Scotland's Hue and Cry have been bringing their blue eyed soul to the masses since 1986. Consisting of brothers Pat and Greg Kane, the pair have weathered the storms of changing times, coming back together for good in 2005 following their success on ITV programme 'Hit Me Baby One More Time'. About to head out on the road on another round of dates in support of latest release 'Pocketful Of Stones', we sat down with Pat for a chat about the disc, their forthcoming shows, and reclaiming the eighties. Seduced and abandoned; Eamon O'Neill.
Hi Pat, how are you today?
I’m all right; I’m midway through my coffee, so I’ll be reviving as we speak! I’ll send you some caffeinated vibes.
You’re about to kick off another round of live dates starting in Ireland; are you looking forward to the shows?
Very much so. We were snowed out the last time [the original dates were postponed because of Storm Emma]. We always love playing Belfast and Dublin. The part of Scotland that we’re from is a town called Coatbridge, which is quite a big place for Irish emigres of all kinds, so it’s always great fun to be back in Ireland. I think we’re playing in Belfast at The Empire, which I have very, very strong memories of, of Saturday nights being more than a bit nuts, in a good way! I don’t think I’ve seen people who know how to enjoy their Saturday nights more than Belfasters; they’d even put Glaswegians to shame, I think.
What were your experiences of playing in Ireland like prior to the band’s reformation in 2006?
The most extraordinary thing we ever did in Belfast is we were on the Gerry Kelly show, and it was Friday night live, and the Reverend Ian Paisley was one of the guests on the show, and they asked us to change the lyrics of ‘Looking For Linda’ because it has all these references to Paisley - the town - in it. “Is this one for Paisley? Oh you've got to help me”; you know, we were going to be completely misinterpreted under the circumstances, so we changed it to; “Does this make you crazy? Oh you’ve got to help me”!
It’s ironic that you had to change the lyrics to that one song, given the band’s political side.
Well, it’s so funny, because our politics is absolutely nothing to do with it; we completely stay out of Irish politics in any way, shape, or form. I have no opinion on it whatsoever, but it was really funny that the town and the man were getting so confused, and we were frantically waving our hands saying; “No, no, no! It’s just a local reference; we don’t mean anything by it!” I remember having a laugh with Mr. Paisley’s enormous security guard; he laughed and it sounded like an earthquake when he was laughing.
Moving on to more recent times, and you released latest album ‘Pocketful Of Stones’ in 2017; do you still get nervous about how people are going to react, when you release new music?
Yes. It’s a very vulnerable moment when you’ve been writing a record for two, three years, piecing it together over that period of time, and you then present it to people – particularly when it has quite a strong idea about it. I mean, this was deliberately going to be a very mature, ballad record, and it was actually the result of a coin toss between me and Gregory. About six years ago, we wanted to do completely different records; I wanted to do the ballad record, he wanted to do a New Orleans-style funk record, and he won the toss, so that was the ‘Hot Wire’  album, and then my turn came along to do the ballad record.
‘Pocketful Of Stones’ showcases that very deliberate change in sound.
It’s all very much of a piece; it’s of a mood. If you like the mood, the you’ll love the record. I guess if you want something more energetic, it won’t be the record for you. But we’re very, very proud of it. It’s some of our best, most beautiful songs, and it's got some pretty good performances on it as well.
One of the standout tracks is the beautifully laid back ‘Let Her Go’, which features your daughter Eleanor on it.
The song is about Eleanor Kane my daughter, about her turning up to her first flat in London, about to go to stage school, and me finding cheeky bottles of prosecco in her bag, where she simulates surprise that they’re there, etc. It’s the classic story of a dad who’s letting his daughter go into adulthood, reluctantly. When we got into the studio, Gregory looked at the second verse which contains all of her seventeen-year-old cheekiness and rebelliousness, and he said; “Why don’t we get Eleanor to sing that second verse, and then she can sing with you all the way through to the end?” So that’s how it worked, and she came in, and she nailed it. That song was written about three or four years ago, and she’s now starring in her first job out of college in the Yong Vic in London, in a musical. I always knew she was going places, but I didn’t know she was going to go that far, but parallel to her father and her uncle. I was six months out of college and then I was in Los Angeles making videos for Hue and Cry, so there seems to be a family trait to hit the ground running.
I wanted to go back to your reunion in 2005, and your appearance on the ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ TV show; what was that like for you; were you at all reluctant to do it?
Oh, no, no, no; I bloody loved it. I’m Liza Minnelli, and my brother’s Kurt Cobain. I absolutely loved it; the more spangles, the stretchier the Limos, the better for me. I think it was partly because it was the full ITV Saturday night treatment. It was fantastic. What Gregory brought to it, we actually - unlike any of the other bands on it – we produced our own tracks for the performances. We did a version of ‘Crazy In Love’ by Beyonce which everybody thought was going to be a complete disaster, but actually it worked out really well because Gregory figured the original O’Jays sample that ‘Crazy In Love’ was taken from, and he reconstructed the song closer to the original track. So, it was fresh, and we got to the final. We were beaten by Shakin’ Stevens, what can you say? Or ‘Vibrating Victor’, as we called him at the time.
So you decided to relaunch Hue and Cry after the success of the show?
