A short interview meant for you musicians out there, but also a great read for those of you who just like to listen to music, and especially Deep Purple?
Purple Hughes: the 24-hour musician
By Tony Mitchell
THE FACT that Deep Purple’s two newest members — Glenn Hughes and Tommy Bolin — are both in their early twenties must be some encouragement to the many young musicians who feel that they play well but have not paid their dues in terms of sheer years of experience. With a view to finding out what it takes to be young and successful, SOUNDS collared Glenn for half an hour at a recent preview session for the band’s new album.
He talked about the approach to music which sold him to the other members of Deep Purple and added a new soulful dimension to their sound.
Purple asked Glenn to join them in 1973 after seeing him play at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and the Marquee. They went backstage and told him they thought his playing was nice, but he didn’t suss that they were interested in him until they actually offered him the job. At this time he was into a black trip as far as vocals and bass were concerned, having gone from Trapeze, which he formed in 1970, to hanging around the Stax scene in the States and playing the clubs there.
He only joined Purple on condition that he could carry on playing the way he felt, with a definite accent on feeling, and, in his own words “it worked out”. But what led him in this particular direction?
“I started playing guitar when I was 14,” he says, “and I did this for four years until someone asked me to play bass on a gig. From then on I got more and more into bass-playing, although I kept up the guitar — and still play it with Purple.”
He didn’t approach learning the instrument in any formal way. “I just learnt by getting into it, and listening to Stax people like Booker T and Marvin Gaye. I used to listen to Hendrix and Clapton as well but I was always more influenced by soul,” he says.
“In Trapeze we were playing rock ‘n’ soul, and I’m now starting on a solo soul album which is being produced by David Bowie and features people like Herbie Hancock, Dennis Davis, Tommy Bolin, Dave Sanborn and Ava Cherry and her singers.
The album contains all self-penned material, and will feature Glenn’s favourite instrument — a `brilliant’ Fender Jazz Bass. He used to use a Precision which he favoured for its twangy sound, but he really digs his 58 Jazz Bass because, he says, you can bend the strings anywhere, which adds considerably to the instrument’s versatility. The strings he uses for bass, incidentally, are always Rotosound wirewound.
For amplification he likes two 200 watt Hi-Watt tops driving eight Martin bins fitted with either Gauss 5840 or 5841 speakers. He generally has one of the tops set very bright to give him his characteristic sound, and he uses a Compact phaser unit which apparently has a studio-quality shift range. This small clockwork unit, made in Germany and not yet commercially available, is a real phaser — not a simulator – and has been used on a lot of Purple’s album work.
Glenn plays using a combination of pick and fingers, and maintains that feeling is far more important than technique. “Feeling is the first thing you need when you’re learning,” he says. “And even if you’ve got feeling, you also need the will to do it,” he adds.
“When I left school I just knew I was going to be a pro musician — a 24-hour musician, which is what I am now. Mind you, I never wanted to be a star particularly, and I still keep well clear of the business side of things. That can be a bit of a problem — last year I got ripped off by someone to the tune of 100,000 dollars. It’s not a bad idea to have some feeling for business as well as music, for this reason.”
Having mastered guitar and bass guitar, Glenn turned to piano, which he finds is an `unbelievable’ medium for composition, although he does write songs around all three instruments.
“As well as singing, I’m playing guitar and bass on stage, and guitar, bass and piano in the studio. I like to think of myself as a ‘musician’ rather than a ‘bass player’. I enjoy all three so much, and I now think I’ve got a feeling on all three. Bass playing in particular is a feeling.”
Does he think it necessary to invest in expensive equipment in order to find out if you have got the kind of feel he’s talking about?
“Well it’s always a good idea to buy the best you can afford, although I wouldn’t advise spending too much. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that good instruments are expensive these days.”
Glenn is in America with Purple,at the moment, and the band starts a tour of the Far East later this month. Then in the Spring there is talk of a big tour in the UK, but before this his own single — ‘Smile’ will be released. So look out for three minutes or so of real feel in the near future!
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