The name Glenn Hughes is legendary in rock history. The singer & bassist has been a member of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Trapeze, Hughes-Thrall, and played with Gary Moore and John Norum, in addition to having a long solo career. Now, teamed up with drummer Jason Bonham, guitarist Joe Bonamassa, and keyboard wiz Derek Sherinian, Hughes and the new band known as Black Country Communion are ready to take on the world with their brand of 70's styled hard rock. Sea of Tranquility's Mark Johnson recently caught up with Hughes to talk about this exciting new band.
SoT: Welcome Glenn. Thanks for taking some time out of your schedule to talk with us about your debut album Black Country Communion.
I just finished my review of the album last week and let me say this is the best rock/blues album I have heard this year. You really have captured the power of rock from both sides of the Atlantic. I read about Kevin Shirley's inspiration to help bring you guys together but what from your perspective was the spark that ignited this flame?
Glenn Hughes – Well thank you, we really love it.
I think it was the energy, that, I think really Joe and I when we get together alone and in the band, there's something happens yah know. It just, I don't think it's just old school. I just think its two people that really understand each other that are friends that want to make rock music.
I mean as you know Joe is known for his blues albums. And what people don't know is that Joe's biggest influence was more Purple, Zeppelin, Who, Humble Pie, Free. Yes BB King, yes you know, Eric Clapton, yes, but, and my background coming from a big band like Deep Purple and having not been in a band for years gave me the energy and the spark to create this machine with Joe and Kevin.
SoT: How did you guys choose the other members for the band?
Glenn Hughes – Well that's Kevin's idea. I mean, initially Joe and I were working with Joe's drummer Bogie Bowles. We were just basically doing kind of a trio thing. We, you know, weren't thinking about cutting an album last year. But we were talking about making some music. And when Kevin came to see me and Joe playing together at the House of Blues in LA, I was sitting in with Joe last November, in LA. When he saw. This is a quote from Kevin. "He said that Glenn Hughes took Joe Bonamassa out of his comfort zone". So whatever that tells you. I guess that I engage people on stage. I'm sort of, that's the kind of artist I am. I like to work really and get the best out of people on stage. And I think when Kevin saw that he said, "Well wouldn't that be great if that was a band, in a band, you know". And Jason was the first name that he came up with that I wanted to play with. And Derek, if you're gonna have a Hammond organ player, in rock, I think he's the guy.
SoT: What's the glue that will hold you together?
Glenn Hughes – Well you know I've taken that upon my shoulders as the oldest guy. See I knew all of the players before, all of these people as friends. And I was the only one who knew all three of them. Jason had never met Derek. And Derek had never met Jason or Joe. So I am sort of the daddy, if you will. So I want to make sure we get to tour this thing. I want to make sure we do things appropriate. Promotional is right. And I have a little tiny bit more time than the other guys. I have taken some time off from my solo stuff this year to concentrate on Black Country Communion. To make it a precedent in my career. I wanna make sure we stay glued together. So I think the album deserves it and I think we need to play live.
SoT: The album opens appropriately with Black Country. That opening bass line is wonderful. What inspired it and tell us about the development of that song.
Glenn Hughes – Well, that's great, because you know, I had come up with four or five ideas, songs ideas, when Joe and I started talking about doing the band. I started to right with all four members. Joe had come up with one riff. The opening riff to Black Country. (Simulated guitar playing). It's that. He was just kinda throwing away it to me. And I said wait. That is something I can hear that we can finish right now, right here in my studio, let's get that done. And within ten minutes we had wrote that song. I knew and I told Kevin, "I said I think we've got the opening cut." "I think with this song it will signify this is a rock album." "It's kinda call and response." It's for sure a rock track that should open. It's the Immigrant Song, it's the Burn, it's the Highway Star. So I knew when Joe wrote that very, very simple riff that it would give me the platform to bring the rock voice back again. Which I had been missing.
SoT: One Last Soul appears to be the first single. That hook just grabs you. Who dreamed up that riff?
