A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
Sounds, 24 March 1973 by Ray Telford
Wishbone Talk-In With Ted Turner
The band recently spent some time in Wales reportedly getting together a new stage set. Would you care to expand on that?
“Well, it was basically just a period of extensive rehearsals. We spent two weeks on this farm but apart from relaxing I don’t think it was very fruitful in other ways except that it gave us all a good rest and sort of freshened us up a bit for the next American tour.”
You’ve been working on a new album for the past three months, which seems a long time compared with Wishbone’s speedy recording time on previous albums.
“Yeah, I suppose that’s true but I never looked at it that way because I can’t compare the experiences we’ve gone through recording this album with any of the others. It seems longer, maybe, probably because of the way we’ve done it, you know, it was like we had nothing at the beginning and then we went away and did some things on Revoxes, like everything was a rough mix, and that was the first time we’d approached an album in that way.”
How much of the old material are you planning to keep as part of the new set?
“About three or four, I guess. We’ll do ‘ Phoenix’ of course, ‘The King Will Come’ and a couple of others which’ll fit in nicely. Really the new set is for the States basically but it’ll probably change again when we get back to working more here which will be in about two and a half months from now.
It’s a long tour but we’ve more or less split it up into two sections because we’re taking ten days off about halfway through for the rest of the guys to come back and see their wives, but I’m planning to stay there just to have a look around. You never really get to see the place when you’re on tour because of the lack of time.”
Have you included any live material on the new album?
“No, but it’s pretty near to it if you see what I mean. Like, there’s a couple of songs which have a very live feel to them because the music itself is much more basic thab anything we’ve done before and in a lot of ways it reflects some of earlier Wishbone. But I think it’s the sounds we’ve achieved on this album that really make it.”
That sounds as though the group have become more actively involved in the album’s production.
“Yeah, we have and I think that’s why the actual quality of the sound is much better.”
Have you kept the tracks short this time?
“Well, most of them are quite short. There’s eight tracks altogether, with four a side and they all run about five or six minutes which I feel is a nice, comfortable length. There’s also some brass on the album – on ‘ No Easy Road’ – and that’s worked out really well.
We left the horn arrangements pretty loose and the guys that are working on it have figured it our more or less themselves. I mean we didn’t want to start writing down and arranging for horns because its not our particular thing. They know best so we just left them to it.”
Wishbone Ash plus horn section seems, at first sight, a strange move?
“Yeah, I suppose it might seem like that to a lot of people but I’ve always thought that some day there’d be room for something like that in Wishbone, but that’s just the way I hear it. Everybody hears things, or imagines thing differently. I suppose we’ll use them on live gigs at some point too.”
The only live Wishbone album available is the one taken from the group’s radio concert in Memphis last year. Are there any plans for a similar album to be put out here?
“No, not at the moment. I mean, that album you’re talking about was a real drag and, thankfully, it’s not on general sale. There are a few promotional copies floating around but I’d rather forget about it. It must be one of the worst recordings ever. I remember minutes before we played that set I was in the control room soldering my guitar. It was just one of those day, you know, nothing went right.”
The group have been promising a live album now for some time. Can you say when that might be?
“Well, when we come back from the States we’ll start getting together a live double album. I feel the time will be right for us to do that then. A live album’s like something a bit different for a band like us and I think that it’s something that people want from us now.”
Don’t you feel though that live albums from already established bands can be a bit superfluous, especially if the tracks have appeared on previous albums?
“Yeah, well you could look at it that way, but as far as Wishbone on stage is concerned it’s something that’s never been captured on record before. See, in the past Wishbone have been a different band live than they have in the studio but the fact is that we’re very much a live band because, unlike a few other people I could name, our numbers were written to be played live and not written purely for recording purposes. There’s also other things like personal reasons why we want to put out a live album.”
That possibly explains why Wishbone Ash’s single releases have met with considerably less success than the albums.
“That’s true, but then again we’ve never cared too much about putting out singles anyway. I mean I think we could if we put our minds to it become a successful singles band, but we’ve always seemed to pick the wrong songs to release. Getting singles together is also very time consuming so if you’re not into it in a big way they do become a bit of a drag, especially if you’re putting one out just for the sake of it.”
Have you personally written anything for the new album?
