of the same tension /release
dynamics Ive heard in some of Julian Breams playing. Are
you a fan of Julian Breams playing?
SH: Yeah, and funny enough, the first recording I ever heard
of Concierto DAranjuez was his.
MWE3: Ah, Rodrigo!
Yeah, Rodrigo, and the first thing I heard, was when a friend played
me the Adagio movement, the most famous movement, and I just got caught,
I fell in love with that. I saw Julian Bream on T.V. playing an unaccompanied
version at one point, and I was marveling at the sounds that could
be garnered from six strings and theres a moment in it for me
that conjured a thousand fountains and I thought This is it,
thousand fountains rising! Unbelievably beautiful! So nylon
is an extraordinary thing, and of course you can use it percussively,
so on Anything But Love, its really the percussive
side of it, the flamenco side of it that I was trying to explore.
Yeah, it was great listening to these pull-offs and all of this great
stuff, it was combination of techniques.
SH: You know, the funny thing is that I dont have any
theory as regards this. Ive heard the expression spoken of before,
rasgueados is it?
MWE3: Yeah, thats where you flip out your fingers and
thats the percussive sound, not slapping, but kicking out your
fingers across the strings.
SH: I didnt know that word, and someone said it to me
the other day, and Im just doing it all instinctively and talking
to Gypsy players about this stuff. How do you spell it again?
MWE3: (Laughter) To tell you the truth, I had to listen to
a pronunciation of it before I could say it. I thought Ive
got to learn what to call that, so I looked it up.
SH: Yeah, exactly. Its a very good word and its
a very good technique and its what drives the rhythms and theyre
quite difficult to pull off, arent they? Consistently?
MWE3: As much as I love the classical guitar guys, the flamenco
guys are the craziest!
SH: They are the greatest guitar rhythm players in the world.
Thats my take on it. The flamenco players
that is acoustic
guitar at its most exciting!
MWE3: Sure, thats wonderful and I really value the amount
of dedication and commitment that you devote to nylon string playing
within your total musical performance. I mean its great and
I really appreciate how much that you really brought it to the forefront
and kept it exciting.
SH: I started incorporating it into Genesis stuff in 1973 with
Selling England By The Pound a little bit towards the end.
Then I think that once I got over that thing about hiring the guitar
and acquiring one, I remember I was doing Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
and Peter Gabriel walked in as I was practicing and he said That
music with the nylon guitar always reminds me of beautiful ladies
(laughter), so thats it. (laughter).
MWE3: (Laughter) Thats so funny! Well, Ive got
to tell you and going from the sublime to something else, something
that I rarely hear celebrated about you is your harmonica skills!
I was just listening to your blues album last night Blues With
A Feeling last night
Oh yeah! Right! Thank you! It is a passion. That is for many years,
what I did before guitar. It was harmonica.
MWE3: If guitar ever fell out of favor and you needed a job,
I havent heard anybody play harp like you since maybe Jack Bruce
and I think that you take it beyond!
SH: Well Ill tell you, I was a huge Paul Butterfield
fan and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. There were several great
MWE3: "Blues With A Feeling", "Born In Chicago"
those were great tunes!
SH: Oh yeah! Those were tunes that I got from him, and then
of course thats Little Walters work and so many people.
I think that Little Walter was the first of the amplified harmonica
players coming to prominence and developing that sound in 1954 or
MWE3: Yeah, sort of the highly distorted harmonica sound.
SH: Yeah, thats right, I believe on the sleeve notes
on one of the retrospectives it said He was tired of being drowned
out by the guitar players so he micd it up and amped it up and
a whole new instrument was born! A great, great sound. Its
all about getting the sound right. It is a very versatile instrument
in terms of tune, whether its acoustic or electric and I got
to spend some time with the late, great Larry Adler. And I saw him
sit down in the same room and hes playing "Rhapsody In
Blue" with left hand picking out the notes on the piano and the
right hand playing the top line on the harmonica. You cant fault
that, its so beautiful. He was a great player, and he was showing
me how to get octaves. I was learning something every day. He didnt
like blues harp, himself, he said that he avoided blues harp because
he didnt want to play an instrument with missing notes. And
I thought that there was not point to talk the master into Less
is More or The Joys of What You Can Do With Vibrato with
all of that.
