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article imageGlenn Hughes: 'The Voice of Rock' speaks Special

By Adrian Peel     May 19, 2014 in Music
Following the demise of Black Country Communion, the singer, bassist and former member of both Deep Purple and Black Sabbath wasted no time in putting together California Breed, a dynamic new three-piece. Digital Journal meets him.
I must admit that I'd hadn't given much thought to Glenn Hughes or what he might be up to musically for a number of years until an appearance on VH1's That Metal Show in 2011 prompted me to check out his main gig at the time, acclaimed hard rock supergroup Black Country Communion.
This "rock 'n' roll band in the true sense of the word," featuring Glenn on bass guitar and vocals, Joe Bonamassa on guitar, Derek Shirinian on keyboards and Jason Bonham on drums, deservedly rode a wave of success, blowing away fans and critics alike with their lavish update of the classic '70s rock sound, clearly audible on blistering tunes like "The Great Divide," "The Outsider," "Afterglow" and "Man In The Middle."
Despite their popularity, tensions within the group led to Bonamassa's departure in early 2013. Undeterred and determined to build on their success, Hughes and Bonham recruited 23-year-old guitarist Andrew Watt and California Breed was born. Hughes, chatting to me from his beach-side house in California, the state he has called home for the last 41 years, takes up the story.
"Yeah, Black Country broke up at the end of 2012," he says in his still-strong English accent that unsurprisingly contains the odd hint of a life lived stateside. "What happened was Jason and I immediately got together and decided we wanted to continue making music, but not replacing anybody in the band. We wanted to move on with a new scenario, a new guitar player, a new name, taste and smell...
"In February last year, my friend Julian Lennon was having a party in LA and he introduced me to Andrew. He played me some music and I thought it was very, very good. He had a great guitar style and a great voice and I said, 'Well if you can make it to my house next week, we can maybe write something', and he did and we wrote two songs, 'Chemical Rain' and 'Solo'.
"I went downstairs and called Jason. I said, 'Hey man, I've got this kid over the house, where are you?' He said, 'I'm actually in LA right now'. I said, 'How do you feel if I book a studio - you can be there tomorrow?' He said, 'Sure'. So I did just that and we went in the studio and we made those two songs which we wrote completely at my house.
"This is like last March. So between March up to about January, nobody knew what we were doing. But what we were doing last year - Jason and I and Andrew - was writing this album, and we went and made the album in Nashville in December."
Following the success of Black Country Communion, was there a sense of urgency when it came to keeping the momentum going?
"Well for me, yeah. I needed to play. I really love playing music and writing music and one thing that Black Country Communion didn't do enough of was tour. So as soon as the band broke up, I immediately thought, 'I need to A, get a new band together and B, we need to tour this thing'.
"I was offered a solo deal and I said to the label, 'Hey, how's about taking a band with me?' And they said, 'Great, as long as you're in the band' and I said, 'Great, well I'll get Jason and we'll let you know when we've got a guitar player' and we did and everything was fine."
Early reports suggested that keyboard player Derek Shirinian would accompany Glenn and Jason on their new musical adventure (in the end he joined Bonamassa's touring band). Did the three ex-members initially intend to work together again?
"Not really," replies the former addict, now clean and sober for 24 years. "I'll tell you why... I love Derek, by the way. Great keyboard player - wonderful. The only way I could make this work and not sound like Black Country was not to have a keyboard player, was not to go down the Hammond route, the Jon Lord route. I wanted to get away from that."
Explaining the origins of his new band's name, the accomplished songwriter, who estimates that about three or four hundred of his tunes have been recorded over the years, states, "Well Andrew and I wrote this song called 'Solo', which is a bonus track on the deluxe edition. You see, we tried to come up with a name for the band. It took six months. We weren't arguing, but we were getting really edgy about coming up with an appropriate name.
"Black Country Communion was a great name because Jason and I are from that part of the world... We wrote this song called 'Solo' and I wrote this line, 'a California breed acceleration means a fast-moving person'. So I went, 'California Breed, that's like California brotherhood, fellowship...'
"It really spoke to me and I went back to the guys and I said, 'How's about this?' and we all kinda went 'Yeah, that's kinda cool'. Then we came up with the graphics and the great logo... When you see that logo, you don't think of really swaggering rock music - it's more modern. What I've always done, I've never repeated myself. I've always done something different to the last time."
"It's got a grunge feel to it, says the animated 62 year old of the band's highly compelling sound, that has been described as combining "all the classic rock elements of BCC - big, meat-cleaver riffs and heart-rending vocals - but with a 21st century gloss," "'cause Andrew grew up on grunge. He was born in '91, right, so what are you gonna do?
"You've got a kid here that grew up listening to Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, my friend Jerry Cantrell... So with Andrew, I didn't want anybody that sounded like Blackmore, Iommi or Bonamassa because they're specifically their own style.
"It would have been silly to do that. So when we got Andrew, it was somebody who was new and had this grungy aspect of his playing, and I hadn't worked with anybody like that before. Actually I did - John Frusciante was on one of my albums and he's very much in that euphoric, Nirvana-y kind of way."
The first two singles off the trio's self-titled debut album (produced by the renowned Dave Cobb), "Midnight Oil" and "Sweet Tea," show that California Breed mean business, and I wondered what other tracks particularly stand out for the Englishman who also finds time to play in occasional side projects like Kings of Chaos with Matt Sorum, Slash and Duff McKagan, formerly of Guns 'N' Roses and Velvet Revolver?
"I think 'All Falls Down'. Andrew wanted me to write about a moment in my life where I almost died, which is true, and I thank my wife for helping me in that song. That's a really poignant song - that's track number five, I think... I think 'Days They Come' also deals with walking through the fear, 'The Grey' also does too...
"What I'm singing about on this album is walking through fear and having zero expectations because expectations are resentments under construction. So actually I'm really defining the man I've become because of the things that happened to me 20, 30 years ago. I don't write about fictional things, or things I think I may have heard somebody say to me. I write about shit that's real and I've been writing about shit that's real since I got sober."
Though proficient in many musical styles, Hughes, a key element in two of Deep Purple's best-loved lineups (Mk III and Mk IV) and a member of Black Sabbath from '85 to '86, is in no doubt as to which group of fans most appreciate his talents.
"When I look back over my published songs, every one of them is different, but there's a Glenn Hughes style to it. There's blues, there's R&B, there's jazz and there's rock and there's pop, and some famous people have said to me, 'You know Glenn, you can do it all'. The only 'but' there though is that the greatest and most loyal fans in the world are rock fans and they don't want me to dress up in anything other than rock...
"It's a business, man. It's not a job to me, but it's a business... Look, I can't sing about hobbits and dwarfs - you wouldn't believe me. I sing about the human condition, the seven deadly sins - I sing about death. I couldn't sing about death when I was 23 because I hadn't had a heart attack yet, or I hadn't been run over or stabbed and shot at - yet. But I was, and by the way all of these things did happen to me.
"Some rock stars have written shit about themselves that may not have happened, but I've got the wounds to prove it. But I'm not trying to tell you anything to have a window of 'Oh, grandiosity!' No man, I'm probably gonna be the most grateful man you interview this year...
"I have this huge depth of feelings that I can sing and tell you about, especially on this album, man. I mean you can pinpoint seven or eight tracks where there's pain in there, you know?"
California Breed is out today.
For more information, check out the band's official website and/or Glenn's official website.
More about glenn hughes, california breed, black country communion, Deep Purple, Black sabbath
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