A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
"Ask Martin" Q&As -
September - December 2005
Given the recent re-birth of Matamp in WA circles, this seems a natural and currently topical inquiry. Were the Orange Matamps ever actually used in the studio, if so, when?-And what prompted you to quit using Matamps, too loud, too heavy, etc? Promise not to bother again with gear questions.
I think we were using Orange Matamps around the Argus period (early 70s). The original design was very clean and undistorted with a very rich mid-range, they were loud and clear but as the company became bigger they changed the design to a more crunchy distorted sound a la Marshall. These later amps are distinguished by the addition of symbols to indicate what the controls did. The distortion made them sound louder it seems. The original design was quite demanding in that it did not cover up any lack of technique and seemed to demand a very precise playing style which I would say was exactly what we wanted but maybe did not appeal to everyone. Remember at that time PA systems were pretty crude and by the time guitar cabs had been miked up and sent through fairly distorted PA equipment we found that we could reproduce our recorded sound better by having the source pretty clean. It was demanding to play on but worked well for us. I can remember playing shows in the US with Black Sabbath for instance and their sound was very distorted - each to his own.
Mathias - the amps designer - had a large bump on his forehead which we all reckoned was the extra bit of brain that God had given him in order to design the Matamp. He worked for the British army in WW2 way back in the 40s and had designed his stuff then for Army use and had kept the blue-prints till the 60s when the demand for guitar amps blossomed. Strange to think that Mr Hitler and his antics influenced rock technology! I used a large 200Watt Orange Amp for a while, it sounded great but was a pig in terms of its weight and also the whacky valves needed re-biasing on every other gig to keep it clean. Somewhat impractical, which is why I moved on.
I hope this answers your question,
Martin Turner (25 Dec 2005)
"Errors Of My Way" is my ultimate favourite all time track, it is an absolute masterpiece, in fact "masterpiece" is an understatement!. It is also my favouite track to play live (closely followed by "Blind Eye" and "Phoenix"), I often joke with my fellow band mates that i could play "Errors Of My Ways" all night!
I have a few questions regarding this song.
1. about 1:58 and about 2:40 into the song, you hear like a scratching hissing noise (..."not to cry...see where I am..." and later on too). Was this overdubbed? I'm utterly convinced it is myself, although I accept I may be wrong, cos all of Steve's limbs are busy from what I can hear and it seems impossible to play that without a third arm. Can you shed some light into this for me?
2. Who sung the spontanious sounding "Yeaahhhh..." bit about 2:08 into the song and was this spontanious thing in the studio or a predetermined part of the actual composition?
3. On this song, did Steve compose the drum sections himself, or did you guys kinda tell him what you wanted him to play? Them rudiments and drum patterns are an abolute joy to play. There's about 7 different drum phrasings in that song and they are just brilliantly composed.
The whole song is just utterly superb.....
This song is typical of the period when the Steve and I first got together with Ted and Andy. We used to spend a lot of time jamming in Miles Copeland's basement and you can certainly here the results on this song. I am a bit baffled as to your question re "scratching" - I think what you are hearing is an acoustic guitar played by Andy (centre stereo), it does sound a bit tinny and distorted. Steve is also playing 16s on the snare drum at this point, albeit lightly. The bubbling brook rythym guitars are nice, the bass guitar was rented - all I owned at the time was a £5 home made job so the producer Derek got me a real one which wasn't quite right for me. Andy sings the ad-lib stereo left. The whole song is very sweet and somewhat niave but full of melody and innovation. We were very young lads when this was recorded, Ted had only just left school a few months before! Andy was good at this folky style, I sang the harmony melody lines which were translated beautifully onto guitar by the harmony twins. Vocals are me on top Andy on the low part. You can easily spot that it was recorded in the pre click track era - the song actually slows down after it opens.
Hope this throws some light on it for you,
Martin (24 Dec 2005)
I was wondering if you still have the Hamer Explorer bass that was made for you back in the 1970's, I think the serial # was 001, and if you have any plans to tour the US.
Yes I have the bass, yes it is S/N 0001. It needs adjusting to get it more compitable with the T'Bird so I can switch between the two. It does sound very juicy though. I do not know about the USA as yet, we need to get out and do this UK tour in February and see where it takes us from there.
Martin Turner (19 Dec 2005)
really enjoyed the 2 gigs, and it was great to hear so many not too often played songs. But I wondered why there was so little from your 2nd era with the band with only "Cosmic Jazz" included. The reformed band saw you writing some of your best ever songs - "Lost Cause in Paradise", for example, is one I would regard as a MUST for any MT/WA set list. I would like to ask you would you consider playing some more from this era on your next dates, also maybe another song or two from your exdcellent solo album. Please dont take this as a criticism of your live show - it was truly great. Instead please take the above as a compliment - you've penned so many great tunes, and not just in the first ten years of Wishbone Ash. Your later songs were fantastic also.
All in good time - we have to start somewhere. I haven't worked out how many hours of WA songs I listened to - must be in the realms of 15 hours worth - the choice is extensive and it was expedient to begin with tunes that my new guys were familiar with. At least they had some idea of how they should sound. Obviously it will be exciting to investigate all kinds of less obvious songs later, which I intend to do. This is not just me popping out for a tour, this is me getting back to something that is an important part of my life, so I'm here for the long haul and have all kinds of plans bubbling away. Even the longest journey must start with the first step!
Best wishes best bones
Martin (19 Dec 2005)
Is there a reason you have decided not to include "Handy" in the set list, even though it is obviously much loved by all the Wishbone fans?
No particular reason - we try to include a long and varied list of songs some of which have not been played too much, if at all. "Handy" would be worth a look at and look we will at some point. I've noticed with my new lads that every Wishbone song we have taken a look at, we have been able to perform - this is something that was not even possible with the original line-ups, so I'm pretty pleased that it gives us the ability to have a crack at anything in the catalogue and there is a rich choice of material to consider. The fact that all my new guys sing and have the right attitude makes all this possible - so it bodes well for the future. At this point in time we have played two gigs - so by February which is not far away, I would expect the set to be pretty similar to gigs 1 and 2. I played "Handy" on a rented Fender Bass with foam under the bridge - If I did play it now it would sound different. It was inspired by Andre Segovia. Anybody ever listen to his recordings? Bucketloads of Passion!
Martin Turner (19 Dec 2005)
are you still in contact with Steve Upton? Or has he just vanished into Southern France? He is/was a fantastic drummer and it's a darn shame to say the least. His playing was truely inspirational.
Wouldn't it be great to see him and yourself at Ashcon.
Steve and I were together from about 1967 so we did develop an almost telepathic understanding during the 70s. I do have a number for Steve down at the Chateau in France but I have not spoken to him for a few months