Glenn Hughes talks Black Country Communion 2 track-by-track
6th Jun 2011 | 22:57
Glenn Hughes talks Black Country Communion 2 track-by-track (intro)
"This isn't just any old album to me. It's more like life and death. Now, that might sound strange coming from somebody like myself who's made a lot of records over the years. But I just got to a point where I said, 'That's it. I have to share my secrets. No more hiding. I'm going to write songs that matter deeply.'
"On a business level, this was an important record for the band [which also includes Joe Bonamassa, guitars and co-vocals; Jason Bonham, drums; and Derek Sherinian, keyboards] because we wanted to do a proper tour – well, in-between Joe's schedule, 'cause he likes to do something like 365 solo shows a year [laughs] – and really have the greatest set of songs possible. One album wasn't going to do that; we needed two. So it was decided – and we talked with [producer] Kevin Shirley about this, as well – that before we did any real roadwork we'd have two records of material under our belts.
“The bulk of the writing was left up to me. Because he was touring, Joe could only commit to writing two songs, so the bones of the album fell on my shoulders. Joe and Kevin asked me if I could work up the majority of the material, and I was very honored – to have your partners trust you to that degree is very gratifying.
“The first album was done in a flash – Kevin likes to work fast and capture raw energy. I don’t think he likes music to sound artificial; he likes to hear a band play a song like it’s their first time doing so. That’s pretty much the case with us. [laughs] I think we recorded 14 songs in 10 days – that’s five days longer than we spent making the first album - and the 11 best tracks made the record.
“Kevin wanted to nail that ‘Bonham sound,’ and in order to do so we went to this fantastic studio in Hollywood called East West. It’s got this massive room where Frank Sinatra used to record with an orchestra. Now, Jason Bonham sounds good no matter where he plays, but on this album the drums are most impressive, I must say.
“There’s energy and passion on every track, but there’s also something more important: a real band. We felt like a band when we made the first album, but this time out, there was no question that we belonged together.
“Musically, I’m embracing riff-rock in a way I never have before. On a lot of my solo records, my feet were planted firmly in a lot of funky soul and R&B. On BCC 2, we’re going with a classic British rock vibe, without sacrificing groove and melody. And when you’re lucky enough to play with musicians this talented, groove and melody are never in short supply.”
“Originally, this was going to be a song called Good Man. It was very much the song you hear now, only the chorus was supposed to be acoustic.
“When I first wrote it, it was more ‘dramatic,’ if you will. However, when we started to play it as a band – you’ve got Joe and Bonham really going for it, and I’m playing the same line as Joe, and then there’s the Hammond organ on top of that – we really rocked it out. So it became more driving.
“I like to sing live with the band as we’re playing, and as I did, I just tore into it and these new lyrics started coming to me. ‘How the hell did that happen?’ I said to myself. What was Good Man went right out the window and it became The Outsider.
“The funniest thing happened during a break: I was showing Kevin another song called Little Secret. As I did, he told Joe and Derek to go off and work out a solo to The Outsider. Suddenly, I heard them in the other room doing a kind of Deep Purple Highway Star-slash-Burn thing, and I went, ‘What?! Don’t tell me they’re going there!’ I’ve already been down that road before, of course. But Kevin talked me down: ‘Trust me, Hughsy, rock fans are gonna love it.’”
Man In The Middle
“For me, Man In The Middle took the longest of everything to write because I knew in my heart that it would be the first single and video. I had all the parts worked out in my head – total British rock – and knew I wanted to write a song about this fucked-up rock ‘n’ roll star. Basically, it was going to be a ‘story’ song, and the story was about myself.
“It all sounds rather sad and desperate, but in the end it was a real joy to write, sing and perform, and I even had a good time making the video.
“Joseph will probably be loathe to doff his hat to Jimmy Page, but I hear a little of Page in his solo. Joe plays his ass off, as always. You just can’t keep that boy down. He doesn’t quit, he just gets better and better.”
The Battle For Hadrian's Wall
“This is one that Joseph had started the day he came to the studio. He had the acoustic bits, and I added my bass line. The whole thing came together very quickly, but then, of course, what doesn’t happen fast with this band?
“If I had my druthers, Joe would be singing more in this group, but he wants me to sing and he wants to just play. But I’ll say this, and I want everybody to hear me now: I. Love. Joe. Bonamassa’s. Voice. There you go. I love his voice, and I wish he’d sing more.
“Harmonizing with him, as we do on this track, was sheer bliss. And thank you, Kevin, for having us put the 12-string in the pre-chorus and the chorus. It’s very Zeppelin-y, but we’re not Zeppelin. We’ve just taken a little leaf from the page with the 12-string and the Bonzo and what have you – that’s it, really. We’re celebrating, if you will.”
“Jason had played me the demo of this track. This was from when he was working with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones and the various singers that might have been part of something. Anyway, he played me this riff, and I said, ‘Give it to me.’ And he said, ‘Give it to you?’ And I said very emphatically, ‘Yes, give it to me!’ And he said, ‘OK, then go write something that’ll make me cry.’
“And that’s what I proceeded to do. This album is very dark lyrically. It’s all about my death and what happens before it – it’s super heavy. Jason is a very fine musician, and he understands that darkness. When he gave me the track and said, ‘Go write something that'll make me cry,’ he was saying, ‘Write something that matters.’
“When I hear something like that, I know I have to be fearless. I’m not singing about puppy love anymore, you know? I’m getting to the core. I’m singing about real shit. I’m not writing lyrics to try to convince people I’m cool; I’m writing to fucking tell them what the hell’s going on. So let’s not be frightened of it, let’s embrace it, and let’s just tell the truth.”
