DATE OF INTERVIEW:
2nd April 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: Congratulations on the new album, it’s an immense piece of retro and modern rock…
GLENN: Thank you, man, thank you.
(Glenn Hughes on being labelled "The Voice of Rock")
"...I’m humbled and grateful to have been given that moniker. But, I’ll tell you what, it’s daunting because I’ve gotta be on my A game all the time."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official California Breed Website:
CALIFORNIA BREED DISCOGRAPHY
California Breed (2014)
After the untimely demise of Black Country Communion back in March 2013, following Joe Bonamassa's seemingly unamicable departure, hearsay and speculation pointed towards the three remaining members - Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian - continuing under a different moniker. That transpired not to be as, just a few months later, Bonamassa recruited Sherinian for keyboard duties in his solo band. However, the perennially prolific, creatively fervent, and ever determined Hughes is all set to return to the fore in 2014 with new hard rocking outfit California Breed. Reuniting the legendary vocalist/bassist with sticksman Bonham, as well as uber talented, 23 year old newcomer Andrew Watt on guitar, the trio's eponymously titled debut record, due for release mid-May, is a retro/modern rocker characterised by an intensity of raw, exhilarating energy. Ahead of the album's release, Glenn spoke to Metal Discovery over the phone from his London hotel about this exciting new venture...
California Breed - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Austyn Blaine
Official California Breed Facebook:
Thanks to Peter Noble for arranging the interview.
MD: How pleased are you with how it all turned out?
GLENN: You know, when we talk about doing retro, because I am from that period, it’s like, I know a lot of people want to be retro but it’s hard not to be retro when you’re from the sixties… [Laughs] So, what I’ve done in this particular band is that Jason and I have gone back to the roots of where we started. And, for me, that was a trio. I wanted to sound different to the last band I was in, but not having keyboards, and not having a guitar player that sounded quite like anyone I’ve worked with before… not knowing I was going to meet a young boy from New York City that plays ambiently and distorted guitar and feedback, kind of like some guy in the sixties, but he was born in 1991. So it’s kind of a weird tale but it’s an interesting one.
MD: So when Black Country Communion eventually wound down, did you have it in mind that you wanted to work with Jason again, in a new band?
GLENN: Oh yeah. The moment the band broke up… we knew that band was gonna break up for months before it, but it was one of those things where nobody would, like, say it’s over. And then it was over and I was in London; I went home with my wife to LA the next day… I needed to get away for the weekend and went down to Mexico. When I came back on Monday, I said I’m gonna call Jason and we were off to the races and, two months later, we have a new guitar player, introduced to me by Julian Lennon. Julian sings on the last track on the album too, so I want to thank Julian because he’s an old friend, and in walks Andrew Watt, you know, and he’s untapped; new. That’s why I didn’t tell you last year, whilst we were making this music, that there was an unknown dude, because everybody was expecting me to come and say it was gonna be X, Y or Z; people that we know, you know. But I think it’s really cool to break the barrier down, and be brave, and work with somebody that’s new, exhilarating, exuberant and vibrant.
MD: Yeah, and particularly so talented too. You’ve described him as looking like “the white Jimi Hendrix”, and his style of playing, with so much genuine feeling and raw energy, actually reminds me a bit of Hendrix…
GLENN: Well, you know, he really doesn’t play like Jimi, but Andrew’s a hippy. Although he was born in New York City, in Manhattan, his father may have been a hippy but Andrew wears the hat, and the frilly jackets, and he’s a kid, you know, he’s twenty three. And when we play the music, I don’t think you can hear a generational gap; I don’t think you can hear three generations. But when I’m actually with him, in the daytime, he could be my son. He’s surrounded by young kids and is a techno-freak, so, it’s like, I’m actually having to deal with kind of working with someone who could be my son and helping him. And he helps me. Everybody’s my teacher and I’m theirs.
MD: I gather you wrote a couple of songs together on the first day you met each other so was there an instant chemistry between you, and a realisation that you had something special right from the start?
