Interview: Glenn Hughes – Black Country Communion
, the Anglo/American rock super group comprising vocalist/bassist ( , , ), drummer ( ), (Dream Theater) and blues rock guitarist , are preparing for the launch of their highly anticipated debut album ‘ ’ on September 20th.
Black Country Communion is the brainchild of producerafter he saw Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa join forces on stage in Los Angeles in November 2009 for an explosive performance at Guitar Center’s King of the Blues event. Shirley went on to recruit powerhouse drummer Jason Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian which finalised the line-up.
I had the opportunity to speak to Glenn Hughes about the band, their album and what the future holds for Black Country Communion. Glenn Hughes, ‘’, has carved a career in stone that cannot be tarnished with his distinctive styles of hard, soul and fuck rock that he has experimented throughout his career. Having sold over 100 million albums, with 80+ gold and platinum albums to boast, he is coming back to the style that he loves most, traditional British rock.
With the album mastered and ready to be unleashed to the world on 20th September, Glenn is on a world press tour to promote the band’s debut album: “Aww man, I’m just about to do Germany next but I have a couple more [interviews] to do today before I go on the plane tonight”, Glenn continues “truly I am here to promote, this is what I do.”
In the last two years the term “supergroup” has been stated as soon as two musicians from different, relatively well known, bands announce a new project but as we all know, some of them never bring the “super” aspect that people patiently wait on; Black Country Communion is, and it cannot be doubted for a second, a super group of all proportions. When I asked Glenn what he thought about the term “supergroup” he stated: “You know, well, here’s the deal, if you have one part Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, one part, one part Dream Theater and one part rock blues titan, then you’re going to be labelled a supergroup. There is a part of me thinking, “well dammit I should be in a supergroup” and that’s what it says on the tin isn’t it, supergroup. My job is to keep this band, I’m fiercely protective of each member and my job is to really be the spokesperson and the elder statesman to make sure this band is promoted appropriately.”
“All I am doing is fiercely promoting this project. I wouldn’t call it a product because I have never liked being a product so it’s a project, it’s now called a band, it’s a logo, it’s a taste and it’s a feel, its Black Country Communion; the flag is planted firmly into planet earth and our music is Black Country Communion. It’s an album for your readers to have and place it up there next to analbum, place it next to ‘Zeppelin IV’, place it up next to Black Sabbath, place it next to [ ] ‘Live At Leeds’, this album is big and bold and it’s a big British rock statement.”
Black Country Communion, as some will know from the details released here at EspyRock, takes their name from the industrial area in the British West Midlands where Hughes and Bonham were born and raised. Originally the band’s name was simply Black Country but in recent months they were forced to change their name to include Communion. “Well when I Googled “is there a band called Black Country” the answer came back no, but there is a Black Country Bash Band. There is the Black Country in the West Midlands, the industrial area, 1800 circa, smoke stacks and stuff so I said ok, we will call ourselves Black Country. Of course Jason is doing an interview in Los Angeles on the telly and the next thing we know we get a cease and desist letter from this band called Black Country from Baltimore, Maryland. So for the last three months we have been trying to negotiate a fee to buy the name from them but they wanted half a million dollars! I told them very nicely “are you out of your fucking mind!” So I just added the word communion to the end of it and it you look at the word communion, it’s not a religious term, I just wanted to have a real 60s vibe, hippy sounding last word for our name and communion is that, I like the name communion. If you look at the logo also, it’s Black Country and in the scroll it’s Communion. I’ve been working on that logo for three fucking months.”
“The thing is I didn’t want a lawsuit, I didn’t want to call it The Black Country, Black Country Band or Black Country Boys because it could have been a lawsuit. The lads from Baltimore were really aggressive with me saying “we’re no Led Zeppelin tribute”, trying to play down who we are but they were saying “our music is very influenced by Tommy Bolin”, not realising Tommy Bolin was in my fucking band in Deep Purple! They are silly and I wrote back to them, I said “guys, I never meant to steal your fucking name, you can have your fucking name but I am going to call my band Black Country Communion, end of story.” They thought because of all the records we have sold and all the stuff we have done that I would just have a half million dollars in my back pocket just to give them, it’s just rude.”
