He’s one of the most recognizable voices in classic rock, and also one of the most prolific. More than 40 years into an impressive musical career Glenn Hughes is truly happy, healthy and creatively fulfilled.
And he’s also busy. Best known for his highly successful three-year, three-album tenure with the legendary rock band Deep Purple, Hughes continues to lend his vocal, lyrical, compositional and bass-playing talents to a host of diverse and intriguing musical projects. He also spending many months on the road, playing concerts around the world with his solo band as well as with the classic rock super group Kings of Chaos.
His current American tour doesn’t bring him to Canada, but it brings him close. Hughes will perform in Buffalo, NY at Ironworks on Aug. 15, followed by a date at Lost Horizon in Syracuse the following night. He is at Rascals in Albany on Aug. 19, and then at the Token Lounge across the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor in the Motor City of Detroit, Michigan on Aug. 21.
“First off I am doing two big festivals in Europe in June and right after that I am going to do a month in the studio in Copenhagen. Then I come home for that American tour before heading straight to South America for some dates. I have three weeks off and then I do a European tour that should take me up to Christmas. So, yes there are a lot of shows, but I love it,” Hughes told Music Life Magazine from his home in southern California, where he has lived for many years.
“But you know this is actually my first North American tour in, like, forever. And you lovely people in Canada have to forgive me because we are building this ‘Glenn’ brand, as well speak, here in this part of the world. Things are moving along nicely and I’ve got a lot of work coming up and we are going to gradually ramp it up and get back to Canada. Honestly, I haven’t played in Canada for about 15 years and I am anxious to get back there. The fans are so nice.”
Hughes is putting the final touches on a batch of new songs in anticipation of that studio date over in Copenhagen. The as-yet untitled project will be his 15th solo studio album, but first since First Underground Nuclear Kitchen, which was released in 2008. He has also unleashed five live albums including Live at Wolverhampton in 2012.
A native of Cannock in England, Hughes was influence by more than The Beatles and the Mersey beat sound as a young man. He was also a fond devotee of the soul and R&B music coming in from the United States, particularly the impressive repertoire of hits being churned out by Motown Records, as well as from Memphis-based Stax records. The pop of the Beatles and their British Invasion colleagues imbued Hughes with the importance of crafting a good, catchy, memorable melody as the foundational underpinning of any song. His American influences inculcated him to the wonderful feel a song can have when you add a truly soulful groove to the composition.
The resultant combination was first evidenced when he joined the post-psychedelic band Trapeze, which scored a number of moderate hits over their first three albums in the early 1970s. But it was with his next band that he truly burst into the limelight, solidifying his reputation as a great performer and songwriter – Deep Purple. After a string of massive hits, including the now-legendary Smoke on the Water, the fissures within Deep Purple’s lineup became gaping, intractable chasms and the band split, with co-founder and bassist Roger Glover departing, alongside vocalist Ian Gillan. Gillan and co-founder Ritchie Blackmore, the band’s mercurial, enigmatic, but also epically genius guitarist loathed one another, making further collaborations impossible. But Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and keyboardist Jon Lord wanted Deep Purple to continue. So they sought out a new bass played and vocalist.
Hughes was tabbed to be the new bass player and also to add his piercing, R&B inspired vocals, alongside a relatively unknown new singer – David Coverdale. That lineup played on two albums, the incendiary Burn and the follow-up Stormbringer, before Blackmore left to form Rainbow. The breathtakingly gifted Tommy Bolin took over on guitar and the band released the critically acclaimed Come Taste the Band album before disintegrating in 1976.
Hughes released a solo album, Play me Out, in 1977. He then partnered with guitarist Pat Thrall (Pat Travers, Asia) for an album in 1982 before becoming an in-demand session musician and vocalist, as well as a songwriting collaborator guesting on an endless number of projects by the likes of Night Ranger, The KLF, Motley Crue, Asia/Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes, and a host of European and Asian acts. That work was punctuated by a short stint playing with Tony Iommi on what was supposed to be a solo record after Ian Gillan left Black Sabbath after one album to reform Deep Purple.
It was ‘supposed’ to be a solo album because Iommi was the lone member of Sabbath to participate in the album, but the record label would not release the album unless it was credited to Black Sabbath. So in 1985 Seventh Star was released under the moniker Black Sabbath: Featuring Tony Iommi.
Hughes was battling addiction and health issues and didn’t stay in the collaboration long before returning to studio work. After cleaning up and getting super healthy, he again embarked on a wildly creative period in his solo career, releasing a dozen albums from 1992 to 2008.
With such an impressive musical pedigree, Hughes has sometimes a difficult time choosing a set list for a given tour. He said that what he plays live with his solo band often depends on where in the world he is performing.
