A Chat with Glenn
Welcome To The Machine: A Chat With Glenn Hughes
By David Lee Wilson - December 2001
Glenn Hughes discusses his latest solo effort, Building The Machine, and his career of evil with Black Sabbath and Deep Purple which has trapped him at least in terms of getting his fans to move past his accomplishments of two decades ago but that doesnâ€™t mean he still isnâ€™t trying.
For nearly 30 years Hughes has wrapped his vocals around more classic music than can be found in your average jukebox and the trend continues on with his latest solo release, Building The Machine.
Starting out as the bassist and lead vocalist for English hard rockers Trapeze (which evolved from British soul rockers The News) in 1969, Hughes is most known for his bass work with Deep Purple from 1974 until 1976. Hughes then reformed Trapeze and released a 1978 solo effort titled Play Me Out before teaming up with guitarist Pat Thrall under the name Hughes/Thrall in 1983 and the short-lived supergroup Phenomena in 1985. Hughes then joined Black Sabbath as lead singer for 1986's The Seventh Star but left just as quickly, eventually surfacing with -- of all people -- the techno/house group the KLF, performing on their 1991 single America -- What Time Is Love?.
Since then he has released a slew of solo album, including 1993â€™s Blues, 1995's Burning Japan Live, 1997's Addiction and 1999's The Way It Is. His latest, Building The Machine, steps back into the full on funk rock territory where Hughes has always reigned without dispute. Hughes is the paragon of the art form and here are another eleven tracks that exist as a sonic explanation as to just why that is.
The album opener Canâ€™t Stop the Flood is a hammer blow of writhing, sweaty passion delivered in overalls and white gloves showcasing Hughesâ€™s run from extreme to extreme with the listener immediately accepting that Hughes owns all the territory in between. I Just Want to Celebrate is brilliant Motown Soul with heavy guitars, Highball Shooter melts the Deep Purple original from memory and Feels like Home is so cozy and warm you almost want to crawl inside the speakers to curl up with it. This could be the best record that Hughes has ever done but when you hold it up for comparison to any other disc you find that he has maintained this level all along.
With great excitement I did phone Hughes at his California home following his stint on the Voices of Classic Rock tour to discuss the album, the improbability of actually mounting a tour for it and just what he intends to do with this machine once it is built.
DLW:: Well now Glenn, you are on quite a bit of a roll here with your last three albums each surpassing the previous one in its own way and then keeping a schedule of guest appearances going that is just incredible, where does all the energy come from?(laughs)
GLENN HUGHES: Let me tell you before we even start, I have done about forty interviews and I would have to say that thirty-eight of them had the interviewer saying that this is the best record that they have heard me do and, I donâ€™t know, it is just another record for me. I make so much music and I just tried to get the variety right this time, I guess.
DLW:: Well, I think that you say it in the first song, Iâ€™ve got my freak flag flying again...
GLENN: Yes! When I write these songs, all except for "Celebrate" and "Highball Shooter" obviously, I wrote them all in a matter of ten days in my studio and I just kept an open mind. I didnâ€™t want the album to be Addictive heavy and I didnâ€™t want it to be too musical like The Way It Is I just wanted it to be more like where I came from, more like Trapeze, more funky but not too funky. Some people say "This is your funk album" and no it is not. My God, if I was going to do a Funk album it would be REAL funky and this is more material that borders on rock-funk, some of it. It is classic rock but goddamn, how can you analyze it? (laughs) I have been talking about it all week and I canâ€™t really analyze my music really.
DLW:: Is there any rhyme or reason to how an album comes out? Do you try and do something different than the previous one or do you just let it kind of flow with your mood at that time?
