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INTERVIEW: Glenn Hughes

BCC press shot by Marty Temme

Everyone knows Deep Purple’s ‘Mark III’ era with David Coverdale on vocals, Glenn Hughes on bass and vocals, Jon Lord on keys, Ian Paice on drums and Richie Blackmore on guitar. Burn is one of the undisputed classic albums of 70s rock, after all! But not enough attention is paid to the Mark IV era, when Blackmore left and Tommy Bolin stepped in on guitar. This line-up made only one album, 1975′s Come Taste The Band, before going their separate ways. Phoenix Rising is a DVD and CD which looks at this rarely-examined era, including Gettin’ Tighter, an 80-minute documentary featuring in-depth interviews with Lord and Hughes, behind-the-scenes footage from a chaotic Indonesian tour, and even the band’s appearance at the Sunbury music festival here in Melbourne. But the set’s centrepiece is Rises Over Japan, a five-song set featuring “Burn,” “Love Child,” “Smoke On The Water,” “You Keep On Moving” and “Highway Star.” It’s an incredible document of a little-seen era of the band.

The Phoenix Rising DVD is a really cool thing to have, especially the footage of the Mark IV line-up on stage in Japan. 

Oh it is, Peter. That footage is warts and all. You can see in the interview that I’m kind of rattled a little bit. Jon Lord and I did separate interviews but when you look at the footage that was found by Drew Thompson of the Indonesian debacle and the very inebriated performance we did in Tokyo, and then you get Jon Lord into a room one day, and then you get Glenn Hughes – and we had no preconceived notions of what Jon would be talking about – but we were both talking about the same stuff, both pretty much with the same topic.

One thing I find really interesting about that era is that all of you guys were learning for the first time how to be rock stars. The really big concerts like California Jam didn’t exist before then. 

No! And remember in that period, let’s just say the golden era of rock and roll… mate, I’m not being an old fuddy duddy here, I’m talking about the big-time era, the grandiosity of private jets and private this and that, penthouse suites, groupies and all of that. In the era between 1968 and 1975, the Stones and the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and The Who, it was a grand, grand scale. You’re talking to somebody that’s lived through many deaths, many gunshots, many escapades, and I’m here to tell the bloody tale!

I’m glad you are! Now, Tommy Bolin – what was it like to work with him?

Here’s the deal, Peter, with Tommy. When he got into the band, before he played a note with the band I said this to him, because he had the green and yellow and red hair. I said “I don’t care if you get the gig or not, you’re coming home with me.” Because he looked so cool. And also, unbeknownst to me, I wanted to have a relationship in the band with somebody I could drink with and get high with. Tommy was that guy. We were both born in the same month of the same year, both Leos, both with the same kind of composure and nature. Two very working-class boys. We hit it off, and he lived at my home for three months when he joined the band. In fact the night he got the gig he just moved right on in! When we lost Tommy 18 months later it was really beyond sad for me. To bury a 25-year-old friend from this hopeless addiction…

I really appreciate how candid you’ve been about that time and how you got through it. 

You know, I am one person, and I say this to you very frankly, who doesn’t sugar-coat anything. I’m not an angry man, I’m not a man full of remorse. I’ve made my amends to the people who are still alive, but I’m a man that tells the truth because the truth has got to be told, whether it hurts me or not. I’m not one to be mean to people, but what you see on that DVD and what you read in my autobiography that’s out now called Glenn Hughes: The Autobiography (Click here to order)is the real deal. The real deal. And you can see on the DVD that at the finish I was getting a little bit rattled. I’m a man that’s dodged so many bullets and had many near-death experiences as a result of my stupidity. I’ve been caught in a fire, fallen off roofs. I could have fallen on my own sword a few times in Deep Purple. One of us didn’t get out to tell the tale. Actually, three of us didn’t. Tommy Bolin died, my bodyguard in the Indonesian incident was murdered – I was in jail for 48 hours – and Richie Blackmore’s technician was driving to my home in Hollywood from Malibu one night and was killed in a car crash. We were burying three people from the Deep Purple organisation within one year, which not many people really remember. So I need people to remember I was 24 and all of a sudden I’d lost three of my best friends, all from the same organisation.

I just find it really inspiring that you can be so up-front and positive about these things. Whenever you’re on Twitter you seem to spread these positive vibes. 

It’s a powerful medium. You live so many miles from me and you’re reading my Twitter stuff. I never really think how many thousands of people read my tweets, and they do. Like last night I was doing a national TV show and I wasn’t thinking “How many millions of people are watching this?” I just write without a preconceived notion of “I’m going to try and be rather cool now.” It’s just the way I’m feeling! I think you can tell by my messages that I’m pretty stable and tuned in and locked onto a spiritual path. Let’s just say I was over-served at the bar a lot so I don’t do that any longer.