“I play a lot in Europe and South American and, as I said, not as much in North America recently. When I do the shows in the U.S. it will probably be more classic material, going way back to the 1970s and playing some of the big songs I did back then. If I am in other parts of the world, it would probably be more of my current material,” he said, adding that he feels continually blessed to still be so busy as a recording and touring artist well into his fifth decade as a professional musician.
“I am truly blessed to be doing what I do. I love music. This path was chosen for me to do as a child. I was supposed to be an athlete and I was training to be an athlete when all of a sudden I heard the Beatles and it was like, okay, this is what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to be a musician. I am really so grateful to still be here and doing what I truly believe is my purpose.”
The new solo record will be like all of Hughes’ previous albums, highlighting a tone and emotional content pulled right from his own
life and life experiences. So there’s no doubt that it will be a roller-coaster of a journey for listeners, as it’s been a year of very high highs and some crushing lows.
“I write about the human condition and my human condition has been something else lately. It’s been a bit of a strange year. My father died the same day as my induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as part of Deep Purple). And I had knee replacement surgeries on both my knees earlier in the year and have been recovering from that. So I have been doing physical therapy in between writing music and writing lyrics. All of that has been setting the tone on what I am writing and singing about,” he explained.
“I am writing about stuff that you’re going to go through, or your family will go through – stuff everyone goes through. Having my dad die made stuff feel really real. And the whole mortality thing has been so devastating to rock fans and entertainers because of the losses we have had in recent months. I have spoken to some friends of mine who are in the public eye about this as to how we’re all sort of questioning our mortality now. I am not saying I will be next, but that’s sort of the reason I write about exactly how I am feeling right now because it changes so quickly, it can completely change next month, next year or years from now.
“This album I am working on is an honest mix of joy, sadness, bitterness, anger, complete celebration and euphoria – all of those. And it isn’t going to be one particular genre. I am sure people would love for me to just be one dimensional, but I can’t. Many years ago David Bowie lived in my house for about six months and he pretty much told me on a daily basis, ‘Glenn, you have to change. You have to keep changing.’ And that’s what I have done for 40 years. I have never made the same album twice. I have never written or re-written a song to sound like another song I wrote. It’s always going to be a beautiful challenge.”
Hughes was truly thrilled to be one of the members of Deep Purple to have been selected to be onstage for the induction ceremony earlier this spring. Calling it a “monumental moment for everybody” he set the record straight as to all of the chatter and click-bait ‘news’ articles that came out in the wake of the possibility that Ritchie Blackmore may have shown up to join his former bandmates on the stage to accept the induction.
“I am going to say this to you, because I know many people will read this. I will say what I said again, and this has already been written. I heard from someone on the inside of the Deep Purple camp that Ritchie was going to appear. So I did mention it. I said, ‘I hear Ritchie may show up.’ And of course it was not true. So what I learned from that is you can’t tell somebody something that is not going to happen. And in no way was I trying to tell people that something definite was going to happen. I simply said I heard something and because of that I really did think it was going to happen – but it didn’t,” said Hughes.
“Regardless of that, Ritchie is his own man. I haven’t seen Ritchie in 41 years. For me it would have been a really nice gesture to give him a hug. It didn’t happen so we just carried on with our stuff, me and David [Coverdale] in particular are as thick as thieves. I think everybody just missed Ritchie. Although no one is really going to know the absolute truth, but apparently the real reason is that he just didn’t want to come. He just didn’t want to show up, and that’s it. He really is reclusive and private.
“And I don’t think he has ever cared about awards or platinum albums or goblets filled with diamonds. I think Ritchie is living his life exactly how he wants and is exactly where he wants to be. David and I just wanted to sit with him and be friendly and that’s the real reason we were upset. We weren’t angry, just upset because it didn’t happen. Bur he was missed: we would have loved to have seen him.”
One reunion that is happening is of the blues-rock inspired quartet Black Country Communion. Over a three year period this band (2010 – 2013), comprising Hughes on vocals and bass, alongside guitar whiz Joe Bonamassa (who is also a pretty good singer in his own right), keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theatre, Alice Cooper), and Jason Bonham (Bonham, Foreigner, The Circle) released three hugely popular and critically acclaimed studio albums (Black Country, 2 and Afterglow), as well as one live record, Live Over Europe.
There was talk that there might have been a less-than-amicable split in 2013 because Bonamassa didn’t want to tour as much as the other three. Hughes said it was a tempest in a teapot and that there was never any serious conflict between he and Bonamassa.
“Joe and I have never, ever fallen out. Joe and I had dinner recently and we had a good long talk about how much we really loved working with each other and what a fun band it was. Joseph had done really well for himself as a solo artist. He plays around 200 shows a year and has a nice thing going for himself. But back then with Black Country Communion it was quite sad that we couldn’t tour as much and that the band just sort of broke up,” he said.
