Think of California and you think of brilliant color and bright sunlight. Think of a breed and it’s all about bloodlines and brotherhood. Put the two together as CALIFORNIA BREED and you have the most exciting new band of 2014.
Built around the foundation of legendary vocalist-bassist Glenn Hughes and drummer extraordinaire Jason Bonham, with the addition of the 23-year-old newcomer guitarist-singer Andrew Watt, as Hughes says: “CALIFORNIA BREED is real rock’n'roll — but made for right now.”
One listen to standout tracks like first single “Midnight Oil” will confirm that. Deeper grooves than a monster tyre track, more funk than a roomful of bad-asses, this is rock that knows how to roll. That writes its own rules. That just don’t care, baby.
But that’s only one side of the story. On the flip you’ve got something like “All Falls Down”, a song so beautiful, so soulful and strange and touched by magic, it will make your radio cry.
As Andrew Watt says: “Getting to play with these legends has given me wings. I don’t really believe in luck. For me, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. And if you’re prepared and you’re met with the opportunity, you rise to the occasion. That’s what CALIFORNIA BREED has been like for me. So that we’ve come out with something I’m really, really proud of.”
And when Watt calls Hughes and Bonham ”legends,” he ain’t kidding. The breakout star of mid-’70s DEEP PURPLE, the man they call the Voice of Rock, Glenn Hughes has spent the subsequent years working with the biggest legends in music, as a solo star, and guesting with everyone from BLACK SABBATH to EARTH, WIND & FIRE — up to his most recent collaboration in rock supergroup BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION, which included Bonham.
As the son of LED ZEPPELIN legend John Bonham, Jason has followed his own distinctive path over the years, fronting his own successful outfits like BONHAM, and playing with LED ZEPPELIN, FOREIGNER, HEART and, most recently, movie composer Hans Zimmer.
When BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION disbanded, Hughes and Bonham had a strong desire to keep playing together. Their only challenge was finding a new guitarist worthy of their musicality. Easier said than done for these stars who between them have worked with some of the greatest guitarists in history — including Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page and Joe Bonamassa, to name just a few.
Then fate took a hand in things when Glenn‘s friend Julian Lennon introduced him to the astounding talents of a New York City hotshot guitarist named Andrew Watt.
“Literally, the first day me and Andrew got together we wrote two songs,” recalls Glenn. “One was ‘Chemical Rain’ and the other was ‘Solo’, both of which are now on the finished album. I was so moved by the music, I said, ‘We’ve got to record this!’ That’s when I called Jason.”
“I was excited from the start,” says Jason, “because apart from locking in as a rhythm section, Glenn and I had started writing together in BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION, and we wanted to continue that.”
“There was such energy in the room the first time we all played together, me and Glenn didn’t even have to talk about it,” says Jason. “He was so exited to be playing, though, it was infectious! He was just on stage! No going through the motions, kicking the chair over, everything! I was like, you know what, this kid is a free spirit. It was cool, we all just clicked straight away.”
“Nothing though has gotten into my blood like CALIFORNIA BREED,” says Glenn. “I feel the same way,” says Jason. “I feel like a kid again starting out.”
Recording with Dave Cobb at the producer’s own studio in Nashville, added all the finishing touches, says Glenn.
“I’d gotten into Dave‘s work via the RIVAL SONS, who I know and really love. But Dave has done a lot of great stuff. That whole Nashville trip which Dave is a part of. Well, me and Jason don’t want to sound like anyone else, we already sound like ourselves, but we felt we needed some fresh energy — and Dave absolutely brought it.”
At Cobb‘s insistence, every vocal was recorded live as the band was playing. “Totally the reverse of what I’m used to,” says Glenn. “But I went into that aggressive rock soulfulness and everything down to the whispers, it was all done live! I enjoyed myself so much, just going for it.”
For what is on paper a three-piece, the sheer range of sounds and melodies you get from CALIFORNIA BREED are breathtaking.
“I’m the oddball of the group but I’m the thing that makes us different from any other classic rock band. I grew up loving grunge music,” explains Andrew. “But my father always played me THE WHO and THE BEATLES and LED ZEPPELIN. I always felt like I was in the wrong generation. I used to make rock music on my own and I’d play all the instruments because I could never find anyone my age that really got it the way I heard it. Then I got to play with Jason and Glenn and I haven’t picked up anything but a guitar since!”
“What we’ve got here is a kid who isn’t a hammer-on, virtuoso,” says Glenn, “but a whole new entity. This kid grew up listening to Mick Ronson on Bowie‘s records, as well as Jimmy Page in LED ZEPPELIN. He has a completely different take. And it’s fresh and bold and so exciting. It just gets into your blood.”