Interview with Glenn Hughes (California Breed)

The Voice of Rock is back. Following the demise of Black Country Communion, Glenn Hughes wasted no time in reuniting with Jason Bonham to form California Breed. Mick Burgess chatted to Glenn Hughes about his new band and his plans to tour extensively

You have a new band California Breed and a new album out in May. How are you feeling on the eve of its release?

I think I’ve just delivered the best album I’ve done in decades. I’m surrounded by people who can look me in the eye and tell me the truth and get in my face. If you work with me you have to get in my face as I will get into their faces. This is a band who has no fear. You can hear that from the first note to the last.

Did you know after Black Country Communion broke up that you would be working again with Jason?

We recorded this in December and we didn’t announce this until February. When Black Country Communion broke up me and Jason talked about doing a new band and we didn’t really know who else was going to be in it at that time but I always knew we’d be working on a project together again right after Black Country Communion split.

Jason is quite clearly a Bonham. His tone, feel and groove are so much like his Dad. What is it about Jason’s drumming that works so well for you?

I’m glad you touched on Jason’s drumming. Let me say this to you. In Black Country Communion Jason wasn’t really that happy with his drumming as Kevin Shirley wanted him to play like that. On this album me and Dave Cobb the producer, wanted Jason to play like his father and throw a bit of Keith Moon in there too. I think this is the first time that Jason can hang his hat right next to his father and he’d say “Well done son”. Jason is a far better drummer than we know and he’s a far better singer and writer than we know. I’ve known Jason since he was 18 months old and I’m like a father to him. I’m pushing him all the way and he does an absolutely fantastic job on this album. He’s up there with the best of them. I’ve played with all of the greatest Rock drummers, Ian Paice, Chad Smith, Kenny Aaronoff, Jeff Porcaro and some of the most respected Jazz Fusion drummers and Jason is as good as the best of those. I think we have really captured something on this album.

Your guitarist Andrew Watt is a newcomer to the scene. Why did you decide to bring in an unknown musician??

We had two choices. Either it was going to be X, Y, Z people that you know; famous people from other bands. If we’d called Slash, Zakk or Joe Satriani it would have been great but they just wouldn’t have been available. The second choice was to go for someone previously unknown. We thought we’d leave it a month or two to think about it then I met Andrew Watt. He’s unknown but very ambitious and talented. He came to my house and we wrote some songs together. We wrote demos for “Chemical Rain” and “Solo”. This was 13 months ago and we couldn’t tell anyone as if we had said we had an unknown guitarist in the band we’d have got hate mail. So we thought we’d make the album and now that people are hearing Andrew and now they are amazed.

Why did you settle on being a three piece?

With Black Country Communion Kevin Shirley wanted it to sound more like Deep Purple with a Hammond organ. I wanted California Breed to be an organic trio with a right handed guitar player. What I mean by that is left handed guitarists are hammer-ons and Eddie Van Halen stuff. Eddie is one of my best friends and I love his stuff but I didn’t want that style for this band. I wanted a thick Les Paul sound, more Pete Townsend than Eddie Van Halen. I wanted to clear the deck of any keyboards. I wanted Jason to over play and I wanted me and Andrew to underplay. I wanted to be different to Black Country Communion and if you throw keyboards in there it starts to become the same and I wanted to do something different with Jason.

Your self-titled album is due out in a few weeks on May19th. How long did you spend writing material for the album?

I started writing about a year ago. None of these songs were for Black Country Communion as that was all over when I started writing. We were sitting on dynamite with this band. We’ve been sitting on this album for a while. I didn’t want to start talking about this band until it was ready

In this day and age many albums are made across continents and down telephone wires. Did you take that approach or did you face each other in the studio?

Jason and Andrew played their parts in the studio and I stood and sang in front of them. All vocals were recorded live but I over dubbed the bass and that’s the first time I’ve ever done it that way. Absolutely every single note, scream, whisper, cry and every ad-lib is 100% live. I want the fans to know that. I’m 62 years old now but I don’t think that I sound like that on the album.

Did you write any songs that didn’t make the final album?

I did write one that would have been an acoustic song called “Where You Run”. We should have cut it for this album but I think we’ll put it on the next album. There’s no shortage of material for this band.

Dave Cobb is a great choice as producer and he’s recently worked with Rival Sons and Shooter Jennings. Was it the way he got such a great organic sound on those albums the reason you went for him?

I met Dave through Jay and Scott from Rival Sons. I had a show on Planet Rock and played Rival Sons who I hadn’t heard up until then even though they were my friends. I played some songs from Pressure and Time and I thought who on earth produced this as it sounded incredible. I made a note of his name then went to listen to some other artists he’s worked with and I went to see him. I said that I’d like to make an album one day with him and two years later we did just that. Dave Cobb was absolutely peerless. He was great to work with and we’ve made a great record together. Dave Cobb is, in my opinion, the greatest producer of this decade bar none. No one even comes close.

To me the album has a great ’70s groove to it but with a modern twist. It sounds retro yet current as well. Was that what you were aiming for?

“The Grey” was written last February and it has the same kind of chord sequence as “One Last Soul” but it’s played with more aggression, it’s more Punk. I think the main melody is very John Lennon in a way. I wanted it to have a very British type of melody. I wanted the whole album to have a lot of variety on it. Everything I sing about on this album has happened to me. Paranoia has definitely happened to me. There was this awful reality where I almost died and my friends were all around me in hospital when I’d had a heart attack years ago so I’m also celebrating life and being here now. I believe I was saved, I’m “Nine Lives Glenn Hughes!!” Andrew wanted me to sing about it and that’s what “All Falls Down” is about. I wanted to write about my life. I didn’t want to write about dwarfs, goblins, pink fairies and all that shit. “Breathe” is about letting go and walking through the fear.

