by Steve Patrick
– Sr. Columnist —
Only one man carries the well-deserved moniker of the Voice of Rock and that man is the legendary Glenn Hughes. Rock fans have been exposed to Hughes’ thundering bass and limitless vocal range for decades now. Throughout those years, Hughes has acquired a resume of rock that is unparalleled: Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Hughes/Thrall, Voodoo Hill, Phenomena, Hughes Turner Project, Tony Iommi, Gary Moore, Black Country Communion, California Breed, and many, many others. The list of bands he has been in and people he has worked with continues to expand year after year. The man is a force of nature.
Currently, Hughes is in the middle of his first ever solo tour of the U.S. along with special guest Joanne Shaw Taylor. On his 65th birthday, Hughes took the time before his performance in Detroit to sit down with Hardrock Haven for a fascinating chat. Hughes spoke about his solo tour, thoughts on Whitesnake’s Purple album, turning down Ritchie Blackmore’s new Rainbow, and the return of Black Country Communion …
HRH: First of all, happy birthday. 65 years young. Thanks so much for doing this today!
GH: I’m overcome that I’m working on my birthday, but it’s my pleasure.
HRH: Were you able to celebrate at all today.
GH: Yeah, my close friend John Varvatos invited me to his store. I went and rummaged through all of his stuff, as I always do.
HRH: Excellent. Well, you’re out on a solo tour with support from Joanne Shaw Taylor. How did you get connected with her?
GH: She’s a friend of mine from … she’s from the Black Country. There is a place called the Black Country and she’s been a friend of mine since I formed Black Country with Joe (Bonamassa). She’s a friend of Joe. Joanne’s great for us to be together. She’s a good friend and a great artist.
HRH: That’s great to hear. You recently had some surgeries that required this solo run to be rescheduled. How is everything going health wise?
GH: Good. I’m doing great. I’m doing really good. Completely recovered on the knees.
HRH: Excellent. Has it been nice dusting off some old gems from your back catalog to perform on this tour?
GH: It is. This is a celebration of the music that started in the early ’70s to now. I mean, it’s going to go through the decades. It really is all from Trapeze all the way through Black Country and solo of course.
HRH: Can you talk a bit about the band that you’ve got out with you for this tour?
GH: Yeah, these two guys were with me before Black Country Communion. Soren Andersen (guitar) from Copenhagen and Pontus Engborg (drums) from Gothenburg, Sweden. These two guys have been with me since like 2007, maybe? When Black Country started I kind of stopped working solo simply to put all my energy into writing the songs and blah, blah, blah, blah … and, you know, to have some time free. Funny thing is, now Black Country getting back together and I’m solo, so it’s like here I am really flying the solo flag. It’s really what I want to do. It’s the first thing for me now.
HRH: You’ve also got a solo rock album in the works, right?
GH: It’s coming, yeah.
HRH: Can you give us any details on that?
GH: I can’t give you the title, but it’s … the record company doesn’t want me to talk about until they give me a green light. Tomorrow is a day I’ll know more. But it’s a very…I’ve said it’s heavy. It’s heavy in content lyrically and it’s musically heavy, but it’s got a lot of groove. As you know, my music has got a lot of heavy groove to it. I think it’s quite dramatic, actually, and there’s a lot of light and shade. But the emphasis is really heavy grooves and that’s what I write.
HRH: Any guests on it?
GH: Chad (Smith). You can’t stop him. It’s like everything I do he’s on it. If it’s solo, he’s on it. He’s my best friend and he’s the greatest drummer in the world.
HRH: And he’s no stranger to a supergroup either.
GH: No, no. He’s just truly one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met.
HRH: You mentioned the return of Black Country Communion next year and I know that’s got a lot of people excited. I, for one, am a fan and didn’t think I’d be seeing this happen so soon. What had to happen?
GH: I got a call from Joe in March about doing another album and we got together for dinner. Just the two of us. And we spoke about … first of all, I want people to know that Joe and I never fell out when the band broke up 5 years ago. The fact is that I backed away from the car because the band wasn’t touring and I needed to make a record that I could tour. So when Afterglow wasn’t toured, I just said, “I’m gonna do something else.” And then I got California Breed together. So there was no disruption in our friendship. People thought that there was, but there really wasn’t. So we’ve been talking about getting together for a while and then we really got together. Joe and I have never had a falling out and I don’t think that we ever will.
HRH: Good, excellent. I’m sure then that there’s a new BCC studio album that’s planned …
GH: January the 3rd to the 11th. It comes out May the 21st.
HRH: Wow, so you’ve got that penciled in already.
GH: It’s the way it is with Black Country. I know exactly when we’re going to record it, when we’re going to mix it, and then release date. It’s always been that way.
HRH: I’m assuming then that there was a discussion about touring this new record?
GH: No. I’m saying this to you because you never know where this is going to end up and this is important, as you can imagine. I’m the only one that does interviews for Black Country. You know that. So 3 albums in, 150 … maybe 200 interviews global, the guy that tells the stories is the first guy to get shot down so I’m not going to say we’re going to be touring because I don’t have a schedule of that. If I knew a schedule, if there was a schedule, I would announce it. Joe and I have decided we would like to play some shows, but there’s nothing booked because I’m going to be busy next year and so is he. And again, my first priority is my band. I’d love to play with Black Country, I’d love to, but let’s be real. You just never know.
HRH: True, sounds like it will happen if the planets align.
GH: I really want to take the high road here because of my love for each of my bandmates in my band and in Black Country Communion and for the fans that are eagerly awaiting something. There’s going to be a record and I presume … I assume there will be something to announce. I would imagine, you know?
HRH: Recently some of your contemporaries Brad Whitford and Derek St. Holmes got back together as Whitford/St. Holmes and released a new record. Any chance of a Hughes/Thrall reunion?
