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Steve has issues; He might look like he's better off on stage with a heavy metal band, but rock-loving drummer-turned-stand-up Steve Hughes is a rising star in the He tells Dave Freak why he has bigger issues than just comedy firmament. choosing between metal and mirth on his mind.

COMEDIAN Steve Hughes is clearly a man divided. Having wowed audiences on Reginald D Hunter's recent tour, along with viewers of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, Steve is headlining his own UK tour for the first time.

Although excited, the metal-loving Aussie confesses he's seriously considering putting his comedy career on hold to concentrate on music.

However, with an album's worth of songs ready for release, the idea of forming his own trash-metal band is both heaven and hell.

"I'd love to tour with a band. I could easily take a year off and just do music, that wouldn't faze me for an instant," he says with forceful enthusiasm.

"But putting a band together is hard work. That's the reason I went into comedy - it was something I could do and not have to rely on other people. With comedy, there was no compromise, you don't have to convince anyone else to be as motivated as you are, you just turn up, there's no drum kit to set up, no van full of amps or moody musicians to worry about.

"The idea of putting a band together is a joy, but highly improbable. Having a relationship with one other person is hard, but having a relationship with a band, with three other blokes who all have ideas, who all need motivating, that's difficult.

"But if someone else wanted a drummer, that'd be different. Yes! That would be brilliant. If Tom Gabriel Fischer called or wanted to reform Celtic Frost - I'd drop everything and drum for him, gladly!" Sadly, the cult Swiss metal hero has yet to call, leaving Steve with no option but to continue with his stand up tour - certainly for the foreseeable future.

Entitled Big Issues, the 40-plus date jaunt finds Steve tackling some sizeable topics. "What I talk about are 'big issues' - obviously things like global warming, economic collapse and terrorism, but also rules and regulations, and words and their meaning."

As an example of his fascination with rules, words and meaning, he cites two examples from his former home.

"In Australia, January 26 was Australia Day - or as the Aboriginals call it, Invasion Day. But now it's called Citizen Day. What does it mean? Citizen Day? It sounds so George Orwellian! And you know, when the Australian government wanted to make jaywalking an offence they called it Operation Obedience!" Observing the rise of surveillance culture, he also recalls a Manchester sign that requested people report anything suspicious happening in the vicinity of a CCTV camera.

"Surely if you have CCTV, can't you see anything suspicious that's happening around the CCTV?" he laughs. "You see these blurry images on TV and in newspapers, yet I can go on the internet and see pictures of my house from space. They're as clear as day, and your camera is only up a pole and it's all blurry! Why is that?" Raised by an opera-loving Mancunian father and English step mum, the leather-jacket wearing Australia-born Hughes confesses he always felt an outsider in the country of his birth.

Repulsed by "that whole sporty blokey thing," he found solace in the emerging trash metal scene - joining several seminal acts - and then comedy.

But with no established scene to seriously support either passion, he moved to the UK 10 years ago where he's concentrated on stand up.

Developing a style that avoids the small personal tales favoured by many of his peers for larger social and political themes - "I'm not paranoid, I'm suspicious," he smiles - he's found British audiences welcoming.

"I don't feel like an outsider in the UK - I feel more of an outsider in Australia," states the comic, who is currently sporting "a gay '80s porn Mexican 'tache" inspired by his love of Motorhead and Metallica.

"Australia's a very mainstream, conservative place and you don't really understand that until you leave. I've always felt an outcast from Australian culture. All my life I've wondered what to do, I always wanted to get out of Australia, it's so isolated, and that isolation plays a big part in why Australia is like it is. Australia's like three times the size of Europe or something, but there's nothing there. There's no infrastructure for things to happen in Australia."

But while he loves living in Blighty, his UK tours supporting US-born comedian Reginald D Hunter have made him look closer at the way we Brits view our country.

"Me and Reg have thought a lot about the whole 'small island mentality' thing," he says. "I have friends in London who have never been to Birmingham, or Manchester, or even Scotland, they see it as too far away. 'Why go there?' You can live in a city for 30 years and never need to go anywhere else - why should you? Everything is in the city where you live! So I can understand that.

"But when you live in a small island, your time-space ideas are different. It might take you seven hours to get to Edinburgh - but you think that's a long way? In Northern Australia, there's nothing but space and it can take you 12 hours to drive to a gig. Twelve! Hours! Reg used to spend four hours just driving to a sports game. See the game then drive back. A few hours on the motorway to the Midlands is nothing."

* Steve Hughes plays the Glee Club, Cardiff on Wednesday, February 15. Tickets priced pounds 9-pounds 12 are available from the box office on 0871 472 0400 or via www.glee.co.uk

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 8, 2012
Words:923
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