The bass-wielding blues rock singer fronts Heaven & Hell’s Tribute To Ronnie James Dio at Saturday’s High Voltage Festival before turning his attention to new supergroup Black Country Communion.
So who better to kick off the new-look RUSHONROCK than one of the true legends of the British rock scene?
rushonrock: How did Black Country Communion come about?
Glenn Hughes: It all started three years ago. I met Joe Bonamassa in Los Angeles at some kind of function. I already knew he was the number one blues rock guitarist but I didn’t realise what a private and shy kinda guy he is. Over the course of the next three years we hung out together and I got to know him for the person he really is. We’d have dinner, chat and then it became obvious we were going to make some music together. We realised we were going to have to out together a band. We played in LA together and from that moment we knew we were going to do something for the long haul.
rushonrock: Why not call yourselves Hughes/Bonamassa and record as a duo?
GH: Right from the off we wanted to form a real band rather than some kind of double act. It just seemed right. So we contacted Jason [Bonham] and Derek [Sherinian] and six weeks later we had the album Black Country. We got together for a couple of days in January, a couple of days in February and then me and Joe did our vocals some time in mid-March. The whole album was recorded in six or seven days tops.
rushonrock: Wasn’t the producer Kevin Shirley a driving force in getting the band to record?
GH: Well he’s a big fan of mine and he’s been Joe’s producer for some time. I’ve known Kevin since he worked on Aerosmith’s Pump but we’ve never worked together. We always wanted to do something and Black Country Communion is that thing! He’s the greatest rock producer in the world right now and he’s done a great job with it. I’m just so proud of the record – I really am. I don’t want to come across as arrogant because I’m really just someone who’s passionate about his work.
rushonrock: There’s always a huge expectation on the shoulders of so-called supergroups – can Black Country Communion live up to the hype?
GH: Of course we’re going to be called a supergroup because of what we’ve all achieved in the past. We all have gold albums and we’ve all been doing this for some time. No disrespect to my friends in Chickenfoot and Them Crooked Vultures but I think we’ve actually made an album with songs which are well crafted for the classic rock market. I’m laying all bets on Black Country Communion being a success simply because of the quality of the songs. It’s a great testimony to classic British rock that we can still make albums like this but it really is something special. I suppose this is very aggressive of me to say but put it next to AC/DC’s first album, Led Zeppelin IV, Black Sabbath Volume One, the first Humble Pie record and The Who’s Live At Leeds and it compares to every one of those records.
rushonrock: Are Black Country Communion here for the long haul or is this a one-off?
GH: You can’t hide the fact that Joe, in particular, has an insane touring schedule right now because he’s so popular. But it’s my job to make this band work and I have to make sure we go out on tour. We want to do it right and gauge the reaction but from what we’re hearing in terms of pre-orders the album will chart and as such the band will start to move very quickly. When you have an album this good you have to promote it properly and in my mind that means playing it live. For the next 10 years I want to be playing in stadiums, singing these songs. I want to be remembered as a guy who came back from the jaws of hell and delivered something very special in his later years. That something is Black Country Communion.
rushonrock: As someone who’s worked with many of the biggest names in rock and metal do you still get a kick out of playing alongside talented musicians?
GH: Of course. Joe is just top class. Everyone will tell you that. And in Black Country Communion all four of us bring something special out of one another. I have told Jason that this is the greatest work he’s ever done – I’ve played with the greatest drummers on the planet but Jason has upped his game significantly on this record to prove once and for all that he’s one of the very, very best.
rushonrock: After many years as a successful solo artists did you feel the need to be part of a band again?
GH: If you’d have asked me even a year ago that I’d be in a band then I’d have said you were crazy. I’ve got a great fan base and some very loyal followers who allow me to go my own way. But I want to accommodate all of my fans from different eras with a band that will appeal to them all. The reason I’m in Black Country Communion is because of the calibre of the other musicians involved and the relationship we enjoy together. From a personal point of view I’m in full voice and there are not many singers of my generation who can still hit all of the notes. I’m very grateful for that and I don’t want to waste my talent.
rushonrock: What was it like performing at Ronnie James Dio’s memorial service earlier this year?
GH: First and foremost it was an incredible honour. Wendy [Dio, Ronnie’s wife] is like my sister. When she asked me it was the least I could do and it was something I wanted to do. I knew there were going to be 1200 people there but I was just singing to my friend Ronnie.
rushonrock: Did you consider turning it down bearing in kind the emotional strain involved?
GH: There was no way I was going to turn it down. When Wendy called me and asked me to perform there was only ever going to be one answer. She asked me to sing Catch The Rainbow and a Trapeze song which Ronnie always loved called Coast To Coast. It was my pleasure. It had nothing to do with delivering a high profile performance in front of a lot of very important and influential people – it was about honouring a dear, dear friend.
rushonrock: Just what did Ronnie mean to you?
GH: I took him under my wing when I was in Deep Purple and he was in Elf. He was 10 years older than me but I had more experience of playing music at the highest level. Quite quickly we became such great pals. In 1979 Ronnie moved from upstate New York to Los Angeles just to be near to me and my wife and for the next six years we were very, very close. He taught me to be more considerate to people and I learnt to listen to my fans, sign every autograph I could and be true to myself. Ronnie set an incredible example to me as a person.
rushonrock: How excited are you about sharing vocal duties with Jorn Lande and the High Voltage Festival?
GH: It’s going to be wonderful. We’ve been down in Wales rehearsing and I can promise you it’s going to be one hell of a show. It will be a fitting celebration of Ronnie’s life and of course it will be difficult to control our emotions because there are some very big songs in the set which are Ronnie James Dio. But I will have to keep those emotions in check and the same goes for the rest of the guys. I’ve always been part of the Sabbath family and this will be a very special experience for me, albeit brought about by a tragic turn of events. It’s something that all of us just have to do.