I did this interview with Glenn in late 2001 upon release of the Building The Machine album, one of my favorite GH records.
Always look forward to new stuff from Glenn, as he always has something new and exciting on the go! I saw Glenn perform in a club in Buffalo, NY a few years back, and it was an amazing show! A great energetic set of classics spanning his lengthy career, one of the best club shows I’ve ever seen! In 2011 Glenn released his autobiography as well. He is currently on tour in the US with The Dead Daisies (https://thedeaddaisies.com)
Anyway, enjoy the old read – as posted in December of ’01. In reading through this, I see that I must’ve done another interview with Glenn prior to this, which I will have to dig out. For more on Glenn check out: http://www.glennhughes.com
“Often cited as one of the Greatest singers in rock n roll for the past 25 years, Glenn Hughes’ career has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, personal tragedies and triumphs, and a musical class above most of his contemporaries. His story reads like a book, from a young guy in Wolverhampton, England fronting the funk-rock band Trapeze, who reached moderate success before he was spotted and brought in to Deep Purple, one of the biggest bands at the time in 1974, and then after DP broke up years of different yet unique and usually classic projects such as Hughes/Thrall, a short stint in Black Sabbath, numerous solo albums, and guest appearances, and up until a decade ago, a career often riddled with substance abuse and addictions. But in recent years, clean, sober, and in charge of what he’s doing, Glenn Hughes has become THE voice of rock. Check out guest appearances like Stuart Smith’s “Heaven & Earth” debut, or the various tribute albums he’s contributed to, and most notably his latest string of albums – “Crystal Karma“, “Voodoo Hill“ [a classic hard rock album with Italian guitarist Dario Mollo], and his best work to date – “Building The Machine“; my favorite album release of 2001.”
What can you tell me about the new album, as far as making it different from the last one? Any new influences or ideas …?
I wanted to continue in a way I used to write for Trapeze, in a very acoustic formula such as guitar, bass and drums. I wanted it to sound simple; I don’t want a lot of over-produced things. Songs are more important to me than flash and grandiosity of it. So, I wanted to I wanted to back to a more commercial, ya know 3 or 4 chord things. And for me, it worked quite well.
It’s probably more of a mainstream Hard-rock album compared to most of the other stuff you’ve done…
It’s difficult in a way for me, and it should be easy, but I make things difficult because there’s so many different fans. I have fans that like the Hard rock Glenn, fans that like the bluesy Glenn, fans that like the extremely funky Glenn, and the soulful fans, the jazzy fans, … and if I do all of those on one album – in different forms, it confuses a lot of people. It really does, and I found this out to be fact, so what I tried to do on this particular album was I tried to give them a mix of them in all the songs, such as a song with heavy funk overtones, with very heavy, and very soulful; and also having acoustic moments like “Big Sky”. As I said before, … I didn’t want it to sound like ’70s retro, but it’s a lot more near to that form to sound the way it should.
The acoustic stuff is really good, like “I Will Follow” and “Big Sky”. Big Sky was written about Bill Eskridge
Bill was my best friend 10 years ago when I was in treatment for alcoholism, and he became my best friend over the years, and spiritual guide, and he passed away last December [a year tomorrow] of liver failure and kidney failure, even though he’d been sober a long time. He was a very dear friend to me. I wrote the song for him as a ‘good-bye’. Songwriters do that, we write about personal things, and this was one of those times I had to do that.
Do you get a lot of other personal stuff on the album?
Yeah, I do write about what’s going on with me. Obviously “I Will Follow You” is about my wife, and moments like “Can’t Stop The Flood” which is about my creativity and my aggression towards myself,…. I write, Christ I continuously write songs all year ‘round, and it occurred to me is ‘I’ve got an onslaught of songs, which should I write?’ … Other songs like “Don’t Let It Slip” can mean anything; it can mean your life, your spirituality, your emotions, and to me, it’s all of the above. “Out Of Me” is about 2 brothers fighting. A lot of stuff on there is autobiographical. There’s also stuff in there that’s subliminally written for those people that are having things going on in their life, that they can catch too and obviously understand.
“Can’t Stop The Flood” and “Inside” are probably my favorite 2, aside from “Big Sky”. It’s a hard-hitting intro.
When I wrote with my guitar player, and said to him ‘OK, now we’re going to write the opening cut’. Every album I’ve ever done in the last few years, I always go out and go ‘I know exactly what I’m going to write for the opening cut’ And when I wrote this opening, I was ‘Oh – this is going to be an amazing cut!’ And when the chorus comes in with those big harmonies that we haven’t heard from Glenn in a while, I just thought – ‘here ya go! Let’s make an album that is very hard to make, but let’s get those big harmonies back’.
You also do a couple of covers on here, like the one with Pat Travers. How did that come about?
He came here last year, and we were looking at putting together some songs, just having fun, and I said ‘I really wanna cover this old song by Rare Earth!’ It’s about 30 years old, and I always liked that cut, and we recorded it. And when I came to compiling songs for Building The Machine I asked Pat if I could use this particular cut and he said ‘Go ahead!’. But I do particularly like this version.
