Glenn Hughes of Black Country Communion
Glenn Hughes (vocalist/bassist from the iconic bands Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Trapeze) is back at it with his supergroup Black Country Communion. Made up of blues rock guitarist and vocalist Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham (Led Zeppelin/Foreigner) and keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater) the band is gearing up for their U.S. Summer Tour that kicks off in San Diego next week in support of their new album titled 2, set to be released on June 14th.
In our recent interview with Glenn, the living legend talked candidly about his personal journey throughout the years, his drug abuse, his recovery and the impact it’s all had on his music. With the focus then turning to his current project, Black Country Communion (BCC), one of the things we touched on was his new book, Deep Purple And Beyond: Scenes From The Life Of A Rock Star and how it relates to the songwriting on the new BCC album. Check it all out below.
Interviewed by: Valerie Nerres
I’m very excited about this upcoming Black Country Communion tour and album. It’s an honor to be able to chat with you for a moment to see what’s going on in your life and how this all came about. While, I was preparing for this interview, I kept thinking to myself “Here’s an artist that’s been interviewed countless times over the years, what do you even ask”?
Well, you know, I was just speaking with a reporter and he was talking about artists from my genre and peer group. He talked about how they’ve achieved greatness and have either taken their foot off the gas, are not hungry for this anymore or have gone on to other genres of music . I am one of the lucky guys that have embraced the fear of showing myself now. Especially with this album, you can hear it’s a dark album and I asked the guys if I could write a diary of what it was like for me during that dark period. I’m not trying to make rock fans decide that their choice of the day is “dark music”, because I’m very much a loving, obviously spiritual kind of guy, but I wanted to write a darker album, a diary of stuff that I needed to get through and I think I’ve done it. I spent three or four months in my studio writing this and then Joseph came over right before we went in and we wrote a couple of other tracks, so this album to me (and I should be saying things to you like, the buzz word is “Rock and Roll is fun and it’s not going to change the world), but this album to me is life and death. It’s a serious album for me and I’m showing who I am and the band is showing who they are, so I’m really proud of it.
You also have a book coming out titled Deep Purple And Beyond: Scenes From The Life Of A Rock Star, is there a connection between that and the songwriting on this album?
Yes, there is and I’ll tell you why. I’ve been writing this book for five years with Joel McIver, who is a good friend of mine and an award winning writer in the U.K. I wanted to be very clear about where I’ve been in my life. The song “Little Secret” off the new album and “Save me”, are about this young, blue colored British lad, that came and made a name for himself; famous and rich in Deep Purple and crazy on the drugs, then came out of it unscathed. I mean a lot of people who have done as much drugs as I have, they are in jail, are insane, or flippin’ burgers somewhere and all three options suck. For me, I wanted to sing about things that I’ve been through, things you may have been through, I don’t want to write about goblins and girls in towers and dragons, that’s not my bag, man, you know? My bag is the human condition, something that you’ve gone through, or your Dad, your mom or your sister; it’s something that might strike a chord.
It’s hell, but we got through it and we’re stronger because of it.
Oh, of course!
Speaking of that, I wanted to ask you how you overcame all of it? The addiction part, or as you put it in another interview “coming back to earth”, what was that pivotal point in your life when the light bulb came on and you said, ok, enough?
I know you’ve heard this from other famous men and women, but, I just got sick of being sick. I finally looked in the mirror on Christmas Day 1991 and I saw it in the mirror and I wasn’t hallucinating, I saw something that wasn’t me, it was something else, it wasn’t human, it was something dark and evil and I looked at the mirror and said “Who the hell are you?” and it scared the bejeesus out of me. So I put down the utensils of the day, which where cocaine spoons and crack pipes and I just checked into Betty Ford and I scared myself straight. I was asking God, for even a couple of years before getting sober, but, God was busy, God was always busy, but he came to me on that day, you know? It’s really hard to get sober but it’s easy to stay sober. I guess I’m a messenger, sort of subliminal, that’s what I do, I carry the message of hope to other people that have walked the same path as me and still walk the same path as I used to walk. There’s a lot of stuff out there that people can relate to with my stuff. I don’t write Bon Jovi kind of songs, it’s darker.
I hear you, knowing what you know about all of that and the places that it took you psychologically, physically, and mentally, if you could go back to that first time, would you do it again? Would you trade the person you’ve become by living through it, with the person that you might have been had you never done that?
I think you’re on to something there, I think you know the answer before I tell you. Let’s say I walked the road I walked down, let’s say I made a left turn on La Cienega instead of a right turn and by making that left turn it took me to the gates of hell, and I look at the gates of hell, that chasm into hell, and I went.. Oh it’s not very nice, but it really took me to the edge of that. I’m not telling you I’m the Nikki Sixx of the day, that I’ve been drugged and I died on the table, I’m not doing that to you, I’m just saying to you that I believe that when you ask would I change anything about my life the answer is no. Was it fun? Uh, not really. It was fucking great when it was fun, but it was more a feeling of being trapped than it was fun. Drugs are selfish, music was getting in the way of me smoking crack and messing around with women and what have you. My love, the greatest love as you can hopefully see in my music, the love of my life is my music. For that to have been taken from me for fifteen years was a bloody penance in itself. A lot of members of the press in the U.K. were really angry with my disease, angry with me. They didn’t understand my addiction. It took a really long time for people to realize that “the guy is sober and he’s viable again and he’s got it together and he’s making music.”
