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      MASTER OF DISASTER


      Aussie comedian Steve Hughes spent his formative years as a heavy metal drummer before casting his sticks aside for a career in comedy. While music remains a passion for Hughes his stand-up routine has taken him from open mic nights at the Sydney Comedy Store to hosting MTV Australia and he’s now firmly entrenched in the UK comedy circuit. Despite mainstream exposure realised through appearances on BBC1’s Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Live at the Apollo and CH4’s Stand Up For The Week, Hughes’ material has not been diluted and his unwavering convictions remain an inspiration for his comedy. Likened to other ‘truth-telling’ comics such as Bill Hicks, Hughes has a knack for delivering weighty material with blistering conviction without losing laughs. His ‘Big Issues’ tour lands in Liverpool this month.


      YOU’RE PLAYING THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE GIG IN LIVERPOOL ON APRIL 3RD. HAVE YOU GIGGED HERE BEFORE?

      Yeah, hundreds of times. It’s always good. The Slaughterhouse is the best gig around, it’s a killer.


      COMEDY SHOWS SEEM TO BE BECOMING THE NEW REALITY TV SHOWS IN THE SENSE THEY’RE POPPING UP IN MANY FORMATS AND THERE’S LOTS OF COMEDIANS BECOMING HIGH-PROFILE CELEBRITIES. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS BEHIND THIS?

      Politically or socially I don’t really know, there must be something about it that resonates. I guess the success of Michael McIntyre and others like him with their very natural live comedy shows has made them high-profile and this has moved their shows into arenas. I’ve done one myself in Belgium and played to 12,000 people but I don’t think it’s sustainable. Everything moves in cycles, music and comedy included and I don’t know how long people will put up with sitting at the back of a large arena and watching a screen. I don’t think comedy is suited to playing to 12,000 people. Venues that hold 3000-4000 people are still perfectly playable and these venues are purpose built theatres. Stadiums are for built for sport for god’s sake!


      WHAT IS ABOUT YOU OR YOUR ROUTINE THAT ENABLES WHAT IS POTENTIALLY VERY SOBERING AND TO SOME QUITE DEPRESSING OPINIONS ON THE REALITY OF THE HUMAN CONDITION AND MODERN SOCIETY TO STILL BE FUNNY?

      I’ve often asked myself that question. I guess it’s similar to an Irish friend of mine who’s into Gore Metal, basically singing serial killer lyrics saying, ‘I shouldn’t like it ‘cos it’s disgusting but I like it.’ And that’s exactly what it’s like with comedy and the situations you find funny. I’ve always been drawn to the darker side of stuff and it’s your own psychology and your own existence that draws you in. I can’t say I’m a really laid back, happy kind of guy who gets on with all his girlfriends and then I try and talk about this sort of stuff ‘cos it doesn’t really work does it? I can quite wholeheartedly look at disturbing situations and I’m still not a miserable guy. When people think about these things and start feeling depressed, I think well just listen to me and don’t get depressed about it. It’s only because they’re sinking into denial and the illusion that denial creates is the depression. But in no sense do I actually think I’m psychologically stronger than others ‘cos I can quite easily have a breakdown if I can’t find my phone. Laughter always makes bad news better.


      YOUR ROUTINES HAVE BEEN DESCRIBED AS A ‘FORCE FOR GOOD’, WOULD YOU LIKE TO BELIEVE THEY’RE DOING MORE THAN JUST MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH?

      I’ve thought about that. People ask if you’re trying to change people’s opinions but firstly I don’t know what people are thinking. Secondly, I think I’m talking about things people are already thinking, things they already know. I’m hardly the f***ing bearer of bad news. The media on a whole perpetuates bad news like a business, because that’s exactly what it is. But to make this stuff funny you have to be moved by the tragedy of it so that you actually have some investment in what you’re talking about. So I have questioned how far I can go in the sense of terror or in spiritual ideas or any of the big ideas. Big ideas in the sense of what’s usually perceived as or what you think of as psycho analytical. Because you don’t want to be standing there preaching and getting a few laughs. Sometimes I think who the f**k am I to stand in front of grown men talking about these things and you get a little freaked out. Being an artist or musician who hasn’t invested much time into the normal world, there’s always that childish part of you that still feels like a 16 year old but then you remember, but I’m a grown man I just don’t live a grown man’s life. And as you get older you get more confident. I have to deal with my own personal challenges but all you can do is not give a f**k and say what you want. Sometimes you have to, if you’re doing a TV show, you can’t stand up live at the Apollo and say f**k. But I would never accommodate my material to gain any commercial status because I don’t trust that kind of behaviour. You don’t win real fans doing that, you create an illusion for them to get into. Who wants to be famous and have it based on fans believing in a myth.