Glenn Hughes – Well that was one of the songs I wrote for the band when we went in January 3rd to start the album. On January second, I played the song to Jason and Derek. Joe had already gave his thumbs up on it and Kevin. It was a wild card song for me. When I wrote some of the songs on the album I played One Last Soul last because I wasn't sure if Joe and Kevin would get it. But they got it! It was definitely different. It's more sort of commercial. I'm not looking for any commercial success here. I'm just looking for good music. I'm not looking for a single. I think the album needed a track like this, with that kind of chorus. So it was a song I'd written in my bedroom late one night. Once again I wrote it specifically for this band. So I'm glad people are grooving to this.
SoT: Describe the story or inspiration for the Great Divide.
Glenn Hughes – Well great little story here too. It was Valentine's Day. Joe and I got together three times in three weeks to write the album. One of these sessions, they were normally done in my home studio. But the February 14th was done at Joe's studio in North Hollywood. Joe was a little sad that day and he was missing his girlfriend in Glasgow. I said, "Come on we gotta write this tune." We decided to write a song in G. We hadn't got a song in G. We decided to play the tempo of a groove. I sorta, sorta played a bass line that was just sort of moving along. And that song really wrote itself within five and ten minutes. The music. For me it was the most joyous song to write lyrically and vocally. But I think musically that is one of the highlights of the album for Joe and Glenn, is that song. Personally for me as a vocalist it shows Glenn Hughes in the full flight of what I can do in the genre of what is considered to be rock and soul. This song for me is a very special song, one of my favorite songs of the album.
SoT: I was going to ask you what was your favorite track.
Glenn Hughes – You know that would probably be it. You know it might not be you know rock fans or most people's thing, but it signifies. I love the lyric. I really love the lyric and I love Joe's little signature guitar. Jason's drumming is insane on that track.
SoT: Down Again and Beggarman seem to be taken from a story set in the steel mill areas of the Black Country. I grew up in a similar town in the Midwest, so I know where you're coming from. Can you explain that way of life to those out there who have not experienced it?
Glenn Hughes – Well you know, Down Again. This is a song we really worked on. And we introduced Derek as a writer on this track. Um, Derek, Joe and I were at Joe's studio. This was the same day, Derek came down after dinner. We wrote this track. We specifically wanted to write a song with Derek. So we droned on a D chord. Out of this drone I came up with this 'simulated bass sounds'. So we grooved on that. Joe wrote the pre - chorus, and Derek helped me write the chorus. We were stumbling on the chorus. I wanted to take it somewhere different. The chords we chose there are pretty wild. It took us the longest to write that song. It probably took an hour, an hour and a half to write that song. But we wanted to work on that track. It was important to, you know, and once again it's the full term of vocal. I'm loving the end part by the way. It's a little tip of the hat to the Who, um, to end in E like and that sort of spacey thing that Joe does there I think is really cool. And then Jason adds that groove at the end
Beggerman was written alone once again in my studio. That was actually the first track I wrote for the band. And Joe twisted my riff a little bit. And we sort of made it more aggressive. A great live track. And once again I haven't told you that the album was recorded live in the studio. It was pretty much done live. Some of the vocals are done live, playin' the bass. All Joe's solos are live. This track was first take. I think you can hear that we're just messin' around at the start of the song. This album was recorded as you hear it. It's just super, super live. Some people have said, "Oh you know they're going too long and stuff." These tracks were recorded live. We didn't even have time to finish the endings. We didn't want to put nice fancy endings on songs. We wanted these songs to really have vibrancy. You can hear how live it is when you hear it. Beggerman is the epitome of that kind of genre.
SoT: Kinda reminds me a little bit of the Black Crowes album from last year without the audience.
Glenn Hughes – Exactly! I mean, this is why this band has to play live. Because it's such an amazing. This is what you hear. This is exactly what you hear is what was laid down. There's hardly any overdubs. There's only one or two overdubs and you can hear that. The rest of it is balls out live!
SoT: Song of Yesterday is my favorite song on the album. I compare it to Paul Rodgers Live in Peace, Midnight Moonlight, and All the King's Horses, from the Firm days. It is magnificent in the power of the lyrics and music. It seems like a signature song for the band's mission.
Glenn Hughes – Well you know before we started to record and write, Joe asked if he could sing a couple of songs. Well more than that, I want you to sing a couple of songs; I want you to sing at least two with me, which we did. So when we were up in my studio pretty much writing this song I let Joe completely have the reins on this one. Because this is one that he felt he should sing. And of course I had absolutely zero problem with that. So this is like the centerpiece of the record. This is Joe's moment. I really love what we've done with the orchestra here as well. Joe's got a wonderful voice. I like our voices together. I think they sound wonderful together. This is a really big song for Joe.
