As a member of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes cemented his place in hard rock history (further proven when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016 with Deep Purple). He’s also enjoyed a highly successful solo career, releasing more than a dozen albums. Eighteen months ago, Hughes again became a band member—this time with The Dead Daisies. His first album with them, Holy Ground, comes out on January 22.
“Going back in a band was interesting for me,” Hughes says during a call from his Los Angeles home. “If I want to play with a band, I’ve got to be really friendly with them. I’ve got to be a brother to these people. I can’t be working with people I’m not sure about, and they’re not sure about me.”
Fortunately, Hughes has had a long history with The Dead Daisies guitarist Doug Aldrich, who joined Hughes’ extensive tours in recent years. In another call a few days later, also from his L.A. home, Aldrich makes his fondness for Hughes clear: “We have been friends for years. I love him and he’s a legend. They call him ‘The Voice of Rock’ – he’s just got an amazing voice, but his bass playing also is equally incredible,” he says.
Besides Hughes and Aldrich, the current Dead Daisies lineup features drummer Deen Castronovo (Journey; Bad English) and guitarist David Lowy (Phoenix; Mink). Though this makes the band a supergroup. Hughes and Aldrich prefer the term “collective.” Since Lowy founded the band in 2013, the Daisies’ ever-shifting membership has previously included Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses), Marco Mendozo (who was in Whitesnake with Aldrich), Jackie Barnes, and about a dozen others. Holy Ground will be the band’s fifth studio album.
Hughes says he was brought into the band not only for his performing skills, but also because he’s a prolific writer. “The first song I wrote [for Dead Daisies] was the title track, “Holy Ground.” It was a little different for them, but I really thought this chorus could be big for the band. As soon as we recorded that song, the path was written to do more of this kind of song, so I was able to continue bringing songs in with this kind of vibe,” he says.
But the writing for Holy Ground wasn’t entirely on Hughes’ shoulders, Aldrich says. “In this situation, Glenn brought some songs, and I brought some songs,” he says. “Glenn’s a super talented songwriter who can do everything by himself, but this is a band, so we wanted to find a way to integrate him but also keep the band vibe.”
To that end, as Aldrich began writing music for this album, “I got in the mode of, ‘Let me start thinking about what Glenn would like. What could I write that would be a Dead Daisies song that would be with Glenn in mind?’” But, Aldrich says, he stopped short of suggesting lyrics for Hughes. “Even if I thought it was the most badass song of all time, unless the singer is feeling it, it’s not going to get recorded. The singer really has to be inspired by it. They want to feel invested emotionally in the lyrics and it has to make sense to them.”
As for their specific songwriting processes, Hughes and Aldrich reveal they use very different methods. Hughes says he avoids using ProTools or any kind of computer program, preferring to write on an acoustic guitar. “I can write a very intense heavy rock song on an acoustic guitar. I just love to hear that intonation of what I’m doing acoustically,” he says. “It all starts with the acoustic guitar. It could be a sound, it could be a chord, it could be a riff. As I’m writing the music, I’m always singing the melody.”
In contrast, Aldrich says he makes full use of modern technology: “I basically will record the idea to my phone on my voice recorder, and then I’ll go through that stuff periodically and maybe there’ll be twenty things. Of those twenty things, I’ll latch onto two or three and start to brainstorm then and open up a session in Pro Tools and lay out the parts that I know that I like.”
Hughes and Aldrich share similar stories about how they became obsessed with playing music at an early age, though. “I was named after a very famous [swing era] musician named Glenn Miller, who played trombone. Big band leader,” Hughes says, “and I played trombone in the school orchestra when I was eleven [years old]. Then, of course, I heard The Beatles when I was twelve [years old] and I switched to guitar.
“I played guitar in a few school bands,” Hughes continues. “Then one day I got a call from a band that needed a bass player, and I had 24 hours to switch from playing guitar to playing bass. I did it, and the rest is history.” He became famous as a member of Deep Purple from 1973 to 1976, appearing on three of their albums. Next, he joined Black Sabbath for one album, 1986’s Seventh Star. Since the 1990s, he has focused on his solo career—until joining The Dead Daisies in 2019.
Like Hughes, Aldrich also has a vivid memory of how he knew he wanted to become a musician. “I was eleven [years old] and at that time there were no video games, let alone streaming music and PlayStation. One summer, everybody was gone in my neighborhood, either on vacation or summer camp. I was bored out of my head. My little sister had a classical guitar and a chord book. I learned a few chords and I thought, ‘Wow, this is cool! It’s a challenge.’ The same way that kids are challenged by their video games today.” His skills led him to become a member of Dio and Whitesnake, releasing several albums with each of those bands between 2002 and 2013. He joined The Dead Daisies five years ago.
Now, though both Hughes and Aldrich express frustration about the current pandemic and the upheaval it’s causing professional musicians, they’re both trying to look on the bright side. Aldrich says he’s been enjoying this time at home caring for his young daughter, while Hughes says he’s been writing profusely lately—though he adds that even with all his experience, he’s still learning new things about his craft.
“I feel that I will never be completely at the end result until they pour dirt over me, because I’m still a student,” Hughes says. “The art form of writing music and performing is my whole existence. It means everything to me. I’ll always be looking for that missing part of the jigsaw because I’m always searching for that extra piece of magic.”
Aldrich agrees that being a professional musician is endlessly fascinating, even now. “For me, this whole music thing has been a journey,” he says. “I wake up every day and I’ll see a guitar and it just makes me happy. Music is essential in my life. I would have been in the grave a long time ago if music hadn’t saved me so many times. And music is a language and a release and a challenge. It’s everything.”