Latest release: Resonate (Frontiers)Website: www.glennhughes.com/
Bassist, singer and Rock’N Roll Hall of Fame inductee Glenn Hughes has survived just about every indulgence and hurdle that decades of being in the music industry can inflict on a person. He faced his demons off many years ago and since that time, his musical output has vastly improved to the point where his most recent solo album Resonate did exactly that with his loyal fan base.
Of course, many older music fans first heard his funk rock contributions within the Mk III and IV line-ups of Deep Purple before things went a bit pear shaped. Fortunately Hughes eventually took stock of his health issues and in time he came back as a clean and sober musician with a prolific approach and a drive that continues to enrich his music today. Hughes has toured Australia numerous times and was very recently just here as part of the enthralling Music of Cream 50th Anniversary Tour. He is coming back again to perform a full concert of classic Deep Purple songs with a band of seasoned professional musicians. Loud Online caught up with Glenn via phone from his home in LA to talk about the legacy of Deep Purple and the coming tour.
You’re turning up again in Australia not long after participating in the Music of Cream 50th Anniversary show, only this time it is playing a selection of Deep Purple classics. A quick note though that your solo performance of ‘Mistreated’ during the encore of said Cream show at the State Theatre was a fantastic and heartfelt way to respond to the horrors of the terrorist attacks on Manchester.
For me, I am a very grateful man. If you saw that show, I’ve obviously been given this gift and good, bad or indifferent, any way that you want to look at it, this gift has been given freely to me by someone or a spirit that is far greater than I am. I was truly grateful to give that gift back. My purpose and meaning is to give the gift back knowing what I’ve done to myself over the years. I should be dead but I am not so therefore I am giving the message of hope and of love. So, what do you do topping what I did with Cream? Well, I come back and play the songs I wrote from the era of the early seventies and do a full show of those songs like I have never done before and I think that is going to be pretty epic.
The line-up of your band is quite impressive too.
Well, I have got the greatest living keyboard player who is an Australian and who is insanely good; Lachy Doley. I’ve got Jeff Kollman from Los Angeles on guitar and my drummer from Sweden is Pontus Engborg so it is one hell of a band. We are ready to go and this is a whole new era for me. I say new because I never wanted to go back and do this meaning I never thought that I would ever do a show or a tour like this one. But, here I am embracing it and I cannot wait for it to start.
What are your thoughts on playing material that Roger Glover played?
Oh, for me, I am a scholar and a student of great bass players and great singers. I will be until the day that I die. I know where I am in my music and for me to take Roger’s place was a good thing because I am a different bass player to him. He followed what Ritchie Blackmore was doing to the tee. I leave holes in the groove so that I play with the drummer. So, Roger and I have completely different styles of bass playing.
How does Jeff playing on guitar in the line-up tackle the complex material of Blackmore since there is probably such high expectation from the purists?
You know, I’m not being funny but would it have been better to go for an Yngwie Malmsteen styled guy or somebody that played like Robin Trower or plays more Stratocaster stuff? Or, would it be more appropriate for me to have somebody who is a virtuoso like my friend Steve Vai or Joe Satriani? I mean, Joe was in Deep Purple for two years. You have to go a different route and I think it would be inappropriate to completely copy Blackmore. I think it would be a bit Las Vegas for me so having Jeff Kollman come in is great as he is a stunning guitar player. I haven’t played some of these songs in a long time, so with the Blackmore scenario, I probably could have gone and asked Yngwie to do it or I could have gone somewhere else but I wanted people coming in that I knew would completely give it all.
Dare I also ask about replicating Tommy Bolin’s material?
Yeah, I think we have got it covered, you know what I mean. We’re prepared and we’re coming to Australia ready to go. I wouldn’t do something as grand as this without preparation and acknowledgment of the work.
Understood. Both Lachy and Pontus are involved in your most recent solo album’s material [Resonate] which could be seen as a return to form for what heavy rock fans want as opposed to funk. You wrote that at a time when you’d just had knee surgery.
I’d lost my father and when I got inducted into the Rock’N Roll Hall of Fame on April the 8th, on that day, my father died. It was the most beautiful evening of my life and then I got a call from my mother that my father had passed away that same evening. It was a tragic event and I will never forget it but the one thing that I have learned in these golden years that I have been living through is that I know there is a meaning. This may sound strange but you have to embrace death because no-one is going to get out of here alive, I mean, no-one. So, we have to accept and live as every second of every day is so important to me. I want to give back what was given to me all those years ago; this gift, as a child, not knowing that I was given this gift to sing and write. Let me just say this to you, in Deep Purple all those years ago, when I was a long haired musician, running around, you know, I look at footage of myself and it is all grand and cool. But, I didn’t realise that I was given a gift until later on so my purpose, if you will, is to enlighten people that we have all been given gifts. Every human being on our planet has been given a gift and hopefully everybody understands what that is – some people never know what that is and they don’t know about a gift but we have all been given a gift.
Indeed but getting those unique qualities to be appreciated by others might be easier these days. If you look back at the industry in the seventies and people trying to get known, was catering to radio tastes a requirement?
