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Interview: Black Country Communion’s Glenn Hughes
Obi-Dan   |  

Glenn Hughes

It was over 40 years when “the voice of rock” Glenn Hughes was at the epicenter of the rock explosion from middle England. He found success with the blues rock band Trapeze and went on to join Deep Purple and Black Sabbath (on the Seventh Star album, technically a Tony Iommi solo project) and sell countless albums under his own name.

He has now found yet another winning combination in his latest band Black Country Communion. He talked with me, while still in his rock star PJs, just before BCC heads out on tour. He immediately radiates cool and positive vibes. “Just letting the dog’s out. What’s going on, mate?”

Geeks of Doom: How did Black Country Communion come together?

Glenn Hughes: Joe [Bonamassa] and I were playing at the House of Blues about 18 months ago. Kevin Shirley [BCC producer] was there and he thought it was insanely good and he thought Joe and I, instead of doing a duet album, we should form a rock and roll band. The likes [of which] haven’t been seen for 20, 30 years. And that’s what we did.

Geeks of Doom: Are you comfortable with the ‘Supergroup’ tag?

Glenn Hughes: I think it’s what people will call any artists that get together that have had success. I think every member of the band…has sold a lot of records. Joe’s the new guy in town, Jason’s the son of John [Bonham, Led Zeppelin drummer], and now Jason gets to be to have his own unique vibe now. And Derek Sherinian was in Dream Theater, a really great progressive rock band. You know, you’re going to be called a supergroup I think until people get tired of it.

Geeks of Doom: Your second album, 2, comes out here in the UK on June 13th. But reviews are already coming in and people are saying already it’s the album of the year, One journalist even said it was one of the best albums he’s heard in 10 years. Are you happy with the album?

Glenn Hughes: Yeah. Dan, I’m going to tell you…it’s life and death to me. I know rock and roll is supposed to be fun and tongue-in-cheek and about girls and about this and…for me it’s fucking life and death. I mean this album for me when I look at the lyrics I wrote and how dark this album is, it’s really a statement. It’s really a diary of the stuff I’ve lived through my life. I’ve had a lot of stuff to sing about, you know? You probably know a lot of it; there were some dark moments for me and I wanted to draw from those moments, to sing about them on this record. And listen, I’ll take the kudos with the band for this record because we really worked hard on this album. As you know second albums can go down or be really good so I think we’ve captured the essence now.

Geeks of Doom: This will be your second album in 9 months, which is a call back to the ’70s when bands were putting out 2 albums a year. Was that something you planned beforehand?

Glenn Hughes: We knew we were going to tour this summer, we start this week in San Diego. We knew we were going to do a lot of big shows and rather than have one album to play on we wanted to have two. We had a meeting last summer and the band or Kevin and Joe asked me if I would write [BCC] 2. Joe has been very busy, you know his tourography is very strong, and I just took four months off touring with my own band to write the bones of this album.

Geeks of Doom: So do you and Joe share the songwriting usually?

Glenn Hughes: It’s mainly me on this one and Joe comes in at the end and adds his thing on it. Puts his stuff on it, you know. I wrote 10 of the 11 songs alone and at the end Kevin and Joe come in and put their vibe on it.

Geeks of Doom: I want to ask you about your new radio show which premiered last night. I listened to it, it was very good.

Glenn Hughes: Thank you!

Geeks of Doom: Were you pleased with the response?

Glenn Hughes: You know, I did hear it and I never thought I would end up doing this. A lot of my friends, I mean Joe and Alice [Cooper] and Joe; the two Joes – Elliott [Def Leppard] and Bonamassa have both got shows on Planet Rock and here I am now. I’m like the new guy doing the same thing and it’s really interesting. I think the good people at Planet Rock wanted me to come in and they know I’ve got a lot of stories and they know my history and they know the songs that I really liked when I was growing up. So I think it’s great to play the songs that influenced me when I was young and of course later in the series I’ll be playing a lot of newer stuff from new bands. But I get a chance to pick postcards from my life really and share. It’s interesting.

Geeks of Doom: How would you describe the show to someone who hasn’t heard it yet?

Glenn Hughes: Eclectic. Yeah, I think it’s very eclectic. I mean, it’s going to be rock music. A lot of people that know Glenn Hughes know that I have a really keen fondness for black American music. A lot of my friends…are black American soul artists. But I’m really concentrating on what influenced me as a rocker growing up in the UK and of course it was Hendrix and the Beatles and the Stones, you know, people like that. There’s going to be some eclectic stuff in there; Jeff Buckley will be in there and there will be some stuff that no one’s heard. I get a chance to play stuff that I want to play which is really cool.

Geeks of Doom: There was a good mixture; you had Free, Led Zeppelin, the Jeff Beck group the new Black Country Communion song as well…

Glenn Hughes: Yeah [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: …The Band. It was a real good mixture.

