Glenn Hughes: Black Country Confusion

By Jeb Wright

Glenn Hughes is best known for his roll in the iconic rock band Deep Purple. In addition to that gig, Hughes has a slew of critically acclaimed solo albums, stints in other high profile bands and is regarded by both critics and peers as one of the most solid rock vocalists of all time.

Since 2009, Hughes has been doing the heavy lifting in the super group Black Country Communion along side guitarist Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian.

The band has spent less than three weeks in the studio yet has recorded three albums, including the newly released Afterglow. They have also released a live DVD.

Many consider BCC to be the Great White Hope for Hard Rock, and deservedly so. The band features the best hard rock music heard in decades. Hughes and Bonamassa make an incredible songwriting team.

Each album melds elements of Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Faces and other great classic band and mixes them with the group’s own originality. Yet, there are a lot of people who have not heard of Black Country Communion. Even most of the bands fans have not seen them live in concert. The reason? This was a side project from the start and touring has never been an option.

While Hughes, Bonham and Sherinian long to hit the road with BCC, Joe Bonamassa is enjoying an amazing solo career and time simply has not allowed this band to tour in the way they would need to garner the reputation to take it to the next level—a fact that frustrates Hughes and the other band members.

Truth be told, BCC has accidentally became much more than originally intended. While the members knew they would make great music, they had no idea that it would be this damn good. The frustration caused by having a great band that only works three weeks in the studio every three years, coupled by no touring, led to words being said in the press. Hughes and Bonamassa traded barbs and each stood has their ground.

In the interview that follows, Hughes speaks openly and honestly about the debacle and the uncertainly of what will become of Black Country Communion.

Read on to discover how Glenn feels about the band, his band mates and about not touring. This is a riveting interview, so honest at time that it hurts.


Jeb: Let’s kill the elephant in the room. You did some interviews that caused a lot of reactions.

Glenn: It is none of my business what people say, or write, about me. I am very sensitive. I need to set the record straight today. I know you will not lead me down a dark alley and that is the reason I am doing it.

Jeb: Do you regret that this happened and do you regret what you said?

Glenn: The only disclaimer I have in this interview, and this goes to all of the Black Country Communion fans out there is this: We have done three albums and one live DVD in two and half years. Ninety percent of the press campaign has been done by me.

I am very happy for Joe and his solo career. Because he is so busy, the band asked me to do the interviews. The promo for the first album went great. The promo for the second album was more difficult because people were talking about evolving in the studio, but they were asking me shouldn’t a band evolve on stage.

Most journalists who interview me are Black Country Communion fans and, over time, I have been prodded into the touring question. Yes, I did get frustrated and, yes, I may have said some things that, in hindsight, due to my frustration, I shouldn’t have said due to my frustration. Never once did I say anything disrespectful about any of the artists in Black Country Communion, who are of the highest caliber and are my brothers and friends.

I have not done any interviews for several weeks and I have learned that silence is golden. I have learned a lot about myself and the industry.

Jeb: What do you mean by that?

Glenn: Let’s cut to the chase, last September and October, when Black Country Communion were finishing up the 33rd show of our tour—I will go over the statistics with you. We did three albums and one live DVD in two and a half years. Jeb, you’ve been around a long time and you know that never happens. That would take a band like Whitesnake or Aerosmith fifteen years to do that. We did it in breakneck speed. We’ve done a wonderful job with Kevin [Shirley].

Here is the kicker: There are a lot of Black Country fans. There are Joe fans, Jason fans, Derek fans and Glenn fans, but there are also a lot of BCC fans. I believe our band, Black Country Communion, is making the best rock music in, possibly, the last twenty years. We found ourselves in a situation. When the band set out almost two and half years ago, the template was that the band would make records and we would evolve in the studio and we would do some shows, from time to time. Joe and his manager, Roy Weisman, are right in saying that is how it was.