It came alongside when we noticed this strange new internet platform called YouTube, that people had started to upload old Top Of The Pops recordings that they’d had of us. We were starting to get 100,00, 200,000 views, and we hadn’t even looked at those numbers for about fifteen years, and we thought; “That’s interesting; there’s a demand”. So the two things kind of inter-ran with each other, and amplified each other, and we though; “We have a business again. And maybe it’s to some degree nostalgia, maybe it’s people reliving their youth”, but we wanted to write new material into that space. And within that, since, we’ve brought out four or five studio albums. So we’ve not just rested on our laurels, or worked the old catalogue since ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’; we’ve used it as a creative opportunity, and I’m very grateful to it. Gregory will occasionally admit that he’s grateful to it, but not often. But I loved it, and I could do it all again. I’m a complete showbiz queen, to be honest.
Going back to the bands early years, and one of your most popular songs ‘Labour of Love’; It's very unusual, both melodically and lyrically, isn't it?
It is. I guess it’s a classic; we call it a ‘post-punk moment’. We were inspired by the post-punk movement; The Specials and The Blockheads, Scritti Politti and XTC, Elvis Costello and all those kinds of bands. After the three chords and do-it-yourself, go-form-a-band ethos, post-punk came along and said; “You can keep that attitude, but the whole span of musical history is now available to you”. So if you wanted to sound like Marvin Gaye, or if you wanted to sound like Sam Cooke, or James Brown, but also sing and write and talk about your own life, society and politics, then that’s all doable; there are no rules, there are no genres. You were as free to do what you want, as you want. And ‘Labour Of Love’ comes out of that experimental spirit of freedom.
Those influences aren’t immediately apparent.
It’s where you make a song and it’s like; all my favourite bits of The Temptations, all my favourite bits of Sly Stone, and all my favourite bits of James Brown stuck together; put it in a blender, and then you’re going to sing about being a working class Thatcherite Tory who’s suddenly seen the error of his ways, and not only are you going to sing about that, but you’re going to use a political industrial metaphor at the heart of your song. And then you’re going to try to leap up and down the registers as if you were Wilson Picket, so the ambition, and the sort of free-mindedness of it is what I hear when I listen to ‘Labour Of Love’. I have to say though, I didn’t want it to come out as a single. I said; “No one will dance to this. It’s too politically radical, we’ll never get it on the radio, people will pick up on it, and it’s a disastrous move”. And I’ve never been allowed to get anywhere near picking a single ever since! They got that problem out of the way early.
Moving forward, and you’re set to return to Rewind festival in the summer, playing both Rewind North and Rewind Scotland.
They’re great fun. I mean, backstage is almost more fun than being on stage, with various elegantly preserved, sometimes elegantly wasted people from the eighties and nineties wandering around. I mean, it’s not often you can go out to try to get a cup of tea and you bump into three of Kid Creole’s Coconuts. If you’ve ever seen Kid Creole’s Coconuts, that’s quite an encounter. Also, then you turn around the next corner and you’re having socialist discussions with Nick Heyward of Haircut 100, and then you turn the next corner and you’re glad handing with Tony Hadley, and then you turn the next corner and Howard Jones is tuning up his band of synthesizers in order to play his gig. It’s great, it’s a very pleasant social occasion, as much as it is going up on stage and singing in front of twenty, thirty thousand people mostly dressed as smurfs, but all having a great time.
Is it nice that the eighties is getting a little respect again, after being labelled ‘the decade that taste forgot’ etc, in the past?
Yes, it is. We just did an interview for a documentary recently that’s coming out on BBC Four in about six months’ time, which is all about reclaiming the eighties. There’s a lot of people that are very down on certain aspects of eighties’ music as being sort of Thatcherite, glossy music; I think it’s much more complicated than that, I mean, a lot of people like ourselves, or The Blow Monkeys, or even The Style Council were trying to occupy the mainstream with interesting messages not very far beneath the surface of their songs. They were trying to establish a sort of beachhead in peoples’ hearts and minds.
It was a great era for music, despite its reputation.
What I think about our part of the eighties is, we were just before the rise of rave and DJ culture, and I think we were the last cohort of people who thought; “If you write a great song, then that captures and conquers everything”. And I think that went into rave, because that was all about nearly anonymous music, and back then, the DJ was a mysterious figure, and people were dancing to repetitive beats in fields; they weren’t interested necessarily in the hearts or personality in the performer in the way that our generation was. And I think that’s come back, I mean, one of the reasons that we did ‘Pocketful Of Stones’ is we looked around and we saw all these testifying young male balladeers; the Hoziers and the James Blakes and the Sam Smiths and all the rest of it, and thought there’s a space for strong male song writing in the culture. So, everything comes in waves and cycles. Our bit of the eighties was song-centric, and I think that's why you get a lot of memorable songs from that period, because people were really trying hard; they thought that the great pop song was the ultimate horizon of everything.
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Hue and Cry play Whelan's in Dublin on 5th May 20187, and Belfast's Empire on 6th May 2018. For tickets, click HERE.
Hue And Cry 2018 UK and Ireland Dates:
5 May - Dublin, Whelans.
6 May - Belfast, The Empire Bar & Music Hall
On Tour Together: The Christians, Hue & Cry
18 May - Wrexham, William Aston Hall
19 May - Preston, Guild Hall
20 May - Telford, Oakengates Theatre
25 May - Wakefield, Warehouse 23
26 May - Manchester, Academy
27 May - ULU
22 Jul - Rewind Scotland, Perth
5 Aug - Rewind North, Cheshire