You also do another Deep Purple tune!
That was initially done for a Japanese bonus track, but when I finished it, my engineer and co-producer Mike Scott said ‘That’s too damn good to be used Just for Japan, you should put it on… It’s a great version of the song, you sing great on it, it’s got a great vibe, and it sits on the album.’ So, another old Purple song, but I think it shows what a good song it was and is.
That’s about the 2nd time you’ve done an old Deep Purple song.
I’ve done about 3 now.
I got the Voodoo Hill album you did last year, about a week after we spoke then, and you did ‘Gypsy” on there, and it’s excellent!
You know Dario Mollo, he wanted to do a Zeppelin song, and I declined. I don’t want to do Zeppelin covers. It’s not right for me to do that. And I said ‘I’d much prefer it if we did an old Purple cover.’ , and then he gave me a couple of suggestions, and I said ‘let’s do Gypsy!’
That’s a great song! It sounds good there.
You got a number of guests on this [new] album too!?
We got Pat Travers, who’s a dear friend of mine for years; also one of my dear close friends – Bobby Kimball from Toto. He actually asked me to write him a part to sing, because he’s always to sing on a record with me. I love Bobby very much, he’s got such a distinctive voice, so I wrote the part for him on “Don’t Let It Slip”. Brett Ellis plays acoustic guitar on “Big Sky”, and John Beasley, famous keyboard player plays on “I Will Follow You”; plays the Hammond. He’s just an amazing keyboard player, and Vince DiCola is my new Hammond player on the album.
I notice a good bit of Hammond. The Hammond is a bit more prominent with the heavy guitar and that.
I wanted that. I thought my previously couple of albums were lacking in real Hammond playing by real Hammond players. It’s like, Hammond organ is an instrument that has to be played with the right guy playing it, and with Vince DiCola, he plays it better than Jon Lord or Keith Emerson – To Me. I mean, on this particular album, he plays it devastatingly brilliant. And I knew when I heard him play that I had to get him to play on this record.
Where did he come from?
He’s a guy from LA. He’s a session guy.
“Beyond The Numb”…
Who’s it for, JW ?
OK, a friend of mine – Pete Way from UFO, his wife passed away. She was a friend of mine, and I was really really upset when I heard the news. And I wrote that song about that incident. Because, let me just say that I was close to them in a spiritual way, but I couldn’t get too close because I don’t use drugs, so I was hoping that my recovery would rub off on them, or her, and unfortunately she had to be another statistic to drugs. And I’m not being negative or anything like that, because she was a very very nice person; it just really hurt me when she passed away, and I was a bit angry about that. And this track deals with that subject.
How’s the response been as far the main stream media and reviews and that..?
This is the truth, this album, Building The Machine has got the greatest response from critics, and I think from fans as well, in the last 10 years. I’ve read reviews, like Q Magazine, and more cross-over ones that would review Sting or Madonna have been reviewing this record, so it’s getting a wider span of reviews and a wider recognition from the man on the street. People who haven’t heard Glenn Hughes before are hearing and going ‘this is great, who is this?’ What’s it given me is it’s given me the ammunition to write rock music in the form, which I think, is appropriate for me. As I’ve said before I’m my worst enemy in a way that I’ve been very gifted in that I can write and sing and play in 4 or 5 forms of music. Most, let’s call them ‘heavy metalists’ from ’70s, can play Hard rock well, but they don’t play jazz or R&B, or soul as well, but with me I can paint in all those pictures and I like to do that. And I think on this album I’ve done something that no one else has done yet. I’d like to continue that.
Can I ask you about the artwork for the album? Where is that taken?
It was taken in my wife’s office, in Venice Beach, California. I just wanted you and everyone to perceive that I was walking this stairway that’s never going to end, really. What Building The Machine means, ‘Building The Soul Machine’, Building The character which one has been given or one is working on, and mine is blood boiling all the time. I’m a flyer that continues to grow rapidly, so I’m always working on something, musically, and I’m this is the machine that I continue to build. I’m on my way to building that machine on the cover.
It’s a unique picture….
If you look at it, it’s not meant to be G-Q; I’m not really that sort of person. It’s basically an artistic cover; it really isn’t anything other than….it’s almost a stark photograph, I’m standing still, but I’m moving. It’s a good fit.
You do a lot of photo-shoots for the albums, and obviously a lot of different outfits and stuff…Are you in to the fashion stuff?
Yeah, I do have a lot of … materials [ha ha]
What else do you going as far as promotion goes? I know you did some touring, but nothing up here…
Well, what I’m going to do in North America, is promote via radio and maybe some TV promotion. As far as the live work, more will reveal as we see the sales. As you well know it’s difficult to tour in North America, unless you’ve got massive tour support from a record company. And that would mean having to be in a band, like a younger band where big companies get behind, like Universal Records or Interscope, someone that signs younger bands. So, for older artists like myself, who don’t have the promotional campaign and marketing campaign that younger artists have these days – it’s difficult to tour. So, the chance of seeing Glenn Hughes in a live situation is kind of difficult. My desire is to tour extensively around the world, but I only get to do that outside of North America where I have tour support. But, we’ll see…
Regarding Voodoo Hill, how did you come across Dario Mollo?