“All Falls Down” is one of the best vocal tracks you’ve done and seems to capture the very essence of your voice. Which song on the album do you think shows off California Breed at its best?

You can hear the desperation in my voice when I sing that as my friends were standing around me as I was dying. You can hear someone telling you something that is absolutely true. I love that song too.

Do you intend to tour more with California Breed than you did with Black Country Communion?

I have a lot of fans who want to hear something new and something that they can see. They couldn’t see Black Country Communion as we just didn’t tour enough. I haven’t spoken to Joe for 15 months and he totally turned his back on us. When we did our second album we thought surely he’d want to tour but Joe never talked to us about it. His manager told us Joe wasn’t going to tour. All the songs we’d done were mine and I was thinking of just doing a solo album but Kevin Shirley said we should do another Black Country Communion album and I just thought “Why?” I gave him all the songs and then Joe told us he wasn’t going to tour. I knew that was it for the band. Was I angry? No. Was I sad? Of course. I’m 62 years old and I just don’t want to wait around for 18 months only to be told that I might be playing only 2 or 3 shows. That’s not good enough for me. I want to do 100 shows a year or at the very least 50 shows. I’m still friends with Joe but it just didn’t work out for us with Black Country Communion although we did two albums that I’m very proud of.

What about UK shows when can we expect those?

We have shows pencilled in for October in the UK and we’ll be in Germany before that in September.

Certainly you could fill a set list for a week with your back catalogue. Have you had any thoughts on what songs you would do on the tour?

Well, there’s one album by California Breed. Black Country Communion didn’t tour much so there’s another two albums of material there to pick from. We’d be foolish to play anything by The Who or Aerosmith so of course we’ll be looking at songs by Purple and Zeppelin. I want to deliver music that is appropriate to fans of our legacy.

You’ve recently contributed “Catch The Rainbow” to the Tribute to Ronnie James Dio, This Is Your Life. You sang that at his funeral too. That must have been an emotional moment for you?

That was so difficult to sing at Ronnie’s funeral as Ronnie was lying a few yards in front of me. When you’re friends with somebody and Ronnie and I were inseparable in the ’70s as we lived in the same street. We were best friends; we were like brothers for 39 years. It’s my responsibility to be of service to those that have fallen, Mel Galley, Ronnie James Dio, Kevin DuBrow, Tommy Bolin. It was difficult to sing at Ronnie’s funeral when you’ve got people crying in front of you. It’s my responsibility to be there for my friends. It’s the same with Jon Lord. I’d have been stupid not to have been there last Friday. Everybody asked why Ritchie and David weren’t there. I have no idea. I would have swam over there to say goodbye to Jon. I loved Jon, I had to go to the Albert Hall and make it happen. I just wanted to be of service to Jon that night. When I sang for Ronnie at three different services I just wanted to be there for Ronnie. They mean that much to me.

It’s been a few years since your last solo album, First Underground Nuclear Kitchen. Is your solo work on the back burner now or do you have plans to move forward with that?

With my solo albums, I sing all of the lead vocals and in Black Country Communion I sang around 95% of lead vocals. I see California Breed, although it’s a three piece band, as a Glenn Hughes vocal album. I’m a very collaborative person and I push people to the front, even on my solo albums. My job here is to make sure Andrew gets a lot of promotion and Jason gets a lot of promotion. At the moment California Breed is my main priority.

If you were to do another solo record would you look at doing something more in the Funk and Soul direction?

I love Funk and R&B music but most of my fans around the world like me to do music the Rock way. My fan base is Rock so that is what I’m doing. When I make Rock albums I sell a lot of records. When I do my Soul albums they are for a small core audience. After 10 years of making Soul records I wondered whether anyone had heard them. When I came back with Black Country Communion the fans and media were so happy. What I don’t want to do is send mixed messages out there. When I came back to Rock music in 2010 I felt like I’d come home.

You were rumoured to have been invited to join Earth Wind and Fire at one point. How close were you to joining them?

That was 1992 in Central Park for Earth Day. Maurice White was sick and they asked me to sing so I rehearsed with them but unfortunately the weather was so bad that day I never got to do the show but I did get to play with them which was great.

If you can pick one song that defines you as a singer and musician, what would that be?

Do you know how many songs I’ve written and recorded? That’s difficult but if I was to pick one I think it would be “Grace” from Fused that I did with Tony Iommi. That song really is what it is…”I want to live in grace ever more” I think every human being, rich or poor, bad or good has to live in grace. Grace to me is a place of serenity, a place of complete calm. I can be in a room with 1000 people and I can switch to a yoga thing and be in total grace. That song for me and working with Tony Iommi was a real big thing.

What else have you got lined up for 2014?

My main focus is California Breed but there’s other musicians who want to work with me, I get offered things all the time. I’m not looking for money, I’m looking for art. I only want to do things that satisfy me artistically, I don’t want to grab thousands in cash to do something I’m not happy with. I’m in very good shape right now and you are now speaking to a man who is finally coming home. I’m excited about the future and I can’t wait for people to hear and see California Breed.

California Breed’s debut album is released on 19th May.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.