interview with Australian actor Steve Hughes
The outspoken, thought-provoking, very talkative, and most importantly, fun, self-confessed conspiracy theorist, Steve Hughes is arguably one of the best comedic talents working today.
The internationally renowned Australian comedian, already seen on the BBC Living in the Apollo and Michael McIntyre’s comic roadshow, kicked off their first UK comedy tour in seven years last Wednesday (September 22) in Cardiff. The tour – titled Are you serious? – will reach Cambridge on October 9.
Icon of heavy metal music, Steve’s first solo project is etum, for which he wrote all the songs and then recorded them on his own, having learned to play the guitar himself. He is a “professional” drummer. etum was released late last year and will be available on vinyl starting October 16.
Steve’s opinions on conspiracies, freedoms, and all things controversial are well known, making for an entertaining and very interesting conversation. The Cambridge Independent caught up with this larger-than-life character while he was writing a comedy set for a little club concert he had later that day.
While some comedians follow what’s going on in the news and go from there, Steve isn’t one of them. “I don’t watch the news, I can’t believe human beings can go through this,” he says. “I haven’t watched television since 1987. I watched videos – I watched Black viper and Young people and movies but I don’t watch TV.
“I can’t watch the commercials – my whole soul feels insulted, so whatever is going on in the news I haven’t seen it for a second… They are liars – they told you there had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they’ll say anything.
Steve notes that the extent to which a particular performance is improvised depends on its audience. “If I’m going to do a show on tour, I have the hour and a half in mind, if I’m lucky,” he explains, “because like that, you can maybe go improvise. If I know what I’m doing, I can go “off-road”.
“I like to improvise, it’s good. People think, “Oh, you must be so good at improvising.” Yeah, there is that but it’s more difficult to put in question. It’s like writing songs; you can sit there and play together all night – no one tells you what to do, you just start playing and follow the drummer.
“It’s harder to write a catchy piece that everyone loves than just jamming – although I know musicians who can’t jam either!” “
Despite being born in Sydney, Steve has always been keenly aware of his English roots. “My dad was English and my mother-in-law was English, so I kind of grew up in an English house anyway,” he recalls. “My dad didn’t put on shorts and started watching football, drinking beer and walking around being an idiot.
“So I eat Yorkshire pudding and toad in the hole and there is English stuff when I grow up, because you’re a settler.” I was doing comedy once in Sweden and I was watching Swedish guys and I was like, ‘I wonder what it’s like to be from the country you are from?
“As if I were a Swede with Swedish parents with Swedish grandparents with Swedish great-great-grandparents. Maybe someone married a French girl along the way, but I’m basically in Sweden with Swedish blood.
“Australians, Americans and Canadians – they are settlers. Where do you come from? What am I? I’m just a white man living on stolen land in the middle of Asia. So all the culture there [in Australia] was very superficial and stupid to me. It was ignorant, it was boring, it was conservative …
“People don’t take into account what’s wrong with Australia because they’re not programmed to see anything bad there, and that also comes down to being in a country that committed genocide against an indigenous people, and it’s a dark collective shadow that you have to watch if you want to heal this – and they don’t watch it, it’s never watched, it’s ignored.
“Don’t get me wrong, if you want to go and see the land, it’s beautiful. If you want, you can still explore the desert and die! You can go live in a rainforest or sit next to a beach … the place is heaven in that sense.
A founding member of Slaughter Lord – one of Australia’s first thrash metal bands – in the 1980s, Steve has since performed with other bands, including Mortal Sin, Australia’s most recognized metal band at the time.
But he moved to Ireland in 1999 to pursue a career in stand-up. Steve then moved to London in 2000 and then lived in Manchester until 2014. to tour and they shut down the world …
“I don’t think that [the pandemic] is finished by any stretch of the imagination for everyone – not at all. “
The “collapse” Steve refers to is due to years of living fast, although he is now on the mend. “I got over that,” he said, “seven years of shamans and those dirty psychopathic drugs that I stupidly took from myself… you can do it.”
He adds, “That’s the great thing about being a conspiracy theorist, anyway I didn’t want to be on pysch meds; I had a huge adrenal fatigue breakdown, basically just from total exhaustion – 30 years of craziness – and it gives you depression. “
Steve did feel, however, that there were some positives that came out of the whole experience. “In a way, even though it was a dark night of the soul, it woke me up,” he explains. “I realized I was a robot who had read 5,000 conspiracy theory books thinking I knew things – I had knowledge but I had no wisdom.”
Despite his problems, Steve looks categorically “in good shape” and is eagerly awaiting his show at the Junction. He says he will take care of his mental health issues in Are you serious? “I’m going to do it for sure, because I wrote a show about it on Oz because I had some kind of a break. [the breakdown] around 2016 – so I will include some of it in this show.
South African stand-up Loyiso Gola on the way to Cambridge
New album from Men on the Border, a band that celebrates the music of Syd Barrett
Irish Indoor Champion Louise Shanahan finds balance between elite athletics and quantum physics at Cambridge University
The Happy Mondays roll back the years at Cambridge Corn Exchange