One spring afternoon in 1974, I was in my friend's basement playing music as we always did. He had just got a new record that he acquired from a neighbor and without telling me what it was, put it on. From the first few notes, I was gasping for air. It sounded strangely familiar but I didn't know the vocalist. Turns out it was Deep Purple's new record Burn. Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had just left the band and replacing them were David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. They weren't replacing in a way because this drove Purple to modulate of sorts; to become almost a new band. This record was pure magic, with every cut standing out as a winner.
The pair stayed with the band over the next two records, Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band, before moving onto their own projects. I love all lineups of Purple but this one was magical. Hughes, in particular, brought a funkiness to the band that worked hand in glove with the hard rock material. In addition, his vocals really added a distinct quality to the sound, combining terrifically with Coverdale's. I traded the record for a Doobie Brothers album I had with me that day. A good trade I think.
Since overcoming the demons of drugs and drink a decade and a half ago, Glenn has released a dozen or so (not counting live and compilations) excellent CDs. None more so, however, than his latest Music for the Divine, quite possibly his best yet. From the upbeat urgency of the opener "The Valiant Denial" to the utterly gorgeous "This is How I Feel", he has never before balanced both his funk and his hard rock urges so smoothly. Part of the success owes to his on-going partnership with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and it proves to be a winning formula. I spoke with Glenn by phone last week to find out how the record came together as well as other subjects such as Purple and the concert hall that was recently named after him.
antiMUSIC: Hello, Glenn,
Glenn: Good morning Morley.
antiMUSIC: How you doing?
Glenn: I'm fighting off a cold, brother.
antiMUSIC: Oh, that's not very good.
Glenn: I was actually doing a good job of keeping it away, but it's that kind of season, you know.
antiMUSIC: Not good for your profession.
Glenn: I just got back from Russia where some jackass gave me this f..ing cold, so. Part of the thing you have to go through when you're a rock and roller, I guess.
antiMUSIC: I guess so. It's an absolute pleasure and honor to have the opportunity to speak with you. In 1974, my life changed. I heard Burn.
antiMUSIC: and with great respect to Mr. Gillan, Mk III and Mk IV are my favorite lineups of Purple.
Glenn: Me too brother
antiMUSIC: The combination of you and David was just magic.
Glenn: -right, right isn't it.
antiMUSIC: However, speaking of more current things, Music for the Divine is just excellent, Glenn. I love it. I liked Soul Mover but this seems to be several steps up on that record.
Glenn: -You know what it is Morley? Soul Mover was a great bench mark for me. it was a record that I wanted to make for myself, and selfishly wanted to make. I think artists I admire really make records that they think they are so real, you know. With Soul Mover it was a great bench mark and I wanted to, I said, "How can I top that. So I said to Chad, I want to do a record with strings, I wanted to play acoustic guitar, I want it to be more of a songwriter record, and that's what we have on this record.
antiMUSIC: So, first question, Music for the Divine. Sounds like a message there. There's a picture of the Hollywood Hills. I know you're quite spiritual.
Glenn: Divine obviously is meant to be God. You know, we're all God's children. And Music For the Divine, for me Morley, it means it's pure. It's got integrity and it's honest. So I come up with these titles, I just pull it out of the air. I don't really think about it. They just ARE the title of my records.
antiMUSIC: Is there a connection? Is there a theme for this set of songs?
Glenn: Well, you know, it deals with life and death. It deals with what happens in-between. One song's about a lady who's about to die. Another is accepting one's failures. It's really a big record for me because I'm actually walking through a lot of the fields of my past and just, and putting myself on the front Burner and letting people who I am as an artist. And I...you know, and Chad Smith has really really, really helped here. He's the glue of my music. He's really my best friend ever. He's such a sweet human being. You know, he just happens to be in the biggest band in the world. But he's still… when he comes in to play with me, and write and arrange, it's just the common bond of love. There's so much love in the room when we work together, you know.
antiMUSIC: How did this record unfold as you prepared it? What songs jumped to life first?
Glenn: Well, Chad and I live in Los Angeles and every Sunday, 18 months ago, every Sunday for about a month I'd go to his house and play him the songs that I'd written that week, all the way from top to bottom. And I wrote about 25 songs and I'd play them to him and we'd you know, we'd play them actually in his house, and we'd f*** around with it. And you know, I wanted to make an album that was really super honest, and he was the one that pushed me to make songs like "Frail" and "This is How I Feel", "This House" and very sort of acoustic driven. And he said the Peppers…when they make music they like to make a wide arc of music and that's what this record is.
antiMUSIC: For the second straight record you chose to record with Chad Smith who seems like a very unlikely partner for you, except that you are both proprietors of the funk. Can you define this connection to Chad and how did you first come to work with him? What does he bring to the table besides his obvious drumming talents?