      SO YOU’RE NOT A FAN OF REALITY MUSIC SHOWS?

      No, not at all. I’m sure within them there’s people who are wonderfully talent who are then being exposed, but then I think well so what if you’re being exposed you should be exposed for doing some hard work. There’s no set amount of time that it takes for an artist to get good at something, but you can’t tell me after after singing for a year people are ready to play an arena. How many gigs have they done? 12? Well then they’re not good enough to play to an arena yet. Not only are you sticking the person in a stupid place but you’re also asking the general public to pay to watch an amateur. Would half these people even try to be in bands if it wasn’t for the competitions? People should be doing it because they want to make art. Because ‘I lived in a village by myself and there was nothing else to do so I did it so I didn’t kill myself’. That’s where real art comes from. You need some understanding of desperation and tragedy to have some depth. Instead you have five amateurs singing a song they didn’t write with lyrics they didn’t write apparently about a girl. Who doesn’t exist. It’s hardly like Jeff Buckley writing about a girl he loved who lived in New York, because she’s real. She really lives in New York. And he really broke down in New Orleans.


      WHY DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM DRUMMING TO STAND UP?

      I’ve always been interested in comedy just not as much as music, but I was always funny. I guess that’s another point about why I can make serious things funny. Because when you’re a musician you’re very serious, musicians are very serious. And a lot of comedians would prefer to be rock stars or musicians but even if they were given the opportunity they wouldn’t know how to take on board that seriousness, the pensive, moody persona. I’m quite prepared to do that. So I think I can use that type of passion and then make it ridiculous. And that’s probably another reason why I couldn’t have always been in bands because of my stupid side. I just always wanted to get out of Australia which I did do in a band called Mortal Sin, which started the thrash scene in Sydney. I was involved in a good period of music, very organic and alive. And I hung around with a lot with punks a lot which is probably where I get a lot of my political ideas from. I was in bands for around 17 years but then I wanted to get out of Australia again and I knew that if I wanted do comedy I needed to do something to make money and bands weren’t making any money especially bands who played heavy metal in Australia. So this was a way of doing it without having a band. It’s a great power to be able to compromise and in bands you have to. Art is not a democracy.


      THERE SEEMS TO BE A LINK BETWEEN MUSIC AND COMEDY. LOT’S OF COMEDIANS ARE ALSO ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIANS. DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THIS?

      I think in general comedians are sensitive and emotional people and that’s what you need to make good music. You need passion and emotion and purpose. There’s great things about bands and great things about comedy and I’d like to do both. I’ve made a CD recently myself, called Eternum, which is also the name of my band which I’m the only member of. I taught myself guitar while I’ve been doing comedy in the UK, so I did the whole album myself. So if the guitar sounds suck I can just blame me.


      HOW COME YOU DECIDED TO LIVE IN MANCHESTER WHEN LIVERPOOL IS SO NEAR?

      I don’t know my father was born in Manchester so maybe there’s something resonating there. But I’m still back and forth to Australia.


      YOU PERFORM ALL OVER THE WORLD. HOW DO DIFFERENT AUDIENCES RESPOND TO YOUR MATERIAL AND DO YOU HAVE TO TAILOR YOUR MATERIAL DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU ARE?

      You don’t have to tailor it. If you’re speaking to Scandinavians or Dutch for example you just don’t use slang and slow down without sounding patronising. And it depends on what comedy you’re doing because if you’re doing comedy that discusses world affairs and issues that are permeating all these cultures, they don’t have any problem ‘cos they understand what I’m talking about. And hopefully if you’re a good comedian you’re generally funny. To be a good comedian you’d have to be an interesting and funny person otherwise what would make you want to get up in front of people. And they’re all getting told the same s**t. If you look at the international news it’s all the same stories. Like there’s no difference between the newspapers, there used to be but not anymore because it’s all the same people running them. There’s a great quote from an interview John Pilger did in the 70s where the guy he interviewed said the problem with the West is we think we’re so free but we’re still under the illusion that our news is news, while they already know it’s propaganda.

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