Think of California and you think of brilliant colour and bright sunlight. Think of a breed and it’s all about bloodlines and brotherhood. Put the two together as California Breed and you have the most exciting new band of 2014 — California Breed! At it’s core is the legendary Glenn Hughes. Hughes is an artist who has spent the subsequent years working with the biggest legends in music, as a solo star, and guesting with everyone from Black Sabbath to Earth, Wind & Fire – up to his most recent collaboration in rock supergroup Black Country Communion. When Black Country Communion disbanded Hughes and Jason Bonham had a strong desire to keep playing together. They’re only challenge was finding a new guitarist worthy of their musicality. Easier said than done for these stars who between them have worked with some of the greatest guitarists in history – including Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page and Joe Bonamassa, to name just a few. Then fate took a hand in things when Glenn’s friend Julian Lennon introduced him to the astounding talents of a New York City hotshot guitarist named Andrew Watt. Recording with Dave Cobb at the producer’s own studio in Nashville, they were able to capture a breathtaking range of sounds and melodies, typically unheard of for a three-piece. Even though the band is multi-generational, they clearly have no issues speaking the same musical language had have formed a uncompromising collection of 13 songs that simple dazzle and will surely serve as the next exciting music chapter in their ever-growing musical legacies. Jason Price of Icon vs. Icon recently caught up with the legendary Glenn Hughes to discusses his deep-rooted love of music, the creation of California Breed, the challenges of bringing their debut album to life and more!
I always like to go back to the beginning to give your readers a look at what helped to shape an artist. What are your earliest musical memories?
I grew up in a house that was booming with Frank Sinatra. My Mom and Dad were not musicians but really had great voices and still do. I grew up listening to radio. Funny enough, I grew up in the Elvis period but it didn’t strike a chord with me. Frank Sinatra’s voice, even when I was a very young man, still a boy really, had an incredibly melodic feel to it. That was the first thing to really affect me. I was named after Glenn Miller, the famous trombone player that died in the Second World War when his plane went down. I actually played trombone in the school orchestra. There was no mistaking what I was supposed to be doing!
Was there a particular catalyst that made you pursue your passion as a career?
Of course! When I was eleven years old, I switched the TV on during the black and white period back in 1962 or 1963. There was a kid’s show on at 5 o’clock and I saw The Beatles. They were singing “Twist and Shout.” I said, “I’ll have some of that please!” Six or nine months later, my Mom bought me a new guitar for Christmas. It was very cheap and inexpensive wood with no designer name to it. I learned to play when I was thirteen or fourteen. I figured my way around the guitar and had lessons for about three months and I was on my way! I befriended Ringo Starr and John Lennon, well before he died, and told them my story. How many musicians have told The Beatles that? If you were a kid growing up in the north of England in the 1960s, you had to be a Beatles fan or a Rolling Stones fan, so it was The Beatles that got me started.
Obviously, you have accomplished quite a lot in your career. What is it that has fueled your creative fire through the years?
Everybody knows that I sing and play bass but as I have gotten older and wiser, I have more stories of real life to tell you about. With that said, the ability to be as songwriter is something I truly enjoy. I enjoy picking a guitar up, recording that song and then giving it back to the fans. Songwriting is really the key for me.
California Breed is your latest project. You are coming off the heels of Black Country Communion but what really got this project up and running?
When Black Country Communion broke up in September of 2012, it was kind of a private disbanding. It wasn’t made public until the spring of 2013. Jason [Bonham] and I decided we would continue playing together but not under the umbrella of Black Country Communion Part 2. We wanted to go back to an organic feel of more British Rock based guitar, bass and drums. We wanted to strip away the keyboards. When you have three guys playing, when one of you over play, the other two under play and that is the way it is. That’s the way it is. That really only happens successfully in trios. Jason and I were certain we would play together in a trio but the question was “Who will play guitar?” Everybody is going to think “Why didn’t they go with somebody who is famous?” We could have chosen someone who is famous, one of our friends, but they have their own bands and successful careers and it would be hard for us to tour with those guys. Low and behold, my friend Julian Lennon had a party the night before the Grammys in 2013. He introduced me to Andrew Watt and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history!
Both Jason and Andrew are hugely talented. What do these guys bring to the project?
The one thing I expressed to Jason, even on the last two Black Country Communion albums, was that I really wanted him to push more as a songwriter. We all know he can play drums but what I want people to know is that he has a good voice and he is a really good songwriter. I think he was really happy to complete “Save Me” on Black Country’s “2” album, which is a really great song. On this album, I would write a song and then Andrew would finish it and Jason would finish our songs. What I really wanted with this band was for it to be collaborative. I think all the bands we all like are all collaborative effort. I think when you have three or four guys writing together or finishing each other’s songs, it really means something to the development of the band and to the songs.
I couldn’t agree with you more. How did the name California Breed come about?