Do you want to know something? Derek, Jason and I kind of forgot about that. We are a great band and we are making great fucking records and all of the sudden, we get lost in the beautiful music we are making and we forgot about the template that was there. We just kind of went, “Surly, this is going to go all the way. This could go global.”

Roy and Joe have not budged. We were supposed to tour in 2012 and we didn’t. Last November, Kevin Shirley was asking me to do Black Country Communion III, which became Afterglow, and this is the kicker of the whole thing: I’d been writing a solo record that would involve all of my friends in the industry. We were going to do a record and I was writing the songs.

Last November, Kevin asked me to do the Black Country Communion record. I said, “No, I really need to do a Glenn record and take a year away, as we are not touring in 2012.” Seven of the songs I wrote became songs that are on Afterglow.

I want to be clear with you that the next solo album I make will not be a return to the funky sort of street thing; it will be the rock Glenn. The difference between the next Glenn album and Black Country Communion is sort of like walking a fine line.

After Christmas, Kevin and I got into some deep conversations and he thinks I really need to do another Black Country Communion album. I said, “Kevin, I’m kind of committing myself to a record with X, Y and Z as guests.” I was on the fence, but I decided to do the BCC album. I told Kevin, “If we do not tour behind it then this will be my last album with them.” Did Joe know that? I’m not sure. I know that Kevin knew it and Jason knew it.

I told them that in order for us to move on we needed to be a live band. Apparently, this is what really upset the applecart. Fans just want to see this band live, but, unfortunately, we have to go with Joe and the template that has been set.

This whole controversy got out before the album came out because things were said in the heat of the moment. The fact is that I’m not going to be the one that says Black Country is breaking up because I sure hope not. Are we going to play some shows? I bloody well hope so.

Jeb: Joe told me that BCC is like a comet and that is how the band should work. He said that the tour started great but by the end of the tour he was worn out.

Glenn: Joe Bonamassa will go on to get Grammys and he will one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I only hope I will be around to champion him when it happens. Nobody is more deserving of his success than Joe and we don’t want him to stop. I’ve already said enough.

I am walking around my house so upset because Joe is blaming me for getting to this point, but the fact of the matter is, if this album wasn’t coming out, then this would be a little easier. The fact of the matter is that come January and February, when the fans start asking me when the tour is, they only have to read between the lines.

I was the man on the firing line over the last two and half years, doing over 600 interviews. There was a certain amount of prodding by professional journalists and I really should have kept quiet. In all of my years of being a human being, I have learned that I am not perfect. There is no Saint Derek, Saint Jason, Saint Joe or Saint Glenn in this fucking band. No one is going to walk on water in this band. The fervor of excitement came from the bombastic things we did on stage. Is it ever going to come to fruition? I certainly hope so. I am not closing any doors on this band.

Jeb: So you really are not sure what is going to happen.

Glenn: When this controversy all went down when I was in London, it wasn’t great, but we’ve moved on since then. I have deep respect for the members of this band, but my only problem is that this is a great band live. I was told that I shouldn’t have been talking about a tour because there wasn’t one booked.

Maybe I should tell you that Glenn Hughes is not going to publicize something that is not real. I should just tell you that I wish there was and that I don’t know but I really hope so. I am not here to say anything wrong about anybody. Jason, Derek and I are really united, not against Joe, but rather we want to play live. We don’t know when that will be at this very moment in time.

Jeb: One of the problems is that this band is really good and it makes it hard to not make it a full time band. Afterglow may be the best album the band has put out.

Glenn: Clear back on the first album, Kevin came to me and asked me to be the meat and potatoes of the band. Joe has always said that I do the heavy lifting. Joe is one of the greatest guitar players and one of the hardest working guys in the industry, so he really does not have that much time to write.

Every time I do a BCC album I call it my beautiful challenge. I have to wonder before writing each song what I am going to pull out of my bag of tricks. I was left with this blank canvas in my studio to write a free range of stuff that I can take to Kevin and he will either give me the nod, or he won’t.