“OK, you can take everything I said about writing ‘real’ lyrics and getting down to the heart of the matter and throw it out with this song. This is pure tongue in cheek, no doubt, and I make no apologies.
“I was at the movies with a friend of mine, and during the previews I just started singing, ‘Smokestack woman…’ I knew it was silly, but I said to my friend, ‘Hey, Mick and Keith and the Young brothers in AC/DC have been doing this shit for years. You can’t tell me it won’t work.'
“The whole song has a swagger to it. I wanted to have a bit of a romp on this one, and there you go – we’re havin’ a romp. It’s not this serious, we’re-gonna-wake-the-dead kind of thing. It’s a rockin’ tune. And I loved Joseph busting out the theremin. He does it, but he has a good time with it. He’s not a pompous bastard about it. Believe me, I’ve played with some pompous bastards in my time, and Joe's not one of 'em.”
“I think this is the band’s favorite. This is one of the songs that came down to my wife – I played it for her to get a reaction; it was one of the first songs I wrote for this album. I just started singing about a guy who had run dry, who had no faith in life.
“As it so happens, I’m full of faith – now. But there was a time when the opposite was true, and I was faithless, hence the lyrics on this and a lot of the other songs. This period I’m talking about was during the ‘80s, when I went completely off the rails. I was drowning, man. I’m singing about shit that happened to me years ago, but I can remember it so clearly, and it was very therapeutic for me to go back to that place. The band allowed me to do so.
“A lot of bands and producers would’ve tried to muzzle me: ‘It’s too heavy, it’s too real!’ But Kevin Shirley and the band wanted desperation. They wanted cold hard truths. That’s what I’m exploring here.”
An Ordinary Son
“Having met Joe’s mother and father, this song completely brings me to tears. When he talks about survival, giving thanks to his parents for the life they gave him and being grateful for the food from the table, it’s so sad...and it’s so beautiful. If I were Joe’s dad, I’d be bawling my eyes out on this song.
“Joe’s very coy about it, but the truth of the matter is, he’s an amazing songwriter, such a gifted songsmith.
“This is a very old type of song, an ode to one’s parents. And the funny thing is, Joe’s told me it’s not about his parents, but I know it is. But don’t tell him I told you so. Wink-wink.” [laughs]
I Can See Your Spirit
“I wrote the first half of the music, the riff, but I listened back and decided that it was too close to Zeppelin’s Misty Mountain Hop. So Joe added a little turnaround to the riff, and before you before you know it, we had this fantastic A-D-E barroom rocker.
“There’s not much more to say about this one. A nice, early ‘70s romp. It’s rock ‘n’ roll.”
“The first really slow song I’ve ever written, and I wrote it for Joseph to sing. 'I want you to write a song about a little secret,' he told me, and I wrote about my relapses with drugs and a lot of painful stuff.
“We’re talking about a very intense period. Let’s just say that I went from this really euphoric time – when I experimented a bit...or a lot, shall we say – but I wanted Joe to sing about it. When I went in to do a rough vocal just to show Joe the song, he was blown away and said, ‘No way, man. This is your song.'
“He was talking about the lyrics, on one hand, but he also had something else in mind. ‘Everybody knows I’m a blues singer,’ he said, ‘but this is your chance to sing a blues track. Go for it.’
"I love performing it. It’s a very honest song. In fact, it might be my favorite on the whole album. Like the title says, it’s about secrets, and I’m a man who doesn’t want to have any secrets from anybody anymore. The weight’s too much. I need emotional freedom.”
“About five or six years ago, I wrote a song called Soul Mover, and I wanted to write another one with the same kind of groovy, Hendrix-y, slinky, swaggery Strat vibe, which Joe could actually strap on a Strat for and play on. This was the song.
“Funnily enough, Joe wasn’t knocked out by the song when I first played it for him, which was a little surprising to me since it’s a blues-based song. But when we started recording it, all of a sudden he was jumping up and down and running around like a little kid. He loved it! I said, ‘Trust me on this one, I’ve got a feeling about it…’
“I love the Crosby, Stills & Nash three-part harmonies. And I get to do my wailing blues on it – I’m basically takin’ it to church here. I’m a preacher! I’m doing what I love to do here. I’m being a rock ‘n’ roll preacher.”
“As a writer…it’s one of my finest hours. I’ll tell you a story about this. I wrote a song, a pretty good one, and I played it for Joseph. He heard it and said, ‘That’s more Glenn Hughes than BCC.’ And as he drove away, I watched him go and I said, ‘I’m gonna write another one, a really great one,’ and before he got home, I had it. I kept hearing Kevin in my head going, ‘Hughsy, be desperate.’
“This song is about pain and dealing with grief in public. I’ve lost a lot of friends and have had to handle the whole thing with many people looking on. It’s a very weird feeling.
“When Jason first heard this song, he freaked out and started sobbing. I think it really unhinged him about his dad, if you don’t mind me saying so. It took him back. ‘You’ve done it now, Hughsy,’ he told me. Mind you, I don’t like making anybody cry and feel sad, but I know I’ve done my job as a writer when I’ve got my bandmates, who’ve pretty much seen and done everything, sobbing and losing it.
“Musically, Joe did a whammy bar solo that is so sublime. It’s poetic. He makes me cry. If this song doesn’t get you on a lyrical level, then the music will hit you. This is another one where we all go to church. What God has given me, taken away and left me with, that’s what I have right now…and that’s not bad.”