SoT: No Time, Revolution in Me, and Stand (At the Burning Tree) are very powerful rockers. No Time just opens the second side with lightning. They all sound like powerful 'beating the odds' kinda songs.
Glenn Hughes – Yeah, I mean, No Time was another song I had written upstairs in my room. You know I wanted a drop D song on the album. I wanted a really powerful rock riff. (Transmission was cut – off – so much for modern technology).
Glenn Hughes – Revolution, another track that I really didn't have much to do at all with the music on this. Actually I didn't have anything to do with it. Derek and Joe kinda wrote this when we were in the room in Malibu. And we decided again, Joe, I gave him my complete wonderful love to do the vocal on this, I mean. Joe sang this great. It's got Joe written all over it. This is really a bluesy tip of the hat to what Joe does best. So once again, this crazy 5/8 time signature in this, and 7/8 as well in the middle, you can hear that, which is kinda new for me. It's really progressive. It's a tip of the hat to the Dream Theater audience. It's a really a different track for me. One of the best tracks.
Glenn Hughes – With Stand (At the Burning Tree), I love this, because Joe and I got together right before the band got their on the third. Actually on the second. We went early. Joe and I got to the studio and we had dinner and went in and got our sound. Joe wrote this 'simulated guitar sound' and I came up with this, 'simulated bass sounds', but I wanted that half time. And that became the chorus. The bridge section, (Glenn sings), "I'm ten miles away". Kevin calls that the Glenn Hughes 'flowery bit' for some reason. I like to write bridges in songs. I write, like you can hear that bridge. It's kinda melancholy. I like that. Very British as well. It's another Glenn and Joe thing. Testament to the songwriting thing. Joe and I are a great team on this album.
SoT: You re-made Medusa from your Trapeze days. It is a great song and you guys do a fantastic job on it in the studio and live. What was your inspiration for bringing the song to this new band?
Glenn Hughes – I tell you what it was. It was quiet simple. Kevin and Joe liked the song. And Jason loves the song. I played it with his father. I played it with John Bonham in '71 and '72 allot in England. John would come and play with Trapeze, my band before Purple, all the time. And John would sit in on this song. Kevin wanted this song to be in reserve in case we didn't have enough material. And we did have enough material. But we left it on the album. It was their decision not mine. Because I said guys it's a song I wrote 39 years ago, but if you want to put it on the album I'll leave it up to you, and they sort of wanted to keep it. It's a very interesting version, slightly different to the original, in context of the guitar. It's more chordy at the start than my signature guitar. I'm in this song. So it's part of my youth. So I think it's kinda stood the test of time. It's an old song, but it kinda fits on this album.
SoT: Sista Jane is a lot of fun with what sounds like a tip of the hat to some of the 70s best. I hear AC/DC, the Who and even Cream in the song. Am I far off?
Glenn Hughes – You're exactly right. When I wrote that with Joe upstairs in my studio we went with the intro, (simulated bass sounds), it was so simple. I said, look Joe it's the simple stuff that fans remember. We don't have to play a million things here. We have to be very core to what we want and focus in on. So we were really in tune when we wrote this song. And so the intro becomes the chorus. The verse becomes something different. And I like the pre – chorus, that Joe actually wrote the pre – chorus, that's going up in semi tones all the way to the B chord. Which I get to do my full rock vocal again. The chorus is full on Glenn Hughes rock vocal from the early 70s. It's just full on! Jason is playing that insane four on the floor signature on the drums. Which is really, really, appropriate for this song. For me, pound for pound one of the best songs on the album. Simply because it covers all of the bases for a rock track. As a rock fan I like to hear songs like this in rock bands. I love this chorus. For sure one of the best choruses on the album.
SoT: Probably Derek's best showcase too?
Glenn Hughes – Yeah, I mean Derek started to do the end piece of the Bundrick thing that Townshend and 'Rabbit' Bundrick would have done. Oh it's a tip of the hat! Look we're all rock fans. This album, let's be clear to rock fans all across the planet. This is a rock band for rock people. This is a people's band. We delivered the music and now it's yours. It's like we've made an album hopefully for rock fans that will enjoy rock music. And this track for me ticks all the boxes.
