John Hackett, British musician and flautist, chats with Kevin Cooper about touring with the John Hackett Band, getting to grips with technology, the recovery of the music industry and his latest lockdown solo album The Piper Plays The Tune.

John Hackett is a British flautist, who along with the flute also plays guitar, bass, bass pedals and keyboards. He has both a classical and rock music background. His early career was mostly as part of his brother, Steve’s band, appearing on many early albums and touring with him until 1983. By then, he had already made guest contributions on other albums, such as Anthony Phillips’s debut solo album The Geese And The Ghost.

He has also played with ensembles such as The English Flute Quartet and the Westminster Camerata, and was a founder member of the relaxation and ambient music group, Symbiosis. He has also maintained a strong output from session work with a variety of artists and projects.

From 2004, Hackett has been regularly releasing solo albums, taking in classical, folk, and rock stylings. In 2005, Checking Out Of London was released, a rock album produced with Nick Magnus, and with the majority of the lyrics by Nick Clabburn. This was followed up in 2015 with a second rock album, Another Life, also with the involvement of Magnus and Clabburn.

Since being in Steve’s band together, Hackett and Nick Magnus have often collaborated, recording and performing together many times.

Since 2012, John has collaborated with classical guitarist Nick Fletcher, performing as a flute and guitar duo across England and they have recorded two albums of instrumental music, the first of which also featured Steve Hackett.

In 2016 he formed a trio with Magnus on keyboards and Tony Patterson on vocals but this was soon expanded to form the John Hackett Band with the addition of Jeremy Richardson (bass, guitars, and vocals) and Duncan Parsons moving to full drum kit. They released their debut album; We Are Not Alone, in 2017.

Whilst keeping busy during the pandemic, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good morning John, how are you today?

Hi Kevin, I’m very well indeed, how are you?

I’m very well thank you, and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all, it’s my pleasure and thank you for giving up your time to find out what I am currently up to.

It’s a pleasure, and I have to ask, just how is life treating you in these strange times?

(Laughter) well I have to say that I think that it is probably treating me an awful lot better than it has been treating a lot of other people. Let’s put it that way because it has been such an awful time for so many people. This pandemic has affected so many sectors, whether it is the health workers, teachers, nurses, hospitality, you name it the list simply goes on and on. These really are difficult times. I consider myself to be very fortunate, because as a musician, I was already doing quite a bit of work from home and so I have been able to simply carry on with that and do more. Obviously, we have missed out on doing the live gigs, especially with the John Hackett Band; we had a whole lot of gigs that were lined up for 2020.

We did manage to get two in at the beginning of the year. We managed to play one in Keighley and one in Sheffield, but then of course when the pandemic really hit, we went into lockdown and had to cancel the rest of the tour. We were scheduled to go down to Tavistock and Penzance which would have been interesting; sharing a stage with Amy Burke. I was really looking forward to that. We also had a few dates over in Europe. We had just got going with the band, in the sense of getting into Europe, and on the strength of that we had managed to play a few gigs in Holland. We had been invited back to perform in both Holland and Germany last year. We had just begun to dip our toe into Europe as it were (laughter). Obviously, all of that had to be cancelled, so I just consider myself incredibly fortunate in the fact that I was able to get on here, be creative and record an album completely here from home.

Before we talk about the latest album, can I take you back to 2017 and We Are Not Alone. You and I spoke just prior to its release.

Of course, you were kind enough to speak with me about the album so please, fire away.

Were you happy with the fan’s reaction to the album?

Yes, I was, very happy actually. The album went down very well, especially as it was a slightly unusual album in the fact that it was a double album. It had a studio album combined with a live album which was recorded at The Classic Rock Society. The other thing that I personally really liked about that album was that we had already road-tested a lot of the material; we had played it live. I think that it was a strong album for that so yes, I was very pleased with the way that it was received.

And it was, of course, the first album that you had recorded as the John Hackett Band.

That’s right, yes it was.

How was it recording together for the very first time?

That’s right; it really was the first time that we had all recorded together. However, you must remember that I had previously worked with Nick Fletcher as a guitar and flute duo. That is how Nick and I originally got together. I first heard Nick playing classical guitar in the Sheffield Cathedral, and I was totally knocked out by his playing. After that Nick and I got together and formed a duo. We played a huge number of gigs as a classical flute and guitar duo, and I had never realised that he was a tremendous electric guitar player as well. It was only when I had the launch for my album Another Life, we were at my house and I was playing some of the songs for him that I was intending to play at a small promotional launch party, Nick picked up the electric guitar and started playing along with me.

