Interview with Mike Hughes ahead of Tramlines 2014.
Mike Hughes will be playing two very different sets over the weekend, from the atmospheric environs of Sheffield cathedral on Saturday, to Kelham Island hotspot, Shakespeare’s, on Sunday. We caught up with the ‘apocalyptic gospel blues’ singer songwriter before the festival to find out about what he has in store for the weekend, as well as his thoughts on the festival and the fire behind his new album and video. Literally.
You’re playing two shows, what can we expect from each?
At the Cathedral, you can’t do anything too crashy, you’ve got to use the room in a way and just succumb to the surroundings, with the acoustics and everything. There was maybe the chance of doing it with the band, but it doesn’t really lend itself to drums a lot of the time. It’s really hard, I mean, I haven’t seen anyone else there but I’ve heard it can be kind of iffy for big sounds, so it’ll just be me for that one. The band will be back for Shakespeare’s so the two gigs will be pretty different.
Your sound has been described as ‘apocalyptic gospel blues’. Is that coined by yourself?
Someone mentioned something, that it sounded like this. I mean, I didn’t think it did but it kinda stuck in the end. When I started recording with Ross [Orton, of MIA, Arctic Monkeys and The Kills fame], everything just became a bigger sound, he’s just about creating like big drums and space, and I think that’s where that phrase came from. The first thing that we did with him was like, oh yeah, this feels like a blues thing.
What do you think of Tramlines? You’ve been on the bill a few times…
I just think it’s good for Sheffield city centre really, because it’s dying a bit, you know. Tramlines just brings people into the city. How long has it been going? I think I’ve played every year. I can’t remember the places where I’ve played, just usually been in the back of pubs really. There was one year where I just said yeah to everyone, which is easier when it’s just you acoustic. It was like six gigs or summat in two days. Mental. And I just used to turn up and bash it out, whereas now I think about it a bit more.
You’ve played quite a variety of venues, any favourites?
I think the Cathedral is easily the nicest just because everything sounds great. The Lantern Theatre is good too, just the venues that feel like it’s not just a bar that someone’s decided to put a couple of speakers in the corner, and it’s got a bit of history to it.
Are you looking forward to seeing anyone in particular this weekend?
Usually the best ones are just kinda your mates’ bands that you see every week, but the good thing is that the venues are full. A lot of people see music for free across the festival, which isn’t a bad thing. I might try and see Hey Sholay on Sunday, Public Enemy, Slow Club. It all kinda depends where you are. Those venues that kind of go off and do their own thing, that’s the good part of any festival anyway. I’m sure Public Enemy will have a right good turn out, but I think I’ll mostly head to the smaller venues that will just put bands throughout the day or will have interesting things on. It’s nicer to just wander around and see them.
What’s next for you?
The next single (Temple Blues) is gonna be out on 18th August, there’s a London date that week, one in Sheffield and maybe one in Manchester and Liverpool. And I’ve just done a video for it as well. What’s it like? It’s me being set on fire. It was an idea that someone had that basically it would be me playing and then I burst into flames. I did all me own stunts. Then it’s just a bit of camera trickery. I haven’t seen it yet. It could be a bit weird…
Catch Mike Hughes at Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday at 7.30pm and Shakespeare’s on Sunday at 8pm.