Dubbed “the voice of rock” for his prodigious pipes, Hughes (formerly of Trapeze) was recruited by the “Smoke on the Water” warriors to replace the outgoing Roger Glover after 1973’s Who Do We Think We Are? David Coverdale—who would go on to form Whitesnake in the late ‘70s—also signed with Hughes, replacing DP vocalist Ian Gillan.
Together, Hughes and Coverdale would perpetuate Purple’s trademark sound (that inimitable mix of bravura vocals, Ritchie Blackmore’s grinding electric guitars, and Jon Lord’s lush Hammond organ) on the well-received albums Burn, Stormbringer, and Come Taste the Band, thereby ushering the influential English group into the decade of arena rock.
Hughes has encountered many ups and downs in the nearly fifty years since being drafted into DP: He struggled with (and overcame) serious substance abuse issues, cut a string of modestly successful solo albums (and put in guest appearances on dozens more), and survived into the new millennium to participate in all-star bands like Black Country Communion (with guitarist Joe Bonamassa), California Breed (with drummer Jason Bonham), and Kings of Chaos (with members of Guns ‘n’ Roses and The Cult).
Now the reliable rhythmist—fresh off a G3 Tour with Joe Satriani—is turning his attention back to the Burn era for a run of concert dates whereon he and a few talented cohorts will celebrate Classic Deep Purple Live.
They'll swing by Cleveland's House of Blues on Sunday, September 16.
We rang Hughes last week (on his birthday, no less) to talk about his tenure with DP—and his time singing and playing bass with top-notch guitarists and drummers in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and now. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was enthusiastic about recreating his Purple output on the road, but mostly he was just thankful to still be around to enjoy such opportunities with friends and fans.
AXS: Hi, Glenn! How are you? Happy birthday!
GLENN HUGHES: Thanks! How are you, mate? Thank you! It’s been a busy, but pretty normal birthday. Yesterday was the first day of rehearsal. I’m on my way there again now. Business is business, and I’m just so happy to still be doing what I’m doing. Really grateful!
AXS: The Classic Deep Purple Live tour starts soon. What made you decide now was the time for a strictly-Purple live show?
GH: I just…for a while I’ve been in a touring frame of mind. I’ve been searching through my heart, and now all that’s done. I’m feeling stronger than ever, mentally and physically, and I feel that the time is now to go out globally and do these songs while I still want to do them and still can do them. The audience is expecting a show with the songs they’ve wanted to hear, and I’m grateful to be able to deliver them!
AXS: Who will be in your road band? Rumor has it there are some heavy-hitters.
GH: A good question! A lot of people don’t know that when I decided to do this thing, this “Glenn Hughes Plays the Music of Deep Purple” thing, I wanted to have players who inherently understood these songs, how they sound, and how they should be performed. So I’m not bringing my normal touring band, the Glenn Hughes “solo touring band.” I’ve got Jeff Kollman on guitar. He’s an incredible guitar player. And he plays Stratocaster, which is important for the Deep Purple songs! Then on keyboards, there’s Mike Mangan, who plays with me. He’s a Hammond Organ specialist, and as you know, that’s what Jon Lord was with Deep Purple—and what the Purple sound is, to this day. So Mike honors the Jon Lord sound of Deep Purple, that symbolic organ sound. On drums, I have an incredible Brazilian drummer from Sao Paulo named Eduardo Baldos. He’s not so much a Jason Bonham-sounding drummer; I wanted more of a snare drum style. So he does that.
AXS: With such a wealth of solo material between your time with Purple and now, will you be mixing up the sets at all?
GH: You know, when I think about my career I think I’ve always kind of mixed it up. If you come to see Glenn Hughes, you’ll typically hear a bit of what I’m working on currently—in the solo aspect—and you’ll hear some of the Deep Purple. And that’s what I’ve been doing for so many of these years, in my sobriety. But this time it’s only going to be Glenn Hughes Performs “Classic Deep Purple Live,” to honor the music I helped architect all those years ago.
AXS: You’ve worked with some of rock’s greatest guitarists over the years, from Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple and Tony Iommi in Black Sabbath to Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) and Joe Satriani, on his most recent album and tour. You’ve also played with John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What’s it like to fraternize with these terrific instrumentalists?
GH: Oh, it’s great. It’s tremendous. I’ve been blessed to play with some of the great guitar players, like the ones you mentioned. And of course you throw Joe Bonamassa in there, and Pat Thrall. It’s incredible to have these people as my friends and family. They’re each different in their own style and persona and character, and that’s a beautiful thing! So each time I get to work with them, it’s like working with them again for the first time. So I’m always happy about that.
AXS: It was great seeing you on Satriani’s latest G3 Tour, and it was a treat when they had you out to sing “Highway Star” during the encore jam. Will you be working again with either of the Joes—Satriani or Bonamassa—or with Chad Smith (drummer from Red Hot Chili Peppers) in the near future?
GH: They invited me out for G3, so of course I said yes! I can tell you matter-of-factly that Joe Satriani and I are already set to make a record for 2020. A vocal album. I’m hoping Chad will play drums again. Hopefully, that’ll happen. And with Bonamassa there are always windows opening to do another album with him and Black Country Communion. Although now that window won’t open again until late 2020 since my schedule’s getting full for this year and next! And regarding a solo album, I think I’ll wait a couple more years before doing another one. I’m so damn busy, yet I have to say I’m grateful for it!
AXS: You’re known as the “voice of rock,” but you’re also a highly-regarded bassist. Who were some of your bass influences? I imagine Paul McCartney must’ve had an impact.
GH: Yes, McCartney! Then there came James Jamerson, who is no longer with us. He played on more R&B singles than any other bassist in history. I think his style really defined the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when I was listening to R&B. He fused that style with rock, and I really took that on board. And then there’s Andy Fraser from the band Free. He was a dear friend of mine, and in my opinion was probably the greatest white bassist I’ve ever heard! He was a huge influence on me, and a dear friend before he passed away. We spent a lot of time together, and I miss him terribly. But those would be my three: Paul McCartney, James Jamerson, and Andy Fraser.
AXS: What was it like being inducted into the Rock Hall with Deep Purple?
GH: Induction into the Hall of Fame is something that not many artists get. A lot of bands as you know—my friends—aren’t in the Hall of Fame, but you hope they will get in sooner or later! It’s all a matter of timing and albums sold and blah-blah-blah! Oh, you just never know! But when David and I were included in the Deep Purple for induction, it was an honor to be there in Brooklyn. It was a great evening. And I’m an ambassador at the Hall of Fame, too, so I get to go back to Cleveland a lot. I get to be there next month! I go to the Hall of Fame twice a year to work with them on charitable causes and to help with whatever else they might need from me. So I’m looking forward to getting back!