“Every drug that you can abuse – cocaine, crack, heroin, whatever,” asserts rock legend Glenn Hughes from his Hollywood home, “has come straight from Hell. I’m making it my mission in life to make as many people as I can aware of that.”
Hughes, a consummate musician known by some as the Voice of Rock whose list of recording credits stretches into the hundreds, was surrounded by the drug culture of rock n roll since beginning his professional music career in Trapeze as an 18-year old in 1969. During the 80s it consumed him fully, leaving him “crawling around on my hands and knees, looking for crack. And then looking for more crack.” Twenty years after finally getting clean, he still can’t believe he didn’t join a long list of his friends that never made it.
“My friend Keith Moon never made it,” he says. “Phil Lynott didn’t make it. Gary Moore. Kevin DuBrow from Quiet Riot. All these wonderful people, everybody sees them as drug addicts and drunks but they were lovely people, beautifully talented people, family men… How is it that they never made it, but Glenn Hughes did?”
His 2011 autobiography Deep Purple and Beyond – Scenes from the Life of a Rock Star made best-seller lists in Britain and Europe and enraptured readers with its unflinching, sober exploration of his massive appetite for drugs, an insatiability that almost destroyed him. Yet somehow, unlike many of those he mentions including his Deep Purple bandmate Tommy Bolin whom he remembers with a sad fondness in his voice, he did pull through, finally surfacing in 1993, after twelve years of hopeless dependency, as the singer on electro-dance collective The KLF’s hit “America: What Time is Love?”
Since then he hasn’t looked back, touring regularly and recording both under his own name and with others, like Black Country Communion, a blues rock combo that also features Derek Sherinian, Joe Bonamassa and Jason Bonham. Yet the reason he is on the phone this afternoon and talking at a furious pace is his upcoming appearance in Australia with another impressive line-up. April’s Stone Music Festival in Sydney will see Hughes on stage with Kings of Chaos, Matt Sorum’s amazing supergroup of talent that also includes Joe Elliot, Sebastian Bach, Steve Stevens, Duff McKagan and Gilbey Clarke.
“I’ve known Joe Elliot since Def Leppard first started in 1979,” Hughes says of his involvement in the project, which will play a set made up of each constituent members’ big hits. “Matt and Duff I’ve been mates with since probably the first Guns N’ Roses album. I’ve known Steve Stevens since before Billy Idol. Sebastian… well, Sebastian… Yep, he’s the crazy guy! We’re going to be there in Sydney supporting Eddie (Van Halen) and the lads. It’s going to be a great time.”
While here, he’s also taking the opportunity to play a short run of acoustic shows in intimate rooms, including Sydney’s Basement where he recorded a live album on his last Australian tour. Hughes’ time here will overlap with a visit from Aerosmith, and he almost accepted an offer from that band’s own larger-than-life frontman to hang out together for a few days.
“I was having dinner with Steve Tyler recently and he invited me to come and stay with him in Queensland and do a fishing trip,” says Hughes. “But then I thought: What about the fans? My good friend Joel Whitford (Third Verse Touring) put this little tour together for me, and I’m going to be doing some small, intimate shows. Just the three, I’m afraid, and I apologise to all my fans in the other cities but I just didn’t have the time to do more than that on this tour.”
As noted, Glenn Hughes has featured on more than a hundred recordings including those by Gary Moore, Whitesnake, Quiet Riot, Nightranger, Heaven, Mötley Crüe, Richie Kotzen, Erik Norlander, Ken Hensley, Asia, Jake E Lee, Black Sabbath and others. His string of more than a dozen solo albums feature appearances by a laundry list of talent such as his close friend Chad Smith as well as John Frusciante, Dave Navarro, Billy Sheehan, Mick Mars and more. In other parts of the world he is a star in his own right; in Australia, for whatever reason, his main claim to fame is still the three Deep Purple albums he appeared on in the late 70s. Still, that’s enabled him to foster a strong cult following that includes the likes of Jimmy Barnes, who is also playing at Stone, but he is ever hopeful that we will one day “join the Glenn Hughes family” like other parts of the world.
“I really love Australia. I’ve been coming out there since 1974,” he says in an urgent, breathless rush of words that appears to be his only manner of speech. “I love the Australian people and their way of life. I know I haven’t really got the following there that I have in the rest of the world. My band Black Country Communion hasn’t really done as well there as it has other places, but you know I’m hopeful. There’s groundwork still to be done and I hope that these few little acoustic intimate shows that I’ll be doing will do their part in bringing Australia a little bit closer to the rest of the world for me.”
At 61, some might suggest that it’s getting a bit late for Glenn Hughes to still be laying groundwork but as a true rock n roll survivor he would tell you most honestly that it’s never too late for anything.
“I’ve got plenty of life left in me,” he says, loudly and with a chuckle. “Look at my friend Steve Tyler. No one would ever tell him he was too old. Mick Jagger… We’re all old rockers, mate! But you can never be too old to rock. And that’s what I’m just going to keep doing! I’m gonna have a blast down there with Joe and Duff and Matt and Sebastian and every one, so make sure you don’t miss out!”
Glenn Hughes will perform with Kings of Chaos at the Stone Music Festival in Sydney on April 20. He is also playing selected solo shows:
22/4: Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
24/4: Tempo Hotel, Brisbane QLD
25/4: The Basement, Sydney NSW