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


Tim: People are always characterising the 70's as the 'decade that style forgot', and thinking that they were all about disco and glam - but there was some great stuff around then, wasn't there? Not least Van Der Graaf...

Hugh: Yeah, I'm sure there was ... I always felt that we were sort of keeping the 60's going in a way - the glam rock, I thought it was a bit like the stuff nowadays - for the kids! Format stuff that's produced - whereas we were free to do as we pleased, which is what an artist should be.

Tim: Do you miss regularly playing with the other members?

Hugh: It's always nice when we do so it's great that we can just do it - it never ceases to amaze us - the others say the same as well, when we get going it's just as if no time had elapsed at all - we just play together as though it was last week! That was the very striking thing about the Union Chapel - it just came together in no time - I think we were all rather anxious about it, but we played together like it was yesterday.

Tim: Do you still meet up regularly with the others?

Hugh: Yes, the last time was in July - I've been in touch with Guy quite a bit - he was going to do a Long Hello boxed set but the offer's fallen through at the moment, but it might be back on track - so I've been digging up old tracks and I came up with a number that Dave and Guy and I did together but I only had a two-track mix so I sent him that. So, we do keep in touch quite a lot, but we're spread around the country so we don't meet up that much. Last year we did because we were doing The Box.

Tim: What do you think will be the next development in keyboards?

Hugh: Your guess is as good as mine... I do not take much interest in keyboards - they seem to get more and more silly as far as I'm concerned - next year there will be 8,750 sounds on board and they'll just have more and more memory and they'll sound more or less the same. They're actually less interesting now, I find, than when the DX7 came out - it was all artificial and you were actually creating new sounds - all the keyboards now are just based on samples and loops in ever-more-complex configurations - press one key and an entire film soundtrack comes out! Dreadful. You know, I judge a keyboard by 'Can you play it?'. To actually find enough sounds that you can play as opposed to just make the right noises would be a miracle. There are some with fifteen violin sounds, but most of those you can't actually play because they're too slow, or too this, or the other - 'Oh, God I've found one I can actually play!' - you know, they're useless. They must be written by idiots, half of them.

Tim: With your organs, are you trying to re-create the pipe organ sound?

Hugh: Yes, that's the aim, but as I get closer to it, I doubt more and more that I'll ever get there perfectly. There's a conflict in the Church between those who come out of the woodwork and say, 'Oh, you can't have an electronic organ in the Church, you've got to have pipes' - And they're right because pipe organs do sound better. Although digital and electronic organs are getting better and better, somehow, people's perceptions are getting better as well - it's probably down to CDs, and digital sound is everywhere now - if you think of cinema sound now and compare it to how it was thirty years ago, it's staggering how good it is now. People have got a better memory of what a pipe organ sounds like - so the gulf, in some ways, doesn't seem to be getting any narrower. I don't think we'll ever get there.

Tim: Do you miss working with Peter Hammill?

Hugh: Well, yes, working with Peter Hammill is inspirational -I've never had anything as challenging as his stuff - you won't find anything like that so, yes, I miss that aspect of working with Peter Hammill.

Tim: If you could do anything you wanted to do now, what would it be?

Hugh: I suppose I would do a lot of boating and mess around in the studio a lot - I'd probably do exactly what I do now, only I wouldn't worry about it so much. I'd still do the boats and the organs and recording.

Tim: If you could do it all over again, would you do it with Van Der Graaf?

Hugh: Yes. That one was unique - I wouldn't have picked Genesis, although I might have played with Hendrix, that would have been all right! In fact it was seeing Hendrix at a gig and then The Crazy World of Arthur Brown which led to me joining Van Der Graaf. But playing with Van Der Graaf was a treat, no question of that - I can look back on that and be proud of it - there are lots of other bands which, if I had been in them, I wouldn't have been, so, that's okay.

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