Experience does tend to speak for itself when it comes to writing and performing music but for a new band who only formed between November and December 2009, Black Country Communion were able to write and record their full debut release in a matter of three to four months while juggling their other projects. “Aww, we had no rehearsal, no pre-production at all! I wrote four songs in December and we went into the studio with no rehearsal and I just showed the members of the band, the morning of, 11am on 3rd January, these songs I had written and asked them do you think we should record them and it was just a case of “oh, well, yeah as we haven’t got any more songs”. So the first few songs on the album you are hearing are the mutterings of a mad man called Glenn Hughes and we managed to come up with some ideas that we just recorded so that’s what you get.”
With the early material written in December, I asked Glenn how they wrote the other songs: “You know what I did man [laughs], I locked Joe away in my house for three afternoons on three different Thursdays for three hours at a time, I just locked him in. He came with his Les Paul, though eventually played with one of the Les Pauls in my studio, and we just sat down and wrote all the songs you’re hearing in my studio. We demoed them and then you know the next thing it’s early March and we are back in the studio and we’re finish the album and the rest is history. The album was recorded, totally, in five or six days with vocals and instruments.”
When I spoke to Glenn regarding the turnaround from forming to having the album complete and the short time in the studio compared to many other bands, he spoke of the laughing stock that had become of Guns N’ Roses as they recorded ‘Chinese Democracy’: “When you think of that geezer in Guns N’ Roses, the singer, Axl Rose fella, who was in the studio for 9 years to do their latest album. My friend owns a studio called Village Recorder in LA and my friend Jeff Greenberg said Axl was in the studio for two years! He had it locked away and it cost over $1.8 million in recording fees and he just recorded one song! It’s like, if you can’t, especially if you’re young or old like me, I’m 58 but I have got a very young spirit, if you can’t go into the studio and knock out an album in a few weeks, you may as well just forget about it.”
Of course a line-up which consisted of Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian is enough to get the rock juices flowing but the somewhat surprise member of the band being Joe Bonamassa has left people wondering what to expect. Having already heard the album, the inner rock star in Bonamassa has its opportunity to burst out and take centre stage. The blues prodigy began his career at the age of 12 when he was performing with legendary musicians such asand but until fans are given the opportunity to listen to the new Joe Bonamassa, the jury will remain out as to how hard he can rock. Glenn certainly has his own feelings about the inner rocker inside Joe Bonamassa which he is pulling out to showcase on this album. “The shocker is, maybe not such a big one to you as you have already heard the album but it’s a shocker to blues purists who will go, “surely we can’t lose Joe to a rock guy like Glenn Hughes!” Well Joe wants to rock. Joe has actually started to rock on his albums but his fans have Joe wrapped up in a little blues ball and no disrespect to any blues fans because I love blues fans, but this is a rock fans album. This is an AC/DC fan, a Led Zeppelin fan, a Black Sabbath fan, a Who’s fan album. Well you’ve heard the album right, you know it’s not a blues guy trying to rock with better boots on; it’s a bloody rock player isn’t it. It doesn’t sound like a guy who is playing in a pub band, sounds like a guy who is playing up there with [Peter] Townshend.”
What may surprise people when they put on the album is the lack of classic styling you may come to expect. Yes the album still comes from a classic rock background but there is a lot more to their sound than what the line-up would suggest. “It’s really difficult for me to pin point what the album is. My website manager and my wife said to me, “Glenn, this isn’t a classic rock album” and it’s not, it’s more than that, it’s a fucking album…it’s an album! You can’t really call it classic rock, you know what this is, it’s a traditional British rock album that has not been recorded by a British rock band for nigh on 15 to 20 years.”
“I’ll put this album toe to toe with a Who album or Zeppelin album though that might come across as being arrogant but dammit I’ve sold a lot of records man, I’ve been around for a lot of years and I said to Joe, I said man, you could be my son but I said “Joe, there are a few sure things in life and this is one of them.”