MWE3: Youve taken the best of these teachers, but its
something that I almost never hear associated with your playing and
it sort of jumped out at me!
SH: Yeah, Im a little bit of a closet bluesman, really.
MWE3: Yeah, I get that, and youre a little bit of a fan
of Eric Clapton I would say.
SH: Oh absolutely, and with "Anything But Love",
you get that sort of thing, but a couple of the solos on the album
I think allow it go into feedback and wail and just not try to do
anything thats driven with endless displays of technique but
just to hang on to a note and let it fly. Im thinking the era
of Eric from around Fresh Cream.
MWE3: Oh yeah, that sort of compression meets humbucker meets
Marshall, and hit the amp hard
its a beautiful sound!
Yeah, I sometimes use a Gibson Les Paul to do that, other times I
use a Fernandez.
MWE3: Yes! I was about to ask you that. Were you using your
SH: Yes, I was and do you know who Gary Moore is?
MWE3: Of course, Still Got The Blues, Thin Lizzy!
SH: I just got two guitars of his, and one of them I played
on the last trick, "The Gift", and thats his guitar.
I bought that, and figured that it had been in the hands of a great
guitar player and I was playing that live on the American tour.
SH: There are people I speak to over there who dont know
who Gary Moore is.
MWE3: Youve got to be kidding me!
SH: Well, no, yeah, its true.
MWE3: One of the things that I wanted to check out is that
it seems that you brought this new genre of using bowed acoustic basses
or cellos instead of seven-string guitars to do the chugs and heavy
rhythm bottom and it brings kind of an orchestral flavor to an otherwise
heavy metal feel.
SH: A kind of cinematic metal sound and I think where possible
I try to use the real thing, but we use a combination. Ive got
a great bass playing friend whose name is Dick Driver. We were in
a band called Quiet World a year before Genesis in 1970, and he went
on to work with orchestras, hes a great player, and I said to
him You know, the thing about orchestral basses, particularly
when there are several playing at once, it gives you the impression
of infinite bass, whereas when youre looking for the sharp
turn of the kind of sounds that evinced by the late, great Chris Squire,
who I got to work with a number of times, where youve got bottom
and top, youve got that sharp definition of that bell-like clang
thats somewhere between big band and a piano. That lovely sound
is one type of bass, but then bass does a lot of things.
Youve got Jaco Pastorius sounding like a lead instrument with
an almost brass-like quality, but then the idea of orchestral basses
that seem to stretch into infinity because its not really about
the edge, but just the fact that youve got these big, huge instruments
that float off into space like the Queen Mary, and then youve
got the percussive side of that being explored by Stravinsky and Bernard
Hermann with Psycho and all of that stuff, so we can take those
things, those sounds and then distort them up more fully with a bunch
of guitars. I love that combination of guitar-sounding, slightly bowed
and slightly brassy and strings having that brassy quality too, and
fusing them into a small battalion coming at you! I love that.
MWE3: Me too, and the gift that the traditional progressive
rock brought with the fusion of rock and classical music is something
that I think is very elevated, and attributed in your work. I wish
that there were more of this.
SH: I think that more people would do it in time because someone
is going to demonstrate that it is possible. I know Im not the
first, but the combination of what different strings can do together,
that doesnt have to be bourgeois, and it doesnt have to
be delinquent... theres someplace in the middle, a kind of fusion.
MWE3: Yes, theres also some work that you do with backwards
guitar on several of the tunes.
Yeah, there are some backwards moments, Im glad you like those.
I come back to those quite a lot. I was hearing some Harvey Mandel
and hearing some very good backwards stuff, which makes me think This
is interesting, lets hear it again and not be dismissive of
MWE3: I was wondering because when I listen to "Are You
Experienced" by Jimi, which is probably the most in-your-face
since George Harrison did it on "Tomorrow Never Knows",
and "Im Only Sleeping".