Getting back to Black Country Communion, the first BCC album came out at the end of last year, what prompted doing an album so soon after the first one was released? How did it come about doing an album back to back like that?
It’s a simple answer and the answer is 2011 is the year of the tour, this is going to be the summer of establishing the brand of BCC. Kevin (Shirley) came to me and Joe last August and said “guys, we’re going out in the summer of ’11, wouldn’t it be great to activate and elevate the brand? We’re making the second record before the tour hence we could actually go out and do two albums worth of songs or pick the ones that are appropriate. We can make a DVD, we can actually activate and accelerate the brand, because today it’s all about the brands as you know. It’s all about getting a brand, the logo, the smell and the taste of it and I said to Kevin, “Yup, but I need some time, I just can’t go in the studio and make a jam album” and Joe agreed. We were going in December anyway, we were going in and I didn’t want to go in unprepared. There isn’t a song on this album that wasn’t written and delicately taken care of either at my home or in Kevin’s studio.
Speaking of Kevin, he produced the first album, do you feel like maybe in the future you may work with someone else to maybe mix it up a little bit or have you reached a sort of comfort level with Kevin that you’ll continue to work with him on future projects?
I can say this to you, today, that Black Country Communion is 5 men and the fifth member is Kevin Shirley. I’ve known Kevin longer than Joe; I’ve known Kevin 20 years. Kevin and I don’t fight, or butt heads but I am a control freak as is Kevin and he is really a massive control freak. I’ve been producing my own stuff for 20 years and I’ve finally now I just handed him the keys to the car and said ok you drive the car. I wasn’t fighting with him, but I was so used to producing and Joseph said to me, “You got to let him drive the car, man”, because if he’s done such a great job with Zeppelin and The Robinson Brothers and Journey, Rush, Aerosmith, surely he’s going to be good for Glenn Hughes. So, I really really love Kevin, and I think he’s an amazing producer for our band and if I had to make a solo album, which Kevin and I are talking about, Kevin’s the guy to do it for me. He’s great.
That’s another thing I was going to ask you about, do you have any upcoming projects that may come up after this tour, what are your plans after this record?
Here’s the deal. I’m sure you know, Joe’s got a record coming out in the fall. It’s great that Joe’s getting to live the dream, I’ve done all that and this is kind of an exclusive to you, we were going to make a Glenn album in March. I haven’t made a record in 4 years now, we thought we’d return to establish a rock album and I said to Kevin, “I know you’re going to want BCC 3 at some point, next year to record it, I said, as much as I love to write songs, I need you to know how life and death writing this album was for me, I was really having to scratch the wound and with my songs. I don’t write poppy love songs anymore, they’re dark. I don’t think I could write, truthfully, 24 songs in six months that are going to change the way I feel. I mean yeah, I could make a solo album and I could do a BCC 3 album, but I don’t want to do that in one season. So I said, let’s do this, and I feel ok saying this to you, when people think of Black Country Communion, they think of Joe, me, Jason and Derrick, but I also think, it’s Glenn singing and writing this stuff and he’s the guy doing the press, they think of me anyway, so it’s kind of like, I don’t need to make a Glenn album next year. And to be honest, I think BCC is part of the fabric of who I am now anyway. Joe is having a great blue’s career and he has a rock band that is doing great, now he gets to do two things, with me, it’s like, I can do what I want to do and I’ve played with every artist you can imagine, I just want to concentrate on establishing the brand of Joe and Glenn and Kevin and Jason and Derrick, if you want to call me a flag bearer, the figure head, it’s ok and the guys actually want me to be that. They know I’m the flamboyant lead, British sort of guy that I am. I can be all of that. I’m not a shrinking violet.
So, have you started your tour rehearsals yet for the Black Country Communion tour?
No, not yet, Joe is playing with Jack Bruce in London tomorrow and he’ll fly in on Sunday and I’ll have him for three days for rehearsals in the valley. We do Rockline on Wednesday night, then to wake up in San Diego on Thursday.
And then I will see you in Anaheim on Friday. I’m very much looking forward to the show and seeing you again.
Yeah, it will be emotional, the set list that we’re going to do is really highly charged. It’s going to be a wonderful summer, make sure everybody is healthy and well rested. I think it’s going to be a wonderful year.
Black Country Communion kicks off their summer tour on June 9th. Check out the full list of tour dates here to find out when they’ll be in a city near you!
*Live photos used courtesy of Christie Goodwin