Glenn: Well, I tell you Morley. I'm in my fifties, I've been around the block, I've really, really done everything in life. I'm blessed to have found God. I'm sober and clean and you know as these things occur in life. When you are together like I am, you meet people, and you know, you meet people that, you know, come into your life for a reason, as you know, you meet people that are dangerous. You meet people that are loving. You meet people that are inconsiderate. You meet people that are kind. It's what we have in front of us as human beings. Chad Smith came into my life about four years ago, one weekend and we've been hanging out ever since. I'm godfather to his kid, I sang for him at his wedding, and our wives are best friends. It's like we are a family. And, Chad would say the same, he just happens to like playing music with me. We just really, really love playing music together.
antiMUSIC: You also have a long-standing working relationship with JJ Marsh. Tell us how important his contributions are to your work and what symbiotic elements go into this obviously successful combination?
Glenn: Yeah, I mean, I found JJ playing in a bar in Sweden ten years ago and you know, by happenstance I was at a wedding. I was best man at a wedding and he was in the band at the reception. And you know, I just noticed he had a really great skill of rock, sort of fusion-y stuff which I like, you know. And I brought him over to the states and, you know I've been making records with him ever since. He's very under-rated guitar player writer.
antiMUSIC: "The Divine" is just a terrifically beautiful song. Was that one of those songs that just poured out of you? Or did you have to work at it? What was the lyrical idea behind that?
Glenn: Thank you. Well you know, I wrote that song on a Sunday morning when I went to Chad's house on the Sunday afternoon, and I played it for him and he said: "This exactly what I was talking about. This is what we need, something completely acoustic that just features your voice and an acoustic guitar." I wrote this song about my accounts of my life so far, what it's been like, and how I may have been selfish. I may be been unkind and I may have been wrong. But now it's like time to change, now it's time to you know, be a child of God and be you know, someone that can, you know, you can be proud of. I've been all my life trying to be a better person. The last 16 years of my life have been sober and clean and child of God. And I just want people to know that I'm a human being, and this song deals with that.
antiMUSIC: "This Is How I Feel" would make a great single. You have John Frusciante on there. How did he become involved?
Glenn: Well, John and I and Chad we get together and play, and we write and we hang out and we eat and we make music and you know, one of our sessions, I wrote this song. John loved it, you know, and before I knew it we were recording it, you know. And John and I and Chad wrote some of the other songs and we're going to get back together in the fall and do some more work. You know, for me John is the new Jimmy Page. He's the greatest new contemporary, I think, in the world. In my eyes, that's my humble opinion. It's you know great that I can have him on my record.
antiMUSIC: "The Valiant Denial" is one of the best rockers that you've done in awhile from a melodic hook standpoint.
Glenn: Thank you, bro.
antiMUSIC: and it has that great build-up intro. Why did you put that record in the opening slot?
Glenn: For me, I always like to do something completely different Morley. I like to, you know, have some kind of shock thing. You know, it's a great intro. I always like to do the first cut of the album. I always use that live in my show too. I just see myself in clubs, at arenas and stadiums, playing that live. It's a great opening track. It really works well in the live format, you know. It's a great start, so it's a really sort of a very pompous British grandiosity which then just goes into the orchestrated part which is wonderful.
antiMUSIC: You are exceedingly prolific, contributing heavily to other people's projects along the way. It's understandable why you are so in demand. But from your standpoint do you drive yourself to keep working work hard or does the music just pour out so much that you have to find avenues with which to busy yourself?
Glenn: That's a great question, Morley. When I turned it around…around that period, you know, I met wife, my brand new wife, 7 years ago. And you know, I started to feel comfortable as a human being. I started to feel that, more than the music, I also have to be a good person, and I also have to sort of, you know be kind and considerate. And with that, came the channel of sunlight and I just started to write a lot of songs. And I had no say-so in the matter. It was like a tap had been turned on and I couldn't switch it off, you know. I have a home studio so as my wife will tell you I must be upstairs every day I'm home, I'm upstairs writing I mean in the studio. So you know, I write a lot of songs, Morley, I write a lot of songs for other people. I'm writing currently with three multi-platinum artists and it's been a long time coming for me to actually walk through the fear and say, you know something, I can write great songs. And I think this record really is the introduction of that.
antiMUSIC: Looking back, no one would ever say it was a blessing, but was your addiction a catalyst for you to get to where you are today. In that you had to hit bottom so that you could rebuild your life?
