Gary Hughes has established himself as one of England's premiere singer songwriters. In a few short years he has managed to be involved in some mighty AOR releases including Hugo's solo debut, the monsterous upcoming Bob Catley debut and not to mention 4 albums with his band Ten and now a second solo album. So here's Gary on upcoming events, past records and a sometimes fickle press....
Gary, great to finally talk with you!
I am not going ask what's happening, because you have to be one of the
busiest guys in the business!
Yeah, I guess that's true, but to be honest I like to be busy. I enjoy my work and now I have a schedule where I work like a normal job wherever possible. That is, Monday to Friday and try to be home for the evenings with my
When we recorded "The Robe" it got crazy towards the end and I almost made myself very ill. I find that I can be fresh to the projects if I don't overdo the
amount of work each day and I get to switch off in the evenings and at weekends.
OK, so how do you relax and when do you relax?!!
I do most weekends to spend with my family. That's my main relaxation. I have two wonderful children, one boy (Scott) and a girl (Hayley) with my wife Zoe and the time we spend together just being a family is my favourite relaxation.
I also enjoy watching films and TV, especially sci-fi stuff. Also, I'm really into Egypt and other ancient cultures. I guess that comes through in my lyrics.
Of course, being English, I'm a big football fan. My team is Manchester
United and Zoe is a Manchester City fan. So there have been a few frosty moments there as you can imagine!
So how is the response to your new solo record?
The funny thing is, it would be a really stupid criticism anyway. Solo albums on the whole sell much less that the main band of any artist. What would be the point in releasing an album under my name when a TEN album would sell more?
I've been really pleased with the response both from critics and fans. I must admit that I was a little bit worried about the critics as they all love to stick the knife in whenever possible. We had several journalists over to the studio|
when we were mixing the album and we were worried about what they would say. I guess because I ended up using Vinny and Greg on the album, I was expecting the criticism that this was just TEN under a different name.
But, to be fair, every one of them said how surprised they were as to how different to a TEN album it sounded.
Obviously, there will be some similarities, but I think in the end we managed to make the album a worthy release in it's own right.
I guess I just have so many songs and I want as many as possible to be
heard by people.
I have a few different styles to my writing and that allows me to do different
Tell me what your plans were for this album, style wise?
I ask that because you have noticeably taken a step back from the big
epic sound that Ten has come to be known for.
That was intentional. With TEN I feel we have now developed a style which
is quite unique and recognisable as the TEN sound. As such, I had a lot of material which I didn't really think would fit into this style but I felt was very strong material. As I used to be a solo artist prior to TEN I had always wanted to keep my solo career going and this was a way to do just that.
We don't want to change things too much with TEN as we feel that what we do is genuine and really giving the fans what they want. With my solo material I can be
more laid back and romantic I guess.
As Vinny would probably say, with TEN we are giving the kids what they want
so I guess with my solo records I'm giving the older brigade what they want. Ha, Ha.
This album has a more laid back approach...Did you purposely change your vocal approach for this album, as there are a few really nice variations?
Yes, as it's a solo album and I'm a singer I guess I concentrated on making all the songs very strong from a vocal point of view. With the band sometimes we can make other instruments the focal point of the song. With this material I had to make sure it all featured very strong vocals in one aspect or another.
Thanks for your words. I appreciate it when someone takes the time to listen closely to what is going on. I think sometimes people mistake screaming for singing. I'm very influenced by people like John Waite and early David Coverdale.
There's so much fantastic phrasing and emotion in their voices, I guess that's
what I'm trying to capture elements of in my solo work.
I really like the couple of big ballads. You seem to be able to pull those off with ease!
I'm just a big old romantic you know! No, truthfully, I have absolutely loads of ballads. I seem to write 3 to every rocker. At one time we contemplated making a complete album full of ballads and going for the more adult market, but TEN took over. I'm glad it did really as it has afforded me the opportunity to do so much more.
And the other really nice laid back track, Precious Ones, tell me about that one.
I'm so glad you like that track. It's very special to me. I wrote it initially about my family.
They are the precious ones which I sing about it in the song. But, as the
song developed I felt it also took on another meaning. I now think that it could apply to our fans as well. They are also the precious ones. I hope this doesn't sound too corny, but we are so grateful to all our fans around the world. Of course, in Japan it's amazing. We are treated like THE BEATLES or something.
But we get letters from all over the world and that's incredibly pleasing.
We have started to get a lot of mail and chat on the internet coming from the U.S.
The people over there who have heard TEN really seem to `get it`. They can see that we aren't just another Brit AOR band trying to be American.
We are staunchly British and proud of it. When we started the first album we made a point of keeping everything British.
The musicians, the location of recording, the co-producer.
We wanted to make British music which seems to have been forgotten by
many bands these days.