It was a case of, ‘wow, I never knew that he could play that well in that style’ (laughter). The rest of the band was formed very much out of friendships really. I knew our drummer, Duncan Parsons, who has helped me get into recording technology. I had played a flute session for him, and Jeremy Richardson, is an old friend of Duncan’s from back in their schooldays in Tunbridge Wells. So, as I said earlier, it is very much a band built on friendships, and still is.

Are you please with just how well the four of you have gelled?

Yes, I think so. What I like about the band, because there is a strong element of friendship within the band. Inevitably with gigs, especially with the kind of music that we play, there are an awful lot of notes, and there is always the chance that things will go wrong (laughter). Afterwards, we don’t have these terrible incriminations; there is no, “you went wrong” or “you played that wrong”. Usually, I will come off stage and say, “sorry I missed that high note at the end” and Duncan will usually say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t come in at the right point” and then Nick will join in with, “I’m sorry about tonight, I played like a bag of spanners” (laughter). It’s all terribly British and polite (laughter).

So, you don’t handout fines like the late James Brown?

(Laughter) no, not at all; I can assure you that there are no fines handed out. Having said that, I once played in a flute quartet with a guy who used to play in the Irish guards, and he told me that he had been threatened with time in prison if he dared to play a wrong note (laughter). Fortunately, we don’t go that far, and we certainly do not hold grudges. It’s live and there are an awful lot of notes, so we all simply do our best and try to encourage one another. I personally feel that is the right thing to do; not to criticise but simply to encourage people. My brother Steve was always like that when I was starting off trying to play both the guitar and the flute.

Steve was always very positive, and he would say, “that was good, now why don’t you try this one”. For years I was a flute teacher, and I have always tried to carry forward that attitude of generally being encouraging to people when they are making their way in music and doing their best. One of the things that I really do not like about the talent shows on the TV, is that people are most probably holding down a day job, and they get up and they try to sing. When it doesn’t go so well, somebody criticizes them. To me, that is the complete opposite of how I have ever approached being in music.

Coming right up to date, you released your latest album, The Piper Plays His Tune on 18th November and I have to say that I have been playing it now for a few weeks and I absolutely love it.

Do you really, that’s good to hear, thank you.

Are you happy with it?

Yes, I am, I really am happy with it. It is a very different album of course, from the John Hackett Band album where you have got a bunch of guys sparking off each other with the playing, because with The Piper Plays His Tune obviously I did the whole thing myself; with the help of a drum programme of course (laughter). It was just one of these things where necessity was the mother of invention. There we were in lockdown and I thought I want to do something constructive to come out of that period. Although you might say that the album broadly comes under the Progressive Rock umbrella, but only just, because it strays into much more.

Some songs slip into an almost pop territory, some of it is more Tamla Motown influenced while some of the other songs are more influenced by The Beatles simply because I have always loved that period of music; The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Four Tops and all of those lovely vocal harmonies. So, there were songs that I had hanging around which I realised I was never going to offer up to the band, simply because they didn’t fit in with the kind of show that we do. Having said that, I thought that it would be great if they could find a home. So, that is how the album came about. In fact, there were a couple of tracks where I had begun trying to write some material for the band. For example, track three on the album, has a more Progressive kind of feel to it. That is a track called In Love, and I have to say that I wrote that particular song with the guys in mind.

From writing to recording, how long has it taken you to put the album together?

To be totally honest with you, I got it all written and recorded in just about six months. Some of those very early songs that I had written, songs like Julia and Clown, I already had them down in an early demo form. I had a click track, I had worked out a few guitar parts, and I had managed to put some guide vocals on them. However, with most of it, in terms of the actual recording of it, it was around six months. For me personally, it was a huge learning curve. I have made demos here before now, and I have recorded flute sessions for people when they have requested them. So, I am used to doing that, and believe it or not I can manage to put a microphone together (laughter).