This band has become one of the greatest loves of my life. It has made me a better person and it is has made me a better songwriter. I have gained a lot of love for people. I just wish we could move on and carry this great torch with us.

Jeb: You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel that way about your creation.

Glenn: It has been a great love to me. Some things have been said in the heat of the moment, but I’ve been quite for several weeks. After this interview, I will do no more interviews for Afterglow.

Jeb: Let me play the Devil’s advocate. Joe never strayed from what was agreed to, but now he feels like a villain and he does not deserve that.

Glenn: Here is the thing: Jason, Derek and I really forgot about the template. I’m not joking about that. As each album became more solid and heavier, and we were sounding more and more like a real band, we just thought that there would be some sort of real tour come out of this. We never went public about our thoughts.

The only thing I know is that we have a great album out and we have to move past this public outrage, or whatever you want to call it. We are a unit of great friends who will hopefully continue to make music together. If it doesn’t happen, then that is just the way it is.

Jeb: Afterglow is a great album. Let’s talk about some of the songs. “Cry Freedom” is a cool song because you and Joe trade vocals.

Glenn: We did the entire album in a two day session at the Kevin’s studio The Cave. Kevin told me that we had to get Joe on the album.

I love to sing with Joe because it comes out really amazing. Kevin asked me what songs Joe should sing and I wanted to start with “Cry Freedom” because it has the bluesy thing going on. Joe came over for a couple of hours and Kevin punched my vocal out and punched Joe’s vocal in.

I wrote some of the songs for us to sing together. I wrote “Common Man” for Jason, Joe and I to sing together. I wrote “This is Your Time” for Jason, Joe and I to sing together. It never was able to happen as such. I want those who read this to know that I wrote these songs to feature our three voices on this album, as I thought it would be insane and Kevin agreed with me. It just never worked out.

Let it be known and let it be heard that I absolutely love singing with great singers. People don’t know this, but Jason is also a great singer. Joe keeps getting better and I love sharing the microphone with him. I really love this band, man.

People have said that maybe I am just envious because Joe has such a successful solo career but I’ve been there and done that. I’ve played Madison Square Garden with Deep Purple. I am very happy for Joe. The buck stops through J&R Adventures (Joe Bonamassa’s management company) and we have to appreciate that and just move forward the way it is.

Jeb: Vocally, on Afterglow, you rein it in a bit. I have to tell you I like it and think this is one of your best recorded performances.

Glenn: Everyone is an armchair critic in the world today and I hear all the time that Glenn Hughes sings too much, too high and he screams and this and that. I will take that review and I will put it in the back pocket and I really don’t give a damn. I write what I feel and when I write songs like the title track, or “The Giver” they are very personal to me.

As I get older, my lyrics are getting more and more important to me. Somebody said, “Will the real Glenn Hughes please stand up, as there are five different voices on here.” The five different voices are emotionally charged. I did two four hour sessions recording the vocals on this album. I don’t stand there for days and weeks. I am a very spontaneous singer. I do one or two takes and then I am done. I don’t drop words and notes in, as that is not the way I sing. I can’t critique the way I sing; only you can do that. Each album we do is slightly different that the last. There is a reverent feeling in my voice on this album that is very emotional and I am very proud of it. I really have enjoyed the writing process with Black Country Communion. I really enjoy writing more and more as I get older.

Jeb: “The Giver” is a deep song.

Glenn: It is about being free. I told everyone all about me in my book that came out. I could have taken some of that to my grave but I opened up and told everything. One thing I have learned about myself is that I sacrifice material things and I will continue to do that so I can sleep well at night. How much stuff can one have?

I think about the kind of person I want to be at age 61. I am at a place now where I never thought I could be. I have a great wife and a great family and I am really passionate. I am a little bit outspoken. If you’re in a band with Glenn Hughes, then you‘re not in a band with a wallflower, I’m a guy who’s been through the ‘70s and has hung out with everybody. I am growing musically, professionally and personally. I respect the people I work with and I love them but I am not a wallflower and I will not be backed into a corner and have the shit kicked out of me; it won’t happen.