GLENN: Yeah. He flew to my home from New York, the first week of March, on a Tuesday; we went into my studio room upstairs in my house at one o’clock, and we came out at five with two complete songs, lyrically, and melodies and music written, and demoed. Just the two of us, you know. I snuck out into the garden with my dogs and I called Jason; I said, “hey, where are you?”… because he lives in Florida. He said, “I’m actually in LA”; I said, “oh my god, what are you doing tomorrow?” He said, “I’m actually free”; I said, “well, do me a favour, I know you trust me, I’m, gonna book a studio in Burbank, and I would love you to show up at noon.” And, for the first time I’ve ever known Jason, he showed up on time, and he kind of trusted what I was bringing to him.
You know, I always say there’s no mistakes in god’s world; I’m wise enough and old enough to keep my ears and eyes open to the whole world and, sure enough, when Andrew, Jason and I started to play these songs that we wrote, the bells went off; green flags went off! For me, it was a sensitive moment. For Andrew, he was tearful, and happy, and sad, and crazy, and half flying everywhere; and, for me, I’m going, “this is kinda cool.” And Jason felt the same way. So we kept it secret because I didn’t want to have any… you see, I’m really protective of the boys, so I didn’t want anyone to knock something they haven’t heard. And you’ve heard the record so, when people hear it, they won’t be going, “why didn’t they get Zakk Wylde?” Because Zakk’s my friend, you know, and has got a career. But I think we did the right thing.
MD: Definitely, and the proof’s in the recordings. Did you have a particular musical vision for how you wanted the band to sound, or did it evolve more naturally and shape itself through the songwriting sessions and jams you had?
GLENN: We wrote in California a lot; Jason came to us and we went to his studio in Florida. We split it between California and Florida and, you know, the name of the band came about… we’d spent months and then Andrew said: “Why don’t you look at your book of lyrics? Maybe there’s a title there.” And I looked at all the lyrics and “California Breed” I wrote, and “California Breed acceleration” is about a chick that moves fast, and it’s in a song called ‘Solo’. And I said to the guys, “so, what about California Breed?”; and they went, “oh, that’s interesting.” And, of course, everybody had different ideas of what California meant to them. California, to Andrew, meant young, hot birds. California, to me, means my home state. Breed, for me, is brotherhood… because I don’t have any brothers or sisters in real life and, every band I’ve ever been in, I’ve always been the one, funny enough, even drunk or fucked up or whatever, I’ve been the one to try and motivate people in a friendly way. So, here we are again, in this new band, with three generations of people.
MD: It’s got more of a ring to it than Wolverhampton Breed!
GLENN: You know, I could’ve written New York Breed and it probably would’ve been that, but not just because I’m from California we’ve called it, because Glenn’s from California… because Glenn was from The Black Country. But I’ve been in California for forty one years, and I spend more time in America than I ever have in England.
MD: You’ve described the album yourself as “proper rock” but also “very now”, so would you say that contrast was born naturally from your rock heritage and having Andrew’s more youthful energy?
GLENN: Well, I think what we did, we successfully chose the right producer. Dave Cobb, in Nashville, was waiting for us to come there, and we recorded onto 2-inch tape, and with a Helios console like Zeppelin did. Everything we recorded on was from the 1960s; everything from guitars to amps to pedals to mics… we really, really visited the roots of where we started. I mean, I’m a sixties dude, so we weren’t afraid to be psychedelic because I am! [Laughs] We weren’t afraid to be soulful because we are, and we weren’t afraid to be really hard rock driven because we are. And every whisper, grunt, groan, tear, laugh, wild noise on the album is completely live.
MD: Yeah, I was going to say that the album’s got a really natural sounding jam vibe…
MD: Because you’ve been playing with Jason for a few years now, do you find you have a more instinctive awareness these days of how you gel together as musicians?
GLENN: We’ve know each other since he was eighteen months old so I’ve known Jason before he remembered me, because I was a good friend of his father’s. I used to spend the night at John’s and wake up and hear… I thought it was John playing drums downstairs but it was actually eighteen month old Jason banging around on the old drums. So I’ve known him all his life, so I kind of feel, without freaking anybody out, I kind of feel like I’m responsible for him in a way, musically as well as personally. You know, a kind of big brother thing going on. So Jason and I are really close, private people but we have a really good friendship.
MD: You’re quoted in press blurb as saying that Andrew “plays in the studio like he’s onstage.”
GLENN: Yeah, he does.
MD: The music has such a raw energy to it so did you feed off each other’s energy while making the album?
