Hugo Race is a prolific performer, musician, writer, producer and a founding member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds. Hugo will be visiting the Port Macquarie Hotel on Thursday, June 21. We catch up and meet the man behind the music.
Where are you from originally, and where do you call home these days?
I’m from Melbourne originally, and I’ve had the wanderlust for the best part of three decades … I’ve been all over the place. So much so, that there is nowhere specifically that I call home with a capital H. I’m back in Melbourne now – sort of reoriented myself back to Melbourne.
You are a founding member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. How was it touring the world and appearing on five different albums with Nick?
I started working with Nick around the demise of The Birthday Party, when he was writing new material which eventually became from Here to Eternity – but it was in a very embryonic form. We initially did an Australian tour with his hybrid set and my band, which was a support group. One of Nick’s band members couldn’t make the tour, so I got drafted in to play with Nick. So, that was the reason why I joined in the first place. It went well enough, and so did the record.
On the strength of that, we toured Europe and the United States and that went for a few months, and then basically I left the band. I wanted to get back to my own band, music and lyrics. That was the end of my work together with Nick, although I did play on some of the studio albums in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
You spent a substantial amount of time overseas; you’ve lived in Italy, France, Germany, the UK, the USA, and you have toured with the True Spirit Collective, which is your band.
Yeah, that was my mainstay band for about 10 years from ‘89 to about 2000. I was touring extensively with those guys, but we are now in an ongoing hiatus. Our last record came out fours years ago, and we haven’t done anything since (laughs).
During that 10 years, was it an exciting and hectic time, and do you have any standout moments?
Yes, that’s true. It was pretty exciting and stimulating; there is so much to think about. True Spirit did about 10 or 12 studio albums and about 6 or 7 Trans-European tours, so there is a lot there to pull a specific memory from. But I’d say the most exciting time for us as a band was in the early ‘90s, when we were based out of Berlin. We started playing all over eastern Europe just after the iron curtain came down, and that was just amazing on every level. You felt the clash of civilization, and you saw the ruins of the totalitarian state. It was such an unforgettable time, and it had a very big impact on our sound and with what we were doing with music. It sort of put a political spin on what True Spirit was all about, and it came out in our records in late 1990s/early 2000s.
True spirit recorded a whole album in a maximum security goal in Poland. What was that like?
That was only about two and half years ago. A fan of ours was working as an entertainment officer at the largest maximum security prison in Poland. He got in touch with our record label and asked if there was any chance that we could come and perform. I really wanted to do it.
We took in our own mobile recording gear, which wasn’t really anything too fancy, and we flung that all up in a really short amount of time, as we were on a very strict schedule with the prison authorities. We were only allowed to be in there for two hours, so we had to set up the sound check and recording and go straight into the concert. There were probably 500 guys in the audience, an extremely heavy looking audience, but I think they really enjoyed it.
You’ve been in the industry for a long time now. You’ve done some film, done some theatre … what other artist in the industry do you admire?
That is such a broad question. People often ask me, “What do you listen to?” The fact of it is, that I tend to follow what my friends are doing … people that I know, people that I have worked with. There is a whole range of people I have met and had the pleasure of playing with over the years, and I keep an ear open for what they are doing and don’t really pay too much attention to the mainstream and what’s going on.
People have a way of bringing things to your attention, as in emailing a link of an artist they think you might like, or being at a festival and hearing a band that blows you away so much that you go find out more about them. So I guess people I work with are inspiring, and it keeps me fully occupied in music, which is where I want to be.
You’re coming to Port Macquarie Hotel in June. What can audiences expect from your show?
Well, there is a new record just about to come out, called No But It’s True. It will be released just before the Port Macquarie show. It’s a solo record of mine; they are all cover songs and some are quite old, so that will be what I will be playing.
This story was published in issue 79 Greater Port Macquarie Focus