Glenn Hughes, once of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Black Country Communion, returns with a new band, California Breed. Joel McIver gets the lowdown
If you’ve been following the remarkable career of bassist extraordinaire and Voice Of Rock Glenn Hughes, you’ll know that he’s not a guy who sits around for very long. From 2009 to last year he played in a blues-rock quartet, Black Country Communion, with guitarist Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian, but when that band split in slightly acrimonious circumstances he and Bonham wasted no time in forming a new band.
“Jason and I wanted to create something new: we didn’t want it to be Black Country Communion 2,” said the great man, in London to do press for California Breed’s self-titled debut album. “If I’d heard our guitarist Andrew Watt’s playing while I was blindfolded, I would have said, ‘I hope he looks good, because he’s got the gig!’ He happened to be 23, introduced to me by Julian Lennon the night before the Grammys. It was as if he’d been writing in the 60s but born in the 90s. I wrote two songs with him at my home and we went from there. Jason was available the next day, so we booked a studio and demoed the songs. Our producer Dave Cobb came in to do the album. I did the bass in the control room in two hours!”
Slick, groovy and full of unexpected melodic twists, Glenn’s bass playing this time out was laid down with the assistance of both vintage and new gear. “On this album, as I did on my solo albums Soul Mover, Music For The Divine and F.U.N.K., I played my 1965 sunburst Precision, because Dave Cobb suggested we go back to a vintage sound. I play Bill Nash basses when I’m on the road: Bill creates basses that are astronomically brilliant.”
When it came to amplification, Glenn used his new – and amazing – signature Orange stack, the MKIII (named after the first version of Deep Purple of which he was a member, back in the early 1970s). We reviewed this desirable beast back in BGM 88 and are keen to know how Glenn hooked up with the venerable British amp-makers. “I was at NAMM two years ago and I walked past Orange,” he tells us. “I know Cliff and Damon there, and they asked me if I wanted to come and check out their new amps. I went into this little room with a P-Bass on the wall and saw an amp with four knobs on it. I’m not technical and it looked easy to work, so I plugged it in and plucked the string – and the sound was pure Glenn Hughes in 1977! I wanted the sound I got from my Hiwatts back in the day, and the Orange gives me that tube sound, with the 15” and 10” speakers. They’ve been very gracious to me, but more importantly they gave me the sound that I wanted.”
Asked if his playing style is evolving over the years, Glenn muses: “I’ve always been this kind of bass player, with a very live groove. I’m not trying to go somewhere with weird notes that you might not expect. My runs are unlike other people’s. When I switched from guitar to bass in 1968, I had a week to learn all the songs in my band at the time, Finders Keepers. The bass player sold me a 62 Jazz and I played it like a guitar, rather than with fingers. When I interviewed Andy Fraser for Bass Guitar Magazine recently (see BGM 86), I asked if he’d learned to play without a pick and he said yes. I wish I’d done that.”
“This is all I want to do,” he says, asked about his plans for the future. “I’m still with the supergroup Kings Of Chaos: I’m one of the founder members with Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan and Joe Elliott, and Slash and Billy Gibson and Robin Zander and others have come in to play guitar. But California Breed is my number one priority right now: I wanted to do a band right now, rather than a solo album. Go and check it out!” Listen to the man…
California Breed is out now on Frontiers.