GLENN: Completely. It was weird because I wasn’t playing bass when we recorded the album. I was actually singing and I was singing in a vocal booth and he was playing in another room because everything has separation, because we didn’t want anything to bleed into the drums. So I could see him and he could see me and I could see Jason, but we were all through glass. But it was exceptional because it was all live. Everything was live.
MD: I also read in the press blurb that Dave Cobb insisted you record your vocals live?
GLENN: Well, he didn’t insist, he sort of coaxed me in there, and he said, “just go and have some fun.” He said, “just try it.” But anybody asks me to try it if I trust them. If I’m gonna actually employ you to produce me or drive the car, then I’m gonna trust you to suggest to me something that might make me or us better than we were five minutes ago. You have to be fearless and I said to Dave, “are you fearless?”; he said, “absolutely”; I said, “you got it!”
MD: Did you have any apprehensions about recording in that way?
GLENN: I did not. I wanted to be in Nashville and I wanted to be in the studio I’d Googled and found who’d recorded a lot of my friends. And Vance Powell, Jack White’s engineer, who’s got Grammys for working with The Raconteurs, mixed the album. When I break away from a band… I go a different route. I never make the same album twice; I never make the same noise twice.
MD: The album artwork’s pretty abstract, I have to say, so is it supposed to represent anything in particular?
GLENN: It’s the eye… for me, it’s the logo. It’s the eye looking over us, and it’s spectacular for me, coming from the last logo of Black Country which is dark, and industrial, and cold… now, you’ve got white with purples and magentas and greens and orange. It’s a whole other episode.
MD: The colours of California!
MD: You’ve been quoted as saying, “I live in the moment, it’s all about now”, but do you see much of a future for Califiornia Breed in terms of further albums, or is it too early to say?
GLENN: You know, it would be really silly, because I’ve said this before with other bands I’ve been in… it’s like, you can’t expect so much because expectations are resentments under construction. So, all I’ll say to you today, we are planning to tour in late September/October in Europe. What I try not to discuss is too much in the future because if we expect so much and then, if it doesn’t happen, we are so let down. And I don’t want to let anybody down because I think a lot of Black Country fans were let down because there was no touring, and what I don’t want to happen again is to say this, because I’m the one in the firing line; I’m the one who does the press, so I don’t want to say something’s gonna happen and it doesn’t. But the album is coming May 19th and there’s a few videos coming out. I’m scouring Europe doing all the press, and TV, and doing everything I can to make this thing float.
MD: Black Country Communion were frequently labelled in the press as a supergroup, so does it feel good to be free of that tag now?
GLENN: Yeah. Supergroup was something I was never happy with, with anything I’ve ever been in. I mean, Deep Purple was the new supergroup with me and Coverdale. It’s like, you know, I’ve been offered to join another supergroup in the last year and I declined. I make music for the moment and, hopefully, it ticks the boxes for other people. I write about the human condition; I don’t write about fairies and goblins. So I write about celebrating life and death, and what goes on in-between.
MD: You’re nicknamed “The Voice of Rock” so is that a moniker you feel you always have to live up to in every new venture you undertake?
GLENN: It’s something that started when I did KLF in 1991. They called me “The Voice of Rock”; it says on the record, “The Voice of Rock”, so it started with them and it’s sort of still here, and I’m humbled and grateful to have been given that moniker. But, I’ll tell you what, it’s daunting because I’ve gotta be on my A game all the time.
MD: Well, you’re definitely on your A game on this new album because it’s an awesome vocal performance, so you’re still “The Voice of Rock”!
GLENN: Thank you, man.
MD: The final thing I want to ask is a hypothetical question. What would you rather see happen - Wolves winning the FA Cup next season or California Breed getting to number one in the UK albums chart?
GLENN: Erm… I think both!
MD: If you could only have one…
GLENN: California Breed, of course. It’s my life, you know. I used to be a pretty good soccer player when I was younger but I can’t kick a ball anymore… so let’s go for California Breed! [Laughs]
MD: Marvellous, good answer!
GLENN: Thank you, man.
MD: Thank you so much for your time, and best of luck with the album when it comes out.
GLENN: Thanks, man.
California Breed’s self-titled debut album is released in the UK on May 19th by Frontiers Records. Further info: