This is the first contribution from Anders Lundquist, a rock journalist and singing bassist based in Stockholm, Sweden. He will be more formally introduced in an upcoming article.
British gentleman Glenn Hughes â€“ singer, bassist, songwriter and guitarist â€“ is one of the most legendary frontmen in hard rock. He started his career in Trapeze, was asked to join Deep Purple for their legendary Burn album (together with David Coverdale, with whom he shared the vocal duties), and stayed with them until the breakdown of the band after the underrated Come Taste The Band album.
Heâ€™s since then collaborated with the likes of Pat Thrall, Gary Moore, Tony Iommi, Tom Galley of Phenomena and countless other musicians. However, the 80â€™s was a bad time for him. He had started doing cocaine in the 70â€™s and now drink and drugs ruled his life and he didnâ€™t seem to be part of any long-lasting project.
Having finally battled addiction successfully almost 20 years ago, Hughes entered a new phase of his career, making a string of highly acclaimed solo albums (some with a detectable soul influence) at a high pace. As if that wasnâ€™t enough, he recently formed super group Black Country Communion together with Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian. Hughes also has his own radio show on Planetrock.com, and is currently working on his autobiography.
Somehow Glenn Hughes managed to find time in his busy schedule find to talk to Singingbassist.com.
SingingBassist: Whatâ€™s your main drive and motivation these days?
Glenn Hughes: Songwriting. The songs are sooo important. We have been trying to write together as well, and thatâ€™s something Iâ€™d like to do more of. On a personal level, all I want to do is have a family, feel healthy and focus on the music. I wasted too many years on tequila, cocaine and women.
SB: Please give us a brief history as a bass player. When did you start playing and how did it develop?
GH: I started out as a guitarist, as a lot of bass players do. My main motivation was wanting to play with Mel Galley, who was my hero. Which I did. I was 15 at the time.
SB: Did you have formal training, and do you think thatâ€™s important?
GH: No I didnâ€™t. But there are no rules. If it works, it works.
SB: When did you start to sing and play bass at the same time? Can you describe how you approached it, and how you overcame any difficulties?
GH: I had no ambition to be a lead singer to begin with. I started out as a backing vocalist, which gave me time to work out how to do it, without getting the full attention as a front man. When I switched to lead vocals, I was ready. But I never had any ambition to be a lead singer, people heard me sing, suggested I sing some more. It just happened!
SB: Do you still work on developing your chops, or do you mainly sit down to write and learn new material?
GH: I do practice scales, both as a bassist and a vocalist. Iâ€™ll always be a student. I use my iPod for practicing. I also listen look to other types of instrumentalists, like jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, for inspiration.
SB: You always seem to play what suits the song. Was there any period when you, in retrospect, feel that your playing was too busy?
GH: I donâ€™t think so. I know when to leave space. A lot of bass players want to be lead guitarists, if you know what I mean. I wonâ€™t mention names, but I think you know.
SB: What are your main strengths and weaknesss as a bass player?
GH: My strength is grooves. Also, being a former addict, Iâ€™m pretty fearless these days.
SB: Which singing bassists do you feel related to?
GH: Jack Bruce , whoâ€™s a good friend, has always been very inventive. And Paul McCartney, of course. I think itâ€™s wonderful the way he figured out bass parts when the song was almost finished, and how heâ€™s just kept going instead of looking back.
SB: Youâ€™ve played with quite a few different drummers, with very different styles. With whom do you feel most comfortable playing?
GH: Jason Bonham, of course. Chad Smith from The Red Hot Chili Peppers. And Steve Gadd. Theyâ€™re all different, but they bring out the best in me. Itâ€™s as important to listen as it is to play.
SB: Do you write songs on the bass?
GH: Sometimes. I wrote (Deep Purple classic) You Keep On Moving on the bass, obviously. Addiction as well. And Beggarman from the first Black Country Communion album.
SB: What equipment have you used over the years, and what are you using now?
GH: I donâ€™t think there have been any revolutionary changes when it comes to equipment for a bass player. I use the Ampeg SVT amp, and a Bill Nash 57 Precision relic bass . Bill is an American based in Australia. His basses sound as good as originals from the early Sixties. I also love the Fender Jazz Bass. I have one from 1963, and Iâ€™ve been playing Fender since 1968. For strings, I use Dâ€™addario. I like the sound thatâ€™s like a piano stringâ€¦rounder.
SB: Back in Purple, you were also famous for playing the Rickenbacker bass. But you stopped?
GH: I got tired of it. The Rick has personality and can be great for straight ahead rock, but it also has obvious limitations and donâ€™t really work for funky things. But most of all, itâ€™s the person whoâ€™s playing the instrument. Great players are usually easy to identify, regardless of instrument.
SB: Do you have any general advice for aspiring singing bassists?
GH: Practice as much as you can, play and sing at the same time, and remember that itâ€™s in the notes you donâ€™t play! Also, donâ€™t give up if itâ€™s difficult. When youâ€™ve mastered a new song that once seemed impossible, youâ€™ve reached the next level.
SB: Finally, some words on the second album by Black Country Communion. How do you think â€2â€ differs from the first one?
GH: Lyrically, itâ€™s a lot darker. I had a lot more time to write the songs. I tried to write songs about the dark times weâ€™re going through, but without losing the swagger. Everyboy in the band was invited to write, but Joe was busy with his solo career and I had the tim, so went for it. Iâ€™m very proud of the result. It was actually our producer Kevin Shirleyâ€™s idea for us to make two albums within a year, to have more material to choose from live, and itâ€™s working. We are recording a live DVD in July.
SB: A lot of super groups only last for an album and youâ€™ve already made two, with a DVD on the way. Have you taken any steps to avoid the usual mistakes people tend to make?
GH: We take time out to do stuff separately. And you need to understand that thereâ€™s a different energy in this band â€“ we actually enjoy each othersâ€™ company!
Anders Lundquist, Stockholm, 25 June 2011