GLENN: Well originally I was going to call the album something really psychedelic and have it all really upbeat and tongue in cheek, especially after doing Return of the Crystal Karma. But that album sold really well and, you know that one was called Return of the Crystal Karma (R O C K), so that people would know it was a rock record. You know, "Ok, maybe Glenn is making a Rock record this time." Although I am a soulful R&B singer I have basically been known as a Hard Rock singer and bass player and coming close to the end of that career I have decided to stay in this mold for a while and let it run. The only thing that I miss out on is that the record that I make of this ilk and all of my peer groups, unless you are Aerosmith, we donâ€™t have hit records anymore because we donâ€™t make radio friendly three minute songs for pop stations and all that might change with me in the next two or three years. I might make some music that is more radio friendly but in the Rock vein. "Out on Me" from this record would be a perfect song with an edit for radio and I tried to get the record company to do that but they are not interested in breaking me that way, they just want albums and I donâ€™t quite understand that. What I have done in this last year of my life, since I have been married, is to let nothing bother me anymore. There are no "big deals" in life anymore for me. There is nothing that is going to kill me, no drugs, no women, no rock and roll road Hell stories, I am smooth sailing along. The record was written in a very upbeat and very happy house. There is much content in my life and when I listen to this album, which I donâ€™t do very much, I am bowled over by it. This is a great, straight up record. It is a really good record vocal performance wise and I didnâ€™t really mean to do this but I find myself listening to it and saying, "****! I sound like I am eighteen years old on this album!"
DLW:: It certainly is inspiring music to listen to.
GLENN: I hope so. (David) Coverdale got his copy just two days ago and he feels the same way. All of my dear friends, who would never lie to me, feel that this is a great step up.
DLW:: There are no weak links to it at all, it is something that long time fans will scream for you to play live I am sure.
GLENN: Yeah. I am just really happy that I could make it.
DLW:: This also seems to have been constructed purely from the musicians involved and not something that was meddled with by any front office people but I think that you alluded to that already...
GLENN: Do remember this, this was arranged, played, produced and pre-conceived by me, I donâ€™t have a John Kalodner or some head guy at Columbia giving me millions of dollars and producers to categorize all these into great hit singles and videos. You know the story, a Rock guy like me making these records for SPV totally alone with no A+R and totally doing what I want to do. In my world people will pigeon hole me and say "It has got to be like Deep Purple" and if it is not like Deep Purple they canâ€™t get past it but I think what I have achieved on this record is that I am getting at that Rock but keeping it a little more funky because, well, it is me. I have been hiding that (the funk) from people and if people only knew that thirty years ago I was playing Funk-Rock music they would know why this is where I am now. This is the street that I live on.
The only thing that I miss out on is that all of my peer groups, unless you are Aerosmith, we donâ€™t have hit records anymore because we donâ€™t make radio friendly three minute songs for Pop stations.
DLW:: I would think that by this point that you could live anywhere you want, musically, and not feel terribly encumbered by your past work?
GLENN: I chose "Big Sky" to end the album specifically for that reason, I wanted to mellow out. I do that on most of my albums but this time not with a tear jerking epic ballad, I wanted it to be like I am sitting in your living room singing to you although it is very mournful. It is about my friend, Bill, who died. Coverdale said, "It is Glenn Hughes singing like no one else can sing". Remember, I have been told that I have many different voices but they are all really me so I could never really analyze it. It is all mostly first take, spontaneously as we were going on. I never let my songs sit and age like fine wine while I am writing, I write them and just get them out. One day I might take six months to write a song but I donâ€™t know that I could ever really do that. I channel a lot when I write and I write a lot of music.
DLW:: Does some of that mass of music come out other than on your standard albums, like the things that you are releasing on your own independent label for instance?
GLENN: What my own label is, I did a Christmas CD last year which is on the jazz/R&B tip which I like a lot and was something that I wanted to let people listen to a lot. Then there is the archival stuff like "Incense And Peaches" and there are going to be two or three more like that of songs that I have in my attic or something, demos, stuff that has never been released, stuff like that. I canâ€™t really afford to make a real Rock record on my label and that is how I make my money, that is how I sustain myself, with advances and royalties from my record labels and it is just monumentally expensive when you have your own label. You really have to have some money set aside to run your own label because you have to have the artwork and all that and it is just a lot of money.