We grew up listening to DEEP PURPLE, THIN LIZZY, UFO, RAINBOW etc and
that's what we want to be-the 90`s equivalent.
I guess, to go back to your question, we feel a very close relationship with our fans and appreciate them very much. "Precious Ones" seems to sum that emotion up.
Don't Ever Say Goodbye sounds like it could have been a Ten track, not|
to mention the use of that fraise on the Live record - was that a Ten outtake?
Not guilty, your honour!
No, it's a total coincidence. I already had the song written when we chose that
as the title for the live album. I was recording the solo album in between other things, so it actually goes back a long way. It was Bruce Mee, of NOW & THEN, who came up with the title for the live album.
He pointed out that it was the last thing I said to the crowd each night and
seemed a poignant statement.
Again, it sums up our feelings to the fans. We never want to say goodbye
when we meet them-especially when they are buying the drinks!
Any other proposed Ten songs that were used, or was it all solo material?
I`ll let you into a little secret here. TEN was originally just me making a solo album to follow up the self titled release on NOW & THEN. I had the bones of around 30 songs recorded and then we brought Vinny in to play guitar on the album as a session. When we heard him and he heard the songs it was like magic.
He didn't want anyone else to play his solos live and we couldn't think of anyone who could do anyway. It was obvious that this had to be a band. At that stage we had chosen the rockier songs and had what became the first two TEN albums done.
There are a few from that time, which are now on my solo album. The most well known is "The Night The Love Died". That's a very special song again and Mark Ashton, of NOW & THEN, wanted it to be saved until I was a lot more well known than I was back then.
He really believed in that song and wanted as many people as possible to hear it. There are a couple of others which we used on the EP in Japan, "The Miracle Is You" and "Be My Fantasy Tonight" which are from those sessions as well. They are two great songs. The only reason they aren't on the solo album is because they are ballads and we already had enough for the album.
I could have saved them for the next solo album, but I know I`ll have some more killers by then.
You have worked on a couple of other albums with Mark Aston and Now And Then....How did you get involved in the Hugo project?
Killer AOR record, I don't think that I heard anything but great reviews for it.
Well, that was a great album to be involved in. I had told Mark that I wanted to get into production work and if he could put anything my way I`d be grateful.
He was in touch with HUGO, who wanted to make his album away from the distractions of the U.S. music scene. I think he was a bit worried that no-one wanted AOR any more as all he heard on the radio was modern crap.
So, he wanted Mark to be close to the recording of the album and asked about recording it in England. Of course, Mark jumped at this opportunity and suggested doing it in Manchester, with myself, Vinny, Greg and Ged playing the instruments. We did get a bit of criticism that it was NOW & THEN cashing in on the success of TEN, but anyone who has a brain can work out that the album was actually recorded around the GODS appearance that HUGO made in `96.
The first TEN album came out in April `96 at which time HUGO was in the studio with us. How can anyone be cashing in when we didn't know how the TEN album
would sell? We were flattered that NOW & THEN chose us to play on and
produce such a great album by a great singer.
I was chosen to produce the album and along with Mark I made the decisions as to who the musicians would be for the album. We needed a guitarist in the Neal Schon/Steve Lukather/Michael Schenker style. Why search the world when we have the best already here in Manchester? It was just a great record to be involved in.
And you may appear briefly on the second one?
I don't think I will be involved personally as HUGO is having to record in the U.S. this time because of work restraints. I think there's a plan to get THE VIPER (Vinny) to play on the album though. As I said earlier he just wants to give the kids what they want!
How about this new Bob Catley record? That must have been quite a
challenge, writing the material with a specific aim in mind.
It's so funny. He's become a huge fan of TEN. He loves "The Rainbow", that's his favourite.
It has been just about the greatest experience of my musical life. I have, been a huge fan of Bob for years through his MAGNUM days. Mark still finds it funny that when we were making the first TEN album, I went to see MAGNUM in a small local venue and spent the next few days talking about nothing else.|
To then have the opportunity to work with this guy was fantastic.
The actual challenge of writing for Bob's vocals was really interesting. I actually had one song, "Far Away" which I was considering for my solo album. When Mark and Bruce heard it they freaked out. They couldn't believe it, going on about how MAGNUM it sounded. At that time they contacted Bob about doing a solo album and told him that they had me in mind to write and produce the album. After hearing the TEN albums he agreed to do it.
Once he had agreed to do the album I held "Far Away" back and wrote
more in that style for him. The directive that I was given was to write the album that MAGNUM could have made between "Storyteller's" and "Wings Of Heaven" if I was in the band and Vinny was playing guitar.
You have always till now sung the material you wrote. What was it like
writing the songs but for another singer?
