Hue and Cry's Pat and Greg Kane on why they'd rather make beautiful music than feud

After decades of working together punctuated by legendary clashes, peace has broken out between the Kane brothers, who are celebrating 40 years of their band Hue and Cry

In Paisley Abbey today I’ve got a confession to make. Once, desperate for a story, I shamelessly exploited Hue and Cry. It was far from the worst thing done in the name of journalism and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near the worst thing to happen to Pat and Greg Kane, those million-selling soul boys from Coatbridge, in the often ruthless pop biz. Still, every time I heard one of their songs afterwards, “Labour of Love” or “Looking for Linda” or “Violently”, I would ever so slightly wince. For nearly 30 years.

In 1996 Noel and Liam Gallagher had a bust-up on stage and it seemed like Oasis were no more. This was big, hot news and my tabloid instantly assumed a war footing, converting the features department into a rapid-response unit charged with firing out double-page spreads daily. Psychologists theorised, lookylikey tribute acts mourned, DJs prattled and we were fast running out of ideas. “Today was pretty s***e. Tomorrow better be good,” snarled the Ed. “Hue and Cry?” I suggested timidly. “Brothers, Scottish, always falling out?” A grunt to end morning conference. “On my desk by half-past three … ”

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Pat, when we spoke, gave good quote. Yes, it was tough working so creatively and intensely with family, and especially a brother. But he hoped the Oasis guys could sort out their differences. Don’t let it all fester, he warned. The quid pro quo was that Pat would get to talk about his music, plug an album or a tour. But I didn’t include any of this in the piece, knowing it wouldn't make the final cut. So Hue and Cry that day ended up as mere fluffers for the great Oasis psychodrama and headline generator. As indeed was your correspondent. Now the chance for me to make amends has arrived.

Pat (left) and Greg Kane aka Scottish pop duo Hue and Cry (Picture: John Devlin)Pat (left) and Greg Kane aka Scottish pop duo Hue and Cry (Picture: John Devlin)
Pat (left) and Greg Kane aka Scottish pop duo Hue and Cry (Picture: John Devlin)

Sibling rivalries are much in the news. There are the Princes, William and Harry, and I don’t know about you but I’ve got all their albums. Ed Miliband, who beat his brother David, the more gifted politician, to the Labour leadership, has been saying how their relationship still isn’t back to what it was but they’re working hard to repair it. And fellow Scots popsters The Jesus and Mary Chain, who also came undone spectacularly during a gig, revealed the other day that they’ve stopped the rows by cutting out the booze - “We’re tea and toast guys now,” said Jim and William Reid. Meanwhile, the world or a chunk of it may be waiting for Oasis to reform, provided the price is right, but I’m not. Instead I’m listening to the Kanes talk about how they’ve rediscovered brotherly love.

“The last fight we had was on the tour bus,” says Greg. “I like to drive because I don’t trust anyone else and Pat was in the back, head buried in a newspaper. But then this voice pops up: ‘You’ve missed a turning.’ The bugger obviously had his phone on his lap, checking the satnav all the time. I should have thrown my doughnut at him and probably in the past I would have done, but we have two rules for the road now which seem to serve us well: we don’t eat together and in a hotel we don’t stay in adjoining rooms.

“The girls at reception always want to put us together. ‘But you’re brothers,’ they’ll say. I have to tell them: ‘I’ve been driving all day so I’ll want to sleep. He’s been sleeping all day so he’ll want to sing in his room. I don’t want to endure that because I’m going to be on stage with him for two hours. Put some wee businessman in the next room and I’ll go at the other end of the hotel, thank you very much.’”

Does this sound like brotherly love? Well, you probably don’t work with your brother, or are required to speak to him more or less every day. Pat, 59, and Greg, who’s two years younger, have had no choice in the matter. “This isn’t natural,” says Greg. “It’s medieval is what it is,” says Pat. “It’s like we’re thirled to each other by, I don’t know, a farm.” Greg again: “If we did run a farm, what kind do you think?” Pat again: “Ants.” A guffaw from Greg: “Yes, Pat and Greg’s Ant Farm! There could be acrobatics!” Well, reality TV has functioned on far less novelty than that.

Hue and Cry performing live at the second day of the Rewind Festival at Scone Palace in 2018 (Picture:  Duncan Bryceland/Shutterstock)Hue and Cry performing live at the second day of the Rewind Festival at Scone Palace in 2018 (Picture:  Duncan Bryceland/Shutterstock)
Hue and Cry performing live at the second day of the Rewind Festival at Scone Palace in 2018 (Picture: Duncan Bryceland/Shutterstock)

And this is more like it. At their worst, Hue and Cry were war and strife. Next to them Pat once admitted, Noel and Liam were “hand-holding diplomats”. Now the Kanes seem to be at their best. Says Pat: “I could not admire this man more at the moment, as a musician, a citizen and a brother, and I could not love him more.”

