Rockin’ Scots Hipsway will sway here

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
May 23, 1987

Many Americans think Hipsway is something you do when you hear a good song. But in Scotland, rock ‘n’ roll fans know Hipsway is the name of a hot new band.

“It’s funny, ’cause we’re quite revered in our native country,” said Grahame “Skin” Skinner, vocalist with the Glasgow-based group. “We get stopped at the grocery stores all the time to chat with the kids. But no one really knows a lot about us here in the States. It’s a big challenge to try to corner this market, because it’s so huge.”

Hipsway is touring the United States for the first time in support of its debut album, “Hipsway.” The band will perform at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark. General-admission tickets($11) are available through Ticketmaster outlets (559-1212).

Hipsway’s first U.S. single, “The Honeythief,” reached the Top 20 on the national singles charts, but Skinner credits the “Honeythief” video for introducing the band to Americans. The MTV cable channel chose Hipsway’s video as its “Hip Clip of the Week.”

“Although I never thought we were a terribly visual band, the kids responded favorably to the video,” Skinner said. “Our record company (Columbia) seems to think we have a lot of potential as well, ’cause they’ve asked us to make a lot more videos.”

The video for Hipsway’s next single, “Ask the Lord,” is beginning to appear on MTV and other music-video shows.

As the singer and frontman for Hipsway, Skinner, 25, is the band member who does most of the interviews. Although that could cause tension within the group, it doesn’t because the other musicians know any publicity is good, Skinner said.

“Besides, they get to go out and sight-see and go to try out new restaurants while I have to do interviews,” he said. “I don’t mind, but by the same token, neither do they.”

Hipsway formed 3-1/2 years ago when Skinner and drummer Harry Travers split from their band, the White Savages. Joining forces with former Altered Images bassist Johnny McElhone, they went through several guitar players before enlisting guitarist Pim Jones, who was 18 when he joined the band.

McElhone left Hipsway earlier this year because of artistic differences. Gary Houston has joined the band as its new bass player.
“Gary is the odd one in the group ’cause he’s from Edinburgh,” Skinner said, laughing. “But we’re making him move to Glasgow.”

Although many rock bands move to London to be closer to the hub of Britain’s music industry, Hipsway won’t, Skinner said.

“Everyone thinks any good European group is from England, and I want to help people become aware that isn’t so,” he said. “There are a lot of good Scottish bands, but no one wants to know abut them because they don’t have English accents.”

Hipsway’s Scottish accents have hampered interviews with the American press.

“I have no trouble understanding Americans, but you guys seem to have a little problem with the way we speak,” Skinner said.

When Skinner sings, his rich voice is clearly understandable. Hipsway’s look emphasizes jeans and leather jackets instead of makeup and Spandex – which is fortunate for the lanky, 6-foot-4 Skinner.

“Somebody was saying that I was too tall to be a rock singer,” he said.  “Actually, I didn’t sing in most of the groups I was in before because I didn’t think I had a good voice. I played a little guitar — very little. The theory goes that a baritone doesn’t reach his potential until he’s 35, so I’ve still got several years to ago. Then I can make my comeback.”

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