GH: Well, funny enough, Pat Thrall is going to be guesting with me in Vegas. He’s going to play on a couple of songs next week. The long story is that Pat and I started to record in 2000 a follow-up. We never finished it. We never got to finish it and we have never tried to finish it. It’s just that I’ve been very busy and I want to finish it, but it’s just like I don’t know if it ever will be. You never know. You just never know.
HRH: Fair enough. Another collaborator from your past is going to have some time on his hands soon with Black Sabbath coming to an end. Do you see yourself working with Tony Iommi again?
GH: I think with Tony, knowing him well, after this run with Sabbath ending this year he’ll take some time off. But knowing Tony like I do, he’s going to want to things because he loves to stay busy. He’s never been one to sit still. We talk about it, having another get-together. I think he’d probably do something with people that live around him in Birmingham, probably with Tony Martin, I guess. Tony and I, we’re such good friends. We’ve done 3 albums together. I wouldn’t say it will never happen. I mean, we haven’t really figured it out, but a lot of people would like to hear something.
HRH: Absolutely, Fused was fantastic.
GH: Oh we love Fused.
HRH: Obviously many people know you from your time in Deep Purple in the Mach III and IV lineups. David Coverdale’s Whitesnake recently put out an album consisting of covers of Purple tunes from that era. Any thoughts on that?
GH: Jimmy Page told me 18 months ago, “Have you heard this? David’s album on the Purple.” I said, “Excuse me?” Page is telling me and I’m going, “Thanks for telling me.” *laughs* I didn’t know about it. So I didn’t know about it until it was announced and then David sent me a copy and wanted my opinion. I got back to him and blah, blah, blah, blah. And then I guested with him onstage last year in Beverly Hills and it was great. David and I, for all intents and purposes…I’m really good friends with David. I mean really like as close as you can get, but he didn’t want to tell me about The Purple Album for some reason. I never asked him. I wasn’t upset at all. I absolutely wasn’t. He just put his own spin on it. He just put his own spin on those songs and I gave him my 2 cents worth. I said, “Great, I think you did a good job on changing the stuff up a little bit.” You know? I think this is…the reason he did it is because we were going to get together with Jon Lord to do a Mach III and, when Jon died, David figured out to get Ritchie (Blackmore) in would be impossible and then Ian Paice is with… so I think he just went off on his own and did his own tribute.
HRH: Yeah, a Whitesnake version of those songs.
GH: Yeah, and I never had a problem with it. People think I did, but I never had a problem with whatever David does.
HRH: I was just curious if you were informed of it because I knew it was rooted in that attempt at a Mach III reunion.
GH: I was informed by Jimmy, but I was a little bit surprised, you know? I was quite surprised that I wasn’t asked to do something with him on it because it would have been great I think for fans, but I think he wanted to put his own spin on it which I also understand. Like I said, David and I are as close as you can get.
HRH: You were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for your contributions in Deep Purple, so belated congratulations on that.
GH: Thank you.
HRH: Did you share Steve Miller’s frustration with the organization and the process?
GH: No. Look, I know why Steve was upset. Let’s just say this. Let’s make it very clear. When an artist gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, the artist gets a pass for himself and a pass for his significant other or assistant. The artist. Steve Miller is the artist and he’s a good friend of mine. So, the band isn’t going to get paid to go. It is black and white. Whether or not Steve knew that going in, I wasn’t sure. So we didn’t have any problems because Chicago is a band, Cheap Trick is a band, Purple are a band, and blah, blah, blah, blah. And Steve was really, really upset and he spoke what he had to speak. It was the way it was, but I understand his frustration because it’s a lot of money to get in on that floor. It’s a lot of money and he was frustrated and he was upset. It’s really hard for me to comment because it was a little easier for us because we were inducted as a band, you know? But it’s a lot of money to shell out.
HRH: It was great seeing everybody get along that night.
GH: Yeah, I knew every artist. I’ve known Chicago, and Steve, and Cheap Trick. I’ve known them from the start, you know?
HRH: Well, you mentioned Ritchie when we were talking about Purple. He recently went out on the road with a new version of Rainbow. As a vocalist from that era and as a friend of Ritchie’s from back in the day, what are your thoughts on the new Rainbow?
GH: He asked me to do it with him.
GH: And I said no because he wanted to, funny enough, he wanted to use an unknown singer and I said, “It’s not me. It’s not me to do that.” I’ve done that with David and it was good. I don’t want to do it again. It was something…I said, I very eloquently said, “No thank you. I really would like to see you, but I can’t do this at the point where I am right now.”
HRH: It’s still nice to know that that kind of communication exists between you two.
GH: It’s completely open.
HRH: Good, good. Well, what’s next for you in 2016? I thought I saw some rumblings about Kings of Chaos starting up again.
GH: Oh, it’s a matter of getting all of us together in a room. That may or may not happen. It won’t happen for me because I’m completely booked until Christmas and then January is Black Country. Then late February I start my next American tour in the spring and then all the way into Europe and festivals in Europe and America. And then Black Country may, I’m not joking, we may do some shows. The window is getting smaller.
HRH: Last question for you Glenn, is there anything you’d like to say on your 65th birthday to fans that have stuck with you through the decades?
GH: I would like to say that I am supremely and utterly grateful that I have been given chance after chance after chance, after falling off the wagon numerous times 30 years ago, to finally getting on a good foot and staying focused and being a member of the human race. And firmly believing that, again, love is the answer and music is the healer. I’m really an old hippie. I really believe in the love aspect and I really believe that music is the healer.
HRH: Words of wisdom. Thank you again for doing this. It’s been a pleasure.
GH: You’re a good man. Good interview.
For more information on Glenn Hughes, please visit www.glennhughes.com