Black Country Communion (Glenn Hughes)
Passion and fire are integral to any successful outcome, career-wise. If you don't like what you're doing, people will pick up on it in a heartbeat and abilities alone don't always guarantee a positive outcome. I'm happy to report that besides abilities, passion and fire are in abundance on the debut record by Black Country Communion.
BCC, of course, is the new project of legendary vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes, guitarist Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Their debut album is a fantastic piece of work. Twelve cuts of strong, strong songs. From the first note of the opening track "Black Country" to the final chords of "Too Late for the Sun", there is a fire so hot you almost burn your ears.
This band is a breath of fresh air. In a time of recycled riffs and American Idol blandness, BCC recalls a time where hard rock ruled. If you love Stormbringer-era Purple and early Bad Company, this band is for you. Bonamassa's soulful guitar licks, Bonham's ferocious drumming, Sherinian's understated but regal Hammond sounds and Hughes' mobile bass lines all combine into a gumbo of epic proportions.
On top of that, Glenn Hughes has outdone himself in the vocal category. Songs like "The Great Divide" have Glenn reaching deep down into himself and pulling up a performance that just sparkles throughout.
Forget Chickenfoot and all of those other superbands. They somehow fail to resonate with the soul that permeates this project.
I had the great pleasure of speaking with Glenn a few weeks back, just before he flew to Brazil for some solo shows and before the initial UK shows for BCC. As always, Glenn was engaging, humble and completely stoked about his new band.
antiMusic: Glenn, I love this record.
Glenn: We're five guys, with Kevin, that came together real quick. Joe and I pretty much put together the album, musically, in days. And I just like to call it fate or karma….mumbo jumbo…whatever you want to call it. I call it going in under the gun a little bit. But also with a little fire in the belly. And you can hear that. You can hear that from the opening track. You can hear this intensity. You can hear that it's not over-produced or processed.
The album I wanted to make was this kind of album. Because I had been flirting with my rock side for a while and if I was going to make a rock album with a rock band, it should be like this.
antiMusic: Was there a sort of hidden agenda by either you or Joe before you played together that you were thinking about a possible collaboration beyond these shows?
Glenn: Yes. Uh huh. Joe and I met four years ago at the NAMM show. I was only introduced to Joe's music by Joe Lynn Turner's album Holy Man. I didn't know Joe personally. Only that he was on the up. First and foremost, I really like Joe. We spoke a lot and had dinner and we jammed and hung out in my studio in North Hollywood. So we just had fun and played and we just knew that we were going to make some music. So we kind of put that in the back of our minds to do something.
So by now you probably know that I got up and sang with Joe at the House of Blues last year and in the audience was Joe's manager and Kevin Shirley. And they both went, "Well, f**king hell." Because Joe's audience is primarily blues and they accepted this rock guy coming on and this is what Kevin said, "Glenn took Joe out of his comfort zone." And I liked that and I understood what he meant. I like to be challenged musically by people I work with. And remember I've played with Blackmore, Bolin, Iommi, Gary Moore. I've played with a lot of great natural guitar players. And Joe is sympathetic to what I like and I'm sympathetic to what he likes. And so we formed the band with Kevin and Jason and Derek, and of course, the rest is history.
antiMusic: Was there ever a discussion about the direction in the style of music that you would be creating when you officially decided to put a band together?
