By Jeb Wright
Rock music is known for having musicians with interesting personalities. One of the most fun characters in this genre is Glenn Hughes. Born in the Black Country of England, Hughes has taken his God-given talents across the world in a career that has had as many ups and down as a teeter-totter. Now, Glenn’s career comes full circle as Hughes is now a member of that elite group of musicians enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the interview that follows, Hughes discusses everything from knee and heart surgery to his upcoming album and tour, to his induction into the HOF. We talk about why he left Trapeze, making the Deep Purple album Burn, and his relationship with David Coverdale and other members of Purple.
As always, this is a fun chat with one of the most outgoing men in music… just don’t make the mistake of not taking his advice and looking up the type of surgery he underwent on Google. It really did gross me out!
Take it away, Glenn….
Jeb: Before we talk tour, album, hall of fame…. I have to give you some shit, Glenn. You can’t have double knee replacement surgery and expect like you did to be back on-stage right away…
Glenn: It is a brutal operation. If you want to Google this shit then you better wear a vomit bag on you. It is almost like they amputate your bloody leg. The thing that does it is a little robot. I knew going into South America last July that I needed to have my knees done when that tour was over. I went on tour for months in sheer fucking agony.
No media guy… no one… no fan… nobody questioned why I wasn’t moving a lot. I couldn’t. We got through that tour by the skin of my teeth. I was in Singapore when we finished the tour on the 9th of December. I flew back on the 10th and on the 14th I went in to have my left knee done. The other one was done on January the 11th. I am 80 percent recovered. I am completely one hundred percent flexible, but I am stretching still with the treadmill and weights. I am a bit of a pig for things that I do. I want to get fully recovered because I am going to start touring globally from June onward.
Jeb: All kidding aside, I am glad to hear you’re doing well. I know how much you’ve wanted to do a USA tour and you have to put it off to heal right now… that must be driving you crazy.
Glenn: I had to postpone a month before we started. Look… I am a bit of a Google freak. Google the operation and it says six months recovery. Here I am like a month after I’ve had the second operation going on stage. Listen Jeb, I probably could have just stood there, but I have to get off a bunk in a bus and I have to climb stairs and I just couldn’t do it. Anybody that is reading this that has surgery on their knees knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Jeb: You are going to get back out there... How does this make the anticipation sweeter in August?
Glenn: We start around the 8th of August and we go into September in the States. You know my history. After Black Country and California Breed, my profile was raised. I have new management since we spoke last and a new agent. I have a team of people I am working with that are just incredible. I am happy to tell you that I can play any night of the week, pretty much anywhere I like. It is an honor to be back.
Jeb: We did an interview many years ago where you could not do that, so this is very exciting to see it growing.
Glenn: Let’s just say that I was with a manager ten or fifteen years ago that was a great, great guy. He didn’t have the pull and the foundation to build my career with. I suffered from that. He is a lovely guy. Black Country and California Breed got people really interested in Glenn Hughes again. Playing the music of Black Country, which is hard rock and California Breed was more rock music, it brought me back to the roots. I’ve never ever been so happy and blessed. Since we last spoke I also had open heart surgery. It is like I am “Calmer Glenn” today.
Glenn: When you go through these huge operations… they were brutal. Really, do NOT Google it Jeb. It will gross you out. They took my heart out of my chest for ten hours and they were working on it. I came out of it and I went into recovery and I came out of the anesthesia and I realized I was still alive. I found myself ‘hitting my knees’ before I had the operations… as in praying. People know my story and they know that I lived in the fast lane for a number of years. I am not proud of it, and I am not being grandiose about it, but I am a man in recovery.
I am a man that loves music because music is the healer of everything. Music will never change our world, Jeb. It will never stop a World War but it will heal and it will help those that need it. That is what I’m connected to. Ever since the Soul Mover album I’ve been on that pathway.
Jeb: I remember interviewing you 11 years ago on that album. That was the one where I knew something was happening. I also loved BCC a lot. I want to know what musical direction the next album will be.
