Interview conducted just after the release of R.O.C.K....
GLENN HUGHES is most likely the best rock singer alive when it comes to technicality and feel of one's voice. The man is able to sing just about anything with great effect, it's no wonder they call him "the voice of rock". Once you become a GLENN HUGHES fan you can't resist the beauty and deepness of his voice. The man is simply one of the greats. Glenn hughes began his career with the power trio (it wasn't always a trio, but it's the three piece that made the most noise) TRAPEZE with whom he played uncompromising hard rock with a good mixture of funk and soul. When DEEP PURPLE called, HUGHES assumed the position of a bass player/vocalist alongside DAVID COVERDALE. With DEEP PURPLE he made some very influencial albums such as "Burn", "Stormbringer", and "Come Taste The Band". Once DEEP PURPLE ran its course in 1976, Glenn made a solo record, and was involved in all sorts of side projects. It wasn't until the HUGHES/THRALL collaboration that he returned into the spotlight. Hughes' involvement in BLACK SABBATH was at the same time interesting as controversial, it produced the "Seventh Star" album. At the same time, HUGHES was experiencing serious drug and alcohol abuse. He decided to turn his life around, and completely clean up. GLENN HUGHES reemerged in the early 90's with a brand new healthy and creative attitude releasing great albums, and making up for the "lost" time. We spoke with GLENN HUGHES about his most recent release, the hard rocking "Return Of Crystal Karma" as well as his past which turned into a very interesting and informative chat.
"So, you're calling from Chicago? I remember when I was in DEEP PURPLE, and I'm not even gonna tell you how long it's been because it is embarrassing. Well, we played at this old amphitheater, and there was this rent-a-cop beating this fan in front of me with his club. So, I kicked this cop in the head with my big boots. When I got off stage they were waiting to arrest me. It was horrible. I'm not a violent guy, but this cop was beating the **** out this fan. So, these are my memories of Chicago."
This new album you just released has a very controversial title in a way. I mean the last time you dealt with crystal it certainly wasn't karma oriented.
"Yeah, you're right. To me it means being reborn. I chose to call it this because it really means back to goodness and innocence. I really firmly believe in living a life of rigorous odyssey and self belief, and having the power to change things if you want to. My life is all about spiritual progression. It really is about being good to another human being. It may sound like all this hippie/flower power stuff, but I believe in goodness. I've come full circle in my life. Let me just say that the growing pains that I went through in the 80's and the 70's to get to where I am now paid off because I am a stronger and better person because of my disabilities in the past. So, I have never ever been progressively working as I am now. I have a great life."
How did you approach this record? It seems like each release is different and surprising, but at the end of the day it's still GLENN HUGHES.
"I wanted to make this record sounding very Rock. I wasn't gonna make any Rock music, but it needed to be done. I have a voice that transcends Rock music. I mean if I lived three hundred years ago when Rock music didn't exist I would still have this voice and I would have to use it somehow. I have a voice that's a gift. It's been given to me, and I respect that gift, so I just look to sing melodic music."
When you are about to make a record do you have a solid plan, or does the theme of the album comes out as you're recording?
"On this album I did. Before I made this record I knew the title. In fact I wrote all the song titles to which I wanted to write music for. For each song on this record I wrote a title and told myself I'm going to write a song that fits this title. After I planned this, I wrote very simple songs that would transcend into this type of music. This to me as a producer was my strongest production in a coherent Rock fashion. If you followed my music for the last ten years you'll know that I make all sorts of music. People ask me why am I making all kinds of different music, and the answer is simple-I can. I'm not being egotistical here, the fact is that a lot of guys have the Rock'n'Roll moniker and can only perform Metal or whatever. As for myself, I have a hybrid: Rock, Pop, Jazz, Funk, Soul, all thrown in together, and I love it."
What are some of your favorite songs from the new album?
"My favorites would definitely be "Midnight Meditated", "Gone", "Switch The Mojo". I gotta tell you I like it all. The whole record is great. I love it all."
Also, there is "Owed To J" Which is like a sequel to "Owed To G" from DEEP PURPLE's "Come Taste The Band".
"I always wanted to write an instrumental that would have this recollection of "Owed To G". So, when I wrote this theme, I went wait a minute, this sounds like Jeff Beck could've written it, or Jeff Beck could've played that. So, I immediately thought that Jeff would like this, and I wrote it. I sent him a copy right away, and he loved it, and it was dedicated to him."
