In the '70s and '80s, during stints with Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and solo/duo efforts, Glenn Hughes proved a triple threat musically as a singer, songwriter, and bassist. Plus, he had fucking rock star hair.
The problem was, he also did three times the amount of drugs -- cocaine in particular -- as most of his contemporaries. This lead to the derailment of his career, many near-death experiences, and ultimately a ruination of reputation.
Now clean and sober for many years, Hughes has resurged as the lead singer/bassist for Black Country Communion, one of the best new hard rock acts to come out recent years. Rocks Off spoke with music journolist Joel McIver (who has also written tomes on Metallica, Black Sabbath, Slayer, and Ozzy Osbourne) about collaborating with the metal madman on his autobiography, and how Houston proved pivotal in the career of Glenn Hughes.
Rocks Off: How did the idea for the book come about and how did you get involved?
Joel McIver: I interviewed Glenn for Bass Guitar Magazine in the summer of 2006 and was exchanging e-mails with his manager, Carl Swann, afterwards. During the conversation, I asked if Glenn had ever considered writing an autobiography. It turned out that he had, and so Carl and I began to discuss the idea of me co-writing it with him. I'd already written a dozen books by then, so I sent him my best-known one (a Metallica biog from '04) and we went from there.
RO: What kind of time did you spend with Glenn and what surprised you about him?
JM: Between 2007 and early 2010, Glenn and I did about 60 hours of interviews, roughly half in person and the rest on the phone. We squeezed them in between our other commitments: I visited him in L.A., met him in hotels and at gigs when he was touring over here in the U.K., and spent a lot of time at his parents' place in Cannock in the Midlands.
I was and remain speechless about the fact that Glenn's memory is so sharp. Although he snorted enough coke in the '70s and '80s to bankrupt the whole of Colombia, he never failed to recall the details of a particular event--any biographer's ideal scenario.
RO: Why do you think that Trapeze wasn't as big in America as they could have been?
JM: I think the necessary criteria for success simply failed to align. Maybe the press weren't behind them as much as they should have been; perhaps Trapeze was slightly ahead of its time. It takes a lot for any band to be successful, and the talent of the performers and the quality of their songwriting are merely two of many factors.
RO: Glenn mentions Houston specifically a lot in the book as a city that was very good to Trapeze and his other bands, and talks about a number of dates he played here ("Without Houston, I might have not been in Deep Purple"). How come?
JM: Glenn's theory is that Texas loves power trios (see ZZ Top) and Trapeze fit right in there. For some reason, their style of funk rock suited Houston audiences (and crucially, promoters) and those gigs were crucial in raising Trapeze's profile. This caught Deep Purple's attention, and the rest is history.
RO: He also talks about his friendship with David Coverdale and how they amicably would split up vocal duties in Deep Purple. Was it really that nice between them? I've seen/read other things that suggest otherwise.
JM: Yes, it was a pretty natural process. I'm sure they butted heads every now and then like any fellow musicians would, but there were no conflicting egos there as far as I know. Coverdale was extremely helpful with G's book.
RO: I've read a lot of rock bios with a lot of mention of drug use...but this one makes Ace Frehley's look like a memoir of a tea party. How does Glenn's previous addictions compare to some of the other musicians you've written about...and what do you think was the biggest loss to him career-wise?
JM: The scale of G's addictive behavior back in the old days is obviously fairly terrifying, but its most unusual element -- as I see it anyway, from my informed but not expert point of view -- is that his drug use came out of nowhere. When he was in Trapeze, he barely even drank and hated weed, but when he joined Purple at the age of 22, it was only a matter of months before he was a full-blown coke addict.
The biggest loss? That whole 17-year period of addiction should have been full of opportunities for him. He should have become a bona fide star after [solo record] Play Me Out, but instead he went down a pretty horrible route to addiction. Fortunately, he's been able to bounce back and rebuild his career, both as a solo artist and as a member of Black Country Communion.
RO: Deep Purple used the same plane that later took down Lynyrd Skynyrd?? What did you think when you found out about that?
JM: Just another one of those shocking rock'n'roll facts. Totally grim.
RO: What's coming up for him?
JM: I know he has a new album and solo tours planned in the coming year.
RO: Any other thoughts on the book or Glenn?
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JM: It was the most fun I've ever had as an author and I'm privileged to be a part of his career. Glenn and I will be friends for life.
RO: What's your next book project?
JM: I'm co-writing the autobiographies of two more legendary musicians, one of whom is Max Cavalera of Soulfly/Sepultura and the other of which will be announced in due course. I'm loving every minute of both. I'm also writing the official book of a particularly ace metal band, details to follow!