If you listened to Rock and Roll in the 70s and 80s, the chances are pretty good that you heard the voice of Glenn Hughes along the way. Whether it was Trapeze, Deep Purple, or Tony Iommi’s solo material, his raging wail and spirit were injected into every project he came across.
His latest band, Black Country Communion (BCC), is no different.
Featuring Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian, BCC is a dynamic hybrid of everything one could possibly ask for from a hard rock band. The guitars are brazen, the arrangements are meaty, and the guys aren’t afraid to write a song that exceeds the four-minute mark.
Sure, they have some crossover appeal, but they’re rooted in a bluesy blend of American and British influences that seldom warrants mainstream attention in today’s market.
To me, that fact only makes the band better.
I spoke with Glenn recently about how the band came together, and why he thinks their material is among the finest he’s ever been a part of.
Question: A lot of people would call BCC a “supergroup,” but, to me, you guys are much more of a fully realized band. What do you think of that label?
Hughes: On paper, I guess you could say that we fit that description, but that was a term that originated in the 60s with bands like Traffic, Humble Pie and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It makes a good media sound bite, so a lot of people run with it. It certainly doesn’t hurt us.
Question: You guys released two titanic rock albums less than a year apart. How did you manage to put together such killer material that quickly?
Hughes: I’m a writer, so I’ve had a lot of time to sit down and crank out songs. Joe and Jason both tour outside of the band, which allows me to get into the process. For the second album, I wrote 10 or 11 tracks in four months, and most of them have come together quite easily.
Question: Why do you think you guys jelled so well right from the beginning?
Hughes: I hesitate to use the word “karma,” but that’s really what it feels like. We came together with a clean canvas and played for the first time with no rehearsal. I think I’m better than I was in my younger days, because I’m exploring deep lyrical material, and I’ve been sober for a while now. Joe is a guy whom I trust and we just play off each other well.
Question: I really like the song “I Can See Your Spirit.” How did that come about?
Hughes: I wrote the first half, but then realized that it sounded too close to Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop,” so I altered it a bit. We’re obviously going to have a Zeppelin influence given Jason’s history, but the song is just a simple barroom groove wrapped around three or four chords.
Question: You’ve mentioned before that you didn’t set out to sound like a band from 1974, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. What do you think about your sound compared to other commercially popular bands?
Hughes: I don’t really listen to a lot of music outside of the band, but I am from the 70s and we write our music in a classic rock style. Bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin are infused with our past, so anything from that era is going to seep through in one way or another. We don’t have a problem with the notion at all.
Question: You recorded a version of Trapeze’s “Medusa” on the first BCC album. How did you decide on that song?
Hughes: I had the privilege of playing that song with John Bonham 10 or 15 times live, so that’s always been a song that stood out from the rest. Joe Bonamassa’s father actually turned him on to the song and we played it together at the House of Blues in 2009, which worked really well.
Question: Your voice sounds more powerful than it did when you first came into the spotlight. How have you managed to keep it in such great shape?
Hughes: The stark answer to that is no drugs and alcohol, because I was headed down the wrong road for a time, and I’m sure it affected my performance. I’ve been clean and sober a long time, and I’ve been able to discover a wealth and depth in my voice that I don’t think was there back then. I think I sound even better today as well.
Question: Your vocal on “The Great Divide” is from the first album is one of the best I’ve heard in quite some time. How did the idea for that song come about?
Hughes: I was in Scotland in 2010, and, I kid you not, the song essentially wrote itself. I trust Joe’s direction as a musician and he came up with a riff that fit with what I wanted to say in that song. I think it’s one of my greatest moments as a writer.
Question: Where do you envision the band going in the future?
Hughes: Hopefully, we can take ourselves to greater heights. Joe is booked on his own tour and Jason is touring with the Led Zeppelin Experience, so we won’t have a lot of activity in a live setting for a while, but we’re all invested in the project for the long haul. We released both albums back to back, because we wanted to establish the brand and we felt that the time was right to get out there.
Question: I’m a big fan of your work with Tony Iommi on the “Seventh Star” album. How do you look back on that record now that it’s 25 years later?
Hughes: It’s funny. I just did “That Metal Show” yesterday with Jim, Don, Eddie and Slash, and everyone always brings up how much they love that record. For me, it was an amazing yet difficult time, because I spent most of it in the bar. I prefer to think of it as Tony’s solo project rather than Black Sabbath, because it was a celebration of his other side. It was much freer as opposed to demonic, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.
Question: What made you decide to write a book?
Hughes: I was asked to do a book 20 years ago, but I felt as if I hadn’t experienced enough sobriety yet. I was very famous as a young man and I celebrated both the good and bad times with drinking. My friend Duff McKagan, who also has a book out, lived a similar life in that sense, so I thought now was a perfect time to tell my story.
Glenn Hughes: The Autobiography is available in paperback on Nov. 1.
Black Country Communion: Live Over Europe is available now on DVD.
Although the band won’t be around Buffalo for a while, you can catch Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at Town Ballroom on Nov. 4 if you need your BCC fix.