DLW:: When I spoke with David Coverdale about his first solo record on his own label he was expressing his astonishment over just how expensive it really is to do it all on your own and to do it correctly.
GLENN: Yes. David, he wouldnâ€™t mind me saying this to you, he was on the road doing a promotional radio tour of America and David put a lot of time and money into that and we both thought that it would be a hit but it didnâ€™t sort of happen. You know, twenty-five years ago, twenty-seven years ago, when I was in Purple we were the Limp Bizkitâ€™s of the day, we really were the top dogs with Yes, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and then you have all of the eighteen year old kids worshiping Fred Durst and the singer from Tool and we are now the elder statesmen, the safe bets in Rock music, the older geezers...
GLENN: It is true and I am really comfortable in the skin that I live in whether I have material things or I not, I have found conscious contact with my higher power and I live in that world of "It can all be taken away tomorrow" so I have set myself on a spiritual path instead. I have been told by people in this business that I must stick with Classic Rock and I canâ€™t do Funky things and I just say, "**** you!" I am going to do what I want to do and I made a great record in February and I gave it to my manager and record label and I forgot about it, I just let it go. I have to be honest with you, when I made Feel in â€™95 I said, "Here it is, this is the one that is going to change the world." And it didnâ€™t. It didnâ€™t sell as many copies as I wanted it to and I was just totally freaked out and so since then I have just said, "I have no expectations of where it is going."
DLW:: Well, with the music scene that exists today, the heavily cross cultured Pop radio, Rap/Rock and all that, it would seem that you would be perfect for the times have you ever thought of doing some kind of collaboration with a Puffy Combs or someone like that?
GLENN: Yes, yes but just remember now, I am "Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple" and whether you have heard me or not it is in every record companyâ€™s files. Deep Purple, the "loudest band in the world" according to "Guinnessâ€™ Book of World Records" Glenn Hughes, the bass player with long hair and snake skin boots at the California Jam who can scream very high. Great, I am the guy that I am pegged to be and I will never really be anything other than that guy to a lot of people but still I have been told that I could be the only guy who could cross over and have a Pop hit, even at this late date in my career if I really, really went for it. Now I have to tell you the truth, I am not wealthy enough to do a five year experimentation on Pop, I am trying to horde a bunch of money away for my retirement! (laughs) Retirement being never of course! (laughs) but when I have to come off the road or canâ€™t make albums or something like that.
DLW:: Maybe not a full career change but the occasional thing like you did with the KLF would seem to have some appeal to it.
GLENN: I had a fifteen year battle with drugs and alcohol and the spin of the coin is that I can tell you that I am absolutely pissed off that I lost fifteen years of my life, especially in the eighties when most of my peers where making tons of money and I was always just ****ed up. Please remember that I should be dead but ten years ago when I got sober I basically started over again at forty so what do I do? Do I try and compete with myself in Deep Purple? I donâ€™t think so. Every day on this earth is gravy to me, I should really be dead. I have become comfortable with the man that I have become in the last ten years so the answer to your question is, Yeah, there would be a market for me but someone is going to have to come in with a couple of million bucks and go, "Here it is, go make a record." I have no expectations because expectations are resentments under construction.
DLW:: And it would probably be impossible to make a record under a pseudonym or something due to the identifiably of your voice?
GLENN: No, I tried to do that and we did a Euro-Trash electronic kind of album where it was pretty much computers and very dancey but there it was, that voice. Every record company knows it is me and they canâ€™t market it and it is a damned shame because it is a great album. All I know is that I am making music yearly and I am going to make music with a few artists next year. I am doing an album with Joe Lynn Turner, as you know, for the Deep Purple and RAINBOW fans and it is strictly Classic Rock at its finest. Although I have to say that I did step out of the Deep Purple feeling for a minute but only for a minute. I wrote in a very Blackmore-ish way in Deep Purple mark III or Mark IV and people who like that will die for this album. Next year I will also probably do something with two other artists that are known. I am just now stretching my wings.
