The album features an array of musicians from different cultures coming together to celebrate unity and to assist Hackett by sounding a warning in this era of division.
“The Night Siren” was recorded in several different locations, including Budapest and Sardinia, according to Hackett.
“These sessions were all based on masses and masses of complete improvisation,” he said. “Sometimes you realize instantly how to use the recording, or it might take years to see where that jigsaw piece is supposed to fit.”
As Hackett told me in the following Q&A, this album’s plea for peace is World Music for a world torn apart.
A tireless live performer, Hackett and his band are taking their “Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett” tour around the world this year, visiting many areas for the first time. The concerts will offer a setlist populated with both classic and new songs, some of it never-before attempted in a live setting.
TME: Were the songs on this album inspired by some of the exotic and beautiful places you have visited?
Hackett: Absolutely – yes. There are 20 people on the album from all around the world. We have an Israeli working with a Palestinian, there’s a Peruvian influence and stuff from Azerbaijan, guys from Iceland, from Hungary, from Sweden, the United States, the UK and Celtic influences – a whole melting pot. Basically, the album is an idea of unity in every sense of the word.
TME: I love that. You have people from warring nations coming together. I’m sure the significance of that was not lost on the musicians from Israel and Palestine.
Hackett: And that comes out on the record and it’s why they work together. I’m thinking of two people in particular – Kobi Farhi from Israel and Mira Awad from Palestine. Kobi lives next to Tel Aviv in Jaffa – the Biblically-old city. These people stick their neck out. Mira is involved with the Arab-Hebrew Theatre of Jaffa. It’s an extraordinary thing. It deals with issues between the two. It’s fascinating talking to her. They’re very brave people. The Biblical thing is supposed to be “Blessed are the peace-makers.” But it’s actually often “Cursed are the peace-makers.” You know – “Why must we befriend our oppressor?” That what it’s all about and I have a huge respect for those people. They’re at the center of it.
TME: You maintain an intense touring schedule. On your new tour, will you perform material that you’ve never played live before?
Hackett: Yes, certainly. There is new material and some older material that I’ve never before played live – stuff that I’ve been proud of over the years. I just do what moves me passionately. The whole thing combines honesty and energy. Playing live really does energize you. You can get physically tired traveling from place to place, but once you’re on that stage, and those people are going “Yeah, I’ve waited a long time to see this” – you feel it. On this tour, I’ll be going to Australia, New Zealand, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Singapore – all places that I have not visited before, all coming up in the summer.
TME: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of Genesis. What do you recall about your first meeting with other members of the band?
Hackett: The first people I met from the band were Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks. I had been advertising myself for five years and Pete saw my ad in one of the papers. I had played with a number of people before Genesis but nothing really came to fruition. Pete realized I was a completely crazy idealist and he gave me a call. He and Tony came around and I was playing some stuff with my brother (composer and flautist, John Hackett) – we were a bit of a duo in those days. We played a number of things for them – all of which were in different styles. We played some pastoral stuff, down-home rock and roll and some atonal jazz stuff and I think they were quite shocked. They said “Well, we can probably use the first thing but the other two? We’re not sure about all that.”
TME: How gratifying was it when Genesis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010?
Hackett: It was hugely moving. On the same night, ABBA was inducted and there were wonderful speeches by so many people. Many people who got up and performed were older than Genesis, such as Jimmy Cliff. It was an extraordinary evening and wonderful to be part of it but I think we should have performed as well.
The other lovely thing is the fact that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrates people who have passed on. Some people are inducted posthumously, like Paul Butterfield and the late, great Chris Squire (bassist for Yes), who was a great friend of mine. We did many things together in and around his things with Yes and mine with Genesis.
TME: At the ceremony, I thought Phish did a nice job on the Genesis song “Watcher of the Skies.” What did you think?
Hackett: They did do a nice job. We were all sitting there passively as Genesis and I felt that we should up there doing that together. What Phish played is an example of the kind of music that Genesis had collectively abandoned but that I still champion. I have mixed feelings about that. I felt that we should have made a stronger effort to have done something collectively but it’s not easy to do that. Genesis is a very strange and competitive bunch of individuals. We’ve never managed to reconvene the team that worked together from ’71 to ’75.