Glenn: Oh God. Absolutely! You know from '87 to '91 when I was really really, in the throes of addiction, I was really, really praying for God to remove that, you know. To get me a moment of clarity where I could just have the strength to check into a hospital. And it took about four years of praying and trying to get well, and then when I did finally changed my lifestyle, I have changed my life 180 degrees. Like complete change you know. You see I don't remember. I don't remember 1977 to 1991, I don't remember too much. I know I did a record with Tony Iommi. I know with Pat Thrall and Gary Moore, but I don't remember too much about it. So when I started to get clean and sober, it's like my life completely made sense to me. I mean I know a lot of great icons in this industry that struggle with drugs and alcohol, but feel their way of like you know, I am so and so. I can't play clean and sober. I've got to have a drink. I've got to have some type of crutch to lean on. But God does not want....athletes don't use drugs to work, and you know, musicians shouldn't do it either. It's clean living that's brought me to this point. And you know something Morley? I really am a happy person. I'm always fighting for the better sound, or the better arrangement or the best production. I wasn't doing that 17 years ago.
antiMUSIC: There's no definitive answer for this obviously but Do you think that it ever would have been possible for Tommy Bolin to have turned it around, or was he like Layne Staley, just too far gone?
Glenn: Well, I didn't know Tommy was, you know…a couple of times playing with purple, I saw Tommy nodding out, but I never knew anything about heroin—I never did heroin—but the signs were there that he may have been dabbling in Purple, you know. And then when the band broke up, you know, he sorta of…he only got into it like a month before he died really heavily. So I did not know he was dabbling in heroin and heroin is a whole other animal. I don't think he was that far gone. I think he was like teetering on the edge there. Tommy was really a beautiful cat who liked to play music, as John Frusciante...the same kind of animal as John and Tommy. But you know, I was very sad to hear that he'd died, because you know, eight people stood around him while he was loaded and they could've called the police or the ambulance or something and they never did. It really, really, still makes me sick.
antiMUSIC: I understand that it was at this time that you had a significant spiritual awakening. Can you tell us about that?
Glenn: You know, it was Christmas day 1991. I was going into Betty Ford Centre in three weeks. After that I was, I'd been there for an honest evaluation of my addiction. I was a cocaine addict, and you know I was going to go into Betty Ford. I went home to Atlanta Georgia at the time, and I had bought some coke and I started to get high and you know, I just felt a very strong presence of God in the room with me. And I…the amazing thing that happened. I stopped getting high and I threw all the drugs down the toilet and went to hospital and just checked in and I said, I need to go NOW. I need to surrender NOW because don't think I have another day in me. I think it was the day I decided to get sober was the day I was going to die. It was either death or life. But I think I did the right thing. And you know, I really believe karma. I really believe in good things for people. I really being honest and having some integrity. And you know when you're in throes of drug addiction you're a liar, cheat and a thief. And you know, we don't get born to be liars, cheats and thieves. You know, music is the second greatest thing for me. The first greatest thing is my sobriety and my clean living. And without that I wouldn't have a guitar to play.
antiMUSIC: Possibly my favorite record from you, although it's hard to pick, is "From Now On". Do you remember what those sessions were like?
Glenn: Yeah, I do. I made it in Sweden and I got Bruce Gowdy from LA, my buddy to produce it. And we were in the middle of Sweden in this sort of tourist town. It was like September. It was beautiful. I had chosen to work with the guys in a band called Europe. They were my friends. I mean partly in Europe. I wanted to go there and you know, I had a hit record in Europe with KLF, which was like a number 1 record in the early '90s. And the reason I chose to work in Europe was because I was more popular. I live in America but I'm more popular in Europe. So you know, I went and got the guys in Europe and you know, I wrote these songs. It's a very AOR record for me. It's definitely a melodic record. It's definitely not on the funk tip like I like but it's definitely a record that my fans like.
antiMUSIC: I remember reading a quote from David Bowie in I think '75 or '76…
Glenn: In '76
antiMUSIC: Yeah, and he said that if you could be reborn, you wanted to be born in the ghetto. Along your musical path, have both sides of you, the rock side and the funk side, caused much consternation when approaching a new record as to whether you're more in a riff or a groove mode or are you happy to alternate a lot of the time?