Back to Deep Purple – the DVD includes some footage from the Sunbury festival. What do you remember about that show?

The first time we ever went there was crazy. Sunbury was the festival, AC/DC were opening, it was raining and it was February or March of 1975. We flew out from our homes in Beverley Hills for an enormous amount of money to do one show for you guys in Australia and it was bloody raining cats and dogs! And remember the Woodstock moment when they were all sliding down in the mud? It was like that! The artists were actually having a lot of fun because you Aussies know how to drink, let’s be clear! We flew in, did the show, there was a lot of rain and we flew out again. It was my first experience of Australia and it was a big moment.

And speaking of live DVDs, there’s a Black Country Communion one on the way. 

We set about on our tour in May or June this year in America and did ten shows, then we went to Europe and did 26 shows. We knew going into the European tour that we were going to film three concerts in Germany: Hamberg, Munich and Berlin. Three different sets, one being a very large club and the next two being outdoor. Three different kinds of venues. We wanted to show the different hues and colours of the way we play our stuff. What it is is, there’s no smoke and mirrors. There’s no Wizard of Oz, there’s no fake singing, there are no overdubs. It’s all real, raw, organic, just like the way Machine Head was done in 1972 and the way Frampton Comes Alive was done. I’m talking about big, big live albums. I’m hoping you get to see this because when you see it, Peter, I want you to remember these words. It’s raw, real, I don’t think there are any mistakes on there but what I’m trying to tell you is it’s not glossed with any lip synching and tomfoolery and autotuning. It’s very, very raw and I hope the fan and the critic will get the pleasure of that.

That band is an unstoppable juggernaut! It’s really reminded people of what it sounds like when a band actually plays. 

It is a juggernaut and I’ve kinda got my hands on the wheel of that bloody thing because I’m the main songwriter. It keeps me very, very busy. Everybody’s doing their bits and drabs. I’m doing my solo show next year, Joe’s already doing his, Jason’s got the Led Zeppelin experience. Black Country Communion is a band that will move forward when the next round of shows comes along.

I wanted to ask when you would get back to your solo stuff. I have F.U.N.K. and Soul Mover and they’re great albums.

Yeah man! I’m going to give you an exclusive. People are going to read this and go ‘Wow!’ I’m thinking about doing a solo thing. I haven’t really gone public and said it but you asked me the question and I told you I would tell you the truth. I’m really thinking about making a Glenn album early next year. It’s been four years since I entered the studio for F.U.N.K, but my hat now has been very much thrown into the rock ring. What I will do, Peter, on the next Glenn album, is portray the image of the Glenn Hughes on the Black Country Communion albums. Because it’s the same Glenn that was in Deep Purple, really. The classic rock iconic Glenn that, let’s be clear, the majority of the fans want. The F.U.N.K. album was very well recorded and I love the songs, but that’s for a cultured audience and a different kind of audience. It’s more of a cult audience, if you will. But my audience now with BCC and a lot of my fans are rockers, man, so it’s time to rock. So the next album, Peter, will be a rock record.

Cool! I find it really interesting that every guitar player I know thinks they can sing, but of the few bass players who can sing, they can really sing. 

There are half a dozen of us. There’s Paul and there’s Sting and there’s Geddy Lee and Jack Bruce, there’s me and a couple of others I’m sure, that are lead-singing bass players. There’s a handful of us and it’s great to be in that club. I was a guitar player first but I’m glad I made the switch to bass because I love groove bass playing and it enables me to play the way I sing.

One last question: what basses are you using? 

I’m using Bill Nash. You should know Bill Nash if you’re a guitar freak. Bill Nash is the relic king. Do you know about Bill Nash?

Of course! His Telecasters are incredible. 

The first time I played a Bill Nash was in Melbourne in 2007. I met Bill back in the 90s and now I’m actually playing his basses. I’ve got four of them. I’ve got two ’57 Ps and two ’63 Jazz. They are insane!

CLICK HERE to buy Phoenix Rising [DVD/CD Combo] from Amazon.com and CLICK HERE to buy the Black Country Communion: Live Over Europe DVD.


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Guthrie Govan

Peter Hodgson Hi! I'm Peter Hodgson. I write for Gibson.com, Australian Guitar, Australian Musician, Mixdown Magazine (including my instructional column, 'Unleash Your Inner Rock God,' which has been running since 2007), BluntBeat (including their weekly hard rock/metal column Crunch) and The Brag. And I'm Assistant Social Coordinator with Seymour Duncan. I've been playing guitar since I was 8 years old, and I've been writing for magazines since I was 18. I've also worked as a guitar teacher (up to 50 students a week), a setup tech, a newspaper editor, and I've also dabbled in radio a little bit. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and my hobbies include drinking way too much coffee, and eating way too much Mexican food. You can check out my guitar playing at Bandcamp or on YouTube, and feel free to email me at iheartguitarblog@gmail.com

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