California Breed: Guitarist Andrew Watt Discusses His New Trio with Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham
Former Deep Purple and Trapeze bassist Glenn Hughes, who has spent the recent past guesting with everyone from Black Sabbath to Earth, Wind & Fire, formed Black Country Communion with Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian in 2009.
After three albums and four years together, that hard-rocking foursome — very publicly — called it quits last year.
Now Hughes and Bonham are back with a new trio — California Breed — which is handily rounded out by 23-year-old New York City guitarist Andrew Watt.
The band's self-titled debut, which was produced by Dave Cobb (Jamey Johnson, Rival Sons), was recorded live and direct to tape. And while you will find several examples of Watt's six-string prowess throughout the disc, you'll also discover he is just as comfortable when he’s falling back into riffs and rhythm work.
California Breed's debut highlights the best of all three virtuosos without overstating the obvious. Because in the end, it really is all about the groove. I recently caught up with Watt to discuss California Breed.
GUITAR WORLD: How did California Breed come together?
I was at a party of a friend of mine, Julian Lennon, when he brought Glenn over and told me that the two of us really needed to meet. After talking with Glenn for a while and discovering we had so much in common musically, even though there’s a bit of an age gap, we decided to get together to write a few songs.
So we hooked up in LA, went into a studio and a few hours later we had written two songs, “Chemical Rain” and “Solo." What’s cool is that the songs we wrote didn't seem to be "Glenn Hughes" or "Andrew Watt" songs. It was this brand-new collaboration neither of us had expected. Right from that point, it started feeling like a band. That’s when Glenn called up Jason to see when we could record. Everything just unfolded in a very natural way.
How would you describe the sound of the California Breed album?
There’s definitely a Zeppelin and Beatles influence, but I’m also a big Nineties Seattle music fan. Bands like Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Nirvana and MudHoney. You definitely hear those kinds of moments all over this album.
Your bandmates have played alongside some true guitar legends — Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Joe Bonamassa. Did you feel any added pressure?
It's very weird. I honestly felt no pressure at all. Only excitement. Although those idols you mention are huge influences of mine, and guys my bandmates have played with before, I don't look at this band as a comparison. This is a new thing. It's three generations of rock coming together in all of our different forms to make something new.
What was the songwriting process like for this record?
It was all very collaborative. There were times when I would come in with a riff or Glenn would bring in a riff and a chorus and we’d all start jamming on it. In the end, everything was always dissected and rebuilt by the three of us together.
What was it like working with producer Dave Cobb?
Unbelievable. He is the greatest rock producer of our time. He really knows where music is now and how to get a classic sound with a modern edge.
What can you tell me about the recording process?
We recorded everything live. I remember before we had even started recording, Dave asked Glenn to sing along the vocals while Jason and I played. It was something Glenn had never really done before, and those takes actually made the album. The only overdubs are the bass and extra guitars. All of the main guitar, vocals and drums you hear are straight live to tape.
Was there a reason why you decided to record to tape?
We wanted it to sound like the records we loved, and those records were all recorded to tape with no fucking around. Capturing that classic rock record, but with a more modern approach. It was just the three of us sitting in a room without things like perfectly tuned guitars or click tracks. It's pure rock.
Do you notice a big difference using vintage gear as opposed to what’s available now?
Totally. They don't make anything like they used to, and we used a lot of vintage gear on this record. We used an old 60's Fender Deluxe and Dave's '55 Goldtop on a few tracks. I also used my '62 SG Special. It brings a Pete Townshend, Tony Iommi and “Santana at Woodstock” kind of sound that’s always been one of my favorite tones.
What are you most looking forward to with California Breed?
I'm excited for this album to come out and get on tour. I'm really proud of this record and am looking forward to being introduced to Jason and Glenn's fans. I’m also excited for the young people of the world — the ones I'm connected to — to see what it’s like to listen to a real rock album that's been recorded to tape and not some digital “Pro Tools” album. This band needs to be heard!
California Breed's self-titled debut album will be released May 20 via Frontiers Records. For more about the band, visit their Facebook page.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.
Photo: Mick Rock