However, when it comes to me being able to do a whole album, I am usually the guy at the back of the studio going, “could you turn the flute up a bit more” or “‘could you put a bit more reverb on please” (laughter). I’m not usually the guy on the desk who is actually doing it. I’m lucky in the fact that I have other people who can bring their expertise along for that (laughter). It was an opportunity for me to have a go myself, and I can’t say that it was easy. I had an awful lot of learning to do very quickly. Having said that, I know when things don’t sound right, and you just have to keep trying different things out. I had a bit of help from my wife who knows quite a bit about technology. She was able to download any extra plug-ins or things like that. She was also able to reboot my computer whenever it crashed (laughter).

You have mentioned the fact that you have done everything on this album yourself. Did you enjoy it, or did it become a labour of love?

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had great fun doing it and to be honest with you, I feel slightly guilty about that. While I was doing that of course, the Pandemic was on going; so many people were having an awful time. I would turn the radio on at lunchtime and hear the latest statistics, and I have to say that it was appalling. To be honest with you, making the album was something that kept me sane. I thoroughly had great fun doing it. It was really nice being able to control everything and make my own mistakes. One minute I was playing the guitar and the next the bongos (laughter). I probably wouldn’t have done it, let’s say if it hadn’t have been for the pandemic.

But I feel that I was forced into the situation simply because of wanting to do something positive. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments. Like the time I was doing some backing vocals and I was trying to imitate The Bee Gees (laughter). I was killing myself laughing whilst I was doing it, and I’m sure that if someone had walked in, they would have sworn that I was bonkers.

Having said all of that, is it something that you would rush into again?

I’m not sure, I really am not sure. To be honest I am sitting back waiting to see just what the reaction is to this album. I loved doing it, and it really was lovely for me to have an outlet for my material. I have never really made my mind up if I am a classical flute player or a rock musician (laughter). I’m sixty-five now, and I still haven’t really made up my mind, and more to the point, I don’t think that I am going to. So, what am I going to do when I grow up (laughter). The fact is that I love it all. I do like writing Progressive Rock music, I like playing in a Progressive Rock band, but I also love other styles of music.

In fact, the next album that I will be recording will be totally classical covering the music of Bach and Handel. But, going back to the album and your original question, it was great for me to have an outlet for some of my songs that I would never have offered to the band. I didn’t think that record companies would be interested in it, so I just put it out. We have our own small label called Hacktrax, and I was able to do the whole thing, in house. We made the master disc and sent it off to be manufactured. Everything was done from here, from home. It is a real cottage industry. So yes, I really did get a lot of satisfaction from that.

Where did the title come from?

(Laughter) the title, well, I have to say that the title has a double meaning really. Obviously, in some senses, I am The Piper because I have played the flute for some fifty years now. So, there is that. It could well be me doing my thing whilst mayhem has been going on around me. On the other hand, it is also a reference to a track on the album called Crying Shame, which is the fourth track on the album, which really is a song about the environment and how if we are not careful, we are going to end up ruining the planet. There is a line in it, ‘it’s too late to laugh when the piper plays the tune’. Remember, you get pipers who play at funerals, and pipers who play at weddings, but that song is all about the idea that the pipers playing at a funeral really can signal the end of something good. So, it does kind of work in a double meaning sort of way.

I currently have four go to tracks and fortunately you have already mentioned three of them.

Oh yes?

Yes, so I suppose that you and I really are on the same wavelength (laughter). Now that I have said that, let’s see it all come crashing down around my ears now (laughter).

(Laughter) okay go for it.

The four tracks are Clown, In Love, Broken Glass and Julia. I think that those four tracks are fantastic.

That’s great. The story behind Broken Glass is that I had written that song at the end of 2020. I had the first verse written, which was ‘as I walk along the busy streets, I must find a way to remind myself, of all the good things here today’ so you have had the line about the busy streets. I needed another verse, and then, of course, we went into lockdown. So, I started to go out for long walks with my daughter, who was home from university, and of course the streets were absolutely empty. I thought, ‘this is ridiculous, I can’t sing this song like this’, (laughter). Don’t get me wrong, I can sometimes be lazy and will repeat a verse, but with Broken Glass I couldn’t do that.

