Q&A with iconic UK guitarist Steve Hackett - further exploration of world music, discovering different sounds

"I feel that music crosses borders and heals divisions. Musicians can help build bridges between countries in that way. My fear is that at this time, the popular music has become increasingly superficial and in this digital world, attention span can be short. People often just listen to part of something before moving on to another song. My hope is that the call of music itself will win through, helped by the cultural diversity of today’s world."

Steve Hackett: Surrender of Silence

Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett released his new studio rock album "Surrender of Silence" (September 2021), via Inside Out Music. The album features 11 new songs as Steve has been working hard through Lockdown and, 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 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...

(Steve Hackett / Photo by Tina Korhonen)

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. 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. In June 2021, released Steve’s utobiography "A Genesis In My Bed by Wymer Publishing".

Interview by Michael Limnios

Special Thanks: Steve Hackett & Yasemin Kaymaz (Head of PR)

How important are the travels in your life and how does affect your mood and inspiration?

Both my wife Jo and I love to travel. Meeting people from other cultures around the world, exploring the history, the wildlife and the landscape of each region we visit is incredibly inspirational. Many songs and a lot of musical ideas have been born on our travels.

Where does your artistic creative drive come from?

I’ve always had creative drive, since at two years of age I began to learn how to play the harmonica! It’s part of my DNA. I always loved to listen to many kinds of music and to explore as many new ideas as possible.

How has the World/Ethnic Folk music(s) influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

With each new music and instrument from around the world I’m introduced to, I develop a new understanding of the culture of each place, from the tar of Azerbaijan to the duduk of Armenia, from the oud of The Arabian and Sahara deserts to the darbuka of Morocco and from the Oriental harp of the Far East to the Sitar of India. I’m fascinated by the way these instruments can weave their magic into my music. I play most years for a week with world jazz rock band Djabe from Hungary, and many great ideas come from that union.

"Both my wife Jo and I love to travel. Meeting people from other cultures around the world, exploring the history, the wildlife and the landscape of each region we visit is incredibly inspirational. Many songs and a lot of musical ideas have been born on our travels." (Steve Hackett / Photo by Tina Korhonen)

Do you have anymore interesting stories about the making of the new album "Surrender of Silence"?

It was a different experience to usual in that most of the musicians and singers sent in their contributions remotely because most of the album was recorded during Lockdown. Having already recorded and released a gentle acoustic album, Under A Mediterranean Sky, I felt the need to express more anguish on this new one, as the world is at such a difficult point with racial prejudice, huge gaps between rich and poor, more dictatorial regimes and individuals emerging as well as the big climate change problems. There is still romance and virtual travel to other regions of the world like China, the Himalayas, the Middle East and Africa, but there’s also a good dose of macabre metal!

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Rock with the music from Russia and Africa to Mexico and beyond?

I hear the heartbeat and feel the soul of each of those places, and both rhythmically and musically I feel they inform Rock in a new and fascinating way. They broaden the shoulders of Rock.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences and the highlights in your career so far?

The most important meeting for me was encountering my wife Jo, who was working with a film company at the time, and I was interested to do the music. She and I are real soulmates. Meeting Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks was hugely significant, as that was the beginning of my time with Genesis.

Why do you think that Steve Hackett's music continues to generate such a devoted following?

My fans always enjoy the variety of music I do, and they usually have a big appreciation of music. One fan wrote to me with the lovely words, “I live for music, and music lives in me”.

"With each new music and instrument from around the world I’m introduced to, I develop a new understanding of the culture of each place, from the tar of Azerbaijan to the duduk of Armenia, from the oud of The Arabian and Sahara deserts to the darbuka of Morocco and from the Oriental harp of the Far East to the Sitar of India. I’m fascinated by the way these instruments can weave their magic into my music. I play most years for a week with world jazz rock band Djabe from Hungary, and many great ideas come from that union." (Photo: Steve Hackett)

How do you think that you have grown as artist since you first started and where does your music creative drive come from?

I always had the creative drive, since I first mastered the harmonica at about the age of four. My Dad was a multi-instrumentalist, and Mum had a lot of drive. They both encouraged my music. I’ve always been fascinated by all genres of music and how they both contrast and connect. The more I’ve travelled, particularly in recent years, the broader my musical pallet has become. I believe that every musical form should be embraced.

What touched you from the Mediterranean Sea/sky and cultures? How do you want your previous album "Under A Mediterranean Sky" to affect people?

I’m intrigued by the diversity of cultures around the Mediterranean, from the exotic Sahara and Middle East, to the beautiful, verdant European countries. I feel it’s a journey of discovery through this magical part of the world, and a way to travel in the mind at a time when it’s very hard to go anywhere.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experiences in life and the music paths?

I’ve learned that, whilst we all need to learn from others and work together in various ways in teams, it’s equally important not to let anyone control you. Following one’s own musical inspiration is incredibly important.

"I’m intrigued by the diversity of cultures around the Mediterranean, from the exotic Sahara and Middle East, to the beautiful, verdant European countries. I feel it’s a journey of discovery through this magical part of the world, and a way to travel in the mind at a time when it’s very hard to go anywhere." (Steve Hackett / Photo by Tina Korhonen)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

I feel that music crosses borders and heals divisions. Musicians can help build bridges between countries in that way. My fear is that at this time, the popular music has become increasingly superficial and in this digital world, attention span can be short. People often just listen to part of something before moving on to another song. My hope is that the call of music itself will win through, helped by the cultural diversity of today’s world.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That boundaries between genres become less rigid and that more people join the wider universe of musical opportunity.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Both passion and compassion.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would love to visit ancient Delphi at its height when it was the important place in the ancient world. Jo and I have visited those ruins several times. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in the world and there is an incredibly strong spirit which lingers there.

Steve Hackett - Home

(Steve Hackett / Photo by Tina Korhonen)

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