Oh, you know, I have been very fortunate in my career where I have never been one of those people that have had to obey to radio. In America, not that I would know a lot of radio programmers but I have sort of slipped under the radar and by the way, this is the sticky Glenn, I would never listen to a guy in a suit telling me what to play. It was never going to happen and it would never happen because they do not know what the hell they are talking about.
The 60’s had Cream, Hendrix and The Who. How would you say the 70’s reflected that impact on say Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, AC/DC, Van Halen and Aerosmith?
Oh well, let’s be clear. I don’t know how old you are but probably not as old as me, the sixties for me, it was this: it was Liverpool, it was London, it was Detroit and Los Angeles and New York. So, you had the Beatles and the Stones and of course you had Bob Dylan and you had Jimi Hendrix and then the list that piles up towards the end of the seventies. You also sort of had The Who coming in, Led Zeppelin forming and early Deep Purple. I am not talking about pop music, I am talking about rock music, the genre of music that is the saviour of all of our souls, you know. Rock music is, for me, the greatest loyal fan base in the world. But the sixties were the psychedelia era and it was very organic. It wasn’t about lasers, it was about songs and about guys in t-shirts playing barefoot with no drum risers, very little security and just rampant musicians just learning how to play instruments. The seventies were all about bombast, stadium rock and more is better. Ha ha.
Is that change the kind of thing that led you to play a Fender Precision bass over a Rickenbacker?
Great question. The reason I chose to play a Rickenbacker live and the reason I got one in Purple was because Glover had one and I just thought I’d get a red one. I also thought I would record with a Rickenbacker because it is a great bass. We all know that Rickenbackers are great and so I did and when I started to play it onstage with the band, I started to miss my P-bass. I started to miss the thick bodied groove aspect of the growler sound and I wanted it back so a month before the California Jam show I started to play the P-bass again and I gave the Rickenbacker bass to Geezer Butler.
That leads quite nicely to California Jam. Everyone who has seen it probably thinks of Ritchie smashing the guitars during the show but what are your recollections of that experience?
The angst that he was going through that you saw on the film, he was really in a bad way. He was angry and this is something that not many people know but I want you to pay attention to this if you see the video again. That evening, Ritchie wasn’t dressed for stage. If you look at the first few songs, we was kind of wearing black and then when Ian Paice’s drum solo was on, he went back and put the satin pants on and the shirt on. He was so angry that he was basically ushered or rammed onto the stage by security and police because he had locked himself in his trailer. We didn’t know that he was going to blow the shit up, we had no freakin’ idea. He was so angry an hour before the band went on that he just loaded his gear with gun powder and all kinds of shit. Somebody could have died on that stage, man.
Oh yeah, there is no doubt about that. Today, that would be checked to the hilt so that’s clearly a totally different era you endured.
It’s pretty wild, isn’t it? You can never repeat what you’ve done and that is why I have never thought about doing this tour because I am not a man that lives in the past, really. I make new music every year, I write new songs every day and I am very happy about that. But it is now time for me and not because David Coverdale has made an album called Purple [The Purple Album by Whitesnake] or because Deep Purple are on their last tour now. It is not about that, it is that time for me when my soul is going, it is time for me to acknowledge where I used to be. A lot of people don’t get a chance to do that, you know, a lot of people wish they could do that. So I am going to go out on this Deep Purple thing and give everything I can to the fans of the band from that period and their children. It is amazing from the fans, you know the old fans that their kids are big Deep Purple fanatics. It is fantastic.
As you say, you’ve had a great solo career as well as being in Deep Purple, with other bands such as with Pat Thrall, Black Country Communion and Kings of Chaos and so on. In that situation, you have established solo artists together. How do you make it work?
You have to sit in a room with these guys and this is the way I look at it and this is really important. I’ve got to have breakfast with you, I’ve got to know if you’re going to show up on time, because it is pointless being in a band with somebody who is not going to do that. I’ve got to be working with people that I love and that I can trust and make music with, I mean, when Joe comes over to my house, we write these songs and I know that when he pulls into my driveway I know, ’okay, it’s on today’, I can just feel it that we are going to make music, you know. So I am very, very grateful about that and I approach music like an athlete approaches the Olympic Games, I am very serious about the craft.
Finally and not trying to be negative but your experience with Gary Moore has been well documented but you did manage to reconcile with him to some capacity. So, how do you see those events in context of your own rebirth, if you want to call it that?
When I was working with Gary back in the late seventies and early eighties I was a different man. It is in my book and let’s just say I was afflicted, conflicted and uncomfortable. You know, I have never called anyone out on the carpet for doing something like I did. It is none of my business what other people do. My business was to get clean and sober and to make amends to my friends, like Gary Moore. We had an incredible, vicious falling out and the English press really loved that shit. The English press just love that kind of shit because it sells copies. But, the most important thing is that Gary, to me was the most incredible, gifted guitar player and we made amends before he passed away and I got a chance to pay my respects to him on a song called ‘Nothing’s the Same’ off my Resonate album which is a bonus track and hopefully people are listening to that.
Thank you very much for talking to us. We look forward to seeing you in September.
You’re welcome, I look forward to seeing you brother, have a good day.