Glenn Hughes's top 5 tips for bassists

PLUS the rock legend talks new album Resonate and his upcoming UK tour

(Image: © Stuart Westwood)

Over the course of the past five decades, Glenn Hughes has carved out a richly deserved legacy as one of British rock's most iconic and enigmatic bassists and lead vocalists.

As a member of Trapeze and Deep Purple in the 1970s, Hughes set the bar about as high as it could go and his work recording, writing and/or touring with Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Tony Iommi, Black Country Communion, Kings of Chaos, California Breed and even the KLF [lead vox on 1991 rave anthem America: What Time Is Love?] in the years since has only served to bolster his already lofty reputation.

Since 1977, Hughes has also released 12 solo studio albums and his most recent, Resonate [2016], has garnered significant critical acclaim.

"I wrote all the songs [for Resonate] while recovering from this double knee replacement surgery," explains Hughes, as we catch him on the phone just a few days before he kicks off his upcoming UK tour. "I was home in LA because I couldn't really do anything and I couldn't walk. I have a studio in my home and I went into the studio daily and wrote a song a day not realising I was going to make an album. I didn't have to make an album.

"But, after writing track six or seven, I'm going, 'Hang on a minute - I might be writing a record here!' and, by the time I had 12 tracks done, I said, 'I'm just going to schedule some sessions.' I was due to be in Europe last summer and I realised I hadn't made a record in Europe since From Now On… [1994] and so we scheduled some time in Copenhagen and rattled off an album.

"When I'd finished it, I said, 'I think I've got a record here that's worthy of a Glenn Hughes solo album' but I didn't realise how important this record would be for me. It was important for me cathartically because my father had died and it was also important for me to release a solo record after eight years of not making one.

I've been making records for 50 years and I had no idea that this record would have the impact it has had.

"With all the reviews I've gotten, all I can say is I'm full of gratitude both as a musician and as a writer. I've been making records for 50 years and I had no idea that this record would have the impact it has had for the rock community so I'm so blessed.

"People say, 'How can you make a record like that in your mid-60s when people aren't making records like that in their mid-20s?' I don't know what happens to artists when they get older. Some maybe lose the hunger to write or something but I have never ever stopped writing music.

"I think maybe it's to do with my sober lifestyle and the fact that I'm not frightened to write music that challenges me. I've always challenged myself... and long may that continue!"

What can fans expect from the sets Glenn and his band will be dishing out on his imminent live dates?

"I'm calling it the Resonate Tour because there's going to be a certain amount of music from my new album," he replies. "That can be brave these days, especially with a heritage artist like myself. Heritage artists normally would go out and play vintage material which a lot of people would expect but I'm a quirky guy and I always like to play new songs.

"I also just think the album is so damn strong that I can do three or four cuts off it. A lot of my fans know that I take risks. I'm not going to namedrop other artists but some bands play the same setlist year in, year out. It's called the Resonate Tour so they're going to get some songs from that and they're going to get some classics, from early-'70s up to now. I've got such a wealth of songs that I've written over the past 50 years and I want to give fans what I think they'll want to hear."

Before Glenn digs in to give us his top 5 tips for bassists, we just have time to quiz him about the hotly anticipated fourth album by Black Country Communion, the rock supergroup which also features Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian.

"We've just finished all the music," enthuses Glenn. "And I'm going back to do all the vocals in March with Kevin [Shirley, producer] in LA. I spoke to Joe [Bonamassa] this morning and everything's great so it's all ready to go!"


(© Arnie Goodman)

Glenn Hughes's top 5 tips for bassists

1. Less is more

"The first thing is less is more and the part B to this is that the notes that you don't play are very important. There's a lot of great bass players out there who play like guitarists. They're really good and they're my friends, you know, but they play like guitar players. I'm coming from the James Jamerson school and things like Macca's work on Sgt. Pepper's. Very melodic basslines are super important, especially for lead singers. McCartney was a big influence on me and James Jamerson simply because he's been on more number one songs as a bass player than anyone else and his style of bass playing is very much who I am. Andy Fraser of Free, a dear friend who passed away, was another big influence. With those guys, the less is more thing is very important, as it is for me."

