You Are the Music, We’re Just the Band: A Conversation with Glenn Hughes

Glenn Hughes

Staffordshire native Glenn Hughes may be best known for his tenures in Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, but he was touring Texas as the singer and bassist of the trio Trapeze by age 20. Robin Sinhababu spoke with him just after he’d landed in Austin for his performance today, June 10th with the supergroup Kings of Chaos.

Glenn Hughes: Just so you know, Texas is my heartbeat. It’s a real big thing for me, being here.

Robin Sinhababu for Ovrld: Texas is your heartbeat?

GH: My first band, Trapeze – before Deep Purple – we’re basically British, as you can hear, my accent is British – we had tremendous success in the Yellow Rose state. I mean, Trapeze were teenagers, and we came over here playing to five people a night. And when I left the band in ’73, we were doing arenas in Texas. It was – basically, the reason I’m talking to you right now is because of the grand glorious state that I’m standing in, which is Texas. And I want to thank all Texans for the love and support of rock music.

Ovrld: When Trapeze played here, who was touring with you?

GH: A band called Marshall Tucker opened for us. They opened on a few shows. And a bunch of local – we co-headlined stuff with ZZ Top, my friend Billy Gibbons, his band of course. So it was pretty much Southern rock music playing, we had a Southern rock thing happening. Again, although we were all British, we wanted to have bands from the South playing with us – it was a huge thing for me. And then I joined Deep Purple, and the rest is history.

Trapeze Marshall Tucker Band

Ovrld: Do you remember which cities in Texas you’d played back then?

GH: Oh, my God. Austin, Dallas, San Antonio. San Angelo.

Ovrld: You played San Angelo with Trapeze?

GH: Yeah! And Odessa. Places a lot of people don’t go to. We played – of course, Houston, obviously, the big four – Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio. The big markets. But we played the smaller towns. We basically toured Texas for a whole year. It can be done. And back in the 70’s, those kinds of things were happening.

Ovrld: Either that year in Texas, or back in England before you came over, did you ever play house shows?

GH: Yeah. As a teenager, to come over here and to play to five people was normal. I mean, I’m friends with Sting, and he tells the same story of the Police opening, playing to five or six people. And three of those were bartenders. So it’s the normal attitude, when you’re a teenager: you want to break out your guitar, get on stage, and just play. So, to play to house parties, or to play private parties, or barbecues, was a normal thing. And you just keep your head down, and you keep going and going, and if you’re lucky and you’ve got the right ingredients, you just stick with it and you’ll get there.

I’ve got to be honest with you – I live in Los Angeles, but every time I come through Texas, I get a flutter in my chest. It means so much to me. It was the glory time for me, and I’ve carried that with me my whole career. People ask me, “Where did it all start?” “Well, it started in Texas!”

Ovrld: Have you ever thought to live down here?

GH: I did live here on and off in 1971, 1972. We based ourselves in Dallas. It was great – I mean, we were sleeping on people’s floors and stuff, as you did when you were kids; I think everybody needs to do that. When you’re picking up a guitar when you’re 17 years old, you sleep on floors, you do whatever. You’ve got to have the ability to realize you’ve been given a gift and you’ll do anything. I slept with my guitar for two years – didn’t have a girlfriend, just slept with my guitar. For me, that’s part and parcel of why I’m still here – because I’ve devoted my entire life to music. I never really got into music for women, drugs, and drink – which of course, I did all three of those – but I got into music primarily because it was a gift freely given to me from a higher place, you know?

There’s nobody – and I know you interview a lot of people – but I don’t think you’ll interview a more grateful man than me this year. That’s probably taking the cake.

Ovrld: Well, I’m glad to be speaking with you, man. You seem psyched.

GH: I’m very, very psyched. You know, when I got off the plane here, I just felt I was home. Everybody’s so kind and sweet here, I just love it.

We’ve got a great song selection tomorrow night – every song we play, the audience will know. They’re hit songs! They’re hit songs from the bands we’ve played in; they are festival, arena songs.

Ovrld: What is it with hard rock and motorcycles?