Glenn: You know, for me, I like…I said this before and I'll say it again; when you think of Glenn Hughes, it's a hybrid. It's like a gumbo. You throw in you know, rock, soul, funk, R&B and you mix it up and it's Glenn Hughes. It's the combination. It's like I couldn't at gunpoint be…I mean I'm a funky player, a funky bass player. I only know how to play that style. I'm not a hammer-on guitar-playing bass player. I'm also an advocate of black American R&B singer. That's where I come from: the Stevie Wonders, the Al Green, the Marvin Gayes, the Wilson Pickets. And I'm one of the very few artists generation that is really into that. Paul Rodgers and Robert Plant are more blues…you know.
antiMUSIC: I understand that in Serbia, a hall has been named after you. How did this come about?
Glenn: Well, it took me by surprise. I mean I'm playing just a couple of days before in Bulgaria where I'm going to be given the keys to the city and be made an honorary citizen by the mayor in Bulgaria and two days later I play in Serbia, a place I haven't played in 30 years since Deep Purple. But, and this is big but, there are politicians there and the mayor of that city, you know…I'm their favourite artist (chuckles) so they've chosen to have me open this new building and they're going to call it after my name, Glenn Hughes. The Glenn Hughes music hall. And it is astonishing but it's also given me great belief in what I've done in the past 16 years and that sobriety has paid off.
antiMUSIC: The Australian release of Music for the Divine will feature guest vocals by Jimmy Barnes as well as a cover of the Led Zep song "Misty Mountain Hop" with Jerry Cantrell. What's the story behind these two collaborations?
Glenn: You know man it's, you know, I do play a lot with people, you know. Jerry's another good friend. He's another awesome f***ing guitar player, come on. He's a great writer. He's another sobriety brother. You know, I'm so blessed to have these guys. You know we were asked to a song for a film. I didn't get a chance to run it by Jimmy Page. I have talked to him about it since, but with Zeppelin, Rob and Jimmy are really good friends of mine. I always said I would never do a Zeppelin song to Robert because he has so much disdain for David, about the whole Jimmy Page thing. But you know the producer wanted me to make a song called "Misty Mountain Hop" and I did it. And it features Jerry and Chad. It's brilliant. It's really good.
antiMUSIC: I know you've scheduled several dates in the US this summer. Is there any word or a possible series of dates or is that still in negotiation?
Glenn: Well, Morley. There's going to be only two at the moment that I can confirm: June 2 at the Whiskey in L.A., the scene of the crime where Purple found me in '73. And the other one is BB King's in New York City, those two gigs we're calling the showcase gigs. We're bringing in the press to that and I'm sure we'll invite you to that.
Where you based at?
antiMUSIC: I'm in Canada up near Ottawa.
Glenn: I can hear that. So maybe you know, maybe we can get you in there because we're hoping to get all the press in. and then obviously later in the year, we'll do a full blown tour. I want to come up to Canada. I mean I've been up there as the voice of the classic rock but I've never been there solo.
antiMUSIC: In your heart of hearts, do you think the long-anticipated reunion of Purple Mk III will ever happen?
Glenn: I think everybody…except Ian Paice….Ian is still in MkII. We've all spoken about it, through third parties. We've all spoken. I mean David and Jon Lord and I haven spoken about it at great length. Ritchie has now spoken to people. I mean….look I'd like to do it for two reasons. The first simply being to play with my brothers again and to complete the chapter. But you know I think it would be great to play with Ritchie again and David and Jon and Ian again. I think it would be really, really good. I think it would be a really great band. One last time, you know.
antiMUSIC: Everybody still has the chops, so there's no question there.
Glenn: Everybody's waiting for it. I mean you wouldn't believe how many promoters are offering zillions of dollars to do this. But it's like, that's not the real reason I would do it. I mean, I've been very comfortable these past few years, you know. I would like to do it for spiritual reasons. Completely spiritual.
antiMUSIC: That's all the questions I have for you, Glenn. Is there anything else about the record or yourself that I didn't ask you and you wanted to mention?
Glenn: No, I'm just really proud of the album, Morley and I just want people to know I'm alive and kicking and hopefully I'll see them this year.
antiMUSIC: OK, Glenn, thank you so much for taking the time. This has been a dream come true for me. I wish you all the best with this record
Glenn: Thank you Morley
antiMUSIC: And I hope to see you at a show this summer.
Glenn: Me too. Thank you brother. Bye