Steve Hackett‘s descriptions of his work are nearly as dynamic as the music itself. Ask him to detail a song’s creation, and he typically responds with an epic poem.
Reflecting, for instance, on the disparate influences behind “Love Song to a Vampire” — the progressive centerpiece of his eclectic new album, Wolflight – the guitar icon references the ballroom “grandiosity” of Procol Harum’s The Grand Hotel and becomes reminiscent about Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. He compares the nine-minute track to a “relay race,” a perfect image to summarize the song’s winding journey from flamenco to arena-rock to Slavic orchestrations.
That level of ambition is nothing new for Hackett, a former guitar wizard and songwriting collaborator during the prog-rock era of Genesis. But Wolflight is his most varied work in years, showcasing all sides of his musical personality — from classical-rock bombast (“Out of the Body”) to multi-ethnic art-rock (“Coyrcian Fire”) to gentle psychedelic pop (“Loving Sea”).
Calling from his home on a snowy February day in Norfolk, England, Hackett spoke with Ultimate Classic Rock about the LP’s impressive diversity; his songwriting partnership with wife, Jo; and the Genesis legacy.
You’ve worked with orchestral elements in the past, but it’s really an integral part of the arrangements on Wolflight. I love how seamlessly they’re woven into the sound. Did you know early on in the process that you wanted to use a lot of strings?
I think early on in the construction of this album, I thought, “I’ve got to be more outrageous with this and take more chances with the use of orchestra. I’ve worked with orchestras in the past, but what tends to happen is that they tend to do an orchestral piece, quite naturally, because they’re good at that. Its wonderful. Orchestras can float. But at the same time, the percussive edge from stringed instruments is also very interesting. So, there’s something about the drive of that, so I’ve used quite a bit of driving strings on the album — sometimes it’s sampled, sometimes it’s real. It was all real at one time. That’s the important thing. Just because something wasn’t necessarily recorded in real time doesn’t mean you can’t work with it wonderfully.
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