Who is playing with you on this album?
"I pretty much have the same drummer for some time. Gary (Ferguson) has been with me since HUGHES/THRALL. JJ Marsh (guitar) is with me for the last three albums, and Hans (Zermuehlen-keyboards) is in the band for the last two records. Hans grew up listening to Jon Lord, then he started playing R & B and Jazz. So, he has all the elements and styles that I need. You see at any moment in my show we may change direction, so I have to have musicians that understand more than one style of music, and can move very quickly. We never play the same song the same, we jam a lot."
I'm a bit surprised that the line up does not include guitarist MARC BONILLA who is kinda of a GLENN HUGHES veteran.
"I wanted to make more of a groove record, and Marc is more of dramatic player with the strong focus on the strings. This album is very keyboard oriented. There is a strong Hammond organ influence, and 70's Rock guitar. This is more retro. Marc is more into something that incorporates a lot of production, and this album is bare bones."
Your last few albums were made available in U.S. through Shrapnel Records, but they came out in different formats than the European releases. The song selection was different, and sometimes even the CD sleeve.
"I'm gonna tell the true story. There was a guy at an airport who ran into Mike Varney (head of Shrapnel Records) and asked him "Why didn't you include those ballads on Burning Japan Live?" Varney told him "Glenn, he always writes these pussy songs, I don't want those pussy songs on my albums." So, when I did another album, I think it was "Addiction" he wanted to take the ballads off. I told him these songs are very important to Glenn Hughes fans. He actually loved the new record, but I wouldn't give it to him. SPV opened their offices in Canada, and the album is available through them."
There are many GLENN HUGHES fans that unite under an internet publication called Coast To Coast, what are your thoughts on that?
"I think it's fantastic. These guys are great. I love it. This thing is going for about 4 or 5 years. I like getting it every few months. I really correspond with all my fans. I mean I go on line and talk to them. It's fun. I absolutely support what the fans are doing."
Let's move back into your past now. When DEEP PURPLE broke up in 1976, what did you do?
"I did a solo album called "Play Me Out". I did a TRAPEZE reunion tour in America. Then there was like nothing until 1979. I formed a band with Gary Moore. We formed, we wrote a record, then I left the band, and nothing really came out of it. In 1981, I formed HUHES/THRALL."
HUGHES/THRALL was a big success musically and commercially, I think there are still many people wondering if there was ever going to be HUGHES/THRALL 2?
"Well, it's funny you ask that. Pat and I just completed nine songs in New York, so I just got back from working with him in the studio. The album will be out next Spring (2001). I'm not sure what label will put it out. We'll have to shop the material, and see who will make us the best offer. I can tell you that the album's as adventurous as the first one. It's very varied in style. It sounds fantastic. It's some of the best work I have ever done. It's brilliant. I could just talk about it for another hour."
After the original HUGHES /THRALL project you went back to GARY MOORE for the "Run For Cover" album.
"Gary was always a friend of mine, and he loved HUGHES/THRALL. He enticed me to come to London to do a record with him. I did half of it. We sort of had a disagreement, and I left. He robbed off the couple of tracks, used my vocal sound. All I can say now is that Gary Moore is a genius and back then he was a little difficult to work with as I was."
Then came perhaps the most surprising move of your career, how did you end up in BLACK SABBATH?
"It was supposed to be a Tony Iommi solo album. If you listen to it, it still sounds like a solo record. If I was supposed to be in BLACK SABBATH for real it would probably sound very different. When the record was all finished and packaged they decided to call it BLACK SABBATH featuring: Tony Iommi. Tony wasn't even pleased about that. the label and the management wanted to make money. I wasn't made to sing BLACK SABBATH songs on stage. It didn't work out. I had an incident where a tour manager hit me in the face. Regardless of what happened he should've never done that. He broke a bone in my eye socket, and it went into my nose. I got a throat cavity and an infection, and I couldn't even speak never mind sing. So, when the tour was into the third show my voice closed off. I was sent home, they had a replacement. For the next month I was writing notes because I couldn't speak. I thought that I would never sing again. What people don't know is that it was due to the fact that something bad happened off the set that paralyzed the whole thing. I mean, everyone who knows Glenn Hughes knows that I have a very powerful and unique voice, but with the SABBATH thing I couldn't speak, I could barely utter a word. Can you imagine going in front of 15 thousand people and be silent, it was ****ing embarrassing. When Ray Gillen came up, I gave him my blessings. He was a dear friend to the very end."
