Glenn Hughes Interview

GLENN HUGHES (Live at Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle, U.K., October 20, 2015)
Photo: Mick Burgess

The Voice of Rock is back.  After spending time with Black Country Communion and California Breed, Glenn Hughes returns to his roots with a new power trio featuring Doug Aldrich. Mick Burgess caught up with him ahead of his UK Tour.

You’re over in the UK for a 10 date UK tour. Are you looking forward to playing over here again?

I am so looking forward to this. This is really special for me. I’ve got great representation at the moment who organise everything for me and a great band and crew and having the success with Black Country Communion it’s signalled a new wave of activity for me which is pretty impressive for someone that should be dead!! This is the start of a 12 month tour so it should be really interesting.

In recent years you’ve played at Newcastle City Hall, The Riverside, The Sage and the O2 Academy. Is this your first time at the Opera House?

Newcastle has always been very special to me. They have insanely great fans there and are well known to be Rock fans. It’s a great time for me to play there. I played at the Sage last time I was up there and that was the first time for me. That is a really great place to play. I don’t think I’ve played at The Opera House before so I’m looking forward to that.

Over the years when you have toured the UK every time has featured a very different setlist from the heavier Deep Purple orientated material to your more Funky Soulful side. What are you lining up for this tour?

I’m 64 years old now and I’m not trying to be anyone other than who I am. I’m not frightened to dip my toe into any pool of risk. I’ve learned from great musicians and people that you must have no fear to do what you do. The many things, good, bad or indifferent, that have happened to me over the years have made me the man I am today. I’ll be playing some Purple songs, stuff from Trapeze and from my solo career as well as those done by Black Country Communion.

You always throw in a few obscurities for your long term fans whether it’s Muscle and Blood from Hughes Thrall or Medusa by Trapeze. Are you going to dig deep and pull a couple of rarities out this time?

The set list you’re going to hear is one that’s hand-picked for this tour. It’s a nostalgic ride if you will and there’s also some Glenn work in there including songs from bands I have been in over the years. It’s a Rock ride. If I had Trapeze back today, this is what they’d be doing now. Doug’s able to do what he couldn’t do in Whitesnake and I love his work in Whitesnake, but he’s the only guitar player in my band and he gets to paint a little differently. He gets to choose a different sound and gets to be somewhat of a different character.

You’ll be touring as a 3 piece with Doug Aldrich formerly of Whitesnake and Dio on guitar. How did you get involved with Doug?

It is a 3 piece. When I did Black Country Communion with Joe Bonamassa and Jason Bonham we wanted it to be a 3 piece but Kevin Shirley the producer wanted keyboards so I wanted to get back to a trio like I did with California Breed, which was my last project. Having Doug coming in not realising he was going to be this comfortable in a trio has been really interesting for me. Ronnie James Dio introduced Doug to me about 18 years ago. I’d been friends with Ronnie for years and with every band after Sabbath he’d introduce me to the guys in his band whether it was Vivian Campbell or Jimmy Bain. One day he invited me over to meet Doug. I didn’t know who he was at that time but we got on together really well and Ronnie was the catalyst for that.

Doug is a prolific writer and has written with David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio. Have you started writing together yet?

I started this tour a few weeks back in South America and this tour is going to go straight through until next September so I don’t know when we’ll get time to make a record until after then. I do have songs but since I went back to a trio I think I’m going to have to rewrite them to work in the trio format. It’s silly to have a bunch of keyboards when there’s only going to be 3 in the band. The album will be more Soul Mover than anything so it’ll be Groove Rock. It’s funny as a few years ago people wanted me to be more Rock and now I’m doing more Rock people are saying they want the groovy Glenn. That is who I am. I’m a big Paul McCartney fan but I’m also a big Stevie Wonder fan.

As a bass player your relationship with the drummer is very important. You’ve worked with Ian Paice, Jason Bonham and Chad Smith in the past. What is it that you look for in a drummer that you want to work with?

Bombastic!! That’s what Chad told me and that is what I look for. With Jason Bonham, it wasn’t all arms and legs, it was coming from his elbows. For me the drums are the foundations of the band. The man who is building the house behind me is important as that man is building that groove. If you take away James Brown’s groove you have nothing. The groove in my music is as important as my melody. I’m very much a groove player.