SH: Beautiful guitar work.
MWE3: You have several examples on The Night Siren.
SH: Yes, "Fifty Miles From The North Pole" has got
it and also "Skeleton Gallery" that has backwards guitar.
MWE3: Do you actually need to take time in advance to think
Okay, I want this part to play at the beginning, so Ill
do this part at the end of my solo, and then play it backwards
or do you just improvise and find the best line? Because it almost
sounds like it was constructed.
SH: Yeah, we do a lot of editing, not in all cases, sometimes
the spontaneous gesture is enough, and then you get that serendipity.
In other words, it just happens to fit, other times we manipulate
it a little bit more and sometimes a lot more, but the simpler the
idea, the more flexible you can make it.
MWE3: Theres so much work that youve dedicated
to this album. Youve taken all of these different, cultural
influences, like the tar and that beautiful Celtic instrument, what
is it called?
SH: Oh yeah, the Uilleann pipes, thats Troy Donockley,
who currently plays with a band called Nightwish, who are very famous,
particularly in the Scandinavian area. Hes a phenomenal player
who plays that stuff at the end, and we kind of re-orchestrated it
or, rather Roger King did with me cheering him on from the wings,
so thats where that track finds its focus I think, with the
elegiac playing that he does.
MWE3: Yes, "Fifty Miles From The North Pole" was
really stunning in the way that the tune was written. You had mentioned
that there was a faded-in trumpet solo from one of your singers that
you recorded with, is that right?
SH: Something like that. A guy called Ferenc Kovács,
who works with a band called Djabe, and he played both trumpet and
violin. He plays violin in the Gypsy style, and Ive worked with
him with that in the past. He was recording something with himself
and his daughter playing didgeridoo, quite a long solo, and I originally
recorded that at the time of the Wolflight sessions but we
couldnt find a moment or a picture to assimilate that to, we
couldnt find a frame for it really so it was a loose piece of
the jigsaw to be completed. So I thought when we were working on this
idea of the "Fifty Miles", having visited Iceland and having
been somewhere and never saw it in daylight and covered in snow, and
where we came and went and it was still the same. Nonetheless, I thought
the bleakness of the landscape, the mountains and all of that, this
trumpet player blew it very, very lightly with a mute on the thing,
and it almost sounds like a baby gurgling, and its very uncharacteristic
of what I think of when I think of trumpet players. I know that John
Nugent, who organizes the Rochester Jazz Festival is a phenomenal
sax player says that Ferenc is the king of Hungary! He plays in this
style which is extraordinary, and then he opens up and blows harder,
you realize its trumpet. But its precisely the opening
moment where the instrument is used at its least bombastic, that makes
you think hes reinvented his instrument like Jaco
Pastorius reinvented bass for us all. Its where someone points
in a direction and you dont recognize the source from something
that you think of thats going to be played in a traditional
style and its been reinvented in front of your eyes. Were
also talking about harmonica players that have done the same thing.
Of course, people never recognize harmonica when its treated
in that way unless they have cognizance.
Those special kind of people.
SH: People that blow you away.
MWE3: Did you co-write "West To East" with Jo?
SH: Yes, its very much a collaborative effort. Ive
added words and lyrics to "Behind The Smoke". The tune is
very much initially driven by her and then inputted by me, and some
of the stuff I used was from a Shamanic experience that she had. She
took two Shamanic workshops.
SH: Whats on the chorus of "West To East" was
actually stuff that when she came out of these two workshops that
I participated in. She came up with this amazingly eloquent stuff,
and I latterly said to her I think we should use this. This
addressed the very issue that you want to talk about, world
peace, and there being enough for everyone and the idea of greed versus
need, and the idea of getting people working together from all over
the globe, Israel and Palestine, and casting a very wide net to get
as many diverse cultures represented inasmuch as a few, handful of
people could to at the center of it. But there are twenty people on
the album from all over the world, Malik Mansurov once again, from
Azerbaijan, playing the tar. In some ways, I collected data to be
used later. Its a bit like having a lovely piece of a jigsaw
puzzle, but you havent got the whole puzzle yet. The tar performance
was from those Hungarian sessions recorded a couple of years ago in
Budapest, ostensibly for the Wolflight album, but I just didnt
have time to assimilate that into the whole.