So, I changed the line to, ‘as I walk along the empty streets’ and the whole song then took off and I thought, ‘that makes total sense’. So, the song is really looking at before and after the pandemic. We are missing the people who we see rushing around. Often in life we find ourselves rushing around, and there isn’t time to take stock of everything and we need to decide just what is important. Then there is the line, ‘and I miss the people rushing round (rushing around), with no time to stare’ which is saying that I miss all of that human contact that we are all used to, which hopefully we will get back soon, and hopefully when we get it back, we will treasure it so much more.

You have briefly mentioned The Beatles. When I was listening to Broken Glass I actually wrote, ‘The Beatles and John Lennon’. I honestly believe that Broken Glass could be a perfect John Lennon track.

Well bless you for saying that. I have always loved Imagine, and watching John Lennon sitting at the piano singing that. It’s absolutely the tops isn’t it? There is no question whatsoever that Imagine has influenced me along the way.

After that, as soon as I heard Julia, I was immediately taken back to the 60s and in particular The Hollies and the writings of Graham Nash.

Really, that’s very interesting. I have to agree with you that Julia has a very 60s feel, and I have to tell you that it was the first proper song that I ever wrote, I mean, other than a few teenage efforts. It was just after we had moved up here to Sheffield which we did in 2001 and I wrote that song and I recorded it as a rough demo. I was playing it when my wife came into the room and she said, “what’s that, that’s nice, who’s that singing” (laughter). I looked at her and said, “that’s me, it’s a song that I have written” (laughter). I have to be honest with you and say that I never knew that I could sing; I had never tried singing before.

So that song kind of kick started the whole aspect of song writing really. It was shortly after that that I recorded the Checking Out Of London album, but the lyrics for that album were written by an old school friend of mine, Nick Clabburn, and Julia simply didn’t fit into that world that we were creating with that album, so it hung around. We recorded a version of it when the John Hackett Band first got together; we tried it, and again, it didn’t quite fit in with the direction that we were going. Our drummer, Duncan Parsons bless him, always said, “that’s a good song, you really should do something with it”. So, this was a prime opportunity for me to dig it out of the vaults and go for it. So yes, you’re right; it is very much influenced by the music of the 60s which I have always loved.

Thank goodness for that, I got it right (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) absolutely, I am so pleased that you said that.

The Piper Plays His Tune is your very first solo rock album. Why has it taken so long?

To be honest, the simple answer is mainly down to me being able or unable, whichever way you look at it, to work with modern day technology (laughter). Just going back to Checking Out Of London, I did a lot of playing on that album. However, all of the keyboard playing on that album was done by Nick Magnus, my brother Steve helped with the guitar, and we had Tony Patterson helping out with the vocals because I was only just starting out on the vocalist thing. It has been a long process of me getting confidence with the singing, being confident to think that I could carry a whole album with my singing. I have always played the guitar, but I have never concentrated on my keyboard playing so much.

However, since forming the John Hackett Band, by default, I am the keyboard player because we have a fantastic guitarist in Nick Fletcher (laughter). So, I have been doing a lot more keyboard playing. Then, I got to the stage where I thought, ‘I feel that I could now manage to play all of the keyboard parts together with the guitar parts and actually manage to get through it’. I have to say that I think the turning point was getting hold of a drum programme that I could use. Technology has come on such a long way and there are now so many drum programmes that you can buy and download, out there on the market. It was actually XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2 Virtual Drums that I used on the album.

I just found that the sounds on that particular software package were the most realistic sounding that I had heard, and they were also reasonably convincing. I was delighted because I sent a rough version of the album over to my brother to listen to, and he said, “the drums are okay” (laughter). I thought, ‘wow, if Steve thinks that they sound okay then they must be okay’ (laughter). For me, having worked with someone like Nick Magnus, who is great at programming drums, I was worried that would be the first thing that people would say, “oh no, forget it” (laughter). Obviously, if you have got a fantastic drummer in a lovely studio and it is all beautifully recorded and produced, obviously that is always going to be your first choice if you are able to do that.

However, I wasn’t in that situation, and so I just went with something that I thought would work. So, for me to be able to get the drums as I wanted them was the bedrock of the album. Once you get the drums as you want them, then that really is the heart of the album. Getting that right and then layering on the other instruments, doing the singing and all the rest of it, and then the biggest problem for me really was the technological side of things, making sure that I could record things properly. I learnt a hell of a lot about compression and stuff that I had never really known. I watched videos on YouTube, most of which I didn’t understand (laughter).

