Interview: Glenn Hughes explains the meaning of life

Glenn Hughes
Glenn Hughes (Image credit: Neil Lupin \/ Getty Images)

To connoisseurs he is known as The Voice Of Rock. But for many years it seemed that Glenn Hughes would be remembered as a wasted talent. Born in Cannock, Staffordshire on August 21, 1952, Hughes made his name as bassist/vocalist for Trapeze in the early 70s before achieving worldwide fame with Deep Purple. But while he was blessed with ability, Hughes was also cursed with a self-destructive streak, and became addicted to crack cocaine in the 80s while projects with Pat Thrall, Gary Moore and Black Sabbath all foundered.

Then, in 1991, he got clean and turned his life around. Two decades on, Hughes is busier than ever. He’s fronted Black Country Communion and California Breed, and published an autobiography in 2011.

What has life taught you?

I am a firm believer that it’s what you give rather than what you take. I used to be a liar, a thief and a cheat. Now it’s all about love.

Do you believe in God?

A hundred per cent. I believe in something bigger than us, bigger than me.

When you were writing your autobiography, were there occasions when you felt embarrassed by your past?

I’ve had to be brutally honest about what really happened. It’s the secrets that will kill me. I’d rather bare my ass now then have it bared later.

What was the lowest point of your life?

I’d say ’84 to ’91. The crack years. In the early 80s, smoking crack was really not social. What I did was really beyond the gates of insanity. It was almost like living in hell. My demon wanted me in a hotel room with a whore and an ounce of cocaine and a crack pipe. And it wanted me isolated. I found myself climbing into a closet and barking like a dog. That’s where it took me. The Hughes/Thrall album (released in 1982) that you and guitarist Pat Thrall did really sounds like it was recorded on coke. Oh, we were loaded! You can hear the blow in it. And it took forever to make that flippin’ album due to the drugs. Pat would go over it, over and over and over… It was our Rumours.

What’s the worst review you ever had?

Oh man, it’s kind of funny but it’s not. In the middle of my addiction, Hughes/Thrall opened for Santana in Corpus Christi, Texas. And I thought it might be a good idea if I didn’t sleep for four days. I have three or four octaves, but he who does not sleep will not be able to sing. I’d done too much blow with some bird across the border in Tijuana. I was seeing things on stage and I couldn’t sing. The review of the show said that Glenn Hughes looked like a boulevard hooker and sounded like a wailing donkey.

What would you say is the best advice you’ve ever received?

To try to walk through the fear on a daily basis. As humans we are all fear-based. But when you’re addictive, like me, I’m driven by a thousand forms of fear. Either I’m in fear or I’m in faith. Right now I’m just barely in faith.

Are you happy at present?

I am. Although I’m a Black Country boy, these days I’m definitely a California ‘one day at a time’ hippie. I’m all peace and love and pass the brown rice. I love what I do and I love life.

What is the meaning of life?

In the past I’ve had the rug pulled from under my feet so many times due to my own selfishness, self-abuse and self-righteousness. I’m not bible-thumping, but I know now that I’ll be taken care of. I’m just an ant on a log. I’m not rowing the fucking boat. It ain’t ‘me’, it’s ‘us’. I am a control freak, but I’m definitely an ‘us’ kind of guy. The meaning of life for Glenn Hughes is to survive and lead a purposeful life.

What would you like to be written on your tombstone?

‘My God, he was old’! No, I jest. I want to be remembered as the guy that really came back – came back with a strong message and a strong voice.

First Time I Met The Blues: Glenn Hughes

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”