MWE3: Theres only so much that you can put on one CD.
SH: Yeah, it was difficult. You couldnt get it all on
one CD, its getting Wagnerian, the Ring Cycle goes rock!
MWE3: Youve got Kobi and Mira that also sing on that
SH: Thats right, Kobi, quite right.
MWE3: Were you conscious at all of a touch of a Pink Floyd
feel in the tune?
SH: I think that some of it came out that way. Theres
one point where I left the repeat echoes in on the verse. I thought
it sounded too Pink Floyd, then I took them out and I thought it sounded
too stark and I thought Id leave it in even if people go with
Pink Floyd, because it just seems to work. Because of the idea of
the distance between the earth and the ground so it needed to have
that, and it needed to echo up to the clouds.
MWE3: You know, another way that you bring emotions into the
music is that you will have a clean guitar part with compression and
chorus, and this to me imparts the illusion of sunlight, toward the
end, because its kind of like the way that the sound reflects
the way off the triangle wave is like the way that sunlight reflects
off the ripples of water.
SH: Yeah, its interesting, I know that when I worked
on "Horizons", the very first recording on Foxtrot
with Genesis, there were some people that said This sounds like
sun and water, you know like a boat ride, and the sun comes
out and all that. A number of people said that, and I got the idea
that from what youre saying. It does have that six-string acoustic
quality, it does have that quality to it, although I tracked it on
this album and I had a couple of them going, but specifically a six-string
and specifically with some effects on it. Usually I had the reverb
off, or Id record a signal with the pitch shift, or another
effect, the Leslie cabinet that I used with Genesis.
"Cuckoo, Cucoon", although I think one of the last times
we talked, you said that your tape Echoplex unit was warbling and
going out on you, and this was what created the effect.
SH: Yeah, I used that as well. I think perhaps there was some
grease on the wheel that drove the tape, and it did a kind of Beatles
effect. It created a kind of ADT (automatic double tracking) thing.
MWE3: Speaking of "Horizons", we had talked once
and you mentioned that the Bach Cello Suite was your inspiration for
the main theme, but in that middle section, was that William Byrd
that influenced you?
SH: Well, I will tell you what did influence me as regards
William Byrd... I remember hearing the piece "The Earl of Salisbury",
and as a kid I heard it and dismissed it, because I heard it on cable
and thought it was insubstantial, then I heard a John Renbourn rendition
of it on guitar, and I thought it was absolutely beautiful. Terry
Cox is playing glockenspiel and what a magic combination that is!
Then I went out and bought myself a glockenspiel and it eventually
got used on Voyage Of The Acolyte, of course. "Horizons"
was deliberately short, about the same length as the William Byrd
piece. I dont think it owes anything musically to William Byrd,
but the length of it is that short little length, a little Tudor-inspired
piece. Its around that time, isnt it? Year 1500 meeting
1685, birth of Bach, so within that 100 year framework, perhaps.
MWE3: Speaking of "Shadow Of The Hierophant", I think
I watched a video of a concert where Roger King sits on the floor
and starts pressing the Moog Taurus bass pedals, and it gets louder
and more menacing.
SH: It gets very menacing. Actually Roger starts it off with
a sort of glockenspiel, chime sample thing, and then its Nick
Beggs (bass) who sits on the floor and plays the bass pedal part.
