Following the release of Afterglow back in 2012 Black Country Communion seemed to call it a day, much to the sadness of the band’s fans and the rock world.
Fast forward to 2016 and a chance meeting between Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa post-Deep Purple’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a possible BCC reunion was back on the cards. Subsequently, this resulted in the band heading back into the studio earlier this year along with their long time producer Kevin Shirley to record a brand new album.
BCCIV has resurrected Black Country Communion, breathing a new lease of life into this much celebrated super group. With this release, the band have produced arguably their strongest studio album to date and one of the standout rock albums of 2017.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Glenn Hughes to talk about the writing and recording of BCCIV, the band’s forthcoming UK shows and what the future holds for Black Country Communion.
NRR: Obviously, BCCIV is going to be released on September 22nd via Mascot Label Group. I was just wondering following the release of Afterglow back in 2013, it seemed that Black Country Communion was all but over. At that point did you ever think you would make another Black Country Communion album again?
Glenn: Oh god, that’s a strange one, because at that time in mid-August or mid-September of 2012, when I realised that there would be no tour – only one show in Wolverhampton, I asked myself the question can I continue to do this without any tour schedules? Nobody I know would say yes – I can continue to write these albums, but not to tour would be kind of stupid. So I needed to step away from the vehicle, I did and then we all stepped away from the vehicle.
There was never any aggression from anybody, there was never any …you know there may have been a few stupid comments on Twitter, but there was never any falling out between any of us. Over the course of the last four or five years, we’ve obviously bonded and about fifteen months ago Joe and I got together to talk about a reunion.
NRR: Like you said there, around that time one of your frustrations was with regards to the other band member’s commitment towards a proper touring schedule. Do you feel that things have changed this time around, is everyone committed to the long term success of the project?
Glenn: I don’t know, I say that obviously, you can hear my voice. When I say I don’t know, I really mean I honestly don’t know. There’s three shows that are booked right now – Wolves Civic Jan 2nd, Hammersmith Apollo Jan 4th and the Blues Cruise at the end of February in America. After that, I’m kind of still waiting on what the plans are for next year, as I’ve got my career to do too you know and Joe’s got his career and Jason’s got the Led Zepp Experience and Derek’s got his band, you know a new band. So truly, I’m really waiting to find out what is going on.
I’ve been so damned busy these last couple of months, just finished up obviously the Black Country Communion promo. So everybody asks me this question, you can imagine everybody asks me – this guy Glenn Hughes. They don’t get to talk to Joe and Derek and Jason and ask that question because I’m the one that does the interviews.
I just need you to know that this band is a very, very special band and this band would be fantastic on the road and if that happens it will be great, if it doesn’t happen please don’t shoot me (laughing).
NRR: You just mentioned there, obviously on the point of touring, you’ve got two exclusive European shows coming up at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on the 2nd Jan and London Hammersmith Apollo on the 4th Jan. Obviously, with both yourself and Jason having your roots in the Midlands how does it feel to be taking the band back home again?
Glenn: Well it’s where we started, the first ever show was in the Civic Hall and it’s where my career started in the late 60’s at the Civic Hall complex – you know there’s three venues in there. It’s where it started for me and John Bonham, it’s kind of where it started for him too, and of course, Jason is the son of John.
In the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, Jason and I are honorary citizens of Wolverhampton as Black Country guys you know. So for me it’s the epicentre of where we are as a band is in that venue, and it’s only correct to play in that venue. The first show six or seven years ago was in the Civic Hall and it would be appropriate to start here again.
NRR: With four albums under your belt now obviously it’s going to be a lot harder to pick a set list. How much do you think of the new material you will be including in your live performance on the forthcoming tour?
Glenn: Oh I would think quite a bit. We haven’t discussed the show yet, but you know you can imagine these songs sound like they should be played live. So the great news is for everyone is that we’ve got four albums to choose from and there are classic songs from the past, but I think on this album I think we all feel that this album could be our favourite. So I can count five or six songs that could possibly be played on this show. So yeah, wait and see, but you know it’s all going to be very apparent when we walk on the stage at the Civic Hall.
NRR: I only just got to hear the new album for the first time at the weekend and I have to say it’s the best album I’ve heard in a very long time. Listening to the album it’s obviously got a very distinctively classic rock sound which highlights both the musical heritage of the band members but whilst at the same time it’s still got a bit of a contemporary twist – it’s a real melting pot of sounds and influences.