Jeb: Do you feel the material you’ve written with Black Country Communion is the best you’ve ever written?

Glenn: Some people say this is bullshit and that it is absolute crap. Some people have said that the only time Glenn Hughes was great is when he was in Deep Purple. I will definitely debate that.

What has happened to me was that in 2005, when I did Fused with Tony Iommi, I put the rock hat back on. You know me as my friend, and I love black American music and the blues. I also love rock. In early 2009, before Black Country was born, I was getting ready to make another funk album. I had a very clear dream that told me that I should be making rock music. I could see myself playing rock music in front of rock audiences. I woke up and I called my manager and I told him that I was shelving all of the songs I had written for the funk album. I started hanging out with Joe the same year and then we put the band together. I am back playing rock music and I am back where I belong. I am a rock singer and I am a rock writer.

Jeb: Why is the album called Afterglow?

Glenn: I thought calling it III would be lazy. At the 11th hour of the second album, I called Kevin and told him that I wanted to call the album Outsider. He said the print was already done and that it would cost like ten grand to change it, so I said to forget it.

I didn’t go into Afterglow thinking that I needed to call the album Manny, Moe or Jack. When I wrote Afterglow I thought it was a great song. I didn’t play that song to the band in preproduction until the last day. They thought it was over and I told them we had one more and we decided to make it the title track.

Jeb: “Common Man” is a great song but the opening part sounds an awful lot like “Tom Sawyer” by Rush.

Glenn: You’re the only bloody one, Jeb, in the world that has picked up on that other than Jason and me. We played it and I said, “That’s bloody Tom Sawyer.” Jason said it didn’t matter and I said, “It matters to me. We’ve got a bit of the AC/DC, a bit of the Who and a bit of Zeppelin. Stop!” I was kidding, of course, but it does have that sound and it is the same fricking chords.

Jeb: Once you get into the rest of that song though, man it is one of the best on the album.

Glenn: That song was a second take. It was the last song we recorded for the album. Jason wrote that melody and he sang it to me earlier this year. I told him we needed to do that song. Jason and Joe and I were supposed to sing that as a trio. When I heard it back I wasn’t sure if it was going to make the album. I want everybody to be sure that Jason wrote that melody and I wrote the lyrics.

Jeb: Is Derek the silent hero of this album?

Glenn: Derek brought every God damned keyboard he could to the studio. It was like something from Keith Emerson from the ‘70’s would have done. Derek pushed his way into this album. He muscled his way in and he showed everybody where he needed to be.

The first couple of albums, were more guitar oriented, but this time Derek was very vocal about what he wanted to do. On this record he really showed what he is bloody capable of.

He and I have become really good mates, as of late, and he is really all over this album. I was watching him during the sessions and he really loves this band and he really wanted to make his mark on this album. Derek did what he wanted. I am very happy for him that he made his mark on this album. He is a virtuoso keyboard player.

Jeb: “Midnight Sun” should be the single on the album.

Glenn: Normally, we all start recording together, but on that day, I got my wallet stolen at Starbucks, so I was a couple of hours late to the studio. When I got there they were working on the music to “Midnight Sun.” I thought, “Here we go again, it’s the bloody Who.” I picked up the bass and just went right into it. Do I think the band does that too much? I don’t want this band to be known as copycats.

Jeb: There are nods and moments but this is not a copycat band, Glenn.

Glenn: If you would watch us in the studio record this shit, it is just off the charts. Everything is recorded live; every single note and every solo is recorded live.

Now you know why I became frustrated and went into this, “God damn it, I just wish we could take this on the road” rant. Jason, Derek and I really wanted to go all the way with this band.

As a recording band, we’ve done everything possible to build a foundation. With Afterglow, and the other albums, we’ve set the blueprint of what Black Country Communion is. The future is unknown.

I get excited by the music of this band and I want this band to do more. I can’t be in a band that only makes albums. I am 61; I’ve got to make records that I can promote live. This is not 1988. If we had made these albums in 1988 we would have sold ten million albums. The only way to move forward in 2012 is to play live.