Speaking of RAY GILLEN (also in BADLANDS), when he passed away you organized a benefit for him.
"I was in denial of Ray's aids thing. Here's the deal, before Ray died he came to me and he showed a piece of paper. It was his blood work to show me that he didn't have aids. You gotta understand that I'm one of God's children. He didn't have do it, but there was this rumor going around that Ray had aids. We were watching the Freddie Mercury benefit together, him and I. I looked at him and I told him then that it doesn't matter man if you have aids or not, I love you like my brother. Then he passed away. I'm organizing the benefit, I'm going on MTV saying that Ray didn't die of aids, and of course he did, but I didn't know it until later. I found out that the blood work he showed me was his brother's in law. Ray was in denial of his disease, consequently regardless of what happened, Ray is dead and it's terrible."
After the Black Sabbath affair, you were involved with EUROPE guitar player JOHN NORUM. I've seen a live video clip from that partnership which I believe dates back to 1988.
"That was the "chunky" Glenn. That was very short lived."
And then came big change in your life. You decided to turn your life around, clean up, and start over.
"Here's the deal.....How do I say it?....It doesn't matter how much money one has, if one wants to kill himself he can do it with a dollar. I made a lot of money in the 70's. I got into drinking and drugs, and all that stuff. What I didn't realize was the fact that I was getting a healthy habit going here. One morning I woke up, looked in the mirror, and went "Who the hell are you?, how have you been living in my body?" Basically, it was like an exorcism. I realized that I've been living out of my skin for a number of years. I just really truly had an experience of divine intervention. It was like God had waken me up and said 'You're my child............." I know it sounds very deeply religious, but it's spiritual. I chose to get off that horrid path that I was on, and walk onto a different one. And ever since I didn't want to do drugs or drink alcohol. That is what I would call a miracle."
This also spawned a great musical awakening.
"Yes, it did."
Even before any albums came out I came across bunch of demos in 1990 or '91. Some of which ended up on "From Now On", and these songs were performed with the reunited TRAPEZE. What was that tape originally meant for?
"I don't know exactly. At that point I was doing a lot of sessions and recording. It's hard to say which collection of songs you have. There were so many written and recorded at that time. You know, I'm a writer, and I write all the time and record. This year I got this album out, I just finished another HYGHES/THRALL album, I got Pat Travers/ Glenn Hughes album we just started yesterday. That's going to be great by the way. Also, I got Keith Emerson/Marc Bonilla/Glenn Hughes live record coming out. I even have a Christmas CD coming out. There's also going to be Glenn Hughes video. My first video ever. It's the making of "Days Of Avalon" video, and the clip itself. It's brilliant."
Then came the sessions with GEOFF DOWNES of ASIA/YES fame, which was recently released as "The Work Tapes"
"You know what the deal with that was? That was meant to be just me singing into a tape, Geoff playing his synclaver. It was just an idea for a project. Somebody got a copy of that, and it started to get around. So, before even the bootlegs came out, I decided to find somebody to put it out. There are a lot of Glenn Hughes fans that want to have everything I've done. Some people say (Glenn goes into his Jeff Spaccoli voice)" what's all this man, it's crap, you should've never recorded it." But, you know, you can't please everybody."
The "Blues" album was the first official GLENN HUGHES release in the 90's, and it was yet another venture into a new musical territory.
"The "Blues" album was my comeback. If you look at all song titles on that record, they're all about recovery. I love it. I love that record."
At the same time TRAPEZE came back into picture.
"I did a tour in the UK in '94, and it was great. Some people in the press were like what are they doing, why is he doing it for? The answer was very simple- I did with TRAPEZE what I couldn't do in the 80's. I mean I was just playing with my friends, and that's all there is to it. And you know something, don't rule another TRAPEZE reunion out. I have interest for another record. I haven't had interest up until now. I will possibly pursue that next year. I'm too busy now. My touring and recording schedule is completely filled until the May 2001."
