During the busy summer we had a chance to meet up with bass guitarist, vocalist and songwriter GLENN HUGHES.
Cannock, UK born Hughes was a member of Trapeze and joined Deep Purple 1973. He briefly fronted Black Sabbath [Seventh Star] in the 1980’s but since 1992 he has toured extensively in Europe, Japan and South America in support of his solo albums, and more recently has been involved with award winning supergroup Black Country Communion with Joe Bonamassa, plus keyboard player Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater) and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin legend John Bonham.
We wanted to talk about the new BCC album, “BCCIV” recorded at Cave Studios in Los Angeles during December 2016 and overseen by Kevin Shirley [Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Journey, The Black Crowes.]
But first we wanted to talk about Glenn’s origins…
RAW RAMP: Does the actual Black Country still resonate with you?
“What resonates about the actual place, the Black Country, is this is where I found myself playing cover songs as a mid-teen and joining a band that were seven or eight years older than I was”
“I was at school playing Beatles covers and Stones covers, as people did in the Sixties, and being in a five-part harmony group [that’s before Trapeze] and learning how to play guitar, not bass, and becoming a background singer. I was always the very-top voice in our 5-part harmony group. It was something that I didn’t particularly wanna do but I had a naturally high-voice and playing around the Black Country in pub-after-pub-after-pub, so many pubs, clubs and casinos… it was the start of my career. I was born in Staffordshire and it was the appropriate thing to do, to travel around that area.”
RAW RAMP: Do you dig into that period of artistic gestation to write songs?
“Well I do. Because I come from working class. And I grew up in that neck of the woods. And I became friendly with ‘regular people’ and then I suddenly became famous and with that fame came the fact that people started to think that I had changed, but I really didn‘t change… Not yet anyway (I was going to change later, of course) — but everyone kinda used to run from me when all I wanted to do was say hello to old school friends or people I used to hang-out with when I was fourteen.”
“I think I was cast out. It was very strange. Is it because I had achieved something that was unachievable? I made a shit-load of money and had a house, a car, and a nice girlfriend… I’m not driven by money but I think it drove people mad.”
“So, when I have gone back to that area since, when I’m not working, I don’t disguise myself but I make it clear I’m anonymous… It’s not easy for me to walk down the street, in Wolverhampton. It’s not that I don’t want to look and be them… because I AM THEM. I’ve just been living in Los Angeles most of my life and so I must look like an alien to them. But actually all I wanna say to them is: I wanna be part of you… because I am you.”
RAW RAMP: Is it difficult to have an American/British band? Does it make life complicated? I’m thinking of cultural differences as well as logistical ones…
“No, not at all. Jason and I have been living in America for ages. In fact I’ve been living there most of my life. He’s been there 22 years and he’s now finally getting his immigration sorted out. His kids are both American.”
RAW RAMP: So why now? Why release BCCIV now ?
“Well, Joe reached out to me and we reached out to the guys… I’ll explain this in a quick story. He (Joe) had been listening to the back-catalogue of Black Country Communion from start to finish on his tour bus and he calls me up and says he can’t get his head around why we aren’t making music. We had a three or four year break. We went our own way, we didn’t break up, we just went our separate ways.”
“And he just was shaking his head and saying, “I still don’t understand why that happened…” And we both kinda made our quiet amends to one-another. “I’m so sorry, I was immature…” or whatever. But, because of all the gossip you may have heard, we both said, “You know we think we should give this another chance. Let’s give it another go.”
“Famously, I think we said, “The world needs another record.”
RAW RAMP: Did it take just four months to complete?
“No it didn’t — actually it took just eleven days! We got together in April after the Hall of Fame and we found we had a window of opportunity to write in October 2016. So it was four months to wait till October and then we did eleven days all in a row when we wrote eighteen songs and we finished eleven. And we only wrote between eleven o’clock and three o’clock every day. Four hours a day. And we recorded the album in four days, that was in January.”
RAW RAMP: With Kevin Shirley?
“Of course with Kevin. I believe in karma. Joe probably wouldn’t mind me telling you this, in fact you probably know this already… When Kevin came into Joe’s life in 2005/6 it seems that Joe was destined to become the Bonamassa he is right now. He was just Little Kid Joe and now he calls himself “old man Joe.” Kevin got himself in the drivers seat and he went, “Let me drive you where you need to be… lets make a record in Vegas, lets get a new drummer, lets do an album, lets do something different every year…” And so, when we formed Black Country Communion, Kevin came on board too and he had the vision… He had the sensibility to drive the car! He is the driver…”
RAW RAMP: Tell us about the album… What do you like about it?
“I like it because it sounds like Black Country Communion, it doesn’t sound like we are trying to be anything other than what we are. It still sounds, to me, as if it’s in the heart of the Black Country. The crow, the hard work, the healing, the love… it’s all there.”
“There are no songs of fiction on the album. It’s soulful. I’m talking about saving the life of dolphins, you know? I’m singing about my father’s death. Joe’s singing about a violin player who loses his violin on the Titanic…”
“All of these songs are factual. There’s nothing on this album that’s fictional. I don’t write about hoblins, goblins, faeries and weasels. I don’t write about my penis. Or shagging. Or drugs. I sing about healing, I sing about love (a dark sense of love or a light sense of love) I sing about energy and I sing about walking through the fear. It’s a huge thing for me.”
RAW RAMP: Do you find making music is a healing process?
“As humans we are driven by fear. We are driven by a hundred forms of fear. Not just people in recovery, like me. Fear is a genuine thing that is a killer. For example, kids on the internet are driven to suicide by something that’s not real. So I walk through the fear to get into the faith. Now, I’m not talking about God… I’m talking about a belief that I know why I’m here… to get sober again and find a genuine writing style…”
“Look, people completely wrote-me-off in the late Seventies early Eighties, especially when I was with Tony Iommi, people said, “he’s out of his mind” and “it’s over…” and “he’s the next one to die.” They were taking bets on me. They really were. And if I had continued I would have been that next guy. But I didn’t. I got sober.”
“And I didn’t get sober to cheat people and say, “you’re not gonna get your money…” No, I got sober because I was embarrassed about being an addict. Because my mother and father couldn’t go into town because [they thought] people might talk behind their backs. And I couldn’t speak properly, I was losing the ability to breath and I had a heart attack. So I ended up in rehab. Then I got sober. I don’t want your empathy or sympathy… I have done it all. I have done ten lifetimes of shit and silliness. I’ve done over a million dollars worth of cocaine. And yet I’m still here to breath.”
RAW RAMP: Is it your job to make sure noone else goes down that same path?
“I’m an educator. I say I am a messenger. They say, “What’s your messge?” I say, “It’s love.” It’s a message of simplicity, it really is. ”
“My mate Ringo is always going on about “Peace and love, peace and love…” all the time. Well, I’m that guy in my world.”
“I think a lot of sober people, or people that have been off drugs for a long-long time, they become loving and nurturing. They don’t wanna be a hate person. Hey, I don’t wanna see people getting into trouble.”
RAW RAMP: What do you want the album to do for people?
“I want people to know it’s OK to be sixty five and still rock like a crazy man. I’m not a fake singer, I’m not a fake performer. I’m very much alive. I am a live singer. There’s nobody singing behind the stage when I’m singing. There’s nobody fixing my voice up front. And there’s nobody pulling any strings. I’ll go down with the ship at the end… as the last man singing. Because I am someone who definitely believes in my life’s purpose. Like that violin player on the Titanic.”
Glenn Hughes was talking to Neil Mach
Main Image Photo Credit © Christie Goodwin
BCCIV is released worldwide on 22nd September