He prefers to play it sitting down which is understandable because
its a very busy part and yeah, he really goes in it! Its
a really theatrical moment and weve turned it into a drum solo
so that the drums play as polyrhythmically and contrarily as possible
against it. Theres an invisible click track to keep us all in
time, and it can be quite difficult to maintain and hold the line
whilst these various things are going on, the assault chorus thats
going on. It goes from a whisper to a roar, of course, or a tinkle
to a flood. Its a huge crescendo and it seems to probably be
the favorite piece of audiences, if not the favorite piece, then one
of them. It just seems to really get everyone going, particularly
if youve never heard it before in your life, it cant get
any bigger, it cant get any louder
and then it does. And
it repeats and repeats and repeats, but its a compelling chord
sequence I like to think.
a track-by-track analysis of The Night Siren
"Behind The Smoke"
This is a tune by Steve & Jo Hackett and Roger King, which
draws its main inspiration from the messages and experience of several
Shamanic workshops that Jo attended. The tune opens with Steve's haunting
voice teasing vocal lines against the chord outlines of an Arabian
oud, all rising up on an infinite terrascape that seems to at once
exude echoing words of the ages that traverse turbulent social times.
Steve's vocal here reminded a bit of Ozzie Osbourne's vocal in "War
Pigs". Tympanis and chugging acoustic cellos ingeniously and
defiantly take their places in the exact spots where one might otherwise
expect to hear chugging seven-string guitars blasting out a middle-Eastern
flavored phrygian chord theme, establishing a "cinematic"
metal experience, not a heavy metal experience. Partly tormented and
partly resigned seems the mood, as the main theme's thunder yields
to a transitional piano segment to land upon a new mantra, played
by on an Iranian tar. The tune churns from a statement that is not
unlike a primal screen set against vast mountainscapes, and whipped
into a frenzy with vocals and lines of brilliant electric guitar playing,
including some very tasty arpeggio lines that have a distant sound,
and eventually reaches the ending in the form of a low sustained orchestral
note that seems to play on into infinity.
A tune reminiscent of '60s psychedelia, perhaps inspired by the
Beatles, or perhaps reminiscent of Keith Relf's vocals in the Yardbirds
"What Do You Want", and faithfully supplied with sitar,
and plenty of flashy riffs and chords that seem to bend toward the
heavens. Steve's gentle, yet other worldly vocal choruses produces
a track that morphs from a whimsical, almost "pop" sound
into a vast and mysterious caldron of otherworldly ones, with a chorus
about isolation "Martian Sea, no empathy". Another love
gone wrong song! Steve provides a blistering main guitar solo and
effects that combine percussive, hammering double stops and adds some
wild touches with the whammy pedal. The latter part of the tune brings
a building up of thundering drum rhythm, courtesy of Nick D'Virgillio,
augmented with a huge sounding cinematic drone, and a symphony of
world instruments hosting interplay of sitar Steves picturesque
backwards guitar lines, with an Arabian oud, flutes, and everyone
happily laying down their sonic lot in an all out free for all! A
very fun tune!
"50 Miles From The North Pole"
Colors from the Celtic. A tune by Steve & Jo originally recorded
at the time of the Wolflight sessions, the tune is based on
a trip to Iceland and the extreme weather environment there and six
month day/night cycles. The intro, flavored by the sound of the digeridoo,
gives way to a a hip, urban-type groove, helped along by a memorable
riff from of a certain cold-war era British spy whom we all know.
There are highly-treated vocals that give the chilling effect of a
cold wind blowing, and breaks that add to the album's overall charm
and seem to suspend time and reality, peppered with ghostly vocals
and aggressive hits of searing lead guitar, a ferocious backwards
guitar solo, that segues into a slow building crescendo where Ferene
Kovács imparts a very mildly blown trumpet that sounds for
a moment almost like a baby crying, then the tune resumes with heavy
layers of echoed vocals and cinematic orchestration.
A highly charged and dramatic instrumental, this tune may say
more by not including lyrics than if it had included them. The symbolism
in the title selection may or may not reflect the overall message
and theme of the album, but the thunderous instrumentation of this
driving and tumultuous tune certainly implies that message. When we
reviewed the record, the surround version of the album was not yet
released, but a 5.1 surround system is rumored to convey the feeling
of being right in the eye of a huge storm. The tune is short and forceful,
with some great guitar work and thoughtful chord changes that lend
homage to the legend that the reason Brits play such interesting music
is because they are all taught classical music appreciation from very
"Other Side Of The Wall"
A beautifully pastoral composition inspired by Steve & Jo's
visit to a garden in Wimbledon. Their encounter of a stately old,
brick wall in a garden led Steve and Jo to imagine a love story that
perhaps, as Steve paraphrases, took place in another century about
a forbidden love. The tune is primarily played on nylon string classical
guitar and twelve string guitar, slightly reminiscent of "Horizons"
or "Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man" from Genesis' Foxtrot.
