“Greeting the Spectral Morning” - TWR has a brief chat with Steve Hackett and Rob Reed about the recently released Spectral Mornings EP. Photographs courtesy of Jo Hackett.

We thought it might prove interesting to get a few comments from Steve about this project and once again our thanks to him and Jo for organising it whilst in the throes of a house move. Over to you , Steve …

TWR: How did the idea for the single come about?

S H: I believe it was an idea created by Rob Reed along with Christina Booth and David Longdon. It’s best if you ask Rob.

TWR: How involved were you in the recording process?

S H: Rob approached me to play guitar on the track which I was more than happy to do as I liked the vocal treatment they had created as well as the fact that it was a charity venture in aid of Parkinsons. Rob, Christina and I have all lost a parent to Parkinsons. Both my father and his mother died of the disease. I felt honoured to be involved with this new take on old track.

TWR: Were you responsible for assembling the musicians who have performed on the single?

S H: No I wasn’t.

TWR: How did you feel hearing such an iconic piece of your music given such a drastic re-working?

S H: The song was originally written with the intention to include vocals so I was intrigued to hear a vocal treatment of it, and it felt special to play guitar alongside the vocals.

TWR: What do you think of the finished result?

S H: I think it works very well and the vocals are beautiful.

TWR: Did the recording take place in one studio or was it a case of bits and pieces flying backwards and forwards through the ether?

S H: In my case I recorded via file sharing. I suspect the others did the same, but you should confirm this with Rob who co-ordinated the project.

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Steve with Rob Reed and Christine Booth
of Magenta during the video shoot.

TWR: You have stated that Spectral … was originally intended as a song, do you still have the original lyrics (if any were written for it)?

S H: I never got as far as solidifying the lyrics although I had some ideas which have since been lost. I had the idea of writing something with a big sounding cataclysmic theme, a bit like Louisiana by Randy Newman. There is an aspect of that theme in Black Thunder on my new album Wolflight, where natural cataclysm is symbolic of social upheaval. Spectral … was given that name once I had completed the instrumental version. To me it conjured up the idea of the afterlife …

TWR: How did the idea for the single come about?

RR: had always loved the original Spectral Morning and was a fan of Steve’s music. I always thought that it had a great melody and may work as a song. I was really looking for a reason to do it. Both me and Christina ( Magenta) had unfortunately had close family members that had Parkinsons Disease and I heard that Steve’s dad had also suffered from it. So I was looking to do a single release to raise awareness and raise money to combat the condition. It made perfect sense to do the song for this cause.

TWR: How involved were you in the recording process?

RR: I was involved through out the process that had a lot of stages and hurdles to overcome. It sounded great in my head but until it was recorded with all the parts I didn’t really know if it would work.

TWR: How did you go about selecting  the musicians to take part in the project?  Did you have specific people in mind to take part in it?

RR: So I firstly had to select who was going to sing it, and I thought it would be great as a duet. So I just had to find somebody to sing it with Christina. I loved David Longdon’s work with Big Big Train. His voice is of a great quality and his lyrics really thoughtful. So I asked him if he would fancy trying it. So we met up and once we settled on a key for the song to suite the vocal, David set about writing the lyrics. As it was to be song to compliment the charity aspect, I wanted it to be positive.

TWR: How did it feel giving such an iconic piece of music such a drastic re-working?

RR: So once we had a working demo with guide vocals and rough music backing, I then had the hard part of making sure that Steve liked the version and that he was happy for it be used as a charity song. So it was with great apprehension that I sent the demo. I remember checking my emails for the reply and not wanting to open it, incase Steve said he hated it. THANKFULY he loved it. I was always knowing that I was playing with fire, by re working such an iconic piece of music, but was determined to see where we could take the track production wise, without upsetting the feel.

TWR: Did Steve have any input with regard to the lyrics for the track?

RR: No, all the lyrics were done by David, after we had discussed the theme and feel of what we trying to achieve musically and lyrically.

TWR: Did the recording take place in one studio or was it a case of bits and pieces flying through the ether?

RR: Once I had the demo, which had all computerized backing, I set about finding the real players to play on it. David had worked with Nick DiVigiolio in Big Big Train and I also loved his playing, so we asked him to play. He sent his parts form America. I had worked with Nick Beggs and Steve Hackett on my Kompendium project, so Nick Beggs was the obvious choice to play bass. I really was excited to have such a great rhythm section on the track.

TWR: Was it easy working with Steve?

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I’m ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille!
Steve during the videoshoot.

RR: Steve is amazing to work with, and I am so lucky. He is one of the most generous and supportive musicians I know. Originally I was just happy that Steve had given us the go ahead with the track, and it wasn’t planned that he would play on it, but once we had the real drums and bass on the track it cried out for a solo part. So again Steve generously agreed to re play his part, as we had changed the key to accommodate the new vocal.

TWR: What do you think of the finished result?

RR: I loved every stage of making this record. I think it has a great feel because of the players involved and the reasons why we did it. Also I think it achieved what we set out to do, create something that was respectful to the original, but also create something new that would stand up on its own.

TWR: Are there any other tracks from Steve’s catalogue that you would like to re-work if given the chance?

RR: I think Spectral mornings is unique amongst Steve catalogue, and really lent itself to what we did. I really want the new version to stand alone.  It’s strange for me now to hear the original and not expect the vocals to come, so I’m more than happy to enjoy the rest of Steve’s catalogue as it stands

And there we have it, a brief look at the creation of this new version of an established classic. If you haven’t already heard it, support a worthy cause and buy it now. My thanks once again to Steve and Jo for taking the time to answer these questions for us here at TWR.