Glenn Hughes: A different 'Breed' of singer

Legendary singer/bassist talks vocals for Calfornia Breed
By Peter Lindblad

Glenn Hughes 2014
Glenn Hughes doesn't labor over a multitude of vocal takes in the studio. It's not a sign of arrogance. He's just convinced the first one is almost always the best.

So, why mess with it? 

"If anybody knows anything about Glenn Hughes, it's never more than two takes of vocals for me," said Hughes. "There are singers – I won't name names – who have to sing 60 or 70 times on a song. I'm not that guy. Any more than three times, and it's like a job, and I don't want it to be a job."

Known for years as the "Voice of Rock," Hughes is one of the greatest singers in rock history, having lent his wildly soulful vocal stylings to classic recordings by Deep Purple, Trapeze and Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, and, in more recent years, the highly acclaimed super group Black Country Communion.  

His latest project, formed in the aftermath of Black Country Communion's dissolution, is the power trio California Breed, featuring drummer Jason Bonham and guitar phenomenon/singer-songwriter Andrew Watt. 

California Breed - S/T 2014
Due out May 20, on Frontiers Records, California Breed's raucous, swaggering self-titled debut of riff-heavy, powerhouse '70s rock takes its cues from Led Zeppelin and Humble Pie, with a little bit of psychedelic soul thrown in for good measure. 

Produced by David Cobb (Rival Sons, Shooter Jennings) at his home studio in Nashville, California Breed's first shot across the bow is a devastating knockout punch, brimming with strong hooks and exuding attitude. 

One of the reasons for the record's immediacy is Cobb's treatment of Hughes's vocals, and the knob-twiddler was rather sneaky about it. Hughes might just be Cobb's biggest fan.

"We knew Cobb was going to produce us six months before we went to Nashville," Hughes related. "We got him in, because Dave is a fan of my band Trapeze. He’s also a Zeppelin fan, as you can imagine. And then I started talking to Dave every couple of weeks on the phone in Nashville, and he’s in L.A. I’d play him stuff over the phone. I wouldn’t send him any stuff on e-mail, I’d just play him stuff organically over the phone, kind of old school. He asked me, 'Well, what do you want to do? Do you want to record this on to tape, or do you want to go …' And I said, 'Let’s make that decision when we get to Nashville.' And we made that decision the morning of the session. We had a decision to go analog, and we all said sort of, 'Let’s go analog.' And Dave said to me, 'You got the lyrics?' I said, 'I do.' He said, 'You got the melodies?' I said, 'I do. Yeah, yeah, I think I’ve got all the melodies and lyrics.' He said, 'Good. How do you feel about Jason and Andrew cutting, and then you overdubbing later on the bass?' I said, 'Sure. Where’s the microphone?' And he said, 'You’re going to be in a booth, and let’s go record.' And basically, I sang to the tracks."

Hughes figured he'd have more work to do the next day. Cobb was rather coy about it.

"So long story short, we recorded the songs, and then I overdubbed the bass, and then I went to bed," said Hughes. "And the next morning, I went to the studio and I said to Dave Cobb, 'Now, I’m going to sing.' And he said, 'Oh no, you’re not. You’ve already sung the album.' Now, he wasn’t tricking me. I know I was recording, but I never actually questioned to myself whilst I was singing, 'I wonder if this is good enough?' I was just singing, just singing, like The Beatles used to do in 1964 on a four-track. To me, when I sing … I mean, I write this shit, and it envelopes inside of me, and it just lives inside of me until I record it. Normally, the way I’ve been recording for the last 20 years, when I sing it for the first time, it’s normally the way I want it to be, whether it’s something I’m overdubbing later or whether it’s like it’s this instance where it’s done live. Hats off to Dave Cobb, full marks from me, two thumbs up from me – he really captured me completely live, and I want to thank him for that. 

Of Cobb, Hughes added, "He f**king captured me for the first time since 1969 completely live."

Hughes is understandably excited about the new album, feeling its some of the best work of his legendary career.

"I’m going to be honest with you, man," said Hughes. "There was nothing technical about this album. When you listen to the songs, (sings a riff), it’s pushing full. We’re not Led Zeppelin, but Led Zeppelin was push and pull. This is life and shape and push and pull, and it’s breathy and it’s aggressive, it’s soulful, it’s harsh, it’s brash, it’s sensitive – it’s everything it started out for me in 1969. This album was written in the wind for me to record, with these two guys."

We'll have more of our interview with Glenn Hughes in due time.

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