Steve Hackett sounds ‘Night Siren’ for world peace
Guitar virtuoso and prolific composer, Steve Hackett, formerly of the band, Genesis, releases his album, “The Night Siren” (InsideOut Music-Sony) on March 24.
Hackett presents extraordinary versatility in guitar playing and composing, and blends influences from many genres, including Jazz, World Music and Blues.
Hackett has a new show, “Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett.” Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Genesis album, “Wind and Wuthering,” Hackett and his band are performing several tracks from that album, as well as Genesis fan favorites, in addition to material from “The Night Siren.” He performs 8 p.m. Feb. 24, Santander Performing Arts Center, 136 N. Sixth St., Reading. His tour takes him to Italy, Spain, Germany and other countries before returning to Great Britain in May.
In a phone interview from his home in London, Hackett explains that “The Night Siren” is meant to symbolize a warning in what he sees as an era of strife and division.
“I find myself watching the news more and more and getting fascinated, perhaps horrified would be a better word, at what’s going on,” says Hackett. “I’m aware that there’s a tremendous refugee problem at the moment.”
The album includes the track, “Behind the Smoke,” a vocal and instrumental ballad with layers of emotion that focuses on the plight of refugees.
“’Behind the Smoke’ finds its parallel in the late 1800s when my ancestors managed to escape from pogroms in Poland and made their way via Portugal to England, and were straightaway accepted into the community. They weren’t held up at borders.
“I’m particularly proud of that [song],” says Hackett. “I wanted to get this idea of a level of desperation, so I’m singing for all I’m worth.”
The track, “West to East,” reflects on the damage of war and hope for a better world. “It’s the kind of album that ultimately talks about union rather than separation. I don’t want to demonize anyone. I want to meet everyone in the world, and I want to get them on the record. It’s the most multi-culturally diverse album I’ve ever made.”
The multiplicity of sounds on the album range from Indian sitar to Middle Eastern tar, to Peruvian charango, to Celtic Uilleann pipes.
The themes of “The Night Siren” range from personal to universal, celebrating diversity, unity and breaking free from the chains of repression.
“I’ve made an album, which is full of people from different parts of the world,” says Hackett. “From Iceland, from Hungary, the United States, from England, Azerbaijan, from Israel and Palestine. Friends working together trying to show that it is possible to befriend each other.”
Singers Kobi and Mira are from Israel and Palestinine, respectively. Also featured are Nick D’Virgilio, drums, of the United States; Malik Mansurov, tar, a string instrument, of Azerbaijan, and Gulli Breim, drums and percussion, of Iceland, along with his collaborators, Roger King, Nad Sylvan, Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend and Amanda Lehmann. Additional musicians are Christine Townsend, violin; Dick Driver, double bass, and Troy Donockley, Celtic Uilleann pipes.
Hackett believes music is a powerful medium that can change the world. “All these different places, they have their influence. The new album basically demonstrates that people can work together.”
What sounds like a chorus of children on the intriguing track, “Fifty Miles from the North Pole,” is actually Hackett and his sister-in-law, Amanda Lehmann, whose voices were processed. Hackett’s main songwriting team is himself, his wife, Jo Lehmann, and Roger King.
Although Hackett has not traveled to war-torn regions, he has gotten involved, such as in the late 1980s, when refugees were fleeing Vietnam in boats to Hong Kong, only to be sent back.
“I started to think about repatriation,” says Hackett. “We decided to try to help with the screening process so that people were no longer classified as economic migrants. The genuine refugees benefited from the lawyers that we were able to send out in order to aid that process.
“Since that happened, compassion fatigue seems to have set in once more, with the West adopting a kind of fortress-mentality.”
Referring to the present-day Syrian crisis, he says, “Having interfered with the politics of those countries in the first place, but yet not providing a solution destroyed the economic infrastructure. So, I feel there is some responsibility here.
“What we’ve got to do is get back to that idea of peace on earth, and friendship and fellowship and all those old things that sound so unfashionable but are so desperately needed today.
“I’m hoping that people start to listen to each other. War is never the answer.”