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: How are all the more recent recordings, such as 'The Box' selling, do you know?

Hugh: The Box has done 10,000 I gather, which is better than it was expected to do, - I think they expected it to sell about 1,000 ...

Tim: Do you know who it's selling to?

Hugh: I know precisely who it's selling to because I've got the royalty statement! I only know which countries it's selling in - I would guess that it's selling to the same people who bought them the first time around - they do sound ten times better now ...some of it's a revelation, the way it's been digitally re-mastered.

Tim: Is it selling well in Italy?

Hugh: Yes I think it's doing well in Italy - I just had a quick glance really, I don't really bother with it ... but Italy is a big market.

Tim: David Jackson told me a lot about the bad times the band had in Italy in the '70s, knocking down a stadium wall with the truck, for example ...

Hugh: Yes, I knocked it down with my infra-sound! It was very different when we first went in '72, from the later ones; the later ones weren't so much fun - it was a lot more large scale - it is more fun when you're not known and you can play smaller clubs - when we did play small clubs we had to play them three times on the same day - it was like cinema shows, you know, 2 o'clock, 5 o'clock and 7 o'clock. The first time round we were astonished and we had no idea this was going to happen. It had been rigged, I gather, ... the album had been put in the charts for us, so we were flavour of the month. And we were the first band to have been there for yonks, so it was an enormous reception which we had no warning of.

Hugh at the helm

Tim: During the 70's, other keyboard players such as Wakeman, Emerson and Banks were appearing on stage with about 12 keyboards each, such as synthesizers etc, and now, their stuff sounds very dated, whereas yours still sounds fresh - why did you avoid synthesizers in Van Der Graaf?

Hugh: We couldn't afford them, that's one reason! We did record with them. But, I did like being the organist then - you can get such a variety of sounds - unique sounds - with an organ, so I was quite happy with that. And although I did play synthesizers, when I've had them since, when they became a lot more compact in the late 70's and 80's, I've kept very few of them, you know I've kept the Yamaha DX7 and the Roland, but that's actually an organ, but I don't really like them, so I discard them again. At my late age now, organ is my thing - that's what I like, and I find that you do really need to be confined in some sort of way ... with synthesizers, it's 'Oh that sound's good, let's try another sound, oh yeah, another sound ...' it's not good - And another thing I dislike is changing the sound of something after you've recorded it - which, of course, you do with Midi recording things - sort of recording it as a piano and then thinking, ' Oh no, let's make it strings ...' it just seems nonsense to me.

Tim: It's cheating really isn't it?

Hugh: Well, you do need to play the sound you're playing - it's very important - that's the problem with a lot of recordings of synthesizer music - it comes out so bland because they're not really playing the sound they're using. If it's got violins on it, they're not playing it as violins, they're playing something entirely different - they've just been given the violin sound - which is what happens to it, it comes out as really bland, I find. I like the organ.

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