Time Out: It’s over to Hugh for Guilty pleasures

Hugh Cornwell - credit Robert Kenney
Hugh Cornwell - credit Robert Kenney
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JUST like behind every man there’s a good woman so each enduring musician can lay claim to a manager who knows his onions.

JUST like behind every man there’s a good woman so each enduring musician can lay claim to a manager who knows his onions.

Such is arguably the case for former Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell as he steers a UK tour to Sheffield that sees him play critically acclaimed solo album Guilty from start to finish.

It is 21 years since Hugh left a band that sprang to mainstream success from the British punk movement to find solo glory with defining albums such as Wolf, Nosferatu and Hooverdam.

“It was actually my manager’s idea,” confirms Hugh whose last tour saw him perform Hooverdam in it’s entirety in one half followed by first Stranglers album Rattus Norvegicus in the other.

“The Hooverdam / Rattus tour went down such a storm he said that I should do it again, but with Guilty. The requests for Guilty haven’t stopped since it was first released.

“The fans heard my interpretation of Rattus Norvegicus, so they’re demanding to hear the other Stranglers epics ‘a la Hugh’.

“I’ve got so much music going round in my head as not only am I working on the music for this tour, I’m also keeping the Rattus music there as I’m off to America before the tour to perform it – and I’ll have Clem Burke of Blondie playing drums for me.

“Also my new album, called Totem and Taboo, is coming along in leaps and bounds. I’ve just been finishing some demos, so that music is in my head also. It’s good to test yourself.”

Added to that, fans have been voting via his website for their favourite tracks and Hugh will perform the five most wanted at the end of shows, such as Sheffield’s O2 Academy on April 10.

“I’ll have to check soon which songs we’ll be doing. It’s a challenge.”

One thing that shines through now is Hugh seems more comfortable with his past with The Stranglers, previously a taboo subject, especially considering his split wasn’t exactly amicable.

“When I first left I didn’t want to hear about them or the songs,” he says. “But producer Laurie Latham told me ‘they’re your songs, you should play them’ and I thought, ‘yes, I wrote or co-wrote the songs’, so I started playing them.

“There was complete outrage from The Stranglers at the time, but I thought, ‘I’m playing ‘em ‘cos I f*****g wrote ‘em’.”

Not that there is any contact these days between Hugh and his former bandmates, who played the same Academy venue last weekend.

“I don’t speak to them, but they’re still out there which shows their longevity. Good luck to them. I wish them the best of luck.”

Stranglers songs still figure in Hugh’s set, such as Schoolma’am, Toiler On The Sea, I Feel Like A W** and the more obvious ones.

“I’ve always wanted to perform some of the epic songs and this was my chance. There are some keyboards in them so I double up when necessary, but most are guitar pieces,” says Hugh who has some new faces in his touring band, namely drummer Chris Bell and Steve Lawrence.

“They were the rhythm section who actually played on the Guilty album. It’s weird, I’ve played with Chris and Steve longer than I played with The Stranglers.”

Beyond the tour Hugh is stretching his literary talents once again. Having enjoyed writing his autobiography a few years ago next month he has a psychological thriller called Window On The World out. He’s also lined up to take part in a tribute to The Ramones in New York.

In the meantime, he’s keen fans heading to his show check out the support band.

“I was in Brazil last year and I had the opportunity to play with a duo called The Brothers Of Brazil,” he recalls.

“They’re an unusual-sounding band. One of the brothers drums whilst the other plays bossa nova on the guitar - they call it ‘punkanova’ - and they’ll be doing about 20 minutes in between my two sets.”

Martin Hutchinson