Fireworks Magazine Online 49 - TEN / Gary Hughes


From being a very prolific band early in their career, with 6 albums -- including a double-live -- in the first five years, the release rate for Ten slowed dramatically over the past 10 years, with a full five year gap between 2006's 'Twilight Chronicles' and this year's 'Stormwarning'. During this period, there have been various comings and goings within the band, with the latest shake-up taking place just prior to the band's long-awaited return to the stage at this year's Fleetwoodstock Festival on November 5th. Of course, as with most things Ten, this was done in the utmost secrecy, and trait that has caused much frustration and consternation amongst even the band's most loyal followers.
However, having witnessed the new line-up's amazing live performance in person, it has to be said that Gary Hughes' decisions over the past few months certainly appear to have been vindicated, and with this show hopefully the launch pad for the re-birth of the band, editor Bruce Mee thought it was a good time to get Gary back under the spotlight and put to him some pertinent questions.

'Stormwarning' came out earlier this year to generally very good reviews, but I understand that this album was recorded under a strict set of conditions laid down by the record company that necessitated the album being more commercial than maybe you would have wanted?

The music scene is such that it is very difficult nowadays for most bands to maintain their label deals. I have been proud of every album we have ever made, and each album has been, what I felt, to be the best collection of songs I had available for the new offering at the time of contract. I try, with each new album, to maintain the essence of Ten but at the same time move forward with the band's evolution. This sometime requires a certain departure from the usual Ten stylisation. Over the years, these changes, albeit not particularly drastic ones, have not always been well received by our labels. It is hard sometimes to strike a balance between what the label wants from us and what we the band want to record. In a perfect world, bands like Ten would record their albums without interference from the labels. Unfortunately, this is 2012, the rock music genre is still in recession and the bottom line is that albums require financial backing. Cue the labels. They know you want the contract and they know they hold the purse strings. If you want the contract then you allow 'executive production' input from the label. The problem is that no band can ever completely 'write to order'. Wherever possible I always try to comply to the labels request in balancing an album, however, it is unreasonable to expect any band to record to a shopping list. "We'll have an 'After The Love Has Gone', two 'Name Of The Roses', two 'Valentines', a 'Spellbound', an 'Apparition', a 'Don't Cry', a 'Rome', a 'Robe' and three 'Reds'...only painted blue! really!" If a band is to develop it has to be an ever changing animal.
So, to return to your original question the answer is Yes. You are totally correct about the very specific requirements from Frontiers for the album 'Stormwarning'. They requested a very particular blend between rockers, ballads, epics, etc, etc and had very specific ideas regarding stylisation. On the whole I felt I complied.

You've just completed your first live show in 5 years, one which has been universally acclaimed. How did you feel after such a long break, and do you feel vindicated in all the decisions you have had to make?

I was very please with the show and very relieved that my old bones managed to last for 2 and a bit hours [laughs]. It was a blast to see so many fans again, some of whom had travelled ridiculous distances to be at the show. Our sincere thanks go out to every single one of them. It was great to sing the older songs again, interspersed with a generous portion of newer material. It was just the tonic we needed and we're all hungry to tour again now. The Marine Hall gig gave us the outing we desperately needed without being under the microscope of a mainstream festival. It was also performed in aid of children's charities which made the occasion even more satisfactory from our standpoint. We were moved by the good causes involved and so waived our fee accordingly, in order that the charity would raise even more on the night. The crowd were amazing. We surprised ourselves and most importantly, the potential within the band now is huge.

Many fans were pleasantly surprised Steve was back in the band. What's the story there?

Simply that Steve fell off the radar for a time but now I have him firmly marked on my Sat Nav, ha ha! Mark did a fabulous job on 'Stormwarning' and I respect him as both friend and musician. But it is fair to say that for ten years Johnny and I had never stepped foot on stage without Steve, and if the truth were told we missed him. The fans, I'm sure, are glad to see him back too.

After performing such a fantastic show, with a 2 hour set covering a vast number of Ten classics, we would hope to see the band out there playing live more often. Are there plans for further live shows and perhaps some European tours?

No, we've had enough now. One show every millennia is quite enough of that thank you...NOT!! Yes, please God let there be more! We're so totally up for it it's untrue. We're booking a Spanish tour for March or April 2012 where we will finally film the band's first ever Official Live DVD. We also plan to do some UK and European dates before then as warm-ups and in particular put some in after that tour, to keep the kettle boiling this time. I have missed the live arena. Ten are a band who thrive on the buzz of our live performances, which have been too few and far between in recent times. The hunger is back and with it a renewed purpose to raise the bands profile back to where it once was and beyond.

You are still signed to Frontiers, and when we see new young musicians like Erik Martensson writing and producing solo/band albums for Toby Hitchcock, Jeff Scott Soto, Jimi Jamison and the like, some of us are wondering why Gary Hughes isn't in there, writing projects for Frontiers like he used to do with Bob Catley. Is this something you would still like to do?

Of course! Writing for other artists and other voices is an intriguing challenge and one I relish. I love song-writing but it is immensely time-consuming for me. Not specifically from a creative standpoint but with regards to recording and programming sketch demos. I would need to know that the album would have a guaranteed release and the right backing, but if Frontiers, or anyone else for that matter, came to me with the right deal, and asked me to write an album of songs for them, of course, I would. Again though, it is very much a question of having the right financial backing for any project, album or otherwise, and things are very tight in the current musical climate. This being the case I have revived my own production company in order to develop new, exciting talent, at least to the stage of bringing it to the attention of the labels. I have another ongoing project I am working on one right now in fact. In addition to the concept project I mentioned earlier, I am currently working on an album collection of my own melodic rock songs for a fantastic new unsigned female singer. She looks great, she sounds great and the songs, although I say so myself, are very strong indeed. All that said, it will not be easy to secure the right label for this project.
Launching a brand new commodity requires a 'longsighted' commitment and belief. When I wrote the first three solo albums for Bob Catley I had the benefit of the fact that he was 'Bob from Magnum'. A known quantity. It is very hard to procure financial backing for new, unknown artists, today, no matter how fantastic they are.

Read the full double page spread where Gary talks in-depth about his return to the live stage, the music business and Ten’s future in Fireworks #49.

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