“Well I haven’t written anything that’s been entirely my own. It’s been done in the usual Wishbone way with everybody pitching in. But as far as my sort of special contributions to the album are concerned, I’m playing slide guitar on three tracks which is something new for us but the actual writing has been done more by Andy and Martin, who writes the lyrics, and Steve too has written a song called ‘Rock and Roll Widow’, which will be included. He actually wrote it ages ago, after the second American tour, but we never used it until now. It sounds really good.”
Wishbone’s first British gig for some time will be at the Marquee this weekend. What prompted you to play the Marquee?
“Well, to be honest, we didn’t want to do it. I mean we needed the time off to rehearse but, you know, it’s a promotional thing. When we get back from America we’re going to play about ten proper gigs here, like a few clubs and universities which should be nice because we haven’t done that circuit for ages and they are very good gigs to get into.”
Are you afraid you may have lost contact in some ways with the normal British circuit through Wishbone’s absence from it?
“No, I don’t think you lose contact at all. It’s certainly very different to other gigs and once you’ve been out of it for a while it can be a bit strange getting back into it, but I don’t think there’s any contact lost.”
How much are you looking forward to this coming US tour?
“I’m personally looking forward to it very much. I mean we’ve broken almost every State. Which is nice and it was more or less the last tour that did it for us. Like the first tour was hard, really hard, but we did as much as we could then which has meant that all the other tours have been easier in turn and it is beginning to pay us back a bit.”
Obviously the scale of success in America is much higher than it is here and coming back after a successful American trip must be strange.
“Yeah, it is bloody strange but it’s not a bring-down in any way, it’s just like taking a few paces backwards, or that’s how it seems, but in fact it’s just a case of re-adjusting yourself to the rhythm of things in this country. This first tour was the worst in that respect because it wasn’t only playing to new audiences but the country was also unfamiliar and that brings on a few extra pressures.”
Do you agree that there was a point when Wishbone may have become a bit far removed from the band’s original musical ideas, especially when you say that there’s a much more basic feel to the music now?
“Yeah, I think we might have done. We went through a lot of experiments the same way as every band does just because we didn’t want to stick ourselves in one direction. It’s really a case of growing up musically, keeping the good things that you have learnt and throwing out everything that’s duff. It’s something that can only happen with time and it’s the sort of thing that matures groups. What really matters though is that right from the start we’ve had a strong identity and we still have even though we’ve gone through all these changes. The songs on this album, for example, are certainly the strongest we’ve ever done but at the same time they’re pure Wishbone Ash with no outside influences. Like we’ve even got some things on the new album which are near enough acoustic numbers, though none of them are totally acoustic, but there’s no mistaking that they’re Wishbone Ash songs.”
You also mentioned earlier that the band have started using the three main voices to better effect.
“Yes, we have. That’s another thing we’ve been careful to emphasise. We’ve now struck a much better balance between the voices and the instruments whereas in the past we’ve always seemed stronger vocally. We’ve arranged the voices with this in mind and Martin (Turner) comes over much stronger than before. We’ve also been trying to get Steve to sing to make it even stronger but he won’t do it, though he could do it easily, I’m sure, because he used to sing at one time. But as far as getting the balance between voices and instruments together, we worked a lot on that in Wales but then again the new material has made it a lot easier to do that. But really it is very hard to be objective if you’re so closely involved.”
Do you find that you perhaps get over-involved in recording an album to the point where you’re blinkered?
“Yeah, maybe, but it hasn’t been so constant before as it has on this one. Like, we’ve been at the new one for three months solid and everything even at that has had to be rushed. Once you finish one thing you’re into another and you just haven’t the time to sit back and pass judgements until the whole album is finished – mixing and everything.”
Argus could be fairly described as a milestone for Wishbone Ash for it represented a looser, yet funkier approach and much of this was due to Steve Upton’s gradual change of style. Would you say he’s developed this much further?
“Yeah, he’s breaking out all the time. He’s really into getting a slap from his kit now and that gives a whole lot more effect to the sound. It’s certainly the best sound he’s ever had and Martin’s bass playing too is changing to suit the drum sound. At one time our sound always used to be mainly middle and top but sinceArgus the feel has definitely become more basic. I don’t know, but we might have made in with American audiences in the first place because we were very light and it’s good that they stuck with us the same way as British audiences have done.”