I thought, ‘well, I will play it back. If I tweak this bit it sounds a bit better, and if I tweak that bit it sounds even better’ (laughter). So, I built it up from there. As I said earlier, I have worked in studios with people before, and I know when things sound right, and I know when things don’t sound right. So, it really did come from there.

Putting you well and truly on the spot, what would you say is your favourite track on the album?

I would have to say that, at this moment in time, my favourite track on the album is probably Love By You. Simply because, it is not the most Progressive track on the album at all. But funnily enough, it is the track that people really like. That’s why I would have to say that it is my favourite. I did my very best with the vocals on it, and when I wrote it, I really would have loved to have had The Four Tops sing it. I personally feel that it has that Tamla Motown feel to it but, having said that, I don’t have the kind of voice that the late Levi Stubbs had. I wish that I did but I did the best I could. I think that it sounds nice, and people always seem to be drawn to that song.

When it is safe to do so, will we see you touring the album?

Well, what can I say, we will certainly include some of the tracks in a John Hackett Band set. There is no question of that. However, how many and whether or not we will perform the whole album I couldn’t really say. As you mentioned earlier, some of the tracks are very 60s sounding, and they are certainly not Progressive Rock. You inevitably end up with these genres and people ask, “is it this” or “is it that”. So, I won’t make promises that I inevitably fail to keep (laughter). Don’t get me wrong, I would love to tour it, of course I would, but it is just a question of just what is possible, plus goodness knows what is going to happen next year. It would just be lovely to be back out on the road playing a few gigs; making contact with people. We have all missed it so much.

Why do we have to pigeonhole everyone here in the UK; why can’t we simply say that it is great music?

That would be great wouldn’t it (laughter). I suffer from that particularly because I do classical music as well. Having said that, so does my brother. I personally feel that he could have had a career as a classical composer as well as performing his rock career. He is such an amazing musician. The thing about Steve is that he is self-taught; he has this natural ability whereas I’m the one who went off to university to study music and who had to practice for hours and hours. Obviously, Steve did work very hard at the guitar in order to get where he is. He is a very natural musician, and it has always amazed me how when we did Voyage Of The Acolyte back in 1975, he had all of those arrangements for the album in his head.

He would say, “let’s put this piece there and that piece there” and amazingly, it all came together. I feel that I have taken a very different route; I have worked at the things that I am not particularly good at; in fact I wasn’t particularly very good at the flute when I first took it up (laughter). The one thing that I have learnt from teaching other people is that with most things, if you approach it in the right way, you work hard at it and you work intelligently, you can get better. For example, I’ve been practicing the piano an awful lot more now for the last few years, and whilst I am still no concert pianist, I have to say that I have improved tremendously, simply by practicing and working hard at it. I am a great believer in that.

Putting you firmly on the spot, your solo work, the John Hackett Band, Steve Hackett, Nick Magnus, Marco Lo Muscio and Nick Fletcher to name but a few. Which has given you the greatest pleasure?

(Laughter) you can’t ask me that (laughter). That would be like me saying which of my children is my favourite. What can I say, they are all very different and obviously, I have been very lucky when I look back on my life. I finished university here in Sheffield and I went straight out on the road with Steve after he left Genesis and off we went (laughter). Our first gig was in Oslo; we were on tour playing to lots of people, and it was absolutely great. I absolutely loved it; it was fantastic. And then at other times in your life you have different things. It’s been great working with Nick Fletcher doing the classical stuff. Nick and I have a recording coming out very soon of classical repertoire which I have been practicing all my life. There are some tricky pieces by Bach which are great.

Working with Marco Lo Muscio, he’s an organist and pianist over in Italy. That has been brilliant as well. We have played some really enjoyable concerts in beautiful churches in Italy particularly where the acoustics are great. You play one note on the flute and it just floats away (laughter). Particularly with the flute, you always want a bit of reverb on it, you always want the sound to carry on. Marco and I played an amazing concert a couple of years ago now at Christmas time in Abruzzo. We were invited out to a small village and we started off playing this concert just as it was getting dark. They were telling the story of creation, the nativity, and we were standing in a manger with a live cow and a live donkey standing behind us (laughter).