Glenn: On the 8th of April I will get inducted into the Hall of Fame. We need to talk about that, too. But to jump into the album, I will be doing a couple of festivals in Europe and I realized that it had been eight years since I had done a solo album. I had a deal on the table and it had been there for years. I was like, “Okay, the operations are done. My heart is good. It is time to do this.”
I wanted to write an album of Glenn Hughes rock tracks and that is what I’ve been doing for the last six months. I am going to go into a studio in Copenhagen that my guitar player Soren Andersen and Pontus Engborg are in. I am going to have a keyboard player... I did a live DVD in Australia called Glenn Hughes Live in Australia… the keyboard player plays in Jimmy Barnes’ band. His name is Lachlan Doley and he is coming over to play keys for me. He is one of the greatest keyboard players that I’ve even played with. He is like Jon Lord and Derick Sherinian. I am going full-on with this album. It is going to be a rock album with a lot of groove. It is going to be who I am at that time. As you know I’m forever changing, but I was born a rocker and I will die a rocker. That is the way it is with me.
Jeb: Art and change is not always a commercially viable combination… But it can be what creates longevity. You are not chasing something.
Glenn: Ten years ago I told you that I’ve been blessed and cursed with a very wide vocabulary of music. I can switch genres and you wouldn’t know. I have a lot of friends who you know that are very one genre type of musicians. As much as they would like to escape that, they can’t. I am not frightened to swim upstream. I am not a black man from Mississippi, either; I am a white man from the Black Country in England. There was a time where people thought that Glenn had to be black. Trust me, I am white as a ghost. I am blessed to have been given a gift, however.
Jeb: Are you hinting that this album is going to be several styles?
Glenn: No, the album will be rock-based all the way. It will be like the Soul Mover album was diverse, but there weren’t really any hardcore super street funk tracks on that one. That was a rock album and this one will be one, too.
Jeb: Let’s talk about the Hall of Fame. Are you pinching yourself yet?
Glenn: You know, people ask me about that. When I started out back in the bands I was in as a pre-teen before the Hall of Fame was around, I never knew I would go on and have Gold and Platinum albums and be in the biggest band in the world. I’ve been watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for thirty years. Zeppelin got in and Sabbath is in. The Who is in… Deep Purple sold over 150 million albums, so I thought there was a chance they would get in there. It is what it is. I’m going to go on that stage and I am going to accept my award gracefully and graciously. Who knows if David and I will sing? I’m not sure. There has been no investigations on that at the moment.
Jeb: The situation sounds all fucked up, and could be handled better.
Glenn: Jeb… everyone that knows about the Hall of Fame, it is always that way inclined. Some people don’t get to sing. I spoke to Matt Sorum about when Guns were inducted and Axl didn’t show… We haven’t been in the band for forty years, David and I. We are still out there doing our thing. What I’m trying to get to, Jeb, is that I just got off the phone with David. We are going and we are going to accept our awards and we will sit there. If we get invited to play… we won’t even know until we get to New York. You know there is nothing we can do about it. I’ve got to be in complete acceptance of this shit.
Jeb: It is historically nuts, but Ritchie Blackmore adds to the drama. You’re going to show the class.
Glenn: I’m taking the high road. My award is dedicated to the fans. If I could get a saw then I’d saw it in half and give it to The Tommy Bolin Foundation. I would gladly give it to Tommy. I’m so grateful that David and I were profile performers on the album called Burn, which sold millions of albums. It was a really great moment for the band. If David and I had not joined they could have got two other guys and maybe they would have been better… or worse. I think we made a great album and did a great thing for Deep Purple. We were not trying to sound like Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. We were Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale. You can’t emulate two other people and get away with it.
Jeb: I have a lot of respect for you and Coverdale. Previously, you had success in Trapeze. David had not been in any sort of successful band. Did you mentor him a bit?