GH: Oh, it’s just the power and the noise, and it’s the intensity, it’s the energy, it’s the push and pull, it’s the dopamine, it’s aggression, it’s no fear, it’s really a walk on the wild side. Or maybe it’s a ride on the wild side. Me being in Deep Purple, singing “Highway Star,” really does talk to bikers. When I sing that song, especially at festivals, if any bikers are there, they go crazy. So it’s going to be pretty interesting to see that.

It’s great to have Steve Stevens and Billy Duffy playing guitars with me on that song. It’s such an insanely – you want to talk about a motorcycle song, that’s got to be it. So it’s a thrill to sing it, and a thrill to perform it.

Ovrld: Is there a difference between the contemporary British and American hard rock movements, and audiences? Or has this music – be it Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and so on – been so thoroughly assimilated by now that tastes and influences are homogenous?

GH: Well, you know I was in Deep Purple, and I was actually in Black Sabbath for a year. And I say that with humility, but it’s something that I’m so proud of, to have been part of that movement in the ’70’s. There’s never going to be a decade like the ’70’s, I’m really sorry to say. Hence the record sales are down, hence the music industry is in the toilet. Thank God for the live music entertainment thing. As you know today, it’s all people singing to tracks, they’re miming, the DJ thing is happening – and there’s room enough for everybody in the music industry.

Ovrld: Well now, there’s great new rock bands, too.

GH: There’s great new rock bands. And I’m all about wanting to hear something that’s so uniquely new and fresh. But most of the stuff I hear, and I say this with all sincerity, it sounds to me like we’ve heard it before. So I love it when I hear something that is uniquely fresh and original. And long may that continue.

Ovrld: What’s something recent that’s struck that chord for you?

GH: You know, I live in L.A., and I’m really good friends with a younger band called Rival Sons. They’re kind of my neighbors where I live. I have a radio show in the U.K., and I played their single about 5-6 years ago, having no idea – I was at an awards show and they gave me their CD. I didn’t know anything about them. They looked like they were young rock kids. I played this song called “Pressure & Time,” I had no idea what it was going to be like, I just thought, these guys look like a rock band. I played that song and I went, “Here’s finally something that’s really talking to me.” It’s really rare that you hear something fresh these days.

Also, a guy called Reignwolf. His name is Jordan Cook, and he is absolutely un-frickin – he’s a one man band. He is unreal. I’m looking forward to doing some work with him later in the year. So those two acts, Reignwolf and Rival Sons to me, in the rock era, if you will, it sounds vintage but it’s fresh, and it’s fucking ready, and it’s rock.

Ovrld: Have you been following British election news the past couple days?

GH: Oh, yeah. Have I ever. It’s – I’m American now, but I’m still tied to Britain, so, it’s a real mess over there. It really is. We’re in desperate need right now, our whole planet – and I don’t want to get into what’s going on with our own government – but I look at what’s going on back home with the Brexit situation, and with what happened in Manchester and London last week, and how devastating it was, not just to England but to the global unity of our planet.

Ovrld: Were you surprised that Corbyn fared as well as he did?

GH: No, I wasn’t. Without going too deep into politics, Robin – I’m not saying I’m Conservative or Labour –

Ovrld: Or DUP!

GH: – I just want to say I had a bad feeling when Theresa May became Prime Minister. And I’m all for women becoming Presidents and Prime Ministers; I’m very pro-woman in politics. But I just had a bad feeling about it.

She’s the one that was pushing for the Brexit; Brexit’s not substantially good for entertainers, especially ones that live abroad. It’s really not been great. But we just have to carry on. There are so many more evil things going on in this world. We’re in such a state.

But the music will do all the talking! That’s why we’re here, and that’s why I’m still alive. I’ve always – I’ve been very, very lucky that I’ve always had a strong feeling for the human race and a love of music. I’ve never done it for the money, I’ve never done it for anything other than – I know it’s a gift. The gift has been freely given to me. Freely given! It’s been freely – and it can be taken away, at any moment. So I want to tell you that I really believe that I have been given a gift, and I love to give the gift back.

Ovrld: Well Glenn, this is great. I appreciate your time and your enthusiasm.

GH: You’re very welcome, Robin.