We were playing to thousands of people, performing this small concert, before they put on this amazing show where all of the local people took part. They put on an amazing lightshow; they had a fantastic sound system, playing all sorts of stuff; classical music. They played some of my brothers’ music; it really was such an extraordinary show. It was something that I would never have experienced here in this country. So, I am very grateful for that. Marco and I did another tour through Europe where we played in Poland, which went really well. So, as you can see, there is no way that I could say, “that was the best”. I have just been very lucky in doing what it is that I do, being able to work with different people, in different situations, and I simply love doing all of it.

You have spent the last fifty years dipping in and out of the business. Have you enjoyed the ride so far?

(Laughter) yes, I have and whilst I can’t say that it has been easy, I think, like a lot of musicians, especially at the moment, there have been periods when I haven’t had much work. My brother had a friend called Ralph Bates, an actor, who sadly passed away in 1991. I used to bump into Ralph occasionally on the High Road in Chiswick, and the first thing that he would usually say to me was, “hi John, are you working?” and I think that it is like that for a hell of a lot of musicians unless you are fortunate to be right at the top; you are always looking to see where is the next gig or the next recording session. I have had periods where things have not been so easy.

On the other hand, I have been fortunate in the fact that I have always been able to teach the flute. I think that a lot of musicians fall back into teaching. However, to be honest, even that has become more difficult in recent years, simply because I don’t feel that there is the same enthusiasm for the arts. That is a whole other subject really, so yes, I really have been fortunate, to be able to fall back on teaching, which I have always enjoyed. It keeps you on your toes, especially when you have pupils who push you when they are playing a Mozart Concerto, and they are rattling through it (laughter). I think, ‘right, I had better get home and practice that and make sure that I am totally on top of it for next time’ (laughter).

Do you think that the music industry will ever recover from the situation which it currently finds itself in?

That’s a great question, and I am sure that it will. With the help of the vaccine and everything, I feel that we will eventually get back to playing concerts. Back in Shakespeare’s times, I’m sure that theatres went dark because of the plague, didn’t they. So, yes, I feel that given time, things will get back to normal, but I think that there are going to be an awful lot of causalities along the way. I think that it is probably, for most musicians, tougher than ever for them to make a living. Obviously, there are people who do very well, and good luck to them, that’s great. However, there are a lot of very good musicians who have second jobs, in teaching or something else and, in a way; it’s a shame that they have to do that.

That, unfortunately, is currently the way of the world, and it is the way of how society views the role of the arts. For example, how the arts are valued in schools, because I am told that in many schools these days, if a music teacher leaves, they are not always replaced. Look at the way, in state schools in particular; it can be difficult to get a school orchestra together. There are always going to be good schools where they do have a school orchestra and all that. However, the days of mustering a violin section in your average state school are behind us at the moment. With all societies, these things tend to go in cycles, and I would like to think that with this pandemic, as a whole society, we would just value the arts a little more.

I am a great believer in the arts for mental health really. I think that it certainly helped me, for the last six months or so my music has kept me sane, simply because I have spent six months concentrating on doing this. I think that with young people, and you will have to excuse me if I go into a rant about it, just stop me, but I personally feel that we lose a lot if children are not given the opportunity to learn all sorts of instruments, whether they be flutes, oboes or clarinet’s, whatever. But to learn music I am a great believer in it. As I mentioned earlier, I have done a hell of a lot of teaching in my life, and I feel it can teach them an awful lot. Even to the point when you see politicians on the TV all ranting away and talking over each other. I think to myself, ‘if these people played in a school orchestra, then they would know when to shut up’ (laughter). Being in an orchestra teaches the children life skills.

What are your views on streaming sites; are you for or against them?

To be totally honest with you, I don’t think that it is an either-or type of question. Somebody mentioned to me the other day that there was an album by Judy Collins called Wildflowers. I had never heard of it; I didn’t know the album so I thought that I would just have a look for it. I found it on Spotify, and I have to say that it is a truly gorgeous album, which was recorded back in 1967. It is a gorgeous album. I found it on Spotify, and I am grateful for that. However, from a musician’s point of view, if you are putting your own material out there, the financial rewards of it are not great. Recently, we have just started using Bandcamp, in fact The Piper Plays His Tune is on there, and so far, that has worked out very well for us.

My wife simply uploaded it from here. I didn’t need to go via a studio; she was able to upload the album from here. Obviously, you talk about streaming sites, and I know that there are sites out there who simply rip-off music and give it away. What can you say, musicians put years of work and money into making albums to simply have it given away. It is totally wrong in my opinion.

