Glenn Hughes, Black Country Communion interview – July 2017

A couple of months ago, I spoke to Glenn Hughes about the new Black Country Communion album.  Now with the album release approaching we’re able to bring you the interview.

What made you decide the time was right to do another Black Country Communion album?

Joe came to me.  I was getting inducted into the Hall of fame about a year ago and I was getting out of bed the next day in New York and the phone rings. It was Joe and he was congratulating me and asking me when I was coming home, so I said I’d be home on Tuesday. He asked if I wanted to have dinner and I said great how about Wednesday. We met in Santa Monica, we were sitting down then he said “how do you feel about getting the band back together and doing another album? We talked about how good an opportunity this would be, especially at this time right now where there doesn’t seem to be a lot of big rock records coming out, so we just figured it might be a good opportunity to bring one out.

Were the other members all keen?

There was never a moment when the band stopped working. It wasn’t that, there was just silence and the band went our own ways, but we all remained very good friends, so when Joe came to me and said lets do it, we got together and started writing.

It must have been a challenge finding a time when you’re all available, especially with Joe who is always working on different things.

I’ve been doing this almost fifty years, and I don’t know anyone who works as hard as he does. Worrying me a little as it’s really a lot of work. So yes the window of opportunity was going to have to be to write an album. This was in April when he called me, and we didn’t start writing till October. What I didn’t do is what I normally did with Black Country which was to pre-write songs. I said to Joe, lets not write anything at all till you come to my house. So when we put our guitars on, we started to play and shit started to happen. It just started to happen like that *snaps fingers*.

We were thinking how great certain songs were on each album and how we needed another “Black country” kind of song or another “One last soul”, and so on. We need to make it sound familiar in the way the Beatles were familiar in the 60s, everything was Beatles-sounding, everything used to be ACDC sounding – that thing where right away you knew who it was. So I said to Joe, lets make a definitive sounding album that people will know directly.

It must be quite hard to get it so it sounds familiar and has a distinctive Black Country Communion sound yet do something new so you’re not just remaking a previous album.

No. I don’t listen to music simply because my head is full of music. It’s almost violating my life – I don’t have any free time because my head is constantly saying you havent finished that song yet. I say music is the healer, and it really is for me. I say this to you honestly, truly, drugs used to be my world.  Music is my world now, the same applies to Joe.

So when you’re sitting down with Joe is it the guitar riffs that come first and then you build from there?

This is how simple it is. Not many bass players would put a guitar on and play with Joe, but he’s like a brother to me. I’ll put my guitar on and say “how about something like this”, and when I’ve given him the idea then I’ll put the bass on and we’ll run with it, but most of the work on this album was simply we’d be just jamming. We roll tape all the time and we’d be jamming away and I’d say “stop, what was that” and I’d rewind the the tape and say “this bit here, let’s work on this”. It might be two chords, it might be a riff, it might be a sound, and that’s how the songs got written.

As we are comfortably writing this new song, ten, fifteen minutes into it, I start writing the melody. By the time the song is finished musically I have the title. There have only been a couple of times I got the title wrong – “Collide” was “Immediate”, “Sway” was “Immediately”. They just come to me, I don’t know where they come from.
I knew I wanted to write about the dolphins, I knew I wanted a deep dark song and I said to Joe “there’s a song I want to write for the dolphin project”, so we wrote this menacing almost Sabbath riff. It’s very dark and deep and very moody, and I said to him that this was perfect for what I need for the song.

The music is beautiful in that song (The Cove), but it’s a very dark subject to be singing about.

I’m vegan, I’ve become a vegan now because of animal abuse. It’s not just dolphins, me and my wife work with a lot of charities in L.A for animal abuse. I’m very connected to the dolphin thing, so I do charitable shows for them. The idea of dolphins being slaughtered in front of their families sickens me.

When you see the pictures of the sea in the bay just turning red with blood it’s horrific.

I’ve got the videos. When you become an ambassador you get shown things that nobody else sees. If you saw the things I’ve seen – that was the last time I had any fish when I saw that. I could go on a tirade about how I feel about it, but yes I’m really deeply moved by it.
I look at pigs and chickens and lambs like humans because they’ve all got intelligence. I can’t imagine somebody coming into your house and killing your mother while you’re watching and that’s what happens to animals. Twenty-four million animals a day are killed.

One of the other songs that stood out was “Love remains” which is a very personal song for you.

I wrote it for my father while I was flying over from L.A. My father had just passed away in his sleep – he’d had dementia and died the day I got home from the hall of fame induction, so I had to leave almost immediately to fly over. I wrote that song on a little notepad and I was going to sing it at the memorial but just couldn’t, I was just so sad, so I sang it on the album.
I sang the song to my mother before my Dad’s funeral, so she knew I was going to sing it on the Black Country album. I’m ok with it now, I can’t bring my mum back or my dad. They’ve lived their lives. The message she gave me was to continue and live my life.