Glenn Hughes: As I was hearing the show, Dan, I was thinking, “I wonder if people are going to get this?” Because I think the demographic of my show or radio Planet Rock is around 30 to 40 year olds. There might be some younger, I don’t know. But, you know, like I said, I’m playing stuff that I want people to know influenced me. In the early part of the series, at least. Before I get to the newer stuff.

Geeks of Doom: Will you be playing more of your own stuff?

Glenn Hughes: Yeah I think so. I think I want to do some stuff that hasn’t been played before on the radio, some stuff that is important to me that tells a story. Because, obviously, my show’s going to be about stories. Some are going to be gnarly, and some are going to be beautiful, and some are going to be about insanity and the list is endless really.

Geeks of Doom: You told a great story last night about your mum having to inform ELO that you wouldn’t be joining them.

Glenn Hughes: Yeah [laughs] true story. Woody [Roy Wood] was after me for 2 years. I was still a teenager and I just didn’t have the heart to tell him [that I would turn down the offer to join the band] and my mum told him in the end. It was kind of funny! True story!

Geeks of Doom: [laughs] What did she say, you’ve had a meltdown?

Glenn Hughes: [In a high-pitched Brummie accent] “He’s had a bloody meltdown!” Yeah of course [laughs] And I probably would because Don Arden who managed [them], you know, Sharon Osbourne’s father…he was a very famous character. In your father’s time, back in the ‘60s, he was a scary guy. He managed me for a while as well so I know about him. He’s passed away since, God bless him.

Geeks of Doom: Ozzy talks about Don in his autobiography and he does sound like a very scary man!

Glenn Hughes: He was a scary man and he scared the bejesus out of me! He was a tough, tough guy. Scariest guy I think.

Geeks of Doom: You’ve been making music for over 40 years now which is quite amazing…

Glenn Hughes: I have, yeah.

Geeks of Doom: You cemented your place as one of rock’s finest a long time ago. Now you’re working with one of the new guys, Joe Bonamassa. What do you think of him?

Glenn Hughes: Well, I’m saying this to you hand on heart, I’ve played with most of the great guitar players. I met Jimi [Hendrix] I didn’t play with Hendrix but I met him. So I’ve played with pretty much everybody and I can say Joe Bonamassa…Joe will tell you this to your face, Joe’s giving you what you’ve heard before. He’s giving you a little bit of Paul Kossoff, he’s giving you some Pete Townshend, he’s giving you some Eric [Clapton], he’s giving you some B.B. [King]. He’s giving you a little Eric Johnson. He’s giving it you back and he’s the first one to raise his hand up and I admire him for that. But Joe plays it really, really well. His father weaned Joe on a heavy dose of Zeppelin and The Who when Joe was 5. I met Joe’s father and mother and they’re big fans of mine so it was kind of [an] interesting antidote to see their son is playing with one of their heroes. It’s kind of cool. I mean Joe’s a lovely, lovely young man, very talented and head screwed on. It’s all about the music for Joe.

Geeks of Doom: I’m a big fan of his too, I think he’s great.

Glenn Hughes: He really is.

Geeks of Doom: Another great guitar player you played with was Gary Moore who very sadly passed away earlier this year. What are your memories of him?

Glenn Hughes: Well, Gary Moore lived in my house in 1980 when he left Thin Lizzy. He left Thin Lizzy in mid-tour and he moved into my house. He ran away from the band until Phil [Lynott] was looking for him. I told Phil he wasn’t at my house. Gary and I started to form a band and it didn’t happen. I joined his band in the mid-’80s and we fell out and let’s just say I wasn’t the man I am today. It was a sad occasion that Gary and I fell out but we made friends again in the ’90s and I was very distraught to hear about his passing. He was a very, very, very gifted guitar player. Probably the finest blues rock guitar player Britain’s ever had.

Geeks of Doom: Absolutely. I agree with that. I read that you tend to pick people to work with now not only based on their musical ability, but also what they’re like as a person. You said you like to be around loving and nurturing people, which is a refreshing change when a lot of rock stars are seen to be chasing money.

Glenn Hughes: You know, for me, if you look back again at the iconic bands of the ’70s: the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Purple, Sabbath, the Who, Yes, Genesis, [Pink] Floyd. Those 9 or 10 bands, if you look at the history of each band, you will know that one guy was shagging the other guy’s wife, there was a lot of drug use, a lot of fist fights. I’m talking every band there. [With] every band there was some kind of horrible stuff going down and I didn’t want to be in a band like that again. Before I actually formed this band I actually wanted to find out about these people who I was actually going to potentially work with. I wanted to speak to their managers, I wanted to meet with them for dinner. It’s really important to me. I haven’t been in a band for years and years and to travel with these guys, they’re all great guys really. I’ve known Jason since he was like 2 years old.

Geeks of Doom: Are there any musicians you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to?

Glenn Hughes: I think there are a couple but I’m thinking they might not be nice! [laughs] So I’m not going to bother with it. Let’s just say I’ve played with a lot of amazing guys and I’m very fortunate to have gone down that path.

Geeks of Doom: Fair enough. Do you keep in touch with any of your Deep Purple bandmates?

