Wang Chung lead singer Jack Hues considers himself a “late starter.”
He has spent 40 years leading Wang Chung, but it took that long for him to release his debut solo record, the double LP “Primitif,” which hit streaming services on March 20.
Now was the right time because he finally had the confidence to say something.
“I felt like I had a lot to say,” Hues says. “It just started coming out of me.”
Due to a series of personal losses, Hues focused on music. In the first three months of 2018, he wrote and recorded most of “Primitif.”
“Some of the best songwriting comes out of personal experience,” Hues says. “I worked on the album through 2018-19 with another intensive period of writing and recording at the beginning of 2019.
“The resulting double album is my first solo release and is, for me, the culmination of nearly 60 years of fascination and, ultimately, obsession with music and recordings.”
Hues wouldn’t elaborate on the personal losses, other than to say he’s in his 60s and the events were typical of one in that decade.
“A lot of it had to do with that,” he says. “Sort of being in a new world and new relationships.”
“Primitif” was an exciting project for Hues, who is a new empty nester.
“For the first time in my life, I had a lot of time on my own,” he says. “My children have their own lives and families. That gave me the freedom to write and record whenever I wanted.”
The fourth track, “Cut,” was the result of an idea he had over breakfast.
“I thought, ‘This is great! I can just record it right now,’” Hues says about the benefits of recording close to home. It was 11 a.m. I drew the curtains like it was 11 at night and recorded this piece in one take, really. It was really spontaneous.”
Hues is a longtime musician. He grew up in Gillingham in the Medway Towns about 40 miles southeast of London. He was interested in music from an early age.
“My dad was a saxophone player and my grandfather was a musician, too, but it was hearing ‘Please Please Me’ by The Beatles on the radio when I was about 8 years old that made me wake up and think, ‘Ahhh, so this is my music.’”
Hues asked for a guitar that Christmas, and while his parents agreed, they insisted he have proper lessons. Twice weekly he was taught classical and folk guitar and, unusually, how to read music, a skill that would serve him well many years later.
“By the time I was 18, I had passed grade 8 guitar and got a place at Goldsmiths College, London, to study for a music degree. At this stage I knew very little about classical music. It was David Bowie and early ’70s prog that was my focus. The lines between genres were about as loose as they have ever been. Classical music didn’t seem remote, although I was turned down by four out of the five universities that I applied to, as rock music was considered worthless by academics at that time.”
Hues earned his degree and won a BBC Composers Competition, which enabled him to take a year at the Royal College of Music studying composition and electronic music.
“Those four years immersed in classical music, particularly modern classical music, were very important and expanded my musical horizons immensely. However, when I came out of college the musical language I ‘spoke’ was rock music, albeit a highly seasoned vernacular.”
Hues played in a variety of bands until he met bassist Nick Feldman through a musicians wanted ad in the Melody Maker. They formed a couple of bands before finally distilling their talents into Huang Chung. The band later renamed itself Wang Chung at the suggestion of the head of their record label, David Geffen.
“The name still comes up now. It was even on ‘Saturday Night Live’ a couple weeks ago. I guess David was right.”
Hues wrote the future hit-to-be “Dance Hall Days” while still teaching guitar at various schools around London. The song proved pivotal in the band’s development and established Wang Chung as an international success. The group was signed direct to Geffen Records in the United States, so Hues’ career was based in LA throughout the ’80s.
“I was fortunate to work on movie soundtracks during this time. William Friedkin (director of ‘The French Connection’ and ‘The Exorcist’) commissioned us to score his movie, ‘To Live and Die in LA,’ which was an incredible opportunity,” Hues says.
“We contributed songs to ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Inner Space.’ In 1986 we had a Billboard No. 2 (Cashbox No. 1) hit in the U.S. with “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” whose chorus line, ‘Everybody have fun tonight, Everybody Wang Chung tonight,’ continues to capture the public imagination 30 years later.”
In 1987, Wang Chung went on a world tour with Tina Turner, but by 1989, music leaned toward grunge and hip-hop. The band didn’t embrace either of those genres and eventually split in 1990.
The band reformed in 2012 and released its first new album in 20 years called “Tazer Up!” Summer tours in the United States followed, but after a couple of years Hues stepped back from gigs to consider what he really wanted to do as he entered his seventh decade.
“I released a trilogy of collaborative albums between 2013 and 2018. My ‘jazz’ work tended to be instrumental, focusing on my guitar playing, but meeting and working with poets revived my interest in words and music.”
Now, Hues says, “Wang Chung is in fairly good shape.
“Nick and I see each other quite a lot,” he adds. “We’re planning on re-releasing all of the back catalog. We just sorted out a deal. They’ll be released in the autumn, or the ‘fall’ as you call it.
“I’m really looking forward to that. People will reassess Wang Chung in a way, instead of being singled out for particular songs—which is the nature of the business. I don’t mind being singled out for one song. When you hear the first album, you can hear the arc of the development. Like in my record, you can hear a certain ‘Wang Chung-ness’ to it. I can hear my DNA in it.”