Glenn Hughes, known throughout the world as both Deep Purple and Black Sabbath vocalist, or more simply as the ‘Voice of Rock’ has recently returned with his lauded new band known as Black Country Communion. With a name like that, it was of no surprise Home of Metal’s collective ears pricked up and sought out the man himself for a chat.
Featuring the collective talents of Glenn himself, plus blues-rock virtuoso Joe Bonamassa, Dream Theatre’s Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham, son of Led Zep legend John Bonham, this new group appear to be as much of a celebration of their musical roots and heritage as the Home of Metal project does.
So, it was immediately pleasing to pick up the phone to Glenn, who despite his long-time living arrangements underneath the Californian sunshine is still obviously and resolutely Black Country at heart. Indeed, after a brief introduction as to what Home of Metal is all about, being a celebration and a championing of the acts that sprung from this region to subsequently give Heavy Metal to the world, I was immediately set at ease with his declaration of “You’re talking to the right guy!”
And of course, much in the same way as a getting-to-know you pint, before we’d even settled down to start the interview, we established our hometowns and footballing allegiances. “I’m from Cannock, are you from Birmingham? Oh West Bromwich, goo on then! Are you a Baggies fan?”
It’s also worth noting that despite his accent being affected by his years in the States, chunks of Black Country inflection dip in and out, like the odd Smethwick smog cloud blotting the LA sunshine. And when he intentionally puts on a full-blown Yam Yam affection to his voice (as in the aforementioned ‘Goo on then’), you’d be convinced he’d never seen further than Brownhills in his life.
“Before you start the interview,” he continues, “I’m one of those guys that doesn’t hate the Albion, as I love the fact that Wolves and Albion can play those derbies. Lets be clear, 75% of them you’ve been winning over the past fifteen years.”
That’s very kind of you.
“I was saying to one of my Wolves friends, that Albion have been the better side in the Championship, so maybe next year will be different.”
So at the risk of a notion of a magnanimous Wolves fan turning me into the Home of Metal’s version of Adrian Chiles, I’d thought I’d delve into his formative years growing up in Cannock. “I grew up in the Beatles generation, so when I was at school I would go home and watch shows like Crackerjack and I’d see the Beatles on there, and think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to be actually able to play guitar, just for fun.
“All of a sudden I found myself in a tiny band at school, then I’m playing pubs, clubs and youth clubs in the Black Country and Birmingham – Aston, Handsworth, Edgbaston, Erdington, West Bromwich, Tipton,” – he winds up the Black Country accent-o-meter – “Crayidly ‘Eeth and Dudloigh. I learnt my skills from playing around the Black Country”
Were there any particular places that you used to frequent back in the day?
“The Lafayette nightclub that was run by Tony Perry, who managed Trapeze, was where I first saw Led Zeppelin, I believe. Then there was Mothers nightclub in Erdington, where I actually befriended John Bonham, and I think was where I first really met Tony and Geezer, because all the bands that lived in Birmingham, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton would congregate at Lafayettes or Mothers, quite a crazy area.”
There was quite an interesting flyer added to the Home of Metal archives recently, from 16th October 1970, taken from the Mayfair in the Bull Ring, where Sabbath were supported by your first band, Trapeze.
“I can remember that gig like it was yesterday. I remember that Paranoid had just broken, had just charted, and it was great to actually play with them, and meet them – its been forty years I’ve known them for, can you believe that”?
From the early past to the so-present-the-album-isn’t-even-out-yet of Black Country Communion. Proudly boasting almost an embarrassment of riches within the lineup, from Jason Bonham on drums through to Joe Bonamassa on guitar, with Dream Theatre keyboardist Derek Sherinian rounding up the lineup. Was this lineup taken from a grander ‘wish-list’, or were these the personnel you always wanted?
“There’s no mistake, each member of the band was chosen appropriately. Joe and I started this thing, brought Jason in – from Dudloigh – and Derek is from LA. There were no mistakes as to who the members should be.”
And as for renowned producer Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley?
“I’d done work with him in New York back in 2001 with the Black Crowes. He’s really, really a key member of the band, he’s actually more like a fifth Beatle.”
The record certainly seems like a labour of love for you in many ways, from the band name through to ‘I’m going back to the Black Country’, the opening chorus on the album.
“The marker I set down on this record was that I really wanted to make a statement of intent, that this is a Rock Band. This isn’t a blues-rock band or a funk-rock band. It’s an album that traditional British rock fans, who like the music of Sabbath and Zeppelin, will feel comfortable owning. This is really a statement of intent for me, a major flag-waving.”
I’ve noticed your Twitter feed on your webpage, is this direct form of communication with fans something you’ve recently embraced?
“The internet for me is my friend, not my enemy. I think my career has really developed thanks to the internet and my webmasters, who have done a great job. So I don’t have a problem with the internet at all, I think it’s a really great tool.”
Finally, do you have any theories as to why this style of music has endured on not only a local basis, but globally?
“You can’t put your finger on it really, although we all came from very much working class backgrounds. You know that, everyone we’ve just talked about came from a working class background, and I think its grounded us, kept our feet on the ground, that’s the most important thing.
“I’ve said it before today and I’ll say it to you again – being from the Home of Metal of course – that we are celebrating the fact that the West Midlands is the birthplace of hard rock and heavy metal, there is no greater musical content from Judas Priest, half of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, to half of Led Zeppelin, and way more than I can mention. And this is where it all began, just as Merseybeat began in the sixties for the Beatles and a whole host of other bands.
“I’m fiercely protective of the music that comes from this area, I’m best mates with Iommi, I’m always down that area doing something privately, or somewhere around the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, so my roots are there – although I’m very much a California hippy boy – I’m fiercely protective of my roots and the heritage of the music that comes from this part of the world.”
A true advocate of the cause and defender of the faith there then. The debut album from Black Country Communion is out now via Mascot Records, and is sure to please Glenn’s fans, as well as those into the likes of Sabbath and Zeppelin. Black Country Communion play Wolverhampton Civic Hall on the 29th December.
Words by Duncan Wilkins – thanks to Noble PR for setting the interview up.