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19 August 2010|
“Here’s a Kevin Shirley quote, this is great... ‘I wanna out-Purple Deep Purple’. And I’ll follow up with a quote of my own... I wouldn’t think Deep Purple would allow this band to play on the same show as them.”
Five questions with Glenn Hughes - interviewed by James Gaden, about Glenn's new project, the supergroup Black Country Communion, featuring Derek Sherinian, Jason Bonham and Joe Bonamassa. Extracted from the full feature in Fireworks 41.
It’s interesting you mentioned shelving a solo album, because your last solo release was ‘First Underground Nuclear Kitchen’, a very funky record... I know you were very pleased with it and toured the material a lot, so I wondered if playing all that funk for a prolonged period was a catalyst in looking at going back to rock music?
Here’s the thing - when I look at other artists, like Robert Plant... he does what he wants to do off the back of great success with Led Zeppelin. They were blues based as you know and now he’s into Appalachian mountain music, which he really loves. Robert was listening to Gram Parson back in the sixties. Coverdale is very blues orientated, so it Paul Rodgers. Someone like me, or Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes, are soul singers - lets be clear. We can’t hide from our roots. It would be inappropriate for me to tell you that I listened to stuff that I wasn’t really into, so with me you get British rock - with a soul singer. On this album you get British hard rock with soulful rock singing. There’s two Glenn voices - there’s the Californian softer voice and what I call the British turbo voice, full on... just there, that sort of Steve Marriot thing, that big voice that I was given as a gift to sing with. It’s the return of that. It’s a big flag in the ground, hence the lyrics to the first track: ‘I’m a messenger, this is my prophecy - I’m going back, back to the Black Country’. And that’s rock, the Black Country is rock - myself, Rob Halford, Jason Bonham, Robert Plant, Black Sabbath, Moody Blues, E.L.O. - the list is endless.
After a few spins, I started picking out bits that I identified as being your work, whether it was certain passages, or lyrics. But I was interested in how the overall sound came about because you’re all very different talents with many different genres under your belts.
You know what it is, man? Knowing what you want to write before you write it. If I’d gone in with a bunch of black American guys it would’ve been something totally different. But this is playing with the top blues guitar player right now who wants to rock, with the son of John Bonham, with a great Hammond player like Derek Sherinian. There was only one kind of music that I could write that was appropriate for the instruments and guys in the group. Joe wanted me to be the lead singer, but I insisted he sing on some of the songs. I wrote a couple specifically for him to sing on with me, the last two tracks. It was quite easy, when I put it all together, to see where I was going to go with it.
I thought it worked great, the balance of the two voices, he sounds very different to you but the two styles mesh very well. You’ve done two albums singing with Joe Lynn Turner and three in Purple sharing lead vocals with David Coverdale, so you have plenty of experience in knowing how to work in a vocal tandem.
Oh yeah. I think Joe and I sound great together on this record. I think it’s a match made in heaven. There’s next to no overdubs on this album. There’s only one or two - one on ‘Medusa’ and one on ‘Sista Jane’... the solos were all played live, captured as they were played. For instance, any guitar solo you choose on the record, you’ll hear there’s no guitar under that playing rhythm. Joe played it as we recorded it, no second guitar part. And I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Even with Blackmore, the solos weren’t really done live like this.
Fantastic! I love the reworking of 'Medusa'. And it highlighted what great shape your voice is in... when you think back to how many decades ago that ‘Medusa’ came out and you’ve still got it all, there’s no deterioration. You know, some guys who had a long career like you, some of them... it’s just not there anymore.
Thank you - and for me, a guy who did a lot of damage to himself as well, y’know, you’re looking at a dead man, pretty much. But I’m not, so I have to carry the message... I pride myself on having contact with something bigger than me, a Higher Power. I just get out of the way and let Him run the show. I don’t do this for material gain anymore, I do it for the love of music. I wanna go out, be an artist who over the course of the next ten years, really stays true to his belief. I’ve strayed from the path a bit with my funky stuff. I’ve got a very hardcore funk fan base, I know you’re one and I’m glad you love the funky stuff James, but my rock following is huge. Most of my audience are women because of my funk and pop stuff. I need to get the guys back! (laughs)
I’m not slamming the door on funk, but I made a decision that fans and some critics have called me ‘The Voice Of Rock’, so therefore, I should rock, shouldn’t I? I’m doing what it says on the tin. I need to get rocking and listen to the fans. I’ve probably been stubborn over the last few records, saying ‘I’ll do it when I wanna do it’... I remember seeing Deep Purple before I joined them at Madison Square Garden. Gillan was leaving and I remember fans calling for ‘Space Trucking’ and stuff like that and he said to them ‘I’m the fucking singer and I’ll say what songs I’m singing’. I didn’t really like that. The audience are the ones buying your albums, you have to have respect for them. Neil Young says he doesn’t respect anybody in the audience, but I think my fans grew up listening to Purple, that’s how they found me. If I play Eastern Europe, where Purple are massive, if I don’t play six or seven Deep Purple songs, they go mental. So now, they can have Black Country songs too.
It’s got a Purple vibe with the set up - a hot shot guitarist, a world class keyboard player, a powerhouse rock drummer, your driving bass and two vocalists.
Yeah - here’s a Kevin Shirley quote, this is great... ‘I wanna out-Purple Deep Purple’. And I’ll follow up with a quote of my own for you... I wouldn’t think Deep Purple would allow this band to play on the same show as them.
When I go to see bands from my peer group, I want to see bands with some exuberance, see something vital and dangerous, flamboyant and just fucking rock and roll. We’re bringing that back - I wanna make a fucking noise and let people know Glenn Hughes is here, I’m back and this is an amazing rock group. This album is one that I want my fans, your readers, everybody else to put up there with Black Sabbath ‘Volume IV’, Priest’s ‘Stained Glass’, Led Zeppelin ‘IV’ - I wanna be up there man! Let’s put British rock back on the map. This isn’t Them Crooked Vultures or Chickenfoot, this is a British band. Yeah, okay, so we may have two Americans in the group, but our roots, our music, this is a British band. This is for the fans and I hope they get behind it.
Read the full three page interview with Glenn Hughes in Fireworks 41, available in WHSmiths or right here in the shop at Rocktopia.
( Photograph courtesy of glennhughes.com )