In recent times the emergence of supergroups have been aplenty, the likes of Chickenfoot and Them Crooked Vultures immediately springing to mind. Another can now be added to that ever growing list in the form of Black Country Communion, but do not underestimate its strength. Having earnt a name as a vocal behemoth fronting the likes of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, Glenn Hughes certainly isn't past it; presented with stellar material to sing over, the man can run riot. And being surrounded by Black Country Communion's fellow members certainly isn't a bad thing either.
Supergroup Black Country Communion
comprises vocalist / bassist Glenn Hughes
(ex-Deep Purple / ex-Black Sabbath / Trapeze), drummer Jason Bonham
(Led Zeppelin), keyboardist Derek Sherinian
(ex-Dream Theater) and guitarist Joe Bonamassa
. The group initially came to fruition in November 2009, Iron Maiden
producer Kevin Shirley
having seen Hughes
perform together in Los Angeles at Guitar Center's 'King of the Blues' event. Hughes
coined the quartet's name, named after the industrial area in the British Midlands where both Hughes
were born and raised.
Shirley recruited Bonham and Sherinian to the cause, and the outfit cut a debut album at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, California during early 2010 with Shirley producing and Bob Ludwig mastering. All songs are sung by Glenn Hughes, with the exception of "Song Of Yesterday" and "The Revolution In Me" which are both sung by Joe Bonamassa. Hughes and Bonamassa share lead vocals on the songs "Sista Jane" and "Too Late For The Sun". Also cut for the full length was a new rendition of "Medusa", originally recorded by Trapeze for their sophomore 1970 album of the same name.
"Black Country Communion" will be released by Mascot Records in the UK and the rest of Europe on September 20th, followed by a North American release through J&R Adventures on September 21st.
Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned Black Country Communion frontman Glenn Hughes to discuss the group's life thus far.
Glenn Hughes: Hello?
UG: Hello. Can I speak to Glenn please?
This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com.
Hey man, how are you doing?
I'm doing well. How are you?
I'm doing great man. Exhausted though after today, but I saved the best till last I guess, right?
Let's hope so (laughs). Would it be alright if I began the interview?
You and Joe Bonamassa played in Los Angeles during November 2009 at the King of the Blues event. How did Black Country Communion come to fruition from there?
That night, Joe and I decided we would form a band; rather than a project with two people, we would form a project with four people, and we'd call it a band. Joe said, "Go find a name", which took me awhile. I then came up with the name Black Country, and of course another band was called Black Country, so I just added the word "Communion" to the end of it. We went in the studio in January, and we recorded these songs you're hearing. Have you heard the album, by the way?
Yeah. I was listening to it earlier - the album's really good.
Yeah man, it's great (laughs). This is a very live album, and it's recorded live with hardly any overdubs. Some of the lead singing's live too.
"Joe and I decided we would form a band; rather than a project with two people, we would form a project with four people."
This band is a people's band, a rock fan's band. My band is for your people; this band is a rock fan's band.How did Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham come to join Black Country Communion?
Joe and I and Kevin Shirley the producer had a little after-concert drink while we were getting changed back into our clothes after the show in L.A.. Kevin's idea was to bring Jason and Derek in. I've known Jason since he was two years old; I played with his father when he was in Zeppelin, so it was great to actually have Jason as my partner in the band. Derek Sherinian I've known since the early nineties when he was in a band called Dream Theater, and he's an amazing Hammond organ player. It was pretty easy, man. Joe and I are the Robert Plant and Jimmy Page if you will, and we brought the other two guys in. I really wanted to have a band name rather than use Bonamassa, so we just decided on me getting the band name and creating a logo. I worked on that logo for two to three months; I wanted that logo to be strong to rock fans. I wanted it to be a rock 'n' roll logo that rock fans would feel. This band is a people's band, a rock fan's band. My band is for your people; this band is a rock fan's band.
What does the name "Black Country" mean to you?
1.1 million people live in the Black Country, the West Midlands. Dudley, Tipton, Wolverhampton, Walsall; Rob Halford's from there and the other guys in Judas Priest, John Bonham, Robert Plant, myself, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, some of the Moody Blues... We're all from this industrial part of the West Midlands. Let's call it the birthplace of hard rock.
Obviously, you and Joe Bonamassa hit it off. With that in mind, how did Black Country Communion's develop?
I had to write the first four songs because Joe wasn't around, and there had to be some kind of foundation. When Jimmy Page started Led Zeppelin, he came in with a few ideas and the band started writing songs that way. I guess every band has somebody who has to come in with the material, so I came in with four songs; I came in with "One Last Soul", "Beggarman", "No Time", and "Stand (At The Burning Tree)", plus "Medusa" from Trapeze. Those were the first five songs, and then after that, Joe and I went into my home studio and we wrote the rest of the album.