Glenn: Well, when we decided to put the band together, Kevin asked me about Derek. And I've known Derek for 27 years. Because Kevin said he wanted to have a second instrument and Joe and I originally talked about the band that we were going to form would have a pedal steel or second guitarist. And then Kevin said, "Why don't we have a really fat Hammond to fill in when Joe is soloing and just to make it fuller." Cuz there hasn't been a big, big band with a Hammond organ since Purple, I guess. So I said, "You know, I'm not really a big Hammond fan. But if you're going to go that route, then I think Derek would be right." And then when we knew Jason would be a part of it….and I've known Jason all his life. And I love Jason to pieces. He's an insane drummer. And I love him like a brother. So once I knew those two people would be in the group, I started to write for the four members. I wrote "Beggarman" thinking Joe would turn this into something special. And I wrote "One Last Soul" because it's got that whole classic rock thing, you know. I started to write songs appropriately for us. And for what Kevin wanted. He wanted a riff-oriented, organic ….We didn't even think about a seventies sound. People have been calling it a mid-seventies album. I'm actually even starting to say that because I've been reading what people are saying. But it's just a real organic rock album.
antiMusic: "Black Country" which kicks off the record almost sounds like a mission statement, especially the chorus. What was the idea behind this song?
Glenn: Well, it was. I'll tell you…this is crazy but the first night that I got together with Joe and Kevin in December (2009)….can't quite remember….I think it was after Christmas when I came back from Brazil. I played them four songs; "One Last Soul", "Beggarman", "Stand" and…what was the other track I played….."No Time". And Joe had one lick. He may have had the intro to "…Revolution…" So he was going (makes guitar noise) and I went "Stop! What's that?" He said "I don't know. I just made it up." I said "Well, let's just put that down before we forget it because I hear something here. But I'd like to do something in the chorus like a call and response thing…stomping…like bam bam bam". And immediately I knew where I wanted to take the song. And I said this should be something bluesy and almost a prophecy, if you will.
That's how I came up with the line about the messenger thing. And I said "This should be the opening track on the record." And Kevin said, "I'll decide that." (laughs) I said later, jokingly "I bet 10 bucks this will be the opening track," and it was. But it's a big, big bold statement and it's a big, big rock track. I think we've recorded the best rock track of the year. Like I said before Morley, I think this is a bit of mumbo-jumbo, karma. The band sounds fresh. The songs are strong. There's four guys that are committed to this band. And that's what we have.
antiMusic: "One Last Soul" is absolute magic. Considering you had written this prior to the band coming together, did it change very much structurally once Kevin Shirley and the band put their contributions to it?
Glenn: The only way it changed, Morley, is that Joe added the signature solo to the middle. I may write a song or Joe may write a song and bring it to me and I'll finish it or vice versa so the meat of that song was written by me and then I handed that section to Joe to write, excellent part by the way. And for me, this is the wild card. When I went to Malibu to the Cave to play the songs I had those songs, "No Time" "Stand..." and "Beggarman". And then I said, "well, I've got this song that…I don't know". See, I wasn't going to play it for them. But I played it and they looked at me and went "Well, that was interesting." And I said, "Yeah, it's a little different." And then Jason heard it and went "F**king hell!" and he really got into it. And it became that song.
antiMusic: It sounds kind of strange to hinge it on one little part by my favorite part of the record is on the third chorus where you start wailing at the end of the line.
Glenn: Well by the way, that was live in the studio. I haven't talked to anybody about this before. That chorus was live. The other stuff….there's about four or five songs on there Morley that are being recorded while I'm playing the bass. And other parts all over the album. But that chorus was me at the mic, with the bass, playing with the boys in the band. And also that was just one take.
antiMusic: Wow. It really sounds like it was. There's just so much energy there that it sounds like it wasn't premeditated.
Glenn: It was just….raw. It was me just being me. You see some guitar players and musicians hesitating or over-singing or over-playing. This was totally in the moment. I'm glad you picked up on that. Some people have talked about that chorus. But I'm glad you picked up on that because it was one of my moments. It was genuinely heart-felt.
antiMusic: I can only imagine that if the other guys didn't know they were in a band with Glenn Hughes, they knew at that moment.
Glenn: Well, that's nice of you to say but the other guys are all seasoned players. And this band is now the darling of the rock industry but we have our feet FIRMLY planted on the ground. We know who we are and we know what is going on. I'm just really happy to have this again in my life when most of my peers are relaxing or retiring or just sort of, you know…bored. I've found this new revelation to get my teeth into. Could I? Should I? Could this have happened 10 years ago? It just wasn't meant to be at that time. It's now and I'm a firm believer in now.
antiMusic: You're obviously still hungry.
