John Hackett Details New Album With Nick Fletcher

John Hackett is no stranger to duo records, as "Sketches Of Satie" might suggest, yet if that one saw him interpreting classical oeuvre in the company of a certain sibling, the album the renown flautist is to issue via Esoteric Antenna on October 12th with guitarist Nick Fletcher inhabits a prog-rock domain. Picking up where JOHN HACKETT BAND’s "We Are Not Alone" left off – although the two musicians found their special rappiort much earlier, having already released two joint CDs – “Beyond The Stars” will add some heaviness to adventurous moves; that’s why there are drummer Wayne Proctor, last heard on KING KING’s "Exile And Grace", and six-string bassist Simon Hall to help create a well-rounded sound on eight songs and one instrumental which often veer away from the work’s principal genre to draw on symphony and jazz. While, in Hackett’s words, it’s not a concept album per se, it has particular themes running through, especially of travel – whether in a car, on a ship or hurtling through space.


Beyond The Stars

Asked to detail what’s going on there, John explained the thought behind each of the record’s tracks, and also noted:
“The striking album cover looking out beyond the stars is a painting by Nick’s talented daughter Katherine. The liner notes also contain a wonderfully atmospheric painting of an old sailing ship by our late father, Peter Hackett.”

1. Beyond The Stars
    “Originally we weren’t sure if this should be a song or an instrumental until I managed to get some words to sit with the slightly unusual metre. The lyrics deal with the idea of how we are made up of dust from faded stars, and that is how we will return to the universe – ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”

2. A Horse Named Cadillac
    “Nick had this fantastic guitar riff which I heard as a gunslinger theme from a western. This led to my lyrics about a lawman riding out at high noon in the belief that, ‘the good guys win in this part of town.’ The whistling at the end of the track in true spaghetti western style was an afterthought, but people liked it so it stuck.”

3. A Time In Place
    “This is all Nick’s composition. With its twisting and catchy time signature changes, it has recently become an important part of the JOHN HACKETT BAND live set. It has some great harmonic and rhythmic shifts in the melody. Listen out for the spectacular drum solo near the end by Wayne Proctor.”

4. Leaving It All Behind
    “I was trying to capture the kind of wistful reminiscing you get in a lot of those old Art Garfunkel recordings. It is a memory of happy times and the fear that it might not last forever. I have to mention the fabulous fretless bass-playing by Simon Hall. This was exactly how I had always imagined the song – gentle rolling guitars and the bass as another voice weaving around the main vocal as the vehicle travels on.”

5. The Spyglass
    “A satirical and futuristic look at the subject of data theft: ‘Men in white coats, stealing your votes, There’s no holding back, leaving no slack, gathering data.’ The song grew from the fantastic guitar riff of Nick’s, representing a voracious beast, devouring all and any data. And look out for Nick’s vocal debut as the voice of the sinister Director. I tried to get a bit of Bollywood into this one with the flutes doubling the line, ‘It’s all on a screen, there to be seen’ where I was thinking of all those call centres in India where so much information is stored. We are not quite there yet, but the song is a warning about what could happen if our personal data falls into the wrong hands…”

6. Mist On The Lake
    “Nick must take the credit for the gloriously epic nature of this track. When he played me the main riff, I asked what he thought the song should be about. ‘The joy of nature,’ he replied. I thought it was going to be tough to manage that… after all, there is Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. But I had great fun writing the main vocal melody and adding harmonies. Like quite a few of the vocal tracks, this is the demo vocal. I tried re-recording the vocals but I couldn’t quite recapture the same joy I felt the first time I sang it when the melody and words came to me.”

7. The Waves Of Fair Isle
    “The reason Nick and I started working together was my hearing his fabulous guitar playing in Sheffield Cathedral. It led to our recording two acoustic albums of flute and guitar before we even began working together in the rock field. This track showcases Nick’s mastery of both acoustic and electric guitars.”

8. A Sign Of The Times
    “I guess this is the closest thing to a pop song on the whole album. Nick had the very catchy chorus and I kept singing, ‘It’s a sign of the times’ along to it. That led to the idea of a song about the excitement of new love, especially when everything hasn’t gone exactly to plan with the old relationship. I have to confess that all that kind of thing was a while ago for me, so there is a bit of artistic licence here.”

9. That Ship Has Sailed
    “Nick wrote all the music for this and he had the phrase ‘That ship has sailed.’ So I turned it into an allegory about a couple ‘On a ship that’s rudderless, Just like you and me.’ I wanted that slightly surreal atmosphere that you get in ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ – I even added the occasional inverted mordant to the organ part) It was great fun layering my voice with the mellotron choir, then adding flutes which gave the arrangement a more orchestral texture. I should mention our wonderful engineer Andy Banfield who mixed the album for us, for getting the epic sound we felt this track needed.”

September 11, 2018

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