2. Work on your tone

"The tone of your bass is supremely important. I've always gone for a wiry Glenn Hughes tone, which is the sound I had in Trapeze and Deep Purple, and the sound I've still got now. I always change the strings for every show. A lot of people think nowadays, 'Oooh, don't change the strings!' but that's bullshit. For me, it's all about tonal quality and I like to have a very wiry bass sound."

3. Think about performance

"If you're a singing bass player, like I am, you've got to be able to think about what you can do onstage when you're writing. A great bass player like [John] Entwistle had the ability to do what he wanted to do because he was free to do that. He wasn't the lead singer. There were certain songs in the '90s where I'd write a song and then I'd go, 'Oh, wait a minute, I can't play this and sing it!' so now, with every song I write, I make sure I can sing it as well."

4. Great gear is key

"I've always used really good gear. I had that classic Hiwatt sound in the early-'70s (and I still own those amps) and now I've developed the Orange Glenn Hughes bass sound with the Glenn Hughes signature Yamaha bass, which people will see me play on this tour. I'm so supremely grateful that Yamaha have developed this for me. We've been working on this bass for 10 years. My bass is like a Yamaha BB signature but it's a smaller, lighter version and there's two knobs instead of three. It will be available soon. I'd say my amp settings are 60% gain, then 60%/70% treble and 40% bass. I also have specifics on my pedal board. I have a Black Cat drive, which is the best drive pedal for bass. As you can hear on Resonate, there's a lot of gain on my bass, more so than any other album I've done. I'm going for a very wiry sound and a very bass-driven sound. Whether I'm playing with [Tony] Iommi or Black Country or Glenn Hughes solo, it's always very bass-driven. I can't help myself!"

5. Play with no fear

"Whatever drummer I'm playing with, I never have any fear. I practise all the time and I'm never frightened to go out of the box. I'm not frightened to go for it. My bass playing is primarily coming from a Tamla Motown fanatic's place but I'm also liable to just fly out of the box whenever I feel like it. Jack Bruce was a dear friend of mine and he always told me just to have no fear and so that's what I do. I just go for it. Like I said, I'm an R&B fanatic but I'm a rock bass player and a very aggressive bass player, just like my friend Geezer [Butler] is. Everybody knows that I have this voice. The vocals of Glenn Hughes are very, very important but people need to know how much I love playing bass. It's just part of who I am."

(© Arnie Goodman)

Glenn Hughes, the legendary British rock singer and bassist, who is currently in the studio in LA recording a new studio album with rock supergroup Black Country Communion, has released an official statement to his fans about touring the UK later this month.

"I'm thrilled to be coming over to tour the UK and Europe this month and February," says Hughes. "My band will now be a four piece. On guitar is Soren Andersen, on drums Pontus Engborg, and on keyboards Jay Boe. Song selections will be a mix from my new album Resonate, and from my well of historic songs through the decades. This tour is all about ROCK and what it means to us all, including my band, and to my fans and friends. Let's get 2017 going with a killer night for ROCK lovers, movers and shakers. I'm in. Let's go! See you down the front!"

Hughes' special guests are Stone Broken.

Tickets can be booked online from www.myticket.co.uk and www.seetickets.com

More info about the UK tour - http://bit.ly/2cnUhCp

GLENN HUGHES - JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2017 UK TOUR

  • Friday 20 January Riverside Newcastle
  • Saturday 21 January Islington Assembly Hall, London
  • Monday 23 January The Robin 2, Bilston
  • Tuesday 24 January The Garage, Glasgow
  • Thursday 26 January Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
  • Friday 27 January Manchester Academy 2
  • Sunday 29 January SUB89 : Reading
  • Monday 30 January Cambridge Junction
  • Wednesdy 1 February Church Leeds
  • Thusday 2 February The Fleece Bristol
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