My office in Germany, sometimes we get like 5 or 6 artists a year that want me to sing on their albums – at least 5 or 6! And I normally decline them all because 1 – they’re not brilliant, and 2 – I can’t have that much more work going on. But when Dario Mollo sent me these 10 or 11 cuts without vocals, I heard them. And I thought, this is obviously Hard rock, not funky, soulful stuff, it’s more hard rock, which I did with Tony Iommi almost, and I said ‘this would be a chance for my classic rock fans to get in to this type of album’, and I did it for that reason, and also because Dario’s a really gifted writer and guitar player. It was a lot of fun working with him; I went to Italy and did the thing. They’re probably be another one coming soon; we’ll probably do another one next year.
It’s a great album. I really like “Sensitive” and “Disconnected”…
Thank you, I like it too!
A lot of people liked it, but I think it slipped by a lot of people because it’s under another name.
Yeah, I don’t know what’s going to happen next time around, but I think you might know it’s me next time because Voodoo will represent me as well, you’ll know. People should keep their eyes open in the next 6 months or so.
I also got the new Nazareth tribute that you are on…
Those guys are good friends of mine. The producer [Lea] sent me the rough backing track, and to be honest with you, at the time, there was no background vocals, and it was very raw guitar, bass, drums, and it was more retro and edgy than the finished product. The finished product to me sounds to me sort of generic. It didn’t turn out as good as I wanted it to. The performance was OK, but the production was a bit too ‘white’.
I want to touch a bit on Trapeze and related… Have you ever heard of a guy named John Lawton? He used to be in Lucifer’s Friend and Uriah Heep in the ’70s. I got a CD of his and he does a version of “You Kill Me” on it.
Lawton!!? Yeah, he’s a nice guy. I haven’t seen him for years! Actually he’s a good singer.
[RIP John, 2021]
Do you recall back after your Trapeze days they carried on and made a couple more albums? What did you think of those albums?
I loved those albums. I think Hot Wired is f**king tremendous! I wish I could’ve been on that album; really – I mean that sincerely! I think when I left the band Mel Galley really strengthened himself as a writer. The songs on Hot Wired were amazing! And the album Running, which I actually helped write a couple of songs and never got credit for, I thought was brilliant.
“Running” and another song “Don’t Break My Heart”. And then the Trapeze record that I sang a couple of cuts on when I left and I was in Purple. Trapeze was my baby, that was the band I formed when I was very young, and anything to do with that now always comes back to Glenn Hughes. I sometimes get people who mention Trapeze before they mention Deep Purple, which tells me they’re a big fan of Trapeze.
Do you recall seeing them away back at the Lafayette Club in Wolverhampton? (I’m talking about the late ’70s when the new line-up came out)
I’d already moved to America in the late ’70s, but I used to go home at Christmas, and I saw them a couple of times back then, yeah.
What did you think of the singer they had, Peter Goalby?
Good singer! A different sort of singer to me, but I recall him more of a pop-rock singer. He was a great interpreter. He wasn’t a bluesy singer, but he was a great rock singer in that genre, very much so. And a nice guy!
What else have you got on the go?
I’ve just done a new record with Joe Lynn Turner, and it’s called ‘H.T.P.’ [Hughes-Turner-Project]. It comes out in the spring and it’s f**king great! I will say this; it’s a classic rock masterpiece. For me it’s a very strong vocal-rock record. For anybody who likes the Deep Purple – Rainbow, and the modern rock stuff, they will love this album. It features 2 big voices, and I think it’s going to creep up on people.
Does it have a lot of guests on it?
My band, the same guys as the Building The Machine record, and as guests and solos we’ve got John Sykes, Paul Gilbert, and there’s others that you’ll probably know of.
The last time I touched base with you, you mentioned being a ‘fan of Ken Hensley’s writing’. Can you give me any songs or anything?
Well, what it is about Uriah Heep stuff for me is it’s “Gypsy”,.. It’s the way those guys wrote very, and I say this very loosely, those very simple melodic rock tracks like “Gypsy” and “July Morning” – all these sweet classic songs. And I don’t know if Ken knows this, or the guys in Uriah Heep, but I thought they were very good! World’s apart from what I do or what I listen to normally, I have to say that I thought Uriah Heep, in the early years were very much overlooked. They were always looked upon like a ‘2nd rate Deep Purple’ – that’s what people thought of them, but I thought they had a place in rock, and I want to wish all the guys in Uriah Heep and Ken Hensley all the best because they’re good guys.
Anything else you wish to add?
Just to say ‘Hi’ to all my fans and tell them to look out for ‘Big Daddy’, he’s coming to get you!