Also, you worked with JOHN NORUM on "Face The Truth", which was almost like a collaboration album. You sing most of the songs on it.
"Check this out. On the Tuesday afternoon I went into the studio with him and wrote all the lyrics. On the Wednesday night I sang the whole ****ing thing in one night. Once again, John is an old friend, and it was classic Rock. There were many Glenn Hughes fans who wanted me to sing classic Rock at the time, so there it was."
The following album, "From Now On...", was a very strong rock comeback.
"That was one of my best records. Everything just fell into place here. It had a lot different styles."
On your live record, "Burning Japan Live" you did some DEEP PURPLE material, what was it like to play those songs again?
"It was great. I mean I wrote those songs. It was easy for me to do. I wanted to show the people that I could sing those kind of songs still. I still do some of them."
The next album, "Feel", was very different, but it remains my favorite GLENN HUGHES record.
"You just made me very happy by saying that. I was hoping you'd say that. That is my favorite one too. I wrote that album only for myself."
How did the audience react to "Feel", I mean it was a very soul/spiritual GLENN HUGHES.
"I'd say 90 % loved it, and about 10% didn't understand it, and those who didn't understand it are probably not real Glenn Hughes fans."
Your next album, "Addiction", was yet another turn, only a little bit darker sounding.
"Do you know why I did "Addiction"? The Japanese (label representatives) came of me in Los Angeles when they heard "Feel", and they said (he goes into his Japanese accent) "Feel, too fuunkeee, Japaneese fan want moore hart roock". So, I had to make amends by releasing a very dark album. So, when the Japanese heard the album they said "Japanese fans do not understand what Addiction mean." After "Addiction" I took two years off. After that album I asked myself what am I gonna do now? I needed a break."
No wonder you did because the next album, "The Way It Is", was a very fresh sounding album.
"I love that record. I told all my fans that it's the best work I've done in years, but some weren't so sure. The thing is, it was one of the best albums I've done. If you listen to that record in six months you'll understand why."
I went back and listened to "The Way It Is" a few days ago, and it appears that it laid foundations for "The Return Of Crystal Karma", am I right?
"Definitely, you're good aren't you. No one had ever said that before, but that's exactly how I feel about it."
You know prior to this interview I went through all of your records just to see what the big picture is.
"Here's the deal, I'm not gonna talk about it, but I already have the next record planned, and you'll understand that even more because this one is setting the foundations for the next one. If you look at the titles of my records it gives you the answer. It says: from now on, feel addiction the way it is because it's the return of crystal karma. And the last record in this line of music will explain what it is. It's like a movie."
What's the story with the BOBALOOS? this release just surfaced on Hurricane Records?
"(Laughter)In 1987 I was living in Atlanta. Let's just say I was a naughty boy, I wasn't really well back then. Bunch of my "cowboy" friends were making a record. Greg Allman was playing on it, and Billy Powell. They wanted me to sing, so I did, but I gotta tell you it is ****ing terrible. If any Glenn Hughes fans had bought it, I'm sorry, it was done while we were all drunk. I never ever thought it was going to be released. It's not my best work."
Now you also do a lot of appearances on other people's albums. Recently you worked on an album I like a lot with BILLY SHEENAN'S NIACIN. What was that like?
"John and Billy are dear friends of mine, and Steve Lukather played guitar on it as well. I gotta tell you. Billy wrote this song, and he sang it me, I went into the studio and did it. I made these guys cry as they watched me sing it. They loved it. It was a blast. I always get a kick of seeing new people who've never seen me sing in the studio before. I have such a gift, and people just get blown away."
At this point are there any other people you would like to work with?
"I would really like to do something with Prince, I don't think I ever will, but... I'm still gonna make R&B music in the next ten years. I think that within the next few years you will see me moving more into the R&B music. Sort of like "Feel" was."
Where do you stand on the issue of internet/web sites etc?
"I'm totally into it. It's the way I can communicate with my fans. I know that there are a number of people out there who enjoy my work."
We began this interview talking about DEEP PURPLE, are you still in touch with any of the members?
"I run into them from time to time on tour. It's OK now, we're sort of friendly. Nothing really to talk about, but when we see each other we talk. They come to see my show, I see their show. It's nothing really special you see."
Interview by Mark Kadzielawa of Snakepit Heavy Metal Magazine