DLW:: I donâ€™t imagine that you actually would spend much time on this but did you ever sit with Joe and commiserate back and forth over your working with Mr. Blackmore?
GLENN: Not really probably because Joe and I have grown so much since that period. I think that those days were the "bad old days" for both Joe and I. It was when the Boeing 737â€™s that we were always in would last forever. In the seventies we thought that we would be playing the Cal Jam every year for the rest of our lives because when you are making that much money and you are so young you just donâ€™t think straight, it is bizarre. The incidents with Ritchie Blackmore will be told in a book one day or something like that because the guy is, uh...a different type of guy.
DLW:: That is about as polite as I think that I have heard it said. (laughs)
GLENN: He is just a one off kind of guy, balls bigger than a bull. You know the seventies Rock heroes of that ilk are larger than life, way larger than the angry young guys that we see walking around in baseball hats now, they are just laughable, really. Some people would say that I am a Rock legend from the seventies but he, he is larger than life.
DLW:: You have been playing some shows with Joe and the "Voices of Classic Rock"?
GLENN: Yes but I donâ€™t do that many and I probably wonâ€™t do any more touring solo until I can do it again properly. I am actually answering the questions that I have been deferring for three years, the reason that I donâ€™t do a lot of new songs and the reason that I donâ€™t take a five piece band out on the road is because I havenâ€™t got any tour support and I am not going to spend $50,000. Of my own money a week like David Coverdale could do to do that because the promotion is so poor. You might say, "Well then why donâ€™t you get a new manager?" Well, I am ongoing and managers donâ€™t sort of come looking for late forties Rock Gods from the seventies, they want to have a twenty year old Backstreet Boy. I am anxious for people to hear me perform but I am not going to kill myself over it.
DLW:: In a related venture you did a record with Dario Mollo called Voodoo Hill, how did you feel about that record after it was done?
GLENN: I knew what it was going to be like before I went to his home. I wrote the lyrics, alone and in my house, over a period of five afternoons before I went to Italy and I knew before going in that I would be singing in that Seventh Star almost Classic Rock-ish total voice with the exception of a few ballads that I would sing so I went in there with that hat on. I went in and sang my balls off over a period of two evenings, I sang the whole record over a period of two nights and I enjoyed it. He went in print and said that, "This is the way that Glenn Hughes should sing..." and that was his spin on it. A lot of people in Japan think that Voodoo Hill was stronger than Return of the Crystal Karma but that is the Japanese, you know. There is a certain element that do not like Voodoo Hill and there are some Glen Hughes fans that do but just remember it is just another piece of work for me. It is like when I see actors on TV, they do a movie and then they go on to the next movie and that is the way that I am with my records. Some artists sit down and say, "Oh, listen to this song" and they play it over and over again and just love themselves but I just move on to the next thing.
DLW:: Speaking of Seventh Star, have you had any recent contact with Dave Spitz, he seems to have disappeared?
GLENN: I have not heard from "The Beast" since the Sabbath thing and you must remember that for me that period was a low point. You know, I did run into him when I was nearly sober once but I havenâ€™t really spoken to him in years. He is a nice guy though.(Laughs)
DLW:: There are constant re-issues and re-packaging of old Deep Purple records, do you still profit from that?
GLENN: I will get revenues from that, I hope! (laughs) It all goes to the Deep Purple overseas company where I get my statements from. I must say right now that Deep Purple have been very good to me. It has paid a lot of my bills for the last twenty-seven years, it really has. I can gripe about being pigeon holed but millions of dollars later it has helped me tremendously so it is really great and I hope to God that they keep selling records so that I can keep getting paid. (laughs)