Pat Kane, (seen here at the front), one half of the duo Hue And Cry, chats with Kevin Cooper about their 1988 hit Looking For Linda, working with his brother, their new studio album Pocket Full Of Stones and their forthcoming appearance at The Flashpoint Festival.

Pat Kane is a Scottish musician, journalist, political activist and half of the pop duo Hue and Cry with his younger brother Greg. Formed in 1983, they are best known for their 1987 single, Labour of Love.

Having released a total of 13 studio albums, their last one being September Songs in 2015, they are now working on another release.

Kane is a writer on political and cultural topics, and was an activist for Scottish self-government in the 80s and 90s. He helped found the organization Artists For An Independent Scotland. In 1990, he was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow for three years (defeating veteran Labour MP Tony Benn). He had graduated from the school in 1985, earning an MA in English.

During the 90s he began working as an arts journalist, presenting several live discussion shows for Channel 4 and BBC2, and came third with BBC Radio Scotland series, Kane Over America for a Sony Award, in a category won by Allan Little. In 1999, Kane was one of the founding editors of the Sunday Herald newspaper. He occasionally writes for The Guardian and is a regular columnist for sister paper to the Sunday Herald, The National.

Whilst getting ready for the Festival season this summer, he took some time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Pat, good morning how are you today?

Hi Kevin I’m very well thank you, how are you?

I’m very well thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

That’s okay, it’s my pleasure.

And how is life treating you?

Life in general is treating me very well thank you. The sun is shining, my peppermint tea at the moment is at optimum temperature, and everything is fine.

Good, well we have a monsoon here in Nottingham.

That’s good then as I sent that to you from where I was just to prove to you that I have power over the rain (laughter).

I suppose that we should talk about the Flashpoint Festival hadn’t we?

Yes we had, that’s what I am here for today.

I would love to meet the person who thinks up these names (laughter).

(Laughter) I know what you mean. It’s a banal job but somebody has to make money from it.

Are you looking forward to the festival season?

I will be totally honest with you and say that I always look forward to these things. For me personally, it is partly a hang out with amazing 80s and 90s peers. We know Deacon Blue very well; they are very close brothers and sisters of ours. But the one person who I am particularly excited about seeing, and perhaps even get to meet him, is Marc Almond. I have been a great fan of his work over the years.

What do you think makes these retro shows so popular?

For me as an artist I think that we all enjoy the fact that we can get together and play to appreciative audiences. In respect to the audiences, I have always found that the 80s and 90s audiences are very open minded and are able to take on board a lot of different styles of music simply because that is what the era was like. It is always very enjoyable for us to play these kind of shows. Everyone always has a great time.

Some of the artists on the circuit get offended when they are referred to as being retro. Does the term bother you at all?

No, not at all. We enjoy playing our songs from the 80s and 90s, and I have no problem performing them now as we poured our hearts and souls into them when we originally wrote and recorded them back in the day. We aspired as high as we could when we wrote them, and when we go out live we play with a fantastic bunch of musicians who have all played on our last couple of albums. When you see what we are doing it is a proper music show and I really do love the 80s and 90s stuff. We are both very proud of those songs.

I first met you at the Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham when you were touring with The Christians and Go West. That was a fantastic evening.

Really, that was a great tour. The Christians really are a fantastic bunch of guys, as are the guys in Go West.

Do you prefer to tour as a duo with Greg or would you rather be on stage with the full band?

I think that both have their own power. Sometimes when you walk out into a big venue and it is just a piano and vocals it can be quite magical because you just pull the whole space into what you are doing with your brother. However, we recently played a big celebratory gig in Glasgow and it had horns, backing vocals, string section, in fact it had everything (laughter) and what a noise we made all night. It was just glorious. But the one thing that I would say is that it is a bit of a litmus test, in the fact that if the songs that we play in the acoustic experience can move people and get to people under those conditions, then they are keepers. That is also a good way for us to try out the new songs as well. A few of the songs that will be on the forthcoming studio album have been road tested now for about a year on piano and vocal and so we know that they are going to be good.

I personally love seeing you with just the piano and vocal. I think that it works really well.

Yes I would agree, we are very happy with it. My brother Greg flits between guitar, saxophone and keyboards, amongst other things so it helps with him being a multi-instrumentalist.

I have to say that I think that your voice is sounding better than ever. Would you agree with that?

I wouldn’t go that far but what I would say is that it certainly has its moments, I will give you that. I think that I am now taking much better care of it than I did as a youngster. I didn’t know anything about vocal technique; I just went out there and sang which is what I thought the greats did. I was listening to Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder and I just went out and tried to copy them without having any idea as to how to do that. Nowadays I am practising every day; I do vocal exercises every day, I think about technique a lot and then sometimes when it is live you simply forget about all of your training and it just flies off and you will feed off someone else (laughter). That is the moment that you live for and it usually happens once or twice in a gig. That moment when you are not concentrating and it just comes out, and all of that technique helps it to come out.