Pat and Greg’s Ant Farm will have to wait. Before then there’s a tour celebrating four decades of mellow tunefulness. The abbey makes for a fine venue for honest and amused reflection and of course the boys have referenced this town in song (“On the slow train home/’Is this one for Paisley?’/’Oh you’ve got to help me’”). Greg, though I quickly come to look forward to his sardonic asides, is happy to let Pat do most of the talking and Kane the elder describes them having managed to reach the big four-oh as performers as “just stunning”.

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The hair may have gone along with the chart action but they’re relaxed about both. “Mine was thinning even when we performed on Top of the Pops,” admits Pat, and it’s worth YouTube-ing that slick, sharp-suited debut appearance for 1987’s “Labour of Love”, with Simon Bates professing himself “so glad” they’d made the show on time as last-minute substitutes for Los Lobos who’d hit visa problems. “That Pompadour of mine was only achieved through many hours’ of serious primping. I was very pleased when everyone started shaving their heads. I was worried mine might be terrible underneath but it’s quite a noble dome.”

There’s actually a Kane triumvirate with baby brother Gary a long-standing member of the Proclaimers’ band. Adds Pat: “Our father used to joke: ‘I wanted three lawyers or three goldfish. What I got were three musicians.’”

Pat and Greg Kane in their teen pin-up daysPat and Greg Kane in their teen pin-up days
Pat and Greg Kane in their teen pin-up days

Dad John and mum Mary were “classic aspirational working-class Scots” and Pat, who’s mixed music with journalism for some time now, penned a lovely tribute to Mary when she died, remembering a pillar of the community, midwife, Burns scholar and, in her youth, a top swimmer at butterfly. He wrote: “Have you ever seen the butterfly? You throw your arms out, you grab the world, you pull it behind you with sheer force - and then you do it again and again and again. That, in essence, was Mary Kane.”

And her husband used to describe her as “Scotland’s first feminist”.

Pat addresses his brother as “Gregory” and hails him as “the pro musician”. Greg studied classical piano at nine, saxophone at 13 and bass guitar at 15. He formed scratchy Specials and Scritti Politti-apeing bands in Coatbridge while Pat, by his own admission, was “a dilettante, just farting around on the sidelines”. The vocalist in one of those bands being indisposed was his break, though he reckoned he could sing from the Christmas family party-piece tradition in front of the aunties when, to please his dad, he’d croon like Frank Sinatra.

But their experiences of their old school, St Ambrose High, were markedly different, something Greg seems surprised to discover today. Music lessons brought the latter into contact with girls at a time when most boys struggled to talk to them. The headmaster was Bob Crampsey, football sage and the first Brain of Britain with a soft power approach to discipline where he’d challenge Greg to play Beethoven sonatas in his study, error-free. And the janitor allowed the tyro’s bands to rehearse in the assembly hall, though the reaction of the cleaners was often: “Rubbish! Play something we ken!”

Here’s Pat on St Ambrose: “I used to think my name had been changed by deed poll to ‘Poof’ because by second year that’s all I ever got called. I took part in school plays and literary competitions which meant that during the dreaded playtime I’d have to be locked in a classroom for my own good. I was there with other sensitive types and would later write a song about them - ‘Carlo, Riggs, McGarry & Me’.” Did he play football? “I tried, but while I had the legs of Kenny Dalglish I also had the skills of Thora Hird. Gregory, meanwhile, had the skills of Dalglish but - such an injustice - couldn’t give a monkey’s about winning the game.”

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There’s a line in the Hue and Cry song “Ordinary Angels” which is relevant here: “I want a life that’s bigger than me/But I’m crushing myself to death.” Pat continues: “Coatbridge was a rough old iron town and I couldn’t wait to get out. There are brilliant aspects to working-class culture but the tall poppy syndrome isn’t great.” His father tutored him in the world beyond. “He told me to read dictionaries because the power of words would enable me to control the direction of my life. There was also a full set of Encyclopedias Britannica in our house so we had this world library, just across from the fireplace and next to the telly. Dad was a British Rail wages clerk most of his days who was always looking beyond his situation. He loved American singers like Sinatra and all the imagery in their songs of beauty, power, glory and flying to the moon. Scotland of the 1950s and 1960s was pretty grim and American culture was a means of escape. I just continued that legacy.”

Pat and Greg’s father may not have made it beyond Coatbridge’s boundary line but his boys did, and before fame struck, to uni. For them, the key American singers of the 1970s were Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone and Marvin Gaye. “Their songs were social, political, cosmic.” Hue and Cry’s breakthrough with “Labour of Love” was at least two of these things, even if the brothers channeling the revolutionary zeal of Arthur Scargill may have been lost on the youngest kids who fired the song to No 6 in the hit parade.

This, I reckon, is the important stuff. Of course a long career in pop - by its natural ephemeral so that’s almost a contradiction in terms - is bound to throw up the bizarre and the bonkers. Come on then, guys, what’s the daftest question you’ve ever been asked? Pat: “That would be: ‘How did you two meet?’ Remember that?” Greg: “I remember being asked it more than once.”