On this tour you have Pontus Engborg on the drums. How did Pontus end up part of your band?

I first had Pontus in my band 8 years ago. He’s a Funk Rock drummer and plays similar to Chad. He has no fear. When you watch him play, he is very, very visual and he’s a great time keeper. I can direct him to less is more when necessary and that’s very important to me.

Back in June you joined your old Deep Purple bandmate David Coverdale on stage in California. How did that feel performing together again?

It was a Wednesday at Newport Beach, I was having my hair done and I knew Whitesnake were playing Beverly Hills that night and knew there was a possibility I could make that show. So I was getting my hair done and I called him up to let him know I was coming. I get there 20 minutes before he goes on stage and I was walking towards him to give him a hug and he gives me the microphone. Basically he asked me if I wanted to do it and I said that this is what I do. We didn’t talk about it before we met up. What you can see on YouTube is evident that it wasn’t rehearsed. It was very tribal and spontaneous. There’s never been any hidden agenda between David and I. There was never a moment in Deep Purple where I had to tell a lie. There’s always been difficulties between members of bands but David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes were always very close. In fact even more so today than ever before. You can see on that YouTube footage how close we are.

When was the last time you did that?

The last time was on the Mark and Brian talk show in LA in 1990. They had me and David on the show and thought it’d be interesting to do Burn together. We sang it and it was great.

There was talk by David of working with Ritchie Blackmore again but it didn’t quite work out. If it had, would you have been part of that?

I have to be really careful here but I can tell you what you already probably know. About 6 years ago David and I along with Jon Lord were talking about doing something together as Deep Purple Mark III. We were talking about who was going to call Ritchie. Jon said he’d call Ritchie but he couldn’t get through to him. Then Jon got sick and died so it didn’t happen. After Jon died me, David and Ritchie did try to get something together but it never materialised. I can’t say why it didn’t but it just didn’t happen. I can say to you now that I don’t think it’ll ever materialise. David is so busy and I am so busy that I can’t lend my face to something that is not real. Yes, it would be great if Mark III could get together but we’ve missed that opportunity now. I said my goodbyes to Jon Lord at the Albert Hall last year and that is it. I’m still friends with Ian Paice and everybody’s good but I can’t live in that past. It is something that has gone. I only want to wish Ritchie the very best in what he does and long may the legacy of Deep Purple live on.

A few years ago you played at the legends of Rock show at Newcastle City Hall with Jack Bruce. As a bassist and a singer what did Jack Bruce mean to you?

Jack is the guy that showed me less is more. He played differently to me but he was such an inspiration in my approach to playing. When we did that tour we became very, very good friends. I joined him every night on stage to sing with him. He was very gracious to me and my wife and I am very honoured to have known him.

You sang lead vocals on What Time Is Love by Dance act KLF. How did you end up singing on that?

Jimmy and Pete were big Trapeze fans. Don’t ask me how or why, but they were huge fans of Trapeze. Right before I went into the Betty Ford clinic in 1992 they were looking for someone to come and sing the vocal for What Time Is Love and it was between me and Roger Daltrey. They called East West Records and spoke to Pete Winkleman, who is now the owner of MK Dons. They asked him if I’d be interested in singing on the song. They’d just done one with Tammy Wynette and wanted me to sing on this one. They wanted me to do a free form vocal. So I went down to the studio and within half an hour I’d done the whole thing.

Is that where you first received the accolade The Voice of Rock?

I have to tell you that it was KLF who called me that. I’ve never gone around telling people I am the Voice of Rock. People call me that now but you can blame KLF for that.

You are a huge football fan and a lifelong Wolves supporter. Our clubs up here, Sunderland and Newcastle, aren’t doing too well at the moment. What do you think about that?

I spent last summer with Alan Shearer in Rio. We talked football a lot. I really feel bad for Newcastle fans and Sunderland fans too. They’re both huge clubs and the fans deserve much, much better. I just hope they both manage to stay up. Please can you let everyone up North know how much I’m looking forward to playing for them. It is one of the most beautiful places for me to Rock and I’m bringing the ‘A’ game to them in Newcastle, 100%. All you Sunderland fans and Magpie fans, I love you all.


  • 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.

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