Going back to Joe’s template, it has always been that way, but it has been unspoken as of late. You must understand that in the heat of the moment people can say things. It has been very obvious to people this band needs to play live and these questions become rather tedious. I have learned it is better to just punt or say nothing. Whatever I say to you, or what Joe said to you, people will be taking potshots at us.

Black Country Communion is one of the great loves of my life. I have been on the playing field with this band and I can walk off the playing field with this band knowing that it was something wonderful for me in my golden years. I’ve got gold and platinum albums all over my walls and I’ve gotten all of the accolades that I could ever want. I’ve got a nice comfortable lifestyle. The most important thing for me has been the great love of Black Country Communion. I want it to grow but it is not really in my hands.

I’m not pointing fingers at anyone here. You can hear in my voice how much I love this band. If you spoke to Jason or Derek then they feel the same way.

I won’t die for Black Country Communion. I won’t hang myself on the cross and die for this band, I won’t do it. Everybody has given their all here. I have put things on hold and I’ve lost income to do this thing because I really believe in this band, period. The fans, literally, thousands upon thousands, want to see this band live. I am not manning the controls of the good ship Black Country Communion, so I don’t know where we will go.

Jeb: If it turns out to be a recording only band will you play the songs at your solo gigs?

Glenn: I don’t know. A lot of the songs are mine and I can do what I want with them. I may go on to do things with orchestras and stuff. I would like to do that.

This band means something different to each member. Joe has made it very clear what this band is for him. For me, it is on the front burner. I’ve gladly taken time away from other things to do this, but I won’t die for this band. I want to tour, as does Derek and Jason. As for what Joe thinks, you will have to ask him. Black Country Communion is something for Joe to do in his spare time, but in the meantime, this huge monster has grown. No one, including Joe and me, had any idea how huge this would be. If you do not tour, then you can’t survive in the marketplace today. You won’t gain fans and you can’t have the merchandise and you can’t make it.

For me, at 61, I like to think that when I make my records, just like Joe does, I can go on tour. Now we have made Afterglow and the normal thing for me to do, if this was a solo album, would be to go tour. I am not asking for a huge tour just X amount of shows. Let it be known that I have to be in a touring situation. I do respect Joe and Roy for not budging from that initial template. It is a decision that everyone, including the band, the producer, you and the fans will have to live with.

Did I bully Joe? No, of course not, I can’t bully anybody. I am just frustrated that we can’t talk about touring because there is not one booked and we can’t mention it.

Jeb: Is Joe irreplaceable in Black Country Communion?

Glenn: I won’t go there. This band started with just me and Joe for six months. We would just get together and jam at each other’s houses and we didn’t even know we were going to be in a rock band. The idea of replacing one of the members does not appeal to me. The album has just come out and we are talking about replacing people. I won’t go there. I want Black Country to survive. I think if you asked any member of this band the same question they would say we are all joined at the hip.

Jeb: What is difficult about ending this interview is that I want it to have a conclusion but we just don’t have one.

Glenn: The cat is out of the bloody bag because of my frustration. I will hold my hand up and say that I should not have done that. The press is really smart and they brought it out of me.

Do you want to know what it is? I was sad. You can see on the interviews I did for the first album how excited I was, but by this time you can see a twinge of sadness because I don’t know where we are going.

I just wish I would have done those interviews next spring. I have said too much. I just want people to know that I love this band and that it has been very difficult being the one in the line of fire. It is really tough. This is the last written interview I am doing on this album. I just hope I have shed light to the fans how wonderful it is to be in a band as good as this and that I want this band to evolve. I think everybody wants it to evolve, but we all have different feelings of what that should be. Three of us want to tour and one of us doesn’t. People didn’t know that before, but they know that now, which really sucks. I do not want anyone to think it is us versus Joe because that is not the way it is. We just have different ideas of what this band should be.

Buy Afterglow here