Sometimes I would love to sit down with a group of younger singers who think that they can busk it who have no technique whatsoever. There is one thing that I would have loved to have learned earlier on and that is having a good technique. I found myself looking at Adel and thinking about her drinking and smoking and thinking that she had received a warning call but luckily she appears to have heeded it. I would have to say that other than sheer madness or art, lead singers have to defend their voice against everything and everybody, whether it is singing in the cold, singing too much, or doing too many gigs, and that is why us lead singers can be mad egotistical aloof silent hermits because we are simply trying to save our bloody voice. So that’s my excuse Kevin, whether it’s a true one or not I’m not quite sure (laughter).

I was recently listening to Looking For Linda and I have to say that in my opinion it could have been recorded yesterday, it is that fresh.

I have to say that it provides some mild hilarity, the fact that young people keep coming around to certain keyboard sounds, drum sounds and chord sequences that one has explored thoroughly at least thirty years ago (laughter). I hear what you are saying and that’s nice, I think that’s cool and I thank you for that. Whenever I listen to someone young, Disclosure for example, I think that if I was a young man perhaps coming straight out of the box today, then that is the kind of music that I would be making. There are all of these sequences, loops and artificial sounds plus there is a commitment to song writing and melody, together with a passionate vocal performance.

I know that Disclosure will not know Hue and Cry from a scrawl in a book but I can hear exactly what they are trying to do with technology and soul. So I am not surprised to hear you say that, I think it’s right, but I think that musicians over the years fool themselves with the same set of problems so it’s not surprising that they come up with the same set of answers. I am not surprised that a lot of the post-punk stuff that we were exploring in the era of Prince and Scritti Politti comes back round again. We were throwing ourselves into that the first time around combining all of those different elements so it’s nice to be in a position to move forward.

What I find quite amusing is that everyone is putting up Rag’n’Bone Man as the savour of the music industry, but whenever I listen to him all that I can hear is Rick Astley.

(Laughter) yes it is, I know exactly what you mean. Having said that I love his story. His dad ran a blues club and played in a blues band in Essex. He just listened to the music in the time honoured way that boys listen to their dad’s record collection. I would listen to my dad’s Frank Sinatra records while he would be listening to his dad’s Muddy Waters albums together with the deep blues guys. I love that. There is something I really love about the fact that he’s out there looking like someone from a Hip Hop crew but there he is singing the blues. He is fantastic, really, really wonderful.

You have briefly mentioned the new studio album Pocket Full Of Stones. Is it all finished and ready to go?

Yes it is, it is all done and dusted. As you rightly say it is called Pocket Full Of Stones and we refer to it as a ballad and anthems album. It is full of beautiful string driven ballads and also mighty pounding anthems. It is all completely new songs, and all completely new material.

Do you have a release date as yet?

Yes we do, the album will be released on 1st September.

I have to ask you, what has it been like spending your entire working lifetime working with your brother?

Well, we are very philosophical these days as you might imagine. You either have to be philosophical or kill each other (laughter). You can only go one road or the other. He is my favourite musician I think, and I am totally in awe of his talents at times. We are both parents now although he is at the other end of the telescope, mine are twenty and twenty-eight and his is four. So we have a lot of sympathy, and unbelievably after years of condemning his older brothers advice he occasionally tip toes towards me and asks “what do you think about this” or “what do you think about that” and I gently deliver what scraps of wisdom that I have.

We are currently in a fantastic space to write and we have so many records still in the pipeline to try and do. It is wonderful working with him and it makes me realise the role that music plays in one’s life and that for me is the fact that if I didn’t do that it would feel like an amputation. I guess that is how things work out when you are working with your brother. Making music is a deeply wired affair between the two of us and hopefully it helps us to come up with something distinctive.

Was it always going to be a career in music, were you never tempted to follow a route into politics?

To be honest, I have often been more than tempted and I have stuck myself out there on a number of issues, most recently the subject of Scottish independence. Back in 1985 I was actually all cued up to be an English and Media Studies teacher in London and then the music business swooped me away into a world of promotional jackets and Jack Daniels (laughter). And as you see me today, this is where I ended up (laughter).

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That’s a good question. Well the song that always makes me cry is the Tom Waits song Take It With Me. There are four lines it that song that are the best four lines ever written in a popular song that I know and if I can remember them they are ‘children are playing at the end of the day, strangers are singing on my lawn, there has got to be more than flesh and bone, all that you’ve loved is all that you own’. If I ever get anywhere near writing something as good as that then lyrically and musically I will be doing alright.

On that note Pat let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been a pleasure. You take care and I will see you at the Flashpoint Festival in July.

Thanks Kevin it’s been great and please do make yourself known at the gig. It would be great to meet up. Bye for now.