Seems a bit funny to title an interview piece with the words of someone other than my interview's subject, but it feels right, and those are the words of no less an expert than super-producer Kevin Shirley. And that is what Kevin is saying about Black Country, Glenn Hughes's new band, with axeslinger extraordinaire Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, and Derek Sherinian. The producer is taking a very active, hands-on role for this record, overseeing the songwriting, arrangements, and generally serving as field marshall.
I spoke with Glenn at length yesterday about this exciting new band. Here's what he had to say:
"I had a bit of a vision, a dream," Hughes begins, "I had a follow-up to last year's record (the excellent First Underground Nuclear Kitchen, F.U.N.K.) fully written and ready to go, but there had to be a hold up to the follow-up. As you know, I played with Joe at the Guitar Center show in November, shortly after I had wrapped up my world tour. He had asked me to come up and do a couple of my old tunes, Mistreated, and Medusa, and as we played I looked over at Joe, he back at me, and I said that's it; this is a band!" And so it was born, Black Country.
There's ample proof of the chemistry shared between the two over on YouTube, and it is pretty obvious that this is not just two successful solo acts getting together for a one-off project. Black Country is their new group, a band, a tribe from and of the black country of England, the home of both Hughes and Bonham.
"I've known Jason since he was a child, what is he? about mid-forties now, and we've played together through the years, on occasion, and when we started playing with Joe and Derek, he just smiled."
Hughes points out that in spite of himself and Bonamassa both having very busy careers, this record may upset things a bit.
"There will be proper touring, not just going out for a few shows here and there. My voice gets stronger as I work, and this will be a touring band. We've got all the songs written, titles are in place, and Joe has clearly told me, 'I want to be in a rock band,' so he's got some Zeppelin in him, and some times he's as bluesy as Kossoff (Paul Kossoff, legendary guitarist for Paul Rodgers' Free). He's singing and writing great stuff as well."
Bonamassa has been headed down the road to rock for some time, and Hughes is finally returning to a full-on rock approach, something fans and fellow rockers have been clamoring about for years, though Glenn has kept moving in a positive motion towards his funky proclivities, and his own creative path in lieu of chasing the easy rock dollars.
"Tony, you have to understand I get asked to do huge tours, and to join big bands every year, and I've chosen to pursue my own projects, but now it's seems fated that this band happen. You've got Chickenfoot, Them Crooked Vultures, and while I avoid the term supergroup, this IS a band, and we've obviously got some good company.
"We're as bombastic as The Who, and as bluesy as Free, but we are doing some different kinds of things in terms of structure, and tempo: 7/8, 6/8, even 5/8 time, so it's not just a few chords and out. Joe's just written a song that is just blowing me away. He sings a couple, I sing a bunch, and there's a few where we're both singing. We originally had figured mid 2011 for the release, but here we are we've got it written, we'll have it tracked by the middle of March, around the 17th, and we should be done with vocals, and some overdubbing by April the 10th, just before Easter. So, it makes sense for it to come out sooner and now it should be out around September of this year.
"We recorded basic tracks for some of the songs on January 3rd and 4th, and we didn't even get a playback, we just packed them off, and didn't hear them until the next few days,and they were amazing. We've got some epics, I will say that. And, we've cut them live, with me using an old P-Bass, all of us together in one room. I don't want to be that guy, saying supergroup. But if you had told me back last February, that I'd be in a rock band, I'm not so sure. What we've got is not what I have done, not what Joe's done, but something tremendously exciting, and brand new.
"Kevin Shirley is calling it, 'viral rock' and 'beyond beautiful,' and coming from Shirley this is high praise, indeed. "You know, Tony, it's funny; at one point, the critics are calling me horrible things because of bad habits and vices, and now they knock me for being mr. health nut, the higher power guy, but this band and record seems to have everyone rooting it on, the time just feels right."
We spoke for a long time about Glenn's past, his work with Trapeze, Deep Purple, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath and his famous bout with addiction, yet so much has been written about this elsewhere that there seems little benefit in my spending time on it here, but here's where Glenn left that subject:
"I am almost 60, playing with a 32-year-old guitarist, but you'd never know to listen. We are hitting at full velocity (not a bad title, there) and don't think I don't feel fear I am an alcoholic and addict in recovery and I'm riddled with fear every day of those demons returning, but I'm very lucky. I will tell you this I hit the next note with absolutely no fear, and for that 90 minutes to two hours that I am onstage every night, I am completely without fear"
I wanted to include this because it shows a bit of the character of this immensely talented, yet humble and generous man. I've rarely had a more pleasurable conversation with lifelong friends, let alone this stranger whom I've only known from afar, but Glenn is as easy to chat with as an old school-chum. That he admits the frailty and vulnerabilities that face anyone in recovery only goes to display the man's humanity, and speaks of his honesty.
I spoke to Glenn about his bass playing, which is melodic and acrobatic, as well as rock-solid.
"Well, Tony, my playing is getting better. I play at least 5 to 6 hours a day, and I'm not one of these guys from the 70s that chooses to sit back. The more I sing the better I'm able, and my voice gets strongest mid-tour. My guitar playing is getting a lot better of late, also."
This is coming from a fellow who played for a quarter of a million people in his early twenties at California Jam with the biggest hard-rock band in the world at the time, Deep Purple. This truly marks the graduation of rock into serious music, as its elder statesmen continue to grow and develop even relatively late in their careers.
Glenn and I spoke about other topics in a lot of detail, and I'll have more of his words in future postings as the band and record progresses. I'm going to follow this one closely as I think it is going to prove to be the surprise of the year, in the midst of a year that is shaping up as the best year for hard rock yet in this century. So I want to keep the focus on Black Country for today.
Thanks so much to Glenn Hughes, Kevin Shirley, and to everyone reading and all my kind friends and supporters on Facebook, where I'm always talking guitars and rock.
Peace, love, and loud guitars, tony conley