If you were of gig going age in the 1990s you might have been lucky enough to catch the cult Glasgow act Hugh Reed and the Velvet Underpants. I did and it was probably one of the my most enjoyable live music experiences of the decade, an anarchic rollercoaster replete with camp MC’s, quick change artistry, disco dancing and hilarious pop punk songs such as Car Nicked and Six to Wan.
The Underpants recorded a long player entitled Take a Walk on the Clydeside which garnered a lot of airplay and following a series of TV appearances they were invited to support Blondie’s Debbie Harry on the UK leg of her World. This culminated in a live duet of Velvet Undergrounds I’m Waiting for my Man news of which reached Hugh Reed’s near namesake, Lou Reed.
Hugh describes himself as “multi-talentless” and as such has a parallel career as a character actor starting with a memorable cameo in Trainspotting. Moving to Beijing, China, where he is a university lecturer, Hugh acquired a new band, continued to play live and landed more acting roles. These included a part in the Jackie Chan movie CZ12, which interestingly also boasts a cameo by smooth sax man Kenny G. It seems Jackie Chan’s musical tastes really run the gamut!
The Neil Oliver BBC Scotland documentary Scots in China also recently featured Hugh. During its running time he can be seen teaching, playing live, and discussing the country’s future with his friends and Mr Oliver.
Now back on Scottish shores and reunited with his Underpants, The Fountain caught up with Hugh via Zoom.
TF: Are you planning more live appearances now that you are back home?
I’m living on Bute now and we’ve been playing here, we’ve got a gig in Rothsay this Halloween. We recently played at the The Bungalow in Paisley, which was great a venue and we’ve also got a gig at the Twa Tams on Perth on the 16th October. It’s always been one of our favourite places to play.
TF: What’s it like making music with The Velvet Underpants once again?
I’ve always kept in contact with the guys. Even when I was living in China I’d come back every summer and we would usually play one gig on Bute and one in Glasgow. Before I moved to China the band used to get pissed off with me for booking too many gigs. Now having lived through Covid everyones really up for it and just wants to play as much as they can. We’ve also been writing and recording again, I’m just back from rehearsing in Glasgow.
TF: Your live shows are deliciously anarchic, have you always been a big fan of punk?
My favourite band has always been and will always be The Sex Pistols but overall I really prefer New Wave, something with a bit of an imagination. I don’t like it when people are just thrashing away all the time.
TF: Your sense of humour is something that really makes you stand out is that something that’s important to you?
It’s more about putting on a show and the humour is part of that. One of my heroes is Alex Harvey, he was an entertainer, he wasn’t necessarily funny but he was putting on a show. In China the fact that I was putting on a show and there was a visual element really helped. I believe in Rock n’ Roll and it’s power to communicate even when there is a language barrier.