It's something that I have always dreamed of. Having someone else sing
your material is a really strange thing. Sometimes they change elements of the song which takes it away from what was originally intended. I think you have to learn to be a little less precious about things. When it someone as great as Bob Catley though, the changes he makes usually improve the songs and give them his particular character.
Mark said it was amazing watching you two create in the studio!
I guess it would be for him as he's such a fan anyway. It was funny at first because I didn't really know Bob before we started and he's a hero to me, so I found it hard to push him in the studio. By the end though I realised that's what he liked, so I was giving him a lot of stick to bring out the best in him.
Some of the tunes sound like they could have been for a Ten record, but
most of them have a very Magnum feel. What did you listen to to get your
head into that form of writing?
I think that only two songs, "Scream" and "The Tower" could really have been used by TEN at this stage. But they both have MAGNUM elements to them as well. We didn't want to just make a MAGNUM album as that's pointless for Bob. We wanted to explore some new ideas vocally and musically for him. A song like "The Tower" rocks harder than anything he's ever done before, yet "Deep Winter" is almost completely acoustic and has a Richie Sambora/Jon Bon Jovi feel to it.
I must admit though, I dug out all my classic old MAGNUM records and they inspired me to write in this style for Bob. Tony Clarkin is such a great writer.
I think he`s one of the most underrated writers around. Songs like "Les Morts Dansant" and "How Far Jerusalem" are simply stunning pieces of songwriting.
And any favourite tunes from the set that is being used?
It's hard to say. They're all my babies and special in some way. I really like "Far Away" as that was the first. "Scream" is a great classy song and Bob does it really well. "Madrigal" is very special as it's such a big production job, with tons of stuff going on all the time. Vinny`s guitar work on that track is killer. To stay acoustic when everyone expects a big electric solo was so cool. Bob's favourite is "Fear Of The Dark", which I love as well. He kept going on about it being at the end of the album as he loves it so much. He wanted it to be the opener, but both Mark and myself knew it had to be the album closer as it's such an epic.
I personally love Dreams, Scream, Deep Winter and Far Away the best.
Any songs that were written that will appear on the Ten record?
Well, it's funny you should ask that. Maybe at some point I will have ago
at some of the tracks. I'm not sure if it would be for a TEN record or a solo
album, but I'd love to sing those songs, for sure. Let's just say that it isn't impossible for that to happen and looks more likely than not.
Do you think there is any chance of some live dates with Bob?
Definitely. Bob is in this for the long run. The deal he signed with NOW &
THEN was for several albums, not just a one-off. They aren't interested in
that kind of thing. They want to develop artists and work with them over
a period of time. Once Bob got to hear these songs he was already talking
about some shows.
I`d love to see it happen because then I could be in the crowd for a change and enjoying it. I think he will play THE GODS in November and maybe do a few more shows in Europe.
Have you ever written a tune for Bob and though 'No I will save this for Ten - it's TOO good', or written a tune with Ten in mind and thought 'I will keep this for my solo album'?
I asked this because I think there is a similar pattern to all your work, yet enough diversity to be able to break it into different blocks (Ten, Solo, Bob ect.) Do you agree?
I think that there is some similarity throughout my work, but that applies to most songwriters. You can recognise certain traits in all songwriters who actually write a lot of songs. I'm a big HAREM SCAREM fan, but listen to the FIORE album and tell me it isn't obviously them? That's great though as I love their style.
I think I have a few twists in my writing now though and that helps me decide where a song will go. I think I can feel when a song will be a TEN song, a solo
song or a Bob song. I already have half an album written for my next solo
album and about the same for Bob. It's becoming more and more clear who each song will suit.
I have a lot of other songs which aren't suitable for TEN, GARY HUGHES or BOB CATLEY and I`d love to get the chance to work with other people
as well. I have a ton of material that would be perfect for a female artist, like VIXEN style, so if you can suggest anyone I`d be up for it!
I want to talk about the four Ten albums so far. Quite a body of work in
Yes, but it's only because bands like DEF LEPPARD take forever making
their albums that our output seems a lot. If you look back to THE BEATLES, they were releasing two albums a year and no-one criticised them. The best music KISS ever released was in their early years and they were putting out two albums a year. The longer they take over an album, the worse it is.
With the scene for melodic rock being limited these days as well, there isn't the need or possibility for huge world tours. So, we are around at home a lot more
than the likes of DEF LEPPARD etc. That makes it easier for us to spend
time in the studio. If we didn't we'd only end up causing trouble on street corners. Idle hands, you know!
Look at Jack Blades (another top geezer!). He's on every record being released at the moment from NIGHTRANGER to RINGO STARR to JOURNEY.
Why not? Good luck to him I say. I guess it's only a matter of time before we make an album together as there won't be anyone else left to work with if we both carry on at this rate.