Glenn: Morley, I'm hungry for LIFE. Not to be corny but I'm one of these guys that gets up at 5:30 and wants to see the sun rise and it might sound all hippy and stuff but I'm one of those guys that has been blessed to have been given this gift of one day at a time. I should be dead already. I'm truly, truly amazed at the life I've been given --- that can be taken from me at any moment. I work with a lot, a lot of fantastic musicians and I just feel lucky to be in my skin these days.
antiMusic: Much of your solo work has revolved around the song, although no one would accuse you of coming up short in terms of musicality. Although you still have to have a great song to work on, it seems like, for this record, there's also a great deal of emphasis on the instruments here and letting that part be heard. People think of you as a vocalist and forget you're also a real in-the-pocket bass player. Have you been looking for an opportunity to just lay down some tasty bits and considering you got used to such things playing alongside a guy called Blackmore, can we look forward to extended jams both in the upcoming live shows and future records?
Glenn: If you listen to the bass work and really Morley, thank you. This is a quote from my manager, not me, but he said, "If Glenn wasn't the greatest singer in the world, then you listen to his bass playing and you go 'Wait a minute. This guy can really f**king play the bass'. And I don't listen to a lot of my solo work, Morley. I really don't. But when I do listen to it and I'll go 'Well, my God, that's some good bass playing.' And sometimes I forget because I tend to think that I'm just a singer. But my friend is making some amazing basses and a lot has to do with his work. (laughs) I don't know. Well, I guess it's an English thing isn't it? There may be something of to it. If I pick up a guitar or bass, it's going to sound like me. Same with someone like Iommi. I mean if Joe picks up a guitar or a bass at my house, Strats or Gibsons or SGs, it's still going to sound like Joe Bonamassa.
antiMusic: On the DVD which is included with the record, you state that you're not used to recording on the fly like the way the whole record was done. By the time you got to the last track, was it becoming more comfortable to you and have you gone over to the way of doing now or was it more of a worrisome thing for you?
Glenn: Well, remember now it was four days to do the album, the actual tracking, I think by day four…the last day. That would have been "The Great Divide" and the last track we cut was "Too Late for the Sun" and by that time you could feel how comfortable we were. But this is the way Kevin Shirley works and he had just said "Trust me." And of course we didn't have time for any playbacks. And when we were done, I said "We've got it." And the other guys said "well, how do you know?" And I said "cuz Kevin just told me." Because Kevin wasn't in the control room. He was right in the room with us.
antiMusic: Yeah, I saw that on the DVD. I thought that was so odd.
Glenn: His engineer, Jimmy McCullagh was in the control room and Kevin sat right there with us while we worked through the songs. And it was great. Kevin is a really good man manager. So if you see the DVD, you can see when we're playing "The Great Divide", we're getting comfortable because we're playing it live but "Too Late for the Sun", I love that song. And that song I wrote the night before we went into the studio and you notice it's a shared credit. It's a five minute song by Glenn Hughes and a six minute jam and I felt that it was appropriate that Derek could spread his wings there. And he could trade up with Joe. I think what's remarkable about that song it that I feel it's the finest six minutes of drumming on a rock album since John Bonham. Not only has Jason got his father in him but if you listen to the dynamics of Jason's drumming on the last six minutes of "Too Late for the Sun", it's just bar none, the greatest thing you've ever heard.
It think it's so strange, you know Morley. I knew John very well. I knew him when I was with Trapeze. And we'd jam a lot. I was a guest in John's house often and I remember him tutoring Jason when he was only about four years old. I'm supposed to be loving and nurturing and playing with Jason Bonham. I'm supposed to be doing this. I guess I'm Uncle Glenn in a way. And I love this man dearly like I loved his dad. And seriously….there's no mistakes. It's all supposed to happen.
antiMusic: I guess so. The rock world lamented the fact that Led Zeppelin didn't happen last year as they had hoped. I guess it was for a reason.
