Hugh The Hugh Banton Interview
Lymm, Cheshire
5th October 2001
Interview by Tim Locke
Photography by Phil Smart
(some material supplied by HB)

All Material Copyright
Click here for Russian version

Hugh very kindly agreed to an interview and this took place at his home in Cheshire. Since leaving Van der Graaf Generator in 1976 Hugh has been building church organs, originally as an employee of an organ building company but now on an independent basis. In his spare time he likes to mess about on the Bridgewater canal where he has a two year old narrow boat. He's currently working on a musical project the details of which are revealed in the interview below. Some of the recording has taken place on the boat and some in his basement studio.

Tim: What sort of music did you listen to as you were growing up?

Hugh: Well, actually, everything, which is a very boring answer. I used to play the piano from the age of four, because I could pick out tunes ... we always had a piano in the house because my Dad played the piano, so there was a fair amount of Bach and Beethoven on the record player ... My Mum had the radio on all the time and used to sing - perpetually. But, also, my brother discovered Radio Luxembourg, because there was no pop music on British radio at that time; we're talking 1956, '57, when I was six or seven ... but then Radio Luxembourg came along and so there was rock 'n' roll. I remember Eddie Cochrane dying and I was only about seven or eight - I was quite upset because I had just got into him. So I was into pop music, which used to upset my piano teacher ... I was quite happy to do it all - classical and pop - I've always liked it all.

Tim: Well, it's been nearly 25 years since Van Der Graaf were permanently together - what are you doing now?

Hugh: Building Church organs - I've been doing that for a long time now; I started doing it very soon after I left the band at the end of '76. I went to work for a firm in Oldham that built Church organs in February 1977, and got stuck there until 1991 when I branched out and started doing it on my own - They're still in existence and I do it on a much smaller scale - I only do about eight or nine a year, and that's what I do.

Tim: Have you got an organ factory?

Hugh: No, well I don't need one - there are companies who put them together to order ... there have only ever been about half a dozen English manufacturers who do this; there are American ones and European ones, but there have never been many English ones - there are probably only three now, or four, including myself, and we tend to get them all done in the same place - so I get them made to my design - I write the software data for each particular instrument, because they're all different and then I go to the Church and get the voicing done, which means getting the sounds right, which is not dissimilar to recording sessions - knob twiddling and getting the sounds right for all the stops. As is well known, I've done organs since before Van Der Graaf, and electronics and things ... so it's just another one of my hobbies.

Tim: When you were in Van Der Graaf, you were working on one called the 'Hub' - have you still got that, or what happened to it?

Hugh: I never knew why everyone called it The Hub, because I always called it HB1 - I think it might have been a misprint - goodness knows what 2 and 3 and 4 were going to be, but, well, there you are!

Tim: So what happened to it?

Hugh: They sold it after I left the band and I don't know what became of it then.

Tim: That was the one that was supposed to be able to knock down walls - did it ever do that?

Hugh: Oh, yes, all the time! No, that was all to do with infra-sound, which they were considering using as a weapon in those days - It was capable of about 7Hertz and I had speakers which were capable of doing that sort of thing, but that was all just a bit of publicity - a sound-bite, really!

Tim: Has it tempted you all to reform to promote the multi-cd, "The Box"?

Hugh: No, I think we're all too much wrapped up in our own worlds really - it'd be very dangerous to do that - we'd all come to blows in no time I think.

Tim: But you got together for the Union Chapel Concert, did you enjoy that?

Hugh: Yeah, it was Peter and Guy's gig, plus friends, and we only played one number together (Lemmings - Ed), as such, and other bits and pieces ...

Tim: Was that the band's favourite?

Hugh: Peter picked it.

Tim: Which, of all the band's songs, was your particular favourite to play?

Hugh: Dambusters, probably ... no, that was very flippant .. Out of 'Still Life', uuhhh, I know, 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" was a good one - good tune that one ...

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