Glenn: Thank you.
NRR: When you went into the studio and you regrouped, did you know exactly how you wanted it to sound and the direction you were going with the record or it did it just come together organically?
Glenn: The four members of the band and Kevin Shirley, we know who we are, we know what we should sound like. We don’t want to detour the band and go a different direction, it would be inappropriate at this point. So when Joe and I wrote this album at my house, we had a distinct feeling of where we should go musically and we just stayed in the same ballpark as the first three albums you know. So it’s not that much different.
You know when you have something that is successful with a band and it’s ticked all of the boxes, it would be ridiculous to do something completely in another genre at this point. The album was written 11 days in a row in my home and each song is a different topic and I think Joe and I probably wrote the best record we’ve done in a long time.
NRR: Having been fundamental in getting the group together and also having produced the band’s previous albums Kevin Shirley returned to the helm again for this record. I just wondered what was it like working with Kevin and what does he bring to the table?
Glenn: Every record I’ve done with Kevin is different. He is a really good monitor of what we are and how we should be. He doesn’t sit in the control room, he sits in the studio room with us and he sits like he’s directing the traffic you know, it’s like he’s part of it.
This one was written well before we went in the studio, so everybody was learning their parts and everything kind of went like the demos that Joe and I wrote. We kind of duplicated the demos with Jason and Derek, so the songs sound like they were written at my home, they sound very similar. You know the arrangements of the songs are exactly like the demos and it kind of works that way. We didn’t think of …we need a 2 minutes and 25 second song for radio, we didn’t think we need an 8 minute song for a deep cut, we didn’t think that – we just made a record because simply we just felt that we needed to make a record that was a very soulful rock record.
NRR: I understand that you wrote the lead track “Collide” on the first morning of the sessions for the album.
NRR: Obviously, it’s a stunning track and it’s getting some great airplay here in the UK thanks to the likes of Planet Rock. I believe it was a very quick write in that you finished the song by lunch on the first day.
Glenn: It was, Joe was coming over to my house and you know we didn’t have anything written and that was the way we wanted it. We wanted to come together with like no kind of music, but it just so happened that morning he came over I had this (sings riff from the song), I had that riff you know.
I played him the riff when he walked in, he plugged in his Les Paul in and I played him the riff and we just wrote the song, it took 10 mins. When I work with Joe things just take 10 minutes. You know we are on the same page because he’s the blues guy and I’m like the rock and soul guy and when you mix that shit together; when you mix Joe’s vibe together with what I bring and Jason and Derek you’ve got that …it sounds like Black Country Communion.
NRR: Upon the completion of that first song “Collide”, did that give you a good feeling about where the rest of the album was going from the beginning?
Glenn: Yeah, you know with that song and I wasn’t sure if that song would be the first song on the album, I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t thinking about that, we just kept writing you know. On the first day, we wrote “Collide” and we wrote “Wanderlust” and we wrote …I had this “Over My Head” song, this idea you know. Those were the first three songs we wrote on the first day.
We knew on day two, when we started to write “Sway” we knew we were gonna have a great album, we just knew it on day 2 when we started to write that really nasty groove on “Sway”.
So, and like I said you know, I could see the excitement in Joe’s eyes when he walked up the stairs to my studio, I knew he was ready to go. It’s not like he wasn’t ready to go on the first three albums, his excitement and his exuberance brought a lot of love into my house. A lot of music has been written in this particular house you know. About six or seven solo albums have been written here, all of Black Country has been written here – all four albums. Joe calls it the magic place, so that will be it you know.
NRR: One of the questions I was going to ask you was about the artwork for the album because I noticed that it illustrates a Phoenix rising from the flames. I was just wondering was that a conscious decision to depict the regeneration or the rebirth of the band on the album cover?
: Yes it does, you know when I was sent the artwork, they sent me two different things to choose from and one was cool and the second one with the burning Phoenix rising from the flames, actually rising out of the fire and the crow was obviously above it symbolised exactly what it is really, it’s really what it is.
Who would have thought this band would make another record. I don’t know, it’s like I think a lot of people thought oh wow that was a great moment for us, thank God we’ve heard some new music by Black Country. But you know five years later we’re back with another record. As I’ve said before Adam, this band is all about the music, all about the albums we’ve made you know. What I would love to tell you is more about what we are doing live, but I know just what you know – there’s three shows booked and hopefully, there will be more.