In writing those songs, how did you approach trying to achieve what would be the right sound for Black Country Communion?
Well, Joe and I discussed making a rock album. It was pointless making a blues album for his fans, and when you have a Bonham on the drums, you have a Zeppelin influence. I wrote with a Bonzo feel, and I also wrote for Hammond organ and Joe's guitar. I wanted it to be a focused rock statement. Listen bro... I wanna put a mark down; I wanna put a big flag in the planet, and I wanna go "This is what we are".
In Jason's drumming, would you say he possibly exhibits a lot of the elements his father did?
Of course. He would say to me, "Would Dad have played it this way, or would he have played it that way?". Jason and I are real good mates, and Jason is a very, very musical drummer as John was a great arranger in Led Zeppelin. If you talked to Jimmy and Robert, they would tell exactly the same thing. John Bonham played a big part in the arrangements in Led Zeppelin, and Jason also played a big part in arranging some of my songs. I came to Jason with a lot of questions, and he was a great part of it.
You compared your songwriting partnership with Joe Bonamassa to the partnership Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had. Is that indicative of how strong you feel about your songwriting partnership with Joe?
Yeah. Joe and I wrote "Black Country", "Sista Jane", "The Great Divide", "Down Again", and "Too Late For The Sun". These are Bonamassa / Hughes songs, and like I say, we tuned into each other's consciousness. We got under each other's skin, and we knew how to write with each other. It's really hard to write with people you don't know, so that's why Joe and I have been mates for three years, and we've been doing this kind of privately.
On 'Black Country Communion', how does Derek's Hammond organ work come into play?
We wanted, really seriously, just pure Hammond organ and Wurlitzer and Mellotron. That's the only three instruments we wanted. We really didn't want any synthesizers, so we had to make sure that Derek was gonna be ok with that, and then of course he was. We wanted a big, growling left-hand Hammond organ B3, which we got. We were pretty specific with what we wanted on this album, and each member of the band brought exactly what it says on the tins to the table.
Does that Hammond organ possibly hearken back to your Deep Purple days?
If you ask Kevin Shirley, I think he'd say, "I wanna outdo Purple". It's not like we have anything to do with the songwriting of Deep Purple - it's just that we have a Hammond organ growling in the background. There hasn't really been a band since Purple that has had a big, growling Hammond. I was a little concerned when we started to record, but then I was really overcome with joy because it sounded really strong.
How would you describe Kevin Shirley's production?
Brutal, raw and honest. I think Kevin's a really strong rock 'n' roll producer.
Can you see yourself working with Kevin again?
"This is a very live album, and it's recorded live with hardly any overdubs. Some of the lead singing's live too."
I would think so. He called me yesterday, talking about album number two. Kevin's a good guy; we fight a little bit, but that's what we do in the studio. We'll have to wait and see though. The only thing that you need to know is that this album is coming in September. I want this band to tour, absolutely want this band to tour, all over, and that's what we need to do.
Like many bands used to do back in the day? Tour all over the place?
Only simply because the band is brilliant. If this was a studio band, and it was only a studio album... but these songs were written to be played live. Going into this album, I said, "Guys, I'm not into just being in a studio band. I wanna tour the world, and I wanna make music in this band".
At the moment, are there any live plans which you can discuss?
Joe and I are doing our own tours until December, and then after December... There'll probably be some announcements made soon.
In a message on his Facebook, Kevin Shirley spoke about how Black Country Communion had nearly broken up due to managers' demands. What are your thoughts on that?
That's all in the past, and has been blown up by the press. Like I said, Kevin's a really strong rock 'n' roll producer, but more importantly he's a good guy. I'd certainly like to work with him again.
How would you describe the lyrical style on 'Black Country Communion'?
I'm once again singing about the human condition. I don't really sing about boll weevils and goblins, so I'm singing about what makes you feel and what makes you think. I just wanna have this message in my music that I want people to know, that it's ok to rock. My stuff isn't about cock, balls and pussy - it's a little deeper than that. It's a bit more educated, and not so narcissistic.
What was it like to duet with Joe on "Sista Jane" and "Too Late for the Sun"?
It was great. I asked Joe if he would sing a couple of songs with me, and I wrote songs for Joe to sing on. When we wrote "Sista Jane" and "Too Late For The Sun", I said "Joe, I'd really like you to sing them with me", and he loved it. Joe's a great singer. Joe's a really good singer.
Do you feel as though Black Country Communion could expose Joe to the hard rock audience that yet to hear his playing?
I'm not doing this to expose Joe - I'm doing this to be in a band. To answer your question though, absolutely. No disrespect to Joe's fanbase, but his fanbase are blues fans, and there's only a certain level you can go to in blues until you reach a plateau where you can't go any higher. With rock you can become twenty times bigger. We are looking at a bigger audience than Joe's audience. Joe's audience is great, but rock is a big, big monster. You can play a three-thousand seater in a blues place or you can play a twenty-thousand seater in a rock venue, and I've got high expectations, and I wanna be playing in big venues.