(Laughter) I’m sorry for laughing but I recently saw a joke online where a gentleman was refusing to have the Covid-19 vaccination just in case U2’s latest album was in there.

(Hysterical laughter) well, what can you say (laughter).

You have fondly mentioned your brother Steve throughout our chat. I have to ask you, have you read his book, A Genesis In My Bed?

Yes, I have read his book.

What do you think to it?

Firstly, I think that it was very well written. I thought that it was very readable, in fact I read it in almost one sitting or maybe two, but it was certainly in one day. I found it to be a rather bleaker view of our childhood than I remember. But then again, I am five years younger than Steve, so some of the stuff that he wrote about, he probably grew up in a slightly different London from the one that I did. Having said that, I can remember seeing bomb sites that were left untouched. I thought that it was a cracking good read actually, and he put lots of photographs of me in there which I have to say was very nice (laughter).

When I spoke to Steve about the book, I said that I felt that he had been too nice to certain people, who, without mentioning any names, I am sure that you will know who I mean.

Oh, I see (laughter).

Steve said that the people who have done him wrong in the past know who they are and they will have to live with that.

Our father was very much along those lines so I can actually see exactly where Steve is coming from. If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all. Our father was a real gentleman, who sadly is not with us anymore. He really was a big influence on both Steve and I, and his influence comes out in the book, as does our mum, June, who thankfully is still with us, is 90 and still loves going to rock concerts. In fact she is one of the first ones to be down there at the front at Steve’s gigs. Both mum and dad were always very supportive of Steve in the early days, and me when I finally went into music. I originally went off to university to study languages, until I came home and said, “no, I don’t want to go back, I want to be a musician”.

A lot of parents would have said, “you must be crazy” but they were totally supportive, and they always have been to this day. Both Steve and I would consider ourselves to be very fortunate growing up with them as parents. Whenever I look back on it, our dad Peter was an artist, we were living in a two-bed council flat in Victoria, he had an office job and then he started painting in his spare time. Soon after that, he started selling his paintings on Bayswater Road on a Sunday, and I clearly remember helping him to hang his paintings on the railings along there. He very soon got to the situation where he was making more money selling paintings at the weekend than he was making at his proper job, so he left.

He then took over the family flat. We just had the one lounge there; he took it over with all his paints and everything, which must have been extremely difficult for my mum. But, having said that, it was a very creative scene. Dad would be painting away, there would be me and my brother in the room next door strumming away on our guitars plus I was also trying to learn the flute (laughter). It really was a creative environment for both Steve and I to grow up in.

What next for John Hackett?

What next; well there will certainly be more recording. I just need to finish this one work of Bach which I have to record for this classical album that I am doing with Nick Fletcher. That needs to be done. That album will be out later in the year and will be called Goldfinch. It is based on a Vivaldi flute concerto, called The Goldfinch, which is arranged for flute and guitar. It is a fantastic piece and I am really looking forward to getting that one finished and out there. The other guys in the band are doing other things; Nick Fletcher has an album out called Cycles Of Behaviour, which I have been involved in. I did some vocals together with some flute playing. Duncan (Parsons) and Jeremy (Richardson) are recording a duo album which will be out probably sometime in the summer.

I have been doing some flute playing for Amy Birks who was with the Beatrix Players. I’ve played on an album of hers called All That I Am & All That I Was which I was very pleased to see got a mention in Prog magazine. It was amongst most people’s album of the year for 2020. I did the flute playing on that album and I have already recorded the flute for her next album. Amy has very kindly asked me to be part of her band for her forthcoming gigs this year, Covid-19 permitting of course. Beyond that, another John Hackett Band album at some stage, but, as I said earlier, I do like to road-test my material, so that might be a while in the making.

Beyond that, it is my aim to simply carry on with everything that I have been doing; trying to improve my piano playing, practicing the guitar, and trying to improve my singing. I’m the eternal student really (laughter). I always like to try to improve whatever it is that I am doing.

John, on that note, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me again; it’s been great. Stay safe and I hope to see you on tour very soon.

Thank you, Kevin, its good of you to give up your time to find out just what we are up too. Take care and make sure that you come over and say hello when we finally get back out on tour again.