Glenn: I put my arm around him at the audition when Jon, Ritchie and Ian went to go to lunch. They went off and I stayed behind and we wrote a little piece to show off our voices. He’s from the Northeast like Paul Rodgers. I grew up listening to Detroit music. David Coverdale and I really only even listened to black soul music, but we were in Deep Purple. I was always the one that got shot down by everybody. It was one of those things. You should know this Jeb… when we did the first song “Burn” we were like, “You go first.” “Oh no, YOU go first.” David had no experience in the studio and he had zero experience being on any kind of stage. I have tremendous respect for him. We have a 42 year friendship with him. He is the only member of Deep Purple to whom I’ve never had a cross word. We’ve been really, really, ultra-close.
Jeb: Admit it Glenn… you had to have some trepidation. Were you scared to jump into that fire?
Glenn: [laughter] No, I will tell you why. I am not sure if you’ve ever met Ritchie. Everybody knows there was a tension between Gillan and Blackmore. There was a big hate there. It was none of my business as I wasn’t around back then. When David and I joined it felt like a brand new band, I kid you not. It felt like five new guys instead of two new guys. The comradery and laughter was all around.
We went to Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire, the 15th century castle. We were writing an album in the dungeon. You can imagine these young men gathered together shitting ourselves. We were making this record in the dungeon. Ritchie flew me to Hamburg for a weekend, just me and him. There was a comradery that had been lacking in Deep Purple for a couple of years. Ritchie likes to change members every couple of years as that is how he operates.
Jeb: Did he prank you in the castle?
Glenn: Yeah, you’re damn right. I was the first one to get it. Our rooms… they were like mini-suites of gothic medieval shit. Our rooms were sorted out before we went there. I’m checking into my room… it is not like a hotel. There was staff there showing you stuff. I went to bed and all of a sudden I am hearing [makes groaning sounds like ghost]. I am thinking, “Fucking bullshit.” I went back to sleep. Suddenly I hear this scratching on the floorboard. I am going, “Holy fucking shit what the fuck is this?” I am hearing this heavy breathing going on. I get up finally and I open this antique wardrobe and I put my hand in there and there is fucking tape recorder. Blackmore set the tape to go off on a certain time and he spooked the shit out of me. It was a tape he recorded. When I say tape, it was a very small tape recorder that he set to go off at like a quarter to twelve. Yeah man, it went on for two hours and it scared the shit out of me.
Jeb: When did you know Deep Purple would survive without Ian Gillan?
Glenn: Knowing in the audition that David had a baritone voice and I had a tenor and that I had a falsetto… knowing that we had a different approach and knowing that Blackmore wanted a different approach… we knew it right away. When we started out in the castle we wrote the first song together which was “Mistreated.” We knew going into -and I knew playing with Ian Paice- this was going to be really great. I knew Jon’s left hand was as ferocious as his right. Blackmore started to play some stuff that was unlike anything from Machine Head. He came up with “Sail Away” which was more of a groove track.
I think we knew with the back and forth of David and I’s voices and the voracity of Paice, Lord and Blackmore was a win-win. We weren’t telling the people yet. The press was there taking photographs while we were writing the album. We weren’t bragging to them. We weren’t even bragging about how good the album was going to be while we were making it. You never know how an album is going to turn out. We didn’t know the album would be Top 5 in 42 countries. It was monumental. We were all very grateful that that album turned out that well.
Jeb: The song “Burn” was pretty epic-Blackmore.
Glenn: Not many people know this. Ritchie came to David and me one day and said, “I love this word ‘burn.’ Wouldn’t it be great if we wrote a song called ‘Burn.’?” The next day we went about to write the last track on the album and it was going to be called “Burn.” All Ritchie had to do was to come up with that riff and Paice and Lord and I went into the music. Jon came up with the Bach influenced solo. I came up with high vocal part. David came up with the lyrical content. I wrote the chorus to the bridge. We knew we had a fucking album title and a star of the show. We knew the tour would be called Burn. We were chuckling little kids in the room. We were actually little kids going, “I think we’ve got it.”
Jeb: Everything worked out great on that album. The packaging was even cool.
Glenn: Everything worked out great on that album because Ritchie was motivated. He was really motivated. He was coming off the back end of “Who Do We Think We Are.” You heard about the tension in the band. Ritchie bonded with me first as I joined the band before David. I spent a lot of alone time with him. We never had bad words. It was one of those things where the stories you hear about me and the band, and Ritchie leaving the band, or blah, blah, blah… it is just stuff where some of it is true and some of it is not.