SoT: The album closes with the epic Too Late for the Sun. This sounds so different from the rest of the album. Was it the last recorded? Is it a sign of things to come on the next album?
Glenn Hughes – It was the last song I wrote. I say I wrote. Now the first 6 minutes of this song, or the first part of the song before the end, is a Glenn Hughes original. You'll know when the album comes out the credit is for all of us. But basically the last 6 minutes is a jam of the riff that I wrote. I thought it would be appropriate to give everybody a writing credit because everybody is jamming their ass off here. But you know I wanted, (simulates bass sounds), it's very, very simple. And it's the way we play it. Now you could clutter that. You could actually really clutter it. But you know Jason Bonham and Derek and Joe understood. I really wanted to have a Zeppelin feel, group, with a Traffic sort of psychedelia going on behind it with keys and guitar. I wanted to incorporate those two things. I wanted to have the best of that.
SoT: – Traffic is one of my favorites!
Glenn Hughes – Traffic is one of my favorite all time bands. Steven Winwood is insanely brilliant. But, (Glenn sings), "It's too late for the sun". It could have been Eric and Jack together you know. I wanted to. We didn't rip people off you know. I just wanted to have the feeling of the summer of '67 on this song. It really is a '60s track. And I really wanted it to have that psychodelia in there. It's a great song, I love, (Glenn sings), "I'm alone in the garden". I just loved the way we topped this track. You know I wrote allot of this stuff. And when I gave it to the band in the studio. When you give one of your songs to the band to work on its sorta like precious. Joe's done it with Song of Yesterday. I've been doing it with this song and Beggerman and One Last Soul. It's important when you're a brand new band. We haven't the luxury of rehearsing and going on the road and eating dinner together. We're brand new people here. It's like a brand new unit. When you here Too Late for the Sun I'll arm-wrestle anybody to tell me, it sounds like this band has been playing together for a year. And once again, this is a first take. That song was rehearsed five minutes before you hear the song. It's exactly the first take. You can hear it.
SoT: Is it a sign of things to come in the future?
Glenn Hughes – Well, we are talking about album number two. I think we have to do that. I mean I'm not sure if there is gonna be one. But we'd like there to be one. I wanna keep this band together simply because it's great! But you know it's not down to me it's down to other people. I mean everybody's got careers. But I think this album deserves to be played live. This album deserves a shot at doing what the next indicated thing is which is going out and playing this live. Because it is a beautiful piece of music. If you're a rock fan. If you're a rock fan from'67, '68, if you're a rock fan period, I think this album is something you should listen to.
SoT: Tell us about the upcoming American and world tour.
Glenn Hughes – Well, at present I can't announce anything because we're still working on that as we go along. I would love to tell you right now there are dates booked. But there isn't anything I can announce because I wouldn't want to say something that was inappropriate. But like I said before this album deserves to be played live.
SoT: I just read an interview Jason Bonham recently did about his Led Zeppelin Experience tour. Will you cover any Led Zep songs like Moby Dick?
Glenn Hughes – Oh man, yeah. I can't say much about what we're gonna do as covers. But it would be pretty clear that we possibly should do a Zeppelin cover. I'd rather do that than a Purple thing. I've been playing the Deep Purple stuff for years now. I don't want to bring anything of that into Black Country Communion. I think as a tip of the hat to his dad we should do that. I think Jimmy and Robert and John Paul wouldn't mind. They're all friends of ours. Yeah, I'd like to do that.
SoT: Is there anything you haven't been asked yet that you would like to cover in this interview?
Glenn Hughes – You know I'm just super proud of what we've done. If you look at my discography its endless, its mind – blowing what I've done. All I need people to know is that I'm so proud of this album and to be part of this unit with these other three guys. We're all good friends. What you hear on the Internet sometimes isn't true. We are four guys that really enjoy playing music and we look forward to bringing it live.
SoT: Thank you very much for your time. Hope the album sells by the bucket load. I hope to see you live if and when you make it to Portland, Oregon.
Glenn Hughes – I hope so too brother. You can pretty much count on it because I'm gonna pretty much make that happen.
(Click here to read our reviews of Black Country Communion)