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Glenn Hughes brings the ?F.U.N.K?

The ex-Deep Purple bassist’s latest solo flight is heavy on funk and soul.

His head clouded by mind-altering substances, Glenn Hughes, admittedly, was “... high as a kite” while making his first solo album, Play Me Out.

“I don’t remember ever being clean and sober one second,” he says, “but still, a very, very beautiful record.”

That album was released in 1977, a year after Deep Purple split and 14 years before Hughes would rid himself of a drug habit that nearly destroyed him.

Now straight, through sheer force of will after deciding in the early ’90s that “... you either get clean and sober or you go to institutions, jail or you die,” Hughes, still nimble on the bass and his famous voice more soulful than ever, has concocted perhaps the headiest of his funk/soul-infused, hard-rock brews, First Underground Nuclear Kitchen (Click here for a review).

Or, F.U.N.K. for short, and it’s Hughes, ever the innovator, doing what comes naturally, playing hopscotch with a variety of genres and jumping from blues and jazz to metal and psychedelia.

“I look at it like that it’s a big soup, and you muck it all together, and those ingredients become Glenn Hughes’ music, which is the funky stuff,” he says.

Dense funk grooves lay the foundation for tracks like “Crave,” the title track and “We Shall Be Free,” and the chemistry of sunny, tightly packed horns, energetic, stabbing guitars, rubbery bass lines and Hughes’ vocals — from his soft caresses to his wild wailing — on “We Go To War” and “Love Communion” is explosive.

“I normally write first the music, and then I’ll write sort of a melody in my brain,” explains Hughes, mapping out how his creative process works. “And then, it’s just the lyrics start popping out, but this album was written pretty quick. Certain records write themselves. This is an album that really did write itself.”

Having The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith manning drums helped shape those fat grooves. The two have been friends since the 2002 NAMM industry show in Los Angeles.

“Since that event, we’ve become best buds, godfather to his child,” says Hughes. “Our families are really close. Yes, he’s the greatest drummer in the world... for me, pound for pound.”

Considering that he’s played with the likes of Ian Paice and John Bonham, that’s a startling assessment.

Paice, of course, is one of the founding members of Deep Purple. Hughes, who was born in Cannock, Staffordshire, England, served as Deep Purple’s bassist/vocalist between 1973 and 1976 after leaving the British funk-rock band Trapeze.

“When we first started out, Trapeze were basically a harmony band,” says Hughes. “We were very influenced by what was going on with The Beatles, even like with California and The Beach Boys.”

And, of course, Trapeze was prodded toward soul and R&B by Hughes’ fascination with the music roaring out of Memphis and Detroit, and the records of artists like Otis Redding, Al Green and Stevie Wonder.

Leaving Trapeze wasn’t an easy decision for Hughes. The band had gained a foothold in America and was primed to become the “next big thing” out of England.

“Trapeze was about to crack it big in America,” says Hughes. “We were doing 5,000 seats a night. We were on the Moody Blues’ label, Threshold Records, and we were being supported by The Moody Blues, really good friends of ours now.”

Initially, Hughes said, “No” to Deep Purple because he wanted to sing, “... and they wanted to get Paul Rodgers to sing. And then, Rodgers didn&rsquo