SO FAR I’VE HAD THE PLEASURE OF INTERVIEWING A WHOLE BUNCH OF LOVELY PEOPLE, AND THIS BONA FIDE LOCAL LEDGE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTION. HIS SOUND ENGINEERING WORK HAS TOUCHED THOUSANDS OF NOVACASTRIAN SOULS, AND HIS MUSIC HAS BEEN HEARD IN PLACES ALL OVER THE WORLD. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, GROTS AND GIRLS, GIVE IT UP FOR MR HUGH GORDON!!! *Insert hyped applause*
Our good friend Hugh has been kicking around the music scene since the time when fluffy mullets and high-vis tracksuits were more than just your boyfriend’s Groovin the Moo attire.
‘I’ve been in the music industry since the early 80s. I did my first professional gig in 1980 at the Family Hotel in Newcastle,’ he said. ‘I was a full-time professional musician playing music as a performer through the 90s and the early 2000s. I worked playing cover music… Then I also set up a little recording studio in the community arts centre, which I’ve had for quite a number of years.’
Growing up, Hugh had a keen interest in music and performing, but he wasn’t automatically sold on the whole ‘struggling muso’ career path.
‘I wasn’t sure if I was going to make a full-time living out of it,’ he chuckled. ‘I studied primary school teaching, and then I just found that what I loved doing was music, so that’s what I did.’
While studying at the University of Newcastle, Hugh somehow managed to snag himself the honorary position of President for the Student Union. He also turns out to be the bloke you should thank for between-class-bevvies.
‘The year that I was President was actually the year we built Bar on the Hill. So I put the bar in Bar on the Hill,’ he laughed. ‘And through that time I was playing in bands and doing music as well.’
As well as dishing out his sik prez skillz and strumming the nylon strings, Hugh began dabbling in a bit of sound engineering work, which opened him up to the industry even more.
‘I did a short course,’ he said. ‘I’d been doing sound engineering for a number of years, but the course actually showed me why the things I was doing worked well, and honed my skills.’
Shortly after, Hugh’s career took a pretty fantastic turn. If you thought the Bar on the Hill thing was cool, you better hold on to your Fender strap bro, ’cause Hugh used to get paid to play gigs IN THE GODDAMN ALPS.
‘There was a bit of a tradition of soloists and duos from Newcastle performing in a few of the Austrian ski villages, so I followed up a few contacts and landed a four-month residency in a town called Kitzbühel in Austria,’ he explained. ‘Then I met people and went to Crete in Greece, and worked in the summer resorts there… I went back to Austria and to Scandinavia, worked up there for another eight months, and then went back to Austria again. The travelling and the music were lots of fun. I really enjoyed it!’
Ahh yes, the hills are alive with the sound of Hugh Gordon! (And also the sound of me melting into the carpet after making that culturally significant yet embarrassingly atrocious joke.)
As you can imagine, Hugh’s big overseas adventure provided him with a bucketload of wonderful memories, some of which apparently also involved a bucketload of traditional European alcohol.
‘I met lots of amazing people and wrote music with lots of people, and I still have friends that I keep in contact with. One of my weirdest nights was when it was near the end of the season – they were closing down one of the huts and they were like, “Oh, come in and have a drink!”’ he laughed. ‘I had to go to work, and I couldn’t talk very clearly between the songs… Then when I’d finished my first set and I went up to play my second set, I couldn’t remember what I’d played… Too many schnapps!’
These days, when he isn’t smashing down sevens full of hard German liquor, Hugh is running lunchtime gigs at UoN and providing stellar entertainment for various educational events, including Stress Less Week and the Annual Uni Grog-Fest (aka Autonomy Day). He also organises the sound dudes down at the Lass.
‘When I came back from overseas, I started doing some sound engineering work again at the University. I played some gigs there, and as I was doing that they went through a few changes,’ he said. ‘I realised that we were actually paying a lot of money for not very good acts…. So as well as sound engineering, I started to organise the lunchtime entertainment acts too, and help the clubs and societies with their events. Now I have a full-time job.’
He’s also heavily involved with student musos, helping local talented youngsters find their feet in the relentlessly hectic music industry mosh pit.
‘I’m now in a position where I can encourage other performers, and give them the chance to find their passion,’ he explained. ‘I understand education and teaching some of those skills… But I definitely found that my passion is more working with young musicians and helping them.’
According to Hugh, Newcastle is fricken’ overflowing with grouse musical acts, which doesn’t really come as a surprise because obvs Newy is the dopest place in Oz. However, he does point out that there is a noticeable lack of professional representation available for young bands.
‘I enjoy being a part of the music scene in Newcastle. I think it’s lively, I think there are lots of different styles of music going on, and in the original music scene there are lots of talented musicians,’ he asserted. ‘But finding the managers that can help promote the young artists is the hard part. There’s a bit of a shortage of that.’
During his career, Hugh has had to overcome a number of big-ass boulders, including the tragic death of his father and the woes of self-employment.
‘Particularly as a performer, I booked myself independently, so I had to always find my own work,’ he said. ‘Trying to pay the mortgage and do that sort of stuff… That was a big challenge. And often the times I could go out and play gigs were the times people wanted me in the recording studio… So yeah, just juggling the times was difficult.’
But in the end, he still bloody loves what he does. ‘It’s a privilege to be able to be a part of it and to still be working in it. It’s great.’
I think we can all agree that Hugh’s time in the music industry has definitely earned him a spot on the Invisible Newcastle Walk of Wonderfulness. And just quickly, before you head off to do ‘more important’ things with your life, our new best friend has some parting wisdom for all you tune-making chums out there: ‘Just follow your passion and hone your skills, and care about it, because every time you perform, you never know who’s listening!’
You are a truly glorious human, Gordo! Keep neckin’ those schnapps, mate – you deserve ’em.