I will tell you, man. From last April until last September, we were really trying to come up with a cool name. At the last minute, I went into my lyric book to look for a line or a word from a song for something to pop out. In the song “Solo,” which is a bonus track for Japan, I wrote the line “A California breed acceleration…,” which means a fast moving person. I thought, “California Breed?” I wanted California to be in the title and Breed means fellowship and brotherhood to me, which we are. Every band I am in, I like to think we are a family. Me being an only child, I have always liked to honor brothers. That is where it came from!
Did you have any goals or expectations in mind for this project as you started out?
Ya know, man, I have to tell you, expectations are resentments under construction. Generally, when humans have expectations… let’s just say someone wants you to have a number one album and it doesn’t even get into the Top Ten, it is a bitter blow to one’s pride. The only thing I know is that we made a great album, we are promoting the album, we are going to tour on the album the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history. I really believe in karma and fate. Listen, man! When people listen to this album, I don’t think they are going to say “Which one of those guys is sixty and which one is twenty?” I don’t think you are going to hear that. I don’t think we set out to make a three generational album. I don’t think you can hear which one of us is twenty, forty or sixty. That is the great thing about the very spontaneous recording of these songs. They were chiseled out and recorded very quickly in a very live environment.
Did you approach the songwriting in a different way for this album?
No. With Black Country, I did write a lot of it because Joe [Bonamassa] didn’t’ particularly want to write. I live in Los Angeles, Andrew is in New York and Jason lives in Florida. We all got together at my place or Jason’s place. I would write one of the songs like “Sweet Tea” or “Breathe” and then I would have Andrew finish it for me, He would do the same with me and Jason would finish both of ours. Like I said, I just really wanted to be collaborative. The bands I really love are very collaborative like Led Zeppelin or The Beatles. Even though Lennon and McCartney did write a lot of their songs, The Beatles were very collaborative in the arrangements and that is what you can hear with California Breed. I think that is the difference between our band and Black Country Communion. Also, Doug Kope being the producer on this, he brought a lot of his own vibe to this. Very early on with him, I think it was the night before, we were having dinner at the hotel and I said “Have you any fear doing this?” He said, “I have no fear?” I said, “Then drive the car, man!” Human beings; we are driven by fear. We are driven by a hundred forms of fear. There is actually no fear at all. There is no judgment day on our planet. We don’t know when we are going to die, when we going to have a car crash or whatever. Fear is “Fuck everything and run!” Isn’t it? There is false evidence that fear is real. There is no fear with this project and it is a very fearless album. I talk about fear a lot because fear gets in the way of a lot of things. Listen man, on stage, I am kind of a klutz. I man fall down or something but that is just the way. However, when I am in front of that microphone or have the bass or acoustic guitar on me in studio or on stage, I have to be fearless. Fear can stop a lot of things, man. It really can! People ask me about when I was on drugs. Yeah, it numbed me and I would numb myself because I was in fear. I really admire people who can be fearless in every art form, whether it is music, sport, architectural or whatever else they do in their life. You can see it, man! I think the older and wiser I become, the more I understand about the great out there, the universe and how this is done. I really have no fear and I am full of faith!
How has that affected your evolution as an artist through the years?
I have no resentments. People might say “Why do you say you have no expectations? Surely you expect this album to sell a million copies?” Nope. If I have an expectation, it is resentment under construction. I just think when people have these great expectations and something doesn’t go according to their plan, life goes to hell in a hand basket. I have made a wonderful album with some wonderful guys. We are going to release it, go on the road, play it everywhere and promote this great band. My life and my career have been in moments of stages, stages and moments. Every year I have grown to understand how to live appropriately, how to talk to people and how to be a friend. Ya know, I think love is the answer, man! I am a bit of an old hippie and I love the concept of love!
There is nothing wrong with that! It has certainly taken you a long way!
It certainly has! I sing about the human condition. I don’t really sing about things I don’t know. I sing about what I have lived through. If you know anything about me or have read my book (Glenn Hughes: The Autobiography – From Deep Purple To Black Country Communion), you know I have been pistol whipped, I’ve been shot at, I have been stabbed, I have had a heart attack and I have been run over by a car but I am still here, man! A lot and I mean A LOT of my friends didn’t make it! I am one of the guys who did. I don’t think you will speak to a more grateful man this year than I!
What do you feel the future holds for you and California Breed? Is this more than a one-off?
I never like to plan too far ahead but I never like to do things in ones! I think if you look back at my career you will notice I do things in twos and threes. For me, I would like to keep this project together because it is extremely good and spontaneous. I really love working with these two gentlemen and we have a great management and a great promotional, so there is no reason why we can’t go one and shake things up!
As you mentioned, you have lived a very interesting and full life. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to young people looking to you for inspiration?
Walk through the fear because fear is not real. Enjoy life. Live life, as every day comes, like it is the last day on Earth because love is the answer!