Over the last few years Glenn Hughes, the ‘voice of rock’ has had his fair share of ups and downs. The driving force behind both Black Country Communion and California Breed, Glenn rose from the ashes of a career that very nearly burned out under a hail of drugs and alcohol and emerged healthier, happier and stronger than ever. It’s not been an easy road, however. Black Country Communion, a project that was widely lauded from the outset, sadly came to a juddering halt when the band could not agree to the various activities of its members and a certain amount of recrimination was publically aired. It did not take long for Jason (Bonham – former drummer of BCC) and Glenn to return with California Breed alongside the uber-talented Andrew Watt only for Jason to depart on the eve of a planned tour, leaving the band to struggle on to a somewhat ignominious conclusion a few months later. The exact reasons for the collapse of the California Breed project remain unclear and Glenn has kept quiet about exactly what happened, but you can sense that the disappointment he felt at the collapse of a second project led to his decision to go it alone once again. Happily, this means that Glenn is now free to cherry-pick a god-like set from a remarkable career that includes stints in Trapeze, Deep Purple, the aforementioned bands and a wealth of solo work and so there should be no surprise that Glenn’s upcoming solo tour is anticipated to be one of the highlights of the rock year. Talking to Glenn at his hotel in Switzerland, SonicAbuse had the opportunity to quiz Glenn about the current health of his career, his forthcoming tour and whether he has any plans to record a new album, all of which you can read below in this exclusive interview.
Hi Glenn, my name’s Phil and I’m calling from the UK website SonicAbuse.
Thank you for agreeing to talk to us, it’s a real pleasure to talk to you.
To start off with, you’re about to embark on a fairly lengthy tour which, happily, includes a number of UK dates, so the first question is how did you put together the band for this outing?
Well, around January this year I got new management and a new agent and we were thinking about putting a new super-group together with me and some people you know. And then my manager called me a couple of weeks later, towards the end of January, and he said “I have to tell you, Glenn, that there’s a lot of people around the world, promoters, that want to book you solo.” And I said “Well, OK! Is that where we’re going?” And he said, that if we put together a super-group right now – he said we didn’t want to be in a position where, as we’d seen with California Breed and Black Country Communion, where other people had different agendas. And… I didn’t want to be in a position again where I was in a band that would break up and I wanted to be in a position where I could have my own thing with my own people and garnish my own reputation through my own work. So we decided to go that route and that’s when we put together the thing with Doug (Aldrich – former Whitesnake guitarist) and it’s been going really well.
Obviously you have a vast career to choose from and, I guess, the advantage of going solo is that you can pick form the very best of Purple and California Breed and so on.
It’s really, really easy, and yet difficult to say this to you, that we were talking about this at lunchtime today, Doug and I, about how this set list is one of those set lists where the people are just going… “This is just amazing!” The flow of the show is so… I think some set lists are, you know, hard to manoeuvre around and some songs don’t follow into the other songs. Purple used to have a great set list! But the set list were doing now is a really good encore set list, so it’s a really good passage for me.
It must be difficult… obviously your fans will have different expectations, and particularly fans from different eras will have expectations as well, it must be difficult to match those expectations as well as feed your own passion?
Yeah! And what I’ve tried to do is… I‘ve tried to… there’s an element of… I was in Deep Purple and those songs were massive…. There was a time when I didn’t even play any deep purple songs and… I’m playing them with Doug and it’s a little different now. I am tipping the hat to trapeze a lot on this tour, I’m playing songs from Black Country, I’m playing the solo stuff that is marketable and presentable in the rock genre of Glenn Hughes. Who is Glenn Hughes? Is he funky? Is he black? Is he white? Is he from the Midlands? Is he from Jamaica? What Glenn Hughes is, is someone once told me – he can do it all if he wishes. So, I’m actually doing what I feel is appropriate and I’m actually putting the hat on and playing rock music the way I think it should be played for me.
For a lot of people this is a chance to see California Breed material – it was such a shame what happened with that band because it was one hell of an album and your vocals were just spectacular and they were all done in one take I think…
It was all done with Dave Cobb in Nashville. It took two weeks. Um… [obviously choosing his words very carefully] When someone leaves a band… when Jason left the band, when tickets were on sale, it signalled to me that I couldn’t do the same. If someone’s buying a ticket to see me, or a band that I’m in, and they’ve bought a ticket and they’re, you know, a working class person and they’ve spent thirty pounds or whatever, I’m not going to not show up. I’m going to show up. So when Jason decided that he didn’t want to tour – and, you know, we’re still friends – I said “I’ve got to show up!” And it was difficult because it was just me and an unknown guitar player. A young boy from New York, a very talented young guitar player. But it was a difficult thing for me, because, you know, I kept my promise to the fans. I did not make small talk and gossip. I didn’t say anything bad. I just said “I’m going to do this tour and in six months, at the end of it, I’m going to go back to being a solo artist.” What I have done successfully in the past year is I’ve kept my mouth shut and I just do things appropriately rather than say what I’m going to do, which has bought me all the way now to playing on this tour and having Doug with me.
I know that time’s short, so I just have one last question really: You’ve had such a wonderful few years with BCC and California Breed, and I was wondering if this solo tour now is going to lead to a new album?
The funny thing is, this is really crazy to tell you, the first time I’ve ever said this in an interview, the record company said to my manager two months ago “when can we expect Glenn to go into the studio?” and my manager said “well, let me look at the schedule… I don’t think he’s got any time!” So what I’m doing is that I’m taking all the time up to go and play live. It’s something I haven’t done in forty years and simply because I wasn’t represented properly. Black Country bought me back to the front of the rock genre and California Breed did also help me. So, now, on the backside of that and with new management, I can actually tour internationally and do things I couldn’t do ten years ago. So people now are going to get the chance to see me and I can come back to the UK and visit my family and enjoy those things.
In many ways it feels that you love playing live the most out of the many aspects of playing music…
It is the gift that was given to me as a teenager, when I didn’t know how to use it properly. It was a gift that was freely given to me, even when I was using drugs and drinking and people were showing up for me when I wasn’t there. My gratitude to those people who have stuck with me and to all the people who care about what I’ve done with my life and my health for the last ten years, is important to me. I owe them the best show that they can see this year, and that’s what I’m about to do. I really, really want to give them a show that they can talk about.
Thank you so much for talking to us, it’s been a pleasure and good luck with the tour.
You’re very welcome it’s always a pleasure.
Glenn Hughes photo credit – Mike Prior
Band photo credit – Gene Kirkland Engborg
GLENN HUGHES – OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2015 UK TOUR
Sat 17 Southampton, Engine Rooms BUY TICKETS
Mon 19 Norwich, Waterfront BUY TICKETS
Tue 20 Newcastle, Tyne Theatre BUY TICKETS
Thu 22 Belfast, Limelight BUY TICKETS
Fri 23 Glasgow, The Garage BUY TICKETS
Sun 25 Holmfirth, Picturedrome BUY TICKETS
Mon 26 Bilston, Robin 2 BUY TICKETS
Wed 28 York, Fibbers BUY TICKETS
Thu 29 Manchester – Club Academy BUY TICKETS
Sun 01 London, Electric Ballroom BUY TICKETS