And for the sake of balance what’s the daftest stunt dreamt up by yourselves? Pat again: “Maybe one of mine. A photograph for a music magazine of the pair of us with big brushes, sweeping away loads of pop crap - posters, t-shirts, scarves - to reveal a picture of a starving child.” Pat cringes. “I guess I thought we were getting rid of the meretriciousness of this industry.” But Greg says: “Ach, it was a noble gesture. Maybe at the time I didn’t think that but on reflection: well done, brother.” Pat more than ever is a political animal, espousing the independence cause. He acknowledges, though, that there’s a time and a place, having occasionally brought politics into gigs with catcalls the response.

Any Spinal Tap moments? “Not that level of folly,” he says, “but for our third album we did that classic thing of trying to get it together in the country, somewhere right off the beaten track, a beautiful studio in the south of France these days owned by Brad Pitt and the world’s first concrete building. It was very relaxing and I thought, songwriting-wise, it would make me fly, but I ended up feeling quite oppressed.” It was a world away from, say, working on Broadway with the “full symphony of modern life” right outside the door capable of inspiring with just a purposeful stride or a fearful expression. “I seem to need a certain tension in my environment,” he continues and Greg laughs: “You just didn’t bond with the pigs.”

Now both of them are chuckling. “We didn’t really need to fly Concorde to mix that album in New York, did we?” says Pat. “Mind you, it was luxurious - and so fast.” Greg: “It was bloody cramped, like being in the back of a Transit van, and the reek of aviation fuel never went away.” “Don’t you remember the sky turning purple when it reached the flight’s highest point?” “Don’t you remember take-off, having to get to 200 mph and never seeming like it would?” “It was supersonic!” “It was horrible!”

The Kanes are on a roll now. Greg mentions a gig at Greenock Arts Guild in 1991 where the impresario Seymour Stein had flown in from the States to check them out. Pat: “The guy had signed Madonna and Talking Heads. In the bar afterwards he told me I sang like Clyde McPhatter. ‘But those songs of yours,’ he said, ‘we’ll have to sort them out.’ ‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘You need to work with co-writers.’ There was one with him, a guy with a leather piano key tie. Greg: “And Seymour was wearing an ‘I love Michael Jackson’ badge.’ Pat: “That was never going to work.” Greg: “But for the tie and the badge, though, don’t you ever wonder what part of LA we’d both be lost in right now? With our hair transplants and plastic surgery. And after the corrective procedures, one eye up like this and the other one down like that.” Instead Greg has settled in Glasgow and Pat has recently moved to Leith, the latter having been married to ex-SNP MSP Joan McAlpine and the former to musician Yvonne Tipping. Pat has two daughters, Grace and Eleanor, and Greg one, Ava Rose.

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After that third album Hue and Cry were dropped from their label. No biggie, says Pat, remembering how rapidly they’d risen: six months on from student demos the Kanes were gallivanting round Los Angeles to the promptings of Madonna and David Bowie photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

The 1990s were a time for experimentation, jazz and even drum ’n’ bass. In 2006 Greg was working as a producer and his brother - very Pat Kane, this - was Thinker-in-Residence at Bristol’s Festival of Ideas. TV’s Hit Me Baby, One More Time - cruelly dubbed a has-beens show - invited them to perform a cover of their choice. That Eiger of a track, Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”, stormingly delivered, revived fortunes. Look out for Hue and Cry go techno, coming in 2025.

In 2024 they’re in a happy place. So much so that after listening to their merry banter today it’s baffling that they haven’t always been. Pat is reluctant to go into too much gory detail from the past. “It’s bad archaeology,” he says. “We could dig up stuff which is better staying where it is. Sibling rivalries are usually worked out in private, in domestic spaces. It was just a shame for us that ours unfolded in public. But we’ve come through the other side. How? Kids help, divorce helps, parents passing helps, maturing helps.”

He quotes from their song “Remote”: “The tension is all that we’ll ever have/May as well use it.” And he says: “The tension between us used to be emotional. Now it’s creative. The dynamic has changed. There’s a deep connection, a desire to impress each other and the recognition: 40 years, amazing.”

And has he got a big number with which to finish? Oh yes. There are, not least for pop stars, more important things to worry about than “your reputation, your status, your look”. Humankind is capable of demonstrating extreme intelligence but also extreme stupidity in “establishing the conditions to potentially destroy itself”. This “absurdity” can provoke a response that’s nihilistic but another way is to make music.

“In 2024 one of the sanest areas of life must be pop. What’s sung about is love, sex, intimacy, sometimes mental health, sometimes a better world - but mostly love and it’s done relentlessly. People right now are beset by crises but there’s an element of utopia about being in a room with a few hundred of them for an evening that can be joyous. I’m very happy to be making music and how lucky am I to still be able to do that with the guy sitting next to me?”

Hue and Cry’s 40th anniversary tour begins on 10 October. The duo are reflecting on their pop life together in videos released monthly. See for details