Vocals are nicely covered by Steve. The song ends with a symphony
of vocal layers to suspend the brick wall's story in time.
"Anything But Love"
Another story of love gone wrong. Steve's introduction on the
tune is a stunning display of nylon-string flamenco guitar pyrotechnics,
as we are treated to a full minute of wonderful flamenco playing,
peppered with percussive guitar rhythms, rasgueados, arpeggios and
pulloffs before the other instruments come in. The tune commences,
the Flamenco gives way to electric guitar and Steve crowns the ending
of the tune with one of the best solos on the album, played in an
early Clapton-esque vein from the Fresh Cream era of the '60s,
with wailing lines that sustain forever!
A breathtaking intro played by a charango (high pitched stringed
instrument) ushers a mood piece that was inspired from visits to Peru,
with lyrics written by Jo Hackett. Steve describes this as a "United
Nations of tunes". Drums were recorded on the Sardinia island
off Italy, with a Hungarian band, an Icelandic drummer, and Gulli
Bream played percussion bongos and the cajone box, and there was sample
data from drum recordings. The kaynar (flute with fast vibrato) with
acoustic 12 string and layered vocals builds yet another fantastical
landscape - I can't help the feeling that Steve channels a bit of
"Los Endos" in the latter part of this tune. The break is
where the drums and unusual percussion sounds deliver the feeling
of being somewhere in the Andes on this Peruvian inspired track.
"In Another Life"
Written with Jo Hackett, "In Another Life" is one of
the tunes that starts off acoustically, and was written in the tradition
of a Scottish Folk song and sung as a ghost of a soldier during a
troubled time, who loses his family and fights to the finish, knowing
he is going to die, Roger King's orchestration really shines here
in the prologue of this tune and provides a beautiful background,
assisted by Amanda Lehman on vocals and Troy Donockley, who performs
the melodic lines on uilleann pipe.
"In The Skeleton Gallery"
Titled by Jo, written by Steve. Slow smoking tune, not unlike
the "Darktown" melody. This tune hits the ground running
like a modern day "Kashmir", with a neo-70s Turkish, Arabic,
psychedelic touch. The romantic and scary parts about being a child
and imagining you had a spaceship into the world of dreams. The "Behind
The Smoke" guitar solo reprises here with orchestration. Steve
unleashes the next section that goes completely over the top with
a cello chords that plays rhythm section that morphs into the sounds
of marching in the streets and admonishment to wake up, followed by
a ferocious guitar solo, and capped by Rob Townsend's short but epic
soprano saxophone solo.
"West To East"
This is one of the two final tunes and a "cooling off"
tune that was inspired by Jo Hackett from a Shaman experience. The
obvious message from this tune is peace among nations. As Steve relates,
the The Arab-Hebrew Theatre of Jaffa that performs plays about bringing
separates sides together, was also an inspiration for this tune, that
really marks the end of the album's message. This tune's verses move
along in a part folk-tune, part protest song mode, that yield to full
kumbaya choruses, in the highly spiritual sense, graced with a touch
of high choral choir sounds in the background and a rhythm guitar
whose sound evokes images of sunlight reflecting from different spots
on gentle waves. Steve's electric guitar treatments are sublime, especially
the climbing chord arpeggios.
A surprising addition of a boldly gorgeous short track written
by Leslie Bennett and Benedict Fenner, beautifully textured as a theme
that moves along a repeating harmonic minor progression. Steve's guitar
is reminiscent to me here of Jeff Beck's "The Final Peace",
but the treatment is Steve's signature approach to melody and perhaps
on this short piece can some of Steve's most expressive electric guitar
work be found. This track is the final epilog that closes the album.
Well done, Steve!