On Stormbringer Ritchie took his foot off the gas a little bit. I loved it, but he left the album to be written primarily by us. Ritchie only came up with “Stormbringer” and “Soldier of Fortune” which are really great songs. The rest of the album was pretty much written by Jon, David and I. We had to write as he was not there. It was written with keys and bass. I was playing guitar with David. The songs shifted. I think Stormbringer is a great piece of work, but it is not a metal album… although that is a metal song. The album is more of a rock album or a hard rock album.
Jeb: Tell me about working with Jon Lord.
Glenn: Jon was the most kind, generous and sweetest adult I’d ever worked with. Jon was ten years older than I was. He was possibly the reason why I joined the band. He came out to meet my family and my mom and dad. He was the guy that put his arm around my shoulder.
I was leaving Trapeze as we were headlining arenas. I was the lead singer and bass player. The band was about to really break in America. I was leaving to join a band where I was going to share vocals with somebody. He was the one that told me that everything was going to be okay. And it was. I went to stay with Jon and his wife and their little daughter. Later on, I shared a house with Ian Paice in London before we moved to America. It was a bonding of all members of Deep Purple for me. I had a very strong bond with each of them. That is why it worked.
Jeb: At any point, did you ever have thoughts that maybe you shouldn’t have brought so much funk into Deep Purple? “Maybe I should have ridden this Trapeze train a little while longer?”
Glenn: I thought Trapeze, musically, were outstanding. I have to use my words appropriately. Although the band were great, the representation of the band was not so great. We had a beautiful agent who was very dysfunctional. He wouldn’t accept no for an answer; he would try to book us and he was from Texas and he was maniacal. Trapeze had a manger that was very soft and calm. He was opposite of Peter Grant. We really had nice people but they weren’t grade-A managers. They weren’t like the management team I have now. I think I left Trapeze to join Deep Purple for the sake of my musicality moving forward. I wanted to play with other people who would push me. They were virtuosos in Deep Purple. You know my career, Jeb. You know I‘ve always loved sharing the mic with other singers. It was never a problem for me to share a mic with David. I think he would say the same to you.
Jeb: He’s never said a bad word to me about you.
Glenn: I hope not.
Jeb: You’re getting a lot of questions about Deep Purple with the Hall of Fame induction preparation going on. Did that pull your heart creatively with regard to the music on this tour and upcoming album?
Glenn: You’re the first person that has realized this. The album last December before we were inducted was going to be a trio. When we got nominated I decided in February to bring a keyboard player in on this record. I am not trying to recreate Deep Purple or Black Country Communion, but there is a side of me that loves guitar, bass and drums. There is another side of me that loves keyboards. Maybe… maybe there is a bit of a hint that I am tipping my hat to Deep Purple here.
Jeb: Why not? Sometimes I think in the past you tried not to do that.
Glenn: Yeah, I did. I made some very diverse music over the last twenty-five years. Some didn’t tip the scales with a lot of people. The record company couldn’t sell it because they were more of a metal or rock label. You have to be careful when making music these days concerning who you’re making music for. I do love black American music, but I like to listen to it… but I’m not black and I’m not going to get played on black radio. Most of my fans are white. As much as I love Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, I am not going to get in with their audience.
Jeb: You love different styles of music, but you realize in this day and age where your audience is.
Glenn: It has been very clear to me. I don’t want anybody to tell me what to do, musically. I make music that makes me sleep easy.
Jeb: I am looking forward to this tour, Glenn.
Glenn: I am playing two very big festivals. I am playing Sweden Rock and I am doing Hellfest, which has been sold out for seven months. I’m going to get to play to possibly eighty thousand people in two shows, which is a good warm-up for me. Those shows will be right before I go into the studio to do the album and I am very excited about that.
Jeb: Have you given thought to having some Deep Purple or Black Country Communion tunes in the set?