“It really truly stands up there with ‘Burn’ [Deep Purple], you know from before you were born I did an album ‘Burn’ in 1973, it stands up there with that, a master class in rock and this is the strongest album I have done since then. Man it has taken a long time because my music has gone from blues rock to funk rock to soul rock and back to my roots now which is traditional Black Country sounding music. Like you say up in Scotland, there is a great heritage of music, great great heritage but this album is really about the British West Midlands, the Black Country where Bonzo , Robert Plant, myself, Jason Bonham and Rob Halford, kind of the epicentre of British rock.”
As the album is so heavily based on the heritage of Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham, I questioned whether this would be the main overall theme to the songs that fuel the the album lyrically. “It really is, it really is. It’s really a lad’s album isn’t it? It’s a call and response you know, it’s like the great bands from Glasgow, they sing about their heritage and I’m singing about mine now which is the British Midlands. The Merseybeat sound of the sixties and now you have the seventies sound of the British West Midlands and now I have taken it into 2010. It’s great to have Jimmy Page and Robert Plant as our ambassadors of this album and I’m really happy to have those guys on board.”
Fans of Glenn Hughes and those of Trapeze will be instantly familiar with song number eight on the album, ‘’. ‘Medusa’ was originally released in 1970 from the album of the same name by Trapeze who featured Glenn Hughes, Dave Holland (Judas Priest) and Mel Galley (Whitesnake). “It was fun to play because of Jason Bonham because John Bonham played, not on the original, but he played that song live with me in 1971 and 1972 a lot. Jason would say to me “would dad play it like this or would dad play it that way?”, well I said, “dad played it that way”, so it was really great having his son play on it like 39 years later.”
With ‘Medusa’ naturally being a song that comes from a golden era of Glenn’s career and his overall enthusiasm for this album, I asked if there was any clear cut song(s) on the album that stood out as something special: “What I want people to do bro is drop the needle on the vinyl on track one or drop it anywhere you want, but you put that track on and you hear that bass lick and that groove coming in and you hear that vocal, dun dun, I am a messenger. You know what this says on the tin, this is fucking rock!”
Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa are both active solo touring musicians with Glenn releasing his latest and twelfth studio album ‘First Underground Nuclear Kitchen’ in 2008 and Joe releasing ‘Black Rock’ in March 2010. Questions are being asked as to how the band would tour and how long they may in fact last as an overall band with the strong commitments that they have with their labels as solo artists. “My main concern, this is to everyone I have spoken to, that’s seventy three interviews in the last few days, my main concern is getting this band on the road. Now I will be up in Glasgow in September with my own band and Joe is doing the same thing with his band in October but I’ll be doing like a mini world tour this fall but only because I need to keep the name Black Country Communion going through the press. I want to stop everybody’s tour schedules now. I want everybody to say “you know something, we got to fucking play live.” So my main concern is now getting this promo done, speaking to the rest of the bloody world over the next month and by then I will be hopefully be getting some tour dates announced so I can tell you and everyone else up in Glasgow and in Edinburgh or Aberdeen and everybody everywhere else in that part of the country that we’re coming up there.”
When I asked if 2011 would be the start of their touring or could there be something sooner, Glenn confirmed: “Yeah it’s going to be 2011 though there might be some kind of secretive things going on that we will let you know about soon.”
While the band await the release of their debut album ‘Black Country’ and to get on road touring, I had wondered if we may see a new solo effort from Glenn which also brought him back to his roots. “What I am doing is writing a follow up album right now for Black Country Communion; I’m writing a second album. You know my solo career, look, I have been doing this a long time, and I can take a break. I’ve been releasing solo albums every fifteen months for twenty years, I can take a break. I don’t have to make another solo album for five years, I don’t want to do it though record companies want me to do it but I say I haven’t got that contract were I’ve got to do that every year. So I can do it year by year or album by album and I said “you know something, I’m taking a break, and I just want to be in this band”. I want to plant this flag and I want to make sure we get out there and do this thing properly.”
Will Black Country Communion be around for many years to come? “I’m really hoping man, I’m really hoping.”
Black Country Communion will release their debut album ‘Black Country’ on 20th September in the UK and the following day, 21st September in the US.
1. Black Country
2. One Last Soul
3. The Great Divide
4. Down Again
6. Song Of Yesterday
Photographs courtesy of Robert Knight.