“Joe and I spoke about it and said it’s been almost five years, it would be criminal if we didn’t do another album, or if we didn’t do a couple of shows or whatever. So I am not going to say anything else other than we are going to make a record. Joseph, Derek, Jason and myself, in January after I get back from recording my album in Copenhagen. Joe and I are going to do some writing in July. We’re going to make a new album and I am really grateful that we can enjoy the spirit of what that means to a lot of rock fans.
“And I am not going to go back now and say, ‘oh my God we should never have done this, or we should have done that.’ I never go back and try to fix what has already happened. We made great music together; we were a great band – correction – we are a great band. We have a great producer [Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley] and we have great fans. We are really looking forward to spending some time with one another.”
Hughes likes not only the camaraderie and superlative musicianship of Black Country Communion, but also the way Shirley is able to capture the virtuosity and intensity of the band as they pretty much record everything live off the floor in the studio.
“Everything is f***ing recorded live – vocally and musically. And even Joe’s solos are also done live. And everything is done in about eight or nine days. It’s kind of the way the Beatles used to make music. It was done quickly with a lot of preparation beforehand. I remember in the 1980s some bands would be in the studio for 18 months making an album. I feel that the best stuff comes when you do your homework ahead of time, get the parts down, then get everybody into the studio, you turn on the tape and everybody plays,” he said, admitting that he got caught up with all the new studio wizardry and recording software that came about at the start of the new millennium.
“When Chad Smith [Red Hot Chili Peppers] started making music with me about 15 years ago, he gave me hell because I was using ProTools and all that stuff. And he said, ‘no, we’re going to go into the studio and play live.’ I said ‘live? What’s that?’ And he said, ‘remember when you were in Deep Purple? That’s live.’ So I want to thank Chad who worked with me on a number of my solo records. Those records were all live and it’s the greatest thing in the world.”
While the Black Country Communion reunion is definitely confirmed, there was also some chatter in recent months that with the end of Black Sabbath seemingly coming at the conclusion of their current tour, that Sabbath’s true Iron Man, Tony Iommi, might be free to collaborate with Hughes again. Besides the Seventh Star album, the two also worked together on two of Iommi’s three solo albums. One was re-released as the 1996 DEP Sessions in 2004, followed by Fused in 2005.
“We did three albums together. We have fun about it when we talk to each other and say, ‘hey do you want to do number four?’ We do really enjoy working together. He writes his stuff, I come back the next morning with my lyrics and he has three more sets of riffs for me. It’s a great collaboration. But I don’t think there will any time to do something. I am just happy he is out there and having fun,” Hughes said.
A few times a year Hughes also hooks up with some fellow members of rock royalty to play huge stadium shows in far flung locales under the banner Kings of Chaos, although with Guns N Roses reunited and many of the other KOC band members of tour, there are no dates set for 2016 as of yet.
“You know all the names, Slash and Matt Sorum, Joe Elliot of Def Leppard, Steven Tyler comes with us sometimes as does Robin Zander of Cheap Trick and my dear friend Myles Kennedy. It’s a great side project for us all. It’s a great way to play to lots of people in places far away, although hopefully we will be doing more shows in America,” he said.
“It’s more of a concept than a band and Matt Sorum really works hard at it. We’ve got good production and good people around us. Every single guy or girl that comes out with us has some sort of relationship with everyone else. And there are some very strong friendships. Everybody gets on so bloody well, and that makes it a joy to be in a band like that at my age, which is now 64.
“And it’s great because years ago, with some of those guys and I won’t name names, we probably would have been at each other’s throats because of all the drinking and doing this and that, all the bad stuff that messed us up. But we have been through everything and are still here and that’s the beauty of Kings of Chaos. It really is one of the best things out there because the show is so damn good.”
Hughes is in a good place these days, recent challenges notwithstanding. And he has always taken a very philosophical approach to life and his music.
“Music has been given to me freely. I know what my purpose is, I just know what it is and it’s inside me. I’ve never looked at the future or how many years I have left. I have never done that. And I never really look back and go, ‘oh my God, all those years are now gone.’ I am just thinking about what I am doing right now and what I am writing right now and how it’s going to be recorded and how I am going to present it. And I let all the other stuff be handled by my office. Part of me used to want to design the stage and the lighting rig and micromanage the sound and what we all can wear on stage. That was the old Glenn: the new Glenn is, like, ‘let me just write, let me just sing and just tell me where to stand on the stage,’” he said.
For more information on Hughes, his forthcoming tour of the U.S. and his various projects, visit www.glennhughes.com.
* Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at email@example.com.SHARE THIS POST: