Steve Hughes: "It's the beginning of the Satanic new world order" and it ain't pretty

Remember that kid getting scolded by his father for watching Megadeth when he wanted to see the News? Well, this IS the news, according to man of quick-silver wit and rivet head, Steve Hughes. Die-hard Metallica fans might want to grab a tissue for this one...

“I’ll grab me coffee and I’ll be there,” speaks comedian Steve Hughes softly down the phone from Brisbane after a spell in Adelaide, South Australia. To the uninitiated, it’s a godforsaken outpost of wine, weed and the weird. Steve is bedraggled, rakish and clad in faded black t-shirt. He’s more smartarse than man, driven extra mad by misinformation and bullshit fed down the mass media pipe. So he fits right in, as a matter of course. “I didn’t go from death metal to comedy because I’m completely fucking normal,” he quips.

It boasts one of the only bonafide heavy metal clubs, the Enigma Bar, the only one of its kind in the continent. Otherwise it’s borderline inhospitable in summer. The sun whacks each resident into energy devoid zombies for weeks at a time. Hellish winds choke in the day and air conditioners rattle long into nights.

Steve Hughes, straight out of wintery England was sitting right in the middle of it. Isn’t he lucky?

From nowhere, he lets out one of his unmistakable, wheezy belly laughs. “You know you’re back in Australia,” he spitfires, shooting straight from the brain stem. “After three days of heat you’re praying for rain. ‘Oh please rain, I’ve had enough of this shit!’

“It’s not always raining in England,” he says of his adoptive home. “It’s just extra fucking sunny in Australia. In England over Christmas we were stuck under one cloud for twelve days. It was like living in box! Let me out of the fucking box!”

He hadn’t forgotten his roots, thankfully. He still knows his home, threatening to kill him with floods alternating with droughts or police roaming around for no other reason than to terrorize populations.

“It’s the beginning of the Satanic new world order,” he prophesies.

He’s not joking.

“In the paper you read these articles about kids turning to crime because there’s nothing to do. Well make something to do, you c—t!” he barks, as if his words could strike your face. “I lived in the Blue Mountains in Australia, with a population of 16 million with no mobile phones and no internet, I know when there’s nothing to do, mate. You fuckin’ make shit!”

“Except now, when you do, you say ‘Can we go in the bush and…’ NO! ‘Can we do that?’ NO! You might ‘fall over.’” He says, sarcasm flooding in. “Kids can’t have birthday cakes, a teacher can’t hug a kid that’s hurt himself in case they try to fuck ‘em…these are crimes against our humanity. Who gives these people the right to tell my kid they can’t hug another kid? This is a breakdown of community stuff. Human stuff that’s been happening for centuries. It’s detrimental to a child’s psychological health.

“Ancient cultures tell you that the entire tribe is needed to raise one child. Where in Western society, they’ve broken down so many great indigenous cultures and replaced it with this way to live? Some say it’s human folly. It can’t be human folly. It’s appalling. There’s gotta be a plan, here.

“In the 90s we had stickers that said ‘Shit Happens.’ Now it’s an incident report form, because we don’t allow shit to happen.”

Passion burns beneath his molten streams of consciousness, the fundament of his ‘new’ show Big Issues. He faithfully promises it wasn’t “put together on the train” because he has “far too low self-esteem to not get laughs.”

“You must be Slayer, Reign In Blood. One must crush!” he thunders, deftly relating metal to comedy. “It must be Beneath the Remains, Pleasure to Kill! There’s no time for half-arsed, shit…fourth albums!” he laughs.

“I’ve always viewed comedy that it’s just like an album, like Ride the Lightning or Bonded by Blood. Every joke, or song must kill. You can’t have one or two songs that are shit, it has to be like an album you listen from the opening note to the fade out.”

Steve isn’t the heavy metal comedian because it's a neat, subculturally pre-loaded schtick – he lived the glory days of thrash and black metal in Australia. He perched himself behind skins for dirty grinders Slaughter Lord, co-founded black metal miscreants Nazxul (taking their sense of humour with him) and joined Aussie thrash legends Mortal Sin scarcely a year after supporting Metallica on their first Australian tour. He has many feelings about Metallica, as doubtless most metalheads do.

“I’ve just read the Cliff Burton biography and people were discussing Ride the Lightning,” he recalls with boundless speed. “Everybody seems to think that song ‘Escape’ is shit! They [band] said ‘Oh we never played it live, we were never really happy with that song.’” He pauses.

“You see it’s funny. As much as I don’t listen to Metallica any more. I don’t really like Metallica’s recent music. It just doesn’t do it for me. The first four albums are like Euro thrash done by an American band done really well but on the Black Album they decided to become an ‘American’ metal band.

“I actually think it’s black because it’s  a ritualistic moving away from their original fans. It’s like the death of an old Metallica. Like Back In Black is black for Bon Scott. I think the Black Album is black because they know they’re about to dislocate their old fans. They put the old logo in the darkest shade on the cover. The next album? Bang! New logo. Sperm and blood.  Film clips with Marianne Faithfull. We’re all gonna wear eyeliner and singlets and smoke cigars. They re-marketed and re-branded their entire fucking band.”

Like I said, he has a lot of feelings about Metallica, virtually none of them fond.

“I don’t even know what James Hetfield is saying any more. Slayer have never been particularly profound but at least I know it’s going to be a bit of…social commentary. Nazis. Serial killers. Bit of Satan. Alright! No worries! But Metallica…it’s sort of like ‘what’s this song about?’ I don’t know.”

“I’d rather listen to Kate Bush than rock n’ roll. I’d rather listen to extreme metal than rock n’ roll. I don’t have any middle ground there, really – like the old Fleetwood Mac song. So it’s like…pffffffft,” exasperating without reserve. Adopting a pompous, gentlemanly persona he sarcastically declares “I don’t really like country and western tinged hard rock!”

Despite no love for Hetfield and co. Steve enjoyed the Big 4 thrash “reunion,” attending vicariously courtesy of DVD. “I was around when all these bands were putting out first albums, but I was more into the Kreator-y, German Destruction stuff,” he recalls.

“We were always impressed by their musicianship as young musicians but as I’ve grown older I’ve thought…wow, Dave Mustaine kicks all their arses!” he chuckles.

“He fuckin’ rips those c—ts! He’s got a great voice and he’s quite brilliant. I started listening to Megadeth and I thought ‘jeez, this is pretty good!’ I’m really into Dave Mustaine at the moment. The [dude’s] ahead of his time, really. Amazing fucking muso, that guy.

"Complete nutcase though. But I understand. I have an affinity for artists being a bit bent!”

With that, somewhere in the sun-baked Arizona desert, a carrot-topped shredder smiles as a lone tear dribbles down his cheek.

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Steve will be appearing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from the 18th to the 21st of April.