She died while you were on your uk tour didn’t she?

It was January 30th and I was playing Cambridge. I was there on the 29th – every day off I was travelling to Wolverhampton. I’d come off stage, it was about 10.40, got out of the shower and a phone is put in my hand – it was the head nurse at the hospital saying your mother has…They don’t use the word death, she said Can you come, your mother is in her last hours. I went into a bit of a meltdown, we knew it was coming, but you never think its really coming even though at the back of your mind you know it is. So we raced up there and I sat with her, next to her bed, three hours maybe, and saw her life and death. I saw the woman who gave birth to me, and here I am holding her like she’s my little girl. A very powerful thing.

The next night, which would have been the first of Feb, the venue was a place called “The church” in Leeds, which was in actually fact a church built in 15-something. It’s renovated but it’s a church and all my fans knew from the social networks that my mother had died, and when I got up on the stage it was like there was so much real love, pure condensed, no alcohol, no yelling and screaming, just silence, and I know my mother was making sure I was going to be ok. I was saying to myself “I’m going to be ok, I’m going to be ok”. Unless you’ve been through this, all I can say is you have got to be there when your parents leave, you’ve got to be there because if you’re not you’ll never forgive yourself.

This guy here (pointing to himself) was addicted to drugs a long time ago and there was a time when I never came back to England because I was too embarrassed. When I got sober my mother and dad could go into town and walk freely without people talking about their son, this wild man. Me being sober and helping charities and doing what I do for kids, has given them some love and I wanted to be there for them when they needed me.

Outside of BCC, you’ve got a solo show in Cannock at the end of the month.

What it is, is there’s a place, it’s a huge sports facility kind of bar. They used to have the theatre in town but it’s now this huge place, they’re one of the biggest in England. The owner is a friend of mine since he was a kid and he wants me to do it. They have lots of sports stars like Pele go there and do meet and greets, events and I’m going to go and do “An evening with Glenn Hughes”. Nicky Horne is going to film it for his TV show, and I get to do songs. This may be the last time I’m singing in that town.

You’re also playing Ramblin Man fair

Yes two days after Cannock.

With so many songs from your solo career as well as BCC, Hughes-Thrall, Trapeze, Deep Purple, California Breed and more, how do you decide what to include in the setlist?

It’s insane because I’m not headlining (at Ramblin Man) so it’ll be short and quick. Sometimes those are great to just give the crowd a real rush. I have a great group of fans so they’ll have a good time.  Long may it continue. I have no plans on stopping

Have you got any plans for another solo album?

That’s a difficult question. I do but I’m not sure when. Only because the last one I made, Resonate, the media said this was the greatest Glenn album in years and years, but the fact of the matter is it didn’t sell enough copies. It charted in the rock charts, but didn’t really do anythign to make me through that again. Going through writing music is easy for me, but it tears me up inside because I really release all my emotion, it really does a number on me. I don’t think I’m ready to go through that again for another couple of years.
Resonate was an album that really really tore me up inside, it was a beautiful piece of work, but it wasn’t warranted to do a follow-up.

I would do it for free. I don’t make music for money. I get paid to travel and stay in hot buses, I do all the music for nothing. What I find irritating is when someone wants to promote you and take all your money and give you 3% of your record, so they take all the money and you’ve just given up everything inside. It doesnt guarantee you’ll get another record from me.
The music industry, the people who run these labels, they’re all fucking crooks.

I said I’m not driven by money, but I’ll say this on the other side of that statement. John Bonham was my best friend and when he was very wealthy we’d go out and drink, and he’d do this every night. He’d go to a bar and buy say ten pints of beer and leave them on the bar. He’d walk away from the bar to see what would happen, if someone would try to take his beer.
What I’m saying is when people take and don’t want to give it’s no good.

Even if you’re not motivated by money, you still have bills to pay so need to earn money to pay the bills.

No labels. They contact me about working and doing this this and this. I don’t take their calls.

When I made Resonate with the label I made it for, I knew that it was the best album I’d made in a long time but I also knew it was not going to break through because there wasn’t the money behind it. It’s disheartening for a writer to do that.

When you’re with a certain kind of label or certain kind of genre….lets take some really good friends of mine, Rival Sons. There in my opinion is a band that now after what is it, 5 years, 6?, by now (and this is going to upset someone), they should be Wembley gig size, but they’re not. It’s not because they don’t play well or don’t make great records, it’s all about money.

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.
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