Glenn: There's only one drummer in Zeppelin and Jason will tell you that it was his father. But they played again for a year and thought they might carry on and then they didn't. And Jason was sad. He wasn't angry. He was sad. And when he came to play with Joe and Derek and I, he was afraid to let his guard down because he was frightened he would be let down again. Jason and I have spent some hours together…as friends, talking about his father. And talking about this band and how we want to move forward. And I've just got a lot of time for him.
antiMusic: What led to the decision to do the cover of "Medusa"?
Glenn: Kevin called me and said "how do you feel about re-recording "Medusa"? I said, "Do you know the story of that?" and I told him the whole John Bonham thing and he said "Oh my god. That's so interesting." But Jason knew that story. Because Jason, before John died, had been told by his dad, "I love this band, Trapeze." And in particular, John loved the song "Medusa". So for me, this was pretty much an homage to John. I mean, it's a 40-year old song, Morley. So I think it sounds pretty cool.
antiMusic: I know you haven't toured yet but does it already feel like you're in a band again and how does that feel versus being a solo artist which you have been for almost 20 years now?
Glenn: If I had my druthers, I'd rather have BCC on the road full-time but that's never, never going to happen. Not yet. Joe is a blues/rock solo artist. And I'm not getting in the way of Joe's career. And I've got my own legacy in the world as well. But if I have my druthers….and I think if Joe had to choose, I think he'd choose the band right now but he tours for like seven months on his own. I hope that you'll be seeing the dates go up soon to play the U.S. and Canada and so forth. We are going to be doing festivals and so forth. But I would like to do more. Because, and I'm not just talking about me and Joe. But solo artists can go out and do the theatres and that's about a 5,000 level but bands can go to arenas and stadiums. And I like to think of our bands as like an Allman Brothers or Black Crowes or something like that that's really a brothership. That's the way I see our band as. As like a communion thing, which I really believe in.
antiMusic: I was just going to ask you that. Even though you have your own band and tour often, do you miss the camaraderie of being in a full-time band and hanging out with the likes of David and Ian and everybody?
Glenn: Yes. I mean, David and I are still best mates. But I haven't been in a band since f**king Purple. It's something, really. And now I have the opportunity of being in New York and London and doing some shows with BCC. And you probably know that we're going to do some sold out shows in the UK in a couple of weeks. And it's a full production with BCC. I mean, we've gone from coming out of nowhere to…..major, so yeah, from that aspect, we don't have to play the clubs so it's great. Do I miss it? Of course, I miss it. But I'm not one of those would I/should I guys. It's happening when it's happening.
antiMusic: To end it off, I know it's been reported that you're already writing for the second record….
Glenn: As it so happens, right after this I'm going to Malibu to play Kevin my nine songs.
antiMusic: Wow, you've got most of the record already. Is it going to be a continuation of the first record?
Glenn: Ah, Morley. I wouldn't want to break that mold. No, there's not going to be any, say funk, on the record. But there will be some groove on the album, as there was on the first record. I mean, Zeppelin had a groove to it. The Stones have got groove. BCC are a rock and roll band. Let's be very true about that. We're a rock and roll band. The album is going to be part two of the first one. As you know, I never re-write a song twice. I have to be really clear with this with you. I have worked, really, really, really hard on number two. As I did on number one but this time I've had a little bit more time to write songs. Jason has been too damn busy so he's coming on Jan 7 to my house to write songs with me and Joe. But the album will be part two.
antiMusic: Well, I've tied you up long enough. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.
Glenn: Morley, you're a good man and I really appreciate your love of my band.
Morley and antiMusic thank Glenn for taking the time to do this interview.