On Saturday September 9, The John Hackett Band will perform at Trinity Theatre. Group bassist Jeremy Richardson grew up in Tunbridge Wells, attending Holmewood House School and The Skinners’ School. He was also an active part of the amateur dramatic scene in the town so knows Trinity very well. Here, he tells Eileen Leahy why he is so keen to return to perform at a special venue which holds many memories for him
For those unfamiliar with The John Hackett Band, please can you tell us a little bit about its history?
We got together about two years ago after John launched his last solo album ‘Another Life’ in 2015. He and fellow band members Nick Fletcher and Duncan Parsons performed a number of the songs from it, but the general feeling was that with a bit of bass it could be a going concern.
Duncan and I have been friends for over 30 years and have made a lot of music together, so he suggested I might be worth a look-see.
We got together to see if it gelled and it did, and now here we are two years later with a band, an album, and a whole bunch of tour dates.
What is the band’s debut album called, and what is the inspiration behind it?
It’s called ‘We Are Not Alone’, which is a lyric from the opening song ‘Take Control’. We all felt this was a title that summed up our feelings about ourselves as writers and performers, but also it’s a kind of pact between us as the makers of the music, and those who listen to what we make. The album and the gigs, that’s the point where we are together, it’s a shared experience.
John, Nick and Duncan would all give slightly different answers to this, but from my point of view it reflects my happiness and relief to be making the kind of music I want to make with the kind of people I want to make it with.
I think Lizzie Spikes’ album cover [pictured top right] conveys that really well – the loneliness of a lighthouse shining out into the void…
Are you embarking on a nationwide tour to promote the album?
We are playing a number of dates this autumn in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham – and, of course, Tunbridge Wells.
We then have a little break over Christmas are back into it from the end of February. It’s important to allow time and space for writing, too.
You played Trinity Theatre last November – what did you enjoy most about performing there?
For John and Nick it was a new experience, but Duncan and I are both from Tunbridge Wells.
Duncan knows Trinity well, but for me it’s like home. I love Trinity and have colossally fond memories of performing there in the 1990s with Trinity Theatre Club, The Kentainers and Complete. To come back home, to play to friends and family in that venue, on that stage – it’s just lovely.
I think what is most fun about performing there is the banter with the audience. In spite of writing about some quite heavy subjects at times, on stage, as in rehearsal, there’s a lot of laughter and nonsense – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
If you could play any venue in the world, where would it be and why?
I’m sure the answer to this would typically be Carnegie Hall or The Royal Albert Hall, and I’ve no doubt they’d be amazing, but my first loyalty is, and always will be, to Trinity, and it was the very first name that came up when we planned our autumn dates.
That said, John played the London Palladium with his brother earlier this year, Steve Hackett, the former Genesis guitarist, and said it was the most relaxed he’d ever felt on stage!
Who would you and the band cite as your main musical influences?
Well, Genesis were an enormous influence also on Duncan and myself. I’d been listening to John’s flute on his brother’s albums for a good 30 years before I met him! And I personally started the guitar because of Steve Hackett’s playing, and I know he has influenced Nick too, who also cites Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and Allan Holdsworth.
Duncan would mention Bill Bruford (drummer with Yes and a Tonbridge School old boy), while John loves the Four Tops. What is always fascinating is seeing which of these influences emerge in the songwriting, as we all participate in the writing process.
What can people expect from seeing you perform at Trinity next week?
A surprising amount of fun! Like I said, although some of the themes of the songs may be intense, we are a good-humoured bunch and spend a good deal of our rehearsing time laughing at something outrageous someone’s said.
I may well regale you with tales of smugglers’ tunnels beneath the Tunbridge Wells streets, the incident in Row D of Trinity, or the legendary 1773 Chalybeate Spring riot…
How would you sum up your sound?
Sometimes songs need a little more space to breathe than is possible in a three-minute pop song – a musical genre of which I’m a huge fan – but with our songs you’ll find they have twists and turns, highs and lows, and plenty of drama.
And, of course, you don’t often hear virtuoso flute playing in rock music! Think Bohemian Rhapsody rather than Katy Perry, and you’re probably in the right ball park.
Both you and Duncan are from Tunbridge Wells. How did you meet? And why is Trinity so special?
We met at The Skinners’ School in 1985 and have been firm friends ever since.
Trinity Theatre is very special to me as my grandparents were married there, I met my wife there, and I have performed and directed there many times (as well as at the Assembly Hall) with TWODS. Also the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough and The Stag theatre in Sevenoaks. Both our parents still live in the area.
Local singer Bea Everett is supporting you. How did that come about?
I first saw her playing at a birthday party about eight years ago, and was struck by the maturity and wit of her writing and the expressiveness of her voice. Her material is emotionally honest and tender.
Having Bea play is the cherry on the cake as far as I’m concerned, and I’m really, really looking forward to hearing her again.
What’s next for The John Hackett Band?
Writing and recording new material is always the next and most important thing. Between the four of us we are bursting with ideas we want to share with each other. We’ve grown so much in the last couple of years and I’m really excited about what’s to come. One thing’s for certain – we’ll be back!