Hmmm, now that's not such a bad idea is it?
We are on the same label in Japan you know.
And what of the critisisms that the albums have sounded too familiar?
I am guilty of making the comparisons, although I do think they each have
their own feel.
I can understand the comment, but can't see why it's a criticism. I think we have all become a bit used to bands making one album and then splitting up.
There aren't many bands making three or four albums these days. When a band makes several albums they must surely have familiar elements to their sound. Otherwise, that band has no identity and is simply probably following trends.
Listen to SURVIVOR, FOREIGNER, THIN LIZZY, UFO etc. They had a `sound` to their music which was all through their career. They had variety of
course, but I think we have that as well.
No-one can tell me that "Eyes Of A Child" is anything like "Wait For You" or
"Someday" or "After The Love Has Gone" or "Arcadia". I think there's sound which can be called `TEN` but there's lot of variation on our records. Sometimes we don't get the credit we deserve for trying different things.
On our debut we ended the album with an 11-minute ballad which was half taken up with a guitar solo.
Who else has the balls to do that? We then open our very important follow up album with a 90 second intro and a song which is way heavier than anything on our debut. "The Name Of The Rose" was very different and brave, yet critics didn't give us any credit-funnily enough though it was voted BEST SONG OF `96 by the readers of the worlds biggest rock magazine, BURRN!
On "The Robe" there was criticism that the album was just the same as
"The Name Of the Rose", but I don't hear anything like "Arcadia" anywhere
else on our albums, or "Someday" or the horns on the end of "You're In My Heart" or even the choir on "The Robe" itself.
It's funny though, in the UK where we get the most flak, naturally (It's a British thing to knock success) one writer was talking about "The Robe" and saying "Has the backlash started" as if to put thoughts into people's minds. This was just before THE GODS last year. We turn up and play the show, everyone goes wild and we sold 85 T-shirts in one day. That doesn't seem like a backlash to me. It seems to be primarily the journalists who have it in for us. I just wish people
would give us the same critical listening that they give to other acts. That's all we can ask for. Yet, sometimes it feels like we get grief for something that someone else gets praised for.
I don't want to be down on people though. Everyone's entitled to their
own opinion and we know that everyone can't like our music. I just think
it's unfair on the people who might actually like us but are being put off by unfair press.
Mark once said to me - Status Quo would be killed if they varied their pattern of song writing. Do you think that it is almost a no win situation?
Definitely. Look at HAREM SCAREM. They change on every album and it seems
like it's the fans who have the "Mood Swings"(Pun intended). They love
"Mood Swings", they hate "Voice of Reason". Why? Because it doesn't sound like "Mood Swings". Then all is forgiven on "Believe" because it has elements of "Mood Swings" in it. The new album, "Big Bang Theory" is getting a lot of bad press again, because they have changed their sound. So, everyone wants HAREM SCAREM to sound like "Mood Swings" every time they make a record, but Ten should change every time they make a record. You're right-you can't win!
we just have to do what we believe in, which is exactly what I'm sure the guys in HAREM SCAREM do and I wish them all the success in the world. Hey, they do a lot of outside work as well. Hmmm, Jack Blades on Bass, Pete Lesperance and The Viper on guitar, Harry Hess and me on
vocals. I can see it now. We'd get slated by all the press!!! Ha, Ha.
And is that why you record solo albums? Does that give you the chance to
vary the approach or try something different?
Exactly. I think that now my solo album is out it has maybe shown people
that TEN has to be the way it is. If TEN makes a mellower record then what it the point in me doing a solo record. It would have to be heavy and epic in order to be different. All that would have happened then is that we would be swapping the names on the front of our albums. TEN is about epic, grandiose themes. Classic Rock for the 90`s is what we are about. My solo career is about more intimate lyrical themes. It's as much about the lyrics as the music for me. Again, I don't
want to go on about it, but I think TEN has some pretty good lyrical ideas, which we never get credit for from the press.
Our fans are always writing to us and asking us about the lyrics. Songs like "The Name Of the Rose", "Goodnight Saigon", "Eyes Of A Child", "The Rainbow", "Arcadia", "Wait For You" and "The Robe" really have deep meaning. They aren't just AOR love songs. On my solo albums I can be more personal and write from
that perspective, but with TEN I write about bigger themes.
Oh God, now I sound pompous. Well, the fans will understand what I mean.
I'm really glad you've given me this chance to express our side of things actually. It's usually just the critics who get to voice their opinions and the artist rarely gets a chance to put their side. I hope I've made it easier for people to understand what TEN is about and what we are trying to achieve. It's great to see people like yourself running such a great site and the people who surf in giving you such support.
It makes you have faith that there could be a comeback for rock music, which is surely what we are all trying to achieve anyway, isn't it?
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