Glenn Hughes: [laughs] I know where you’re getting! I know where you’re going!

Geeks of Doom: [laughs] I’m not going to say anything about Mr. Blackmore if that’s what you’re thinking! [laughs]

Glenn Hughes: Look, I’ll tell you the truth. I never really speak about this unless somebody digs into it like you are right now. David Coverdale and I…I joined the band 3 months before he did. He had never been on stage before and I had actually been on stage with Trapeze for 3 years in America and we befriended each other. We’re both from the north of England; he’s from Yorkshire, I’m from the West Midlands. The rest of Purple were established, you know, Jon Lord and Ian Paice and Ritchie Blackmore were established. I left the band so many years ago and I don’t have any contact with anyone other than David. I haven’t actually spoken to Blackmore or seen him since 1977. To be in a band for 3 years, 3 years, and to not have any sort of like Christmas cards or “hello,” “fuck you,” or anything, it’s bizarre. It’s bizarre and so I get all the love I need from that band from David Coverdale. We are such good friends. He makes me howl with laughter! We speak to each other via internet daily; every single day. There’s not a day goes by I don’t speak to David, so I get all the love I need from Deep Purple from him.

Geeks of Doom: Have you heard the latest Whitesnake album, Forevermore?

Glenn Hughes: I’ve heard bits and pieces, yes. I’m happy for him because…I can say this to you, he’s making records for his marketplace. So he’s doing what he needs to do.

Geeks of Doom: You mentioned you’re from the West Midlands here in England and when you were in Trapeze there was also Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Led Zeppelin all from the same relatively small area. Was that an exciting time to be starting a band?

Glenn Hughes: It was and when we listen back to, well…[John] Bonham was born in the Black Country [an area of the West Midlands of England] as well so when you listen back to Zeppelin’s, Sabbath’s, Priest’s, and Trapeze’s music you’ll hear this very iconic industrial beat. It’s very heavy and dark and its sort of working class. Let’s be clear, all the guys I’ve just mentioned went on to have success and fame and fortune but we all come from blue-collar families and very proud of it. So there’s definitely, I think, there’s definitely a Black Country sound and I think that sound embodies our band. I asked Joe Bonamassa, “Can we call the band after a homage to the area where I was raised?” And he had no problem with the Black Country because he knows all about the Black Country. So Joe gave us the thumbs up which was really sweet.

Joe’s a real historian. I think if you listen to [The Battle For] Hadrian’s Wall and stuff that he writes for us, if you listen to what Joe’s writing Joe’s really up on his rock and roll story. He knows where John Bonham was born and buried, he knows where Robert [Plant] was born and where I was born.

Geeks of Doom: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Judas Priest: were you aware of each other when you were starting out?

Glenn Hughes: Oh god yeah. We opened for Sabbath – I’m talking Trapeze – in 1970 ,can you believe that long ago?! We opened for them and I sort of befriended the guys then. But I really, really befriended them in ’74 when we did the Cal Jam together [with Deep Purple], the California Jam. That’s where Ozzy and I and Tony [Iommi] became really great mates and of course when Ronnie Dio was in the band all those years later I actually sort of helped get Ronnie into the band anyway. So I was around a lot of the time when they were making Heaven and Hell. Judas Priest, they were called The Flying Hat Band before Judas Priest. They opened for Purple on a couple of shows in ’74 as well so I’ve known those guys a long, long time. And I’ve known John Bonham and Robert forever. I knew Robert before he was in Led Zeppelin.

Geeks of Doom: You worked again with Iommi on the Seventh Star album.

Glenn Hughes: Yeah and Fused. I love Tony very much. One of my dearest, dearest, dearest friends. I love him to pieces.

Geeks of Doom: You could make quite a dream team Black Country band – you, Iommi, Robert Plant, Jason Bonham.

Glenn Hughes: Oh yeah! [laughs] We could! It definitely would be great, looking at it on paper, yeah.

Geeks of Doom: And K.K. Downing as well who recently left Judas Priest.

Glenn Hughes: I love Kenny, he’s a great guy. I love him to pieces.

Geeks of Doom: Do you still go home to Cannock where you were born?

Glenn Hughes: I do! I still go back to Cannock. I was there last week, last weekend. I was playing Birmingham Town Hall and I saw mum and dad. Every chance I get if I get a day free …I go up to see them.

Geeks of Doom: Cool. Are you excited about the High Voltage festival?

Glenn Hughes: I am, I am. We’re all excited about it. We start our tour this week in San Diego and we’ll be like 6 weeks into it by the time we get to England so we’ll be firing on all cylinders. We were made to play festivals. This band is a festival band. The new record and the last record are stadium kind of songs any way.

Geeks of Doom: Absolutely. Long may it continue. You’re sounding great all of you and thank you for your time, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Glenn Hughes: You’re welcome, mate. Have a good day.


  • Caljamscott

    I did the sound for CALIFORNIA JAM. It’s bigger than rock ‘n roll!

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