Why did you decide to record a new version of Trapeze's "Medusa"?
Because Kevin suggested we have a song in reserve just incase we didn't come up with any songs. During the first, initial recording session, that's why I had to come up with those songs. I didn't wanna go in on January 3rd and record only one song, so we went in and recorded four songs plus "Medusa". We had that in reserve.
Why did you specifically pick "Medusa" though? There's plenty of tracks in your catalogue which you could've chosen.
John Bonham loved the track; John Bonham jammed with Trapeze a lot on that song. I thought because his son was about to play with us, it'd be appropriate for Jason to play on it. I've played that song with both Bonhams, so it was great.
How would you compare Black Country Communion's version of "Medusa" to the original Trapeze version?
It's just different. Jason's playing a groove through the verse rather than using cymbals and stuff like that. I think I like the new version slightly more, because it's just a better template to sing over.
Unfortunately, Trapeze guitarist Mel Galley passed away in July 2008 as the result of oesophageal cancer. What was it like to work with Mel?
Mel was amazing. Absolutely one of my closest friends, and oldest friend from school. Mel was four years older than I, so when he left school, I was still in short pants, but I was his biggest fan. He didn't really know that until years later, but I adored him. Of course, Mel's been my closest friend for all of these years, and of course, when we found out that Mel was sick, I spent quite a bit of time with him up in the Midlands before he passed. His death was a real, real, real big moment in my life.
Does it get harder as you get older Glenn? You're at that age now where the unfortunate deaths of those you've had important relationships with occur more often.
The older you get, you look around and your friends get sick, and some of them die. It's horrifying, especially when they're in their fifties and sixties. Surely people live to be at least eighty these days? But all I can say, and Ronnie's family want me to tell you, is please get checked, especially if you're a man in your forties or early fifties. Get checked for cancer, get blood work done and get tested regularly, because this cancer is like the fucking Devil's disease.
Given his passing in May 2010, what are your thoughts on Ronnie James Dio's contribution to the world of hard rock music?
"This band is a people's band, a rock fan's band."
We all know that Ronnie was the voice of metal. Him and Halford are the two greatest voices of metal, and what we need to remember about Ronnie is that he was such a wonderful humanitarian. There's a wonderful charity in L.A. called Children of the Night which helps abused children - children on the streets. He gathered millions and millions of dollars for that charity, so he's a saint in my eyes. Ronnie was a humanitarian. I'd known Ronnie for thirty-seven years. He and Wendy are like brother and sister to me, so when Wendy asked me to sing at Ronnie's service, of course I said yes.
You and Ronnie share similar history, obviously; you've both been a part of Black Sabbath, and whereas you played with Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, he played with him in Rainbow.
Yeah. We were very tight. We really loved each other's voices.
Will you work with Tony Iommi again?
The Dio tribute at High Voltage was fantastic. Other than that, there's nothing really happening. I don't know what Tony and Geezer are gonna do. I wanna wish them all the very best. These are my family. I'm in the Sabbath family, so I'm sure there'll be other things coming up where I'll work with Tony and Geezer. Right now though, all we're doing is just concentrating on the tribute to Ronnie.
'Fused' is a fucking killer album, you know?
Oh, it's a fantastic album. Incredible. Thank you so much - I love that album.
And finally, will Black Country Communion record a second studio album?
Kevin Shirley emailed me about setting up some studio time in January, but what I'm concerned about is this is a band to tour with - this is music to perform live. We're gonna put our balls to the fucking wall. I took three to months out of my tour schedule to promote this album, so we need to invest time in properly touring it.
Thanks very much for the interview Glenn, which was much appreciated.
Thank you very much man.
Take care. Bye.
You too. Bye.
|Glenn Hughes' UK Tour Dates are as follows:
09/23 - Academy - Manchester, UK
09/24 - Picturedrome - Holmfirth, UK
09/25 - O2 ABC - Glasgow (Scotland), UK
09/27 - The Sage - Gateshead, UK
09/28 - Robin 2 - Bilston, UK
09/29 - Rescue Rooms - Nottingham, UK
10/01 - Princess Pavilion - Falmouth, UK
10/02 - Phoenix - Exeter, UK
10/03 - Millennium Music Hall - Cardiff (Wales), UK
10/05 - O2 Academy - Islington (London), UK
10/06 - Sub 89 - Reading, UK
10/07 - The Assembly - Leamington Spa, UK
10/09 - Spring & Airbrake - Belfast (Northern Ireland), UK
10/12 - The Fleece - Bristol, UK
10/13 - The Brook - Southampton, UK
Interview by Robert Gray
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