NRR: There is one track which I would like to talk to you in particular about on the album, which is “Love Remains”. Obviously, it’s a very special song for you and your family. When you were putting that song down, obviously due to the context of the song did you find it to be therapeutic at all?
Glenn: I’ve never said this in an interview before. When my dad passed away I was at the Hall of Fame getting inducted with Deep Purple and it was difficult to stand on that stage knowing that my dad was very ill and he died right after I had come off the stage. So when I flew over to do his memorial for him, I wrote the chorus of the song, I wrote that for him and I was going to sing it in church. When I got there I was so overcome with emotion that mum thought it best to, you know you don’t have to sing honey, everybody knows you can sing, maybe you should just read it.
So when Joe came over to my house on day 3, I played him the chorus and then we finished the song around the chorus. It’s one of those songs for me that not only did I write it for my dad, I got to sing it after my mother had passed away as well, so it’s a double meaning you know.
For those people that are hearing or reading this that have lost family members, it’s a difficult time for people and people need to love each other because we are on this planet for such a short period, so you know so many deaths we hear about these days.
Listen man, I just want to let you know that I am the guy that brings love to the music and that’s what I’ve done on this album. I’ve given it everything I had and Joe also, we stood together up in my room and we locked arms like never before and long may that continue.
NRR: There’s another track on the record which stands out as being a little bit different and that’s “The Last Song For My Resting Place”, which you know it’s got a bit of a Celtic sound with the violins and everything.
Glenn: You know I had no idea – I was over in the UK with mom and they were finishing that song, and I wasn’t there when they put the fiddle on it. I didn’t know they were going to put a fiddle on it.
The thing about that song, when Joe came over to my house with that song, it’s in two parts, you know it’s got the mandolin at the start and the end. I’m going this is really, really cool you know.
The song is about the head of the Titanic, the orchestra, he was the last man to go down with the Captain … It’s really a song about a violin, you would expect a violin on the song. But it’s a very unique Joe song, it’s obviously …you know when the song starts, you know it’s going to be Joe singing it. Every song Joe’s done, on like every vocal that he’s done on a Black Country album like “Song of Yesterday” or “Hadrian’s Wall”, “Ordinary Son” you know it’s like and this one you know it’s a Joe thing and it sounds fantastic, it sounds like Black Country Communion.
NRR: I noticed that you are also going to be touring out in Australia and New Zealand with your solo band and you are going to be playing Classic Deep Purple. I was just wondering do you have any plans to bring that sort of tour to the UK at any point in the future?
Glenn: Well, you know the time for that is now for me. As you may know Adam, Jon Lord and David Coverdale and myself tried to get it together six years ago and we couldn’t get Richie on the phone and blah, blah, blah.
Then you know it’s like …things have been – David did his Purple album and Richie is doing the Blackmore thing and Deep Purple would appear on their last tour. So I thought to myself, it would be the appropriate time now while my voice is in top shape and I’m spiritually in a great place and my hair is longer (laughing), it would probably be the right time for me to go out and do a celebration of the songs I did with Purple, so it will be interesting. I really hope that this tour can make it to the UK, I hope this tour can make it globally.
NRR: Obviously, now that Black Country Communion has got four albums under their belt, it’s proven that the project has longevity, it’s not just a flash in the pan, overnight success super group. What do you think the future holds for the band?
Glenn: I don’t know, all I know is that we make great records, and I’m not being funny, you know that’s a fact. We make great music together, the fact of the matter is, all I know is that we got together, we made this album and let’s just see what happens next.
All I know is that I’m the spokesperson for this band, I’m the only one that does interviews. I love the fans, I love the members of this band and Kevin Shirley. I will continue my musical adventures as I move forward in my life, I would really hope that Black Country Communion could be part of that adventure for me. So let’s just see what happens and hopefully, we will all get our wishes.
NRR: Thank you so much once again for taking the time to speak to us Glenn it’s always a pleasure. Good luck with the album and the touring and we look forward to seeing you over here again very soon.
Glenn: Thank you.
BCCIV will be released on 22nd September via Mascot Label Group. The band will be performing two exclusive UK shows next year in support of the album. Black Country Communion will be calling in at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on January 2nd and London’s Eventim Apollo on January 4th. Further info: www.bccommunion.com
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Photo: Christie Goodwin