Glenn: Of course, of course. Black Country is part of my legacy now. If I’m going to play at a festival and you have all of these rock acts on the bill then I’m going to be breaking out the Purple and the Black Country and the Trapeze. That is who I am. I did write those fucking songs. What I do when I am headlining shows is play two hours. You’re going to get a collection of rock tracks and there will be ethereal shit in there as well. I’m not backing up too much when I go solo, but I am the groove boy as you can imagine. I do tip my hat to Trapeze and Purple and BCC. I do “Soul Mover” as well and other songs people will know.
Jeb: I am glad to hear you embrace ‘all things Glenn Hughes’.
Glenn: I don’t have a problem playing new songs either. I’ve said this to you before, Jeb. Unless you’re an expert then don’t tell me what I should be doing. I like to listen to people but it’s like if I am writing this music and it is doing well then I think I know what I’m doing at this point in my life. I do take advice. I am one for listening to good advice or a good tip on the horses then I’ll take it.
Jeb: You’re doing the right thing. I think Black Country should have made it huge. Maybe it was the wrong time, but that band was awesome.
Glenn: The band was great. Joe Bonamassa just… you know… is a solo artist and wanted BCC to just be a side project. That is what it was to Joe. As we look back at BCC, Jeb, BCC was a band for the people. It came and it went as fast as a rocket. As we look back at Black Country we go, “oh, my God.” You put those four dudes together and magic happened. The fifth guy was Kevin Shirley. He is, in my opinion, one of the greatest rock producers ever as he put that together. Joe is doing really well. I did well with Cali Breed and I’m touring the fucking world. I’m doing stuff I wasn’t doing when we started talking eleven years ago, Jeb.
Jeb: You toured with Doug Aldrich recently and I was hoping you guys would make it to the studio.
Glenn: He just texted me this morning. I do love Doug. You know Doug and you know he’s one of the nicest and sweetest guys around. Doug replaced Soren Andersen on the last run because Soren -I love Soren and he’s my guy- Doug came in and did an admiral job and he’s a sweet man and he’s a hell of a guitar player. He’s really good.
Jeb: So… People love to complain about your voice as much as they love to listen to your voice.
Glenn: The over-singing thing… it is like some people say that… it is like a really good soccer player who over plays but he’s that good. Sometimes I over sing and I go, “Hmm, maybe that was a little too much. Maybe I will back-off.” It really doesn’t bother me what people say and I get it. A lot of people can’t do what I do. Don’t ask me why I can do it. Maybe it is because I only have one testicle, I’m not sure. Sometimes I may overstep it and sometimes I back-off as I think I gave a little too much information. As I said early on, I will be learning and still being The Voice until the day I die. It is none of my business what people say about me.
Jeb: Glenn Hughes and Paul Rodgers are two guys who voices get better with age.
Glenn: I love Paul. He is truly an amazing singer. He was from a very early age. He is an inspirational singer for many people. You know I love Paul. He is a sweet man and he has a good relationship with his wife. He’s a changed man. We are both changed men and we’ve turned our life around and we are both doing well. Years ago, there was a show on TV and they were interviewing Mick Jagger on The 60s on CNN and someone asked him how long this will go on. Mick said he thought they were good for about another year. This is when he was 24. He’s now 72 and I’m 64 and we are still rattling the cages.
Jeb: What’s your secret on your voice?
Glenn: A lot of people will laugh when I tell you this but I sleep as much as possible. I don’t take naps like David Coverdale does but I do sleep a lot. I drink a lot of water. I wear wax ear plugs on tour. Sleep and water and warming the voice up are key. Joe Elliott my dear friend from Def Leppard gave me his warm up exercise. Joe’s warmup tape has been saving my ass for the last five years. I am really happy about that and credit Joe.
Jeb: Any last words?
Glenn: I can’t wait to get my hands and feet and vocals around the country I live in, The United States of America, my proud home where I’ve been living for 42 years. I can’t wait to play the market I live in and build my base back up again. You know I am a live singer like Paul is a live singer. My family of fans gets treated with respect when they come to a Glenn show. I love singing live. I’ll be singing in the fucking coffin!
Jeb: The next time I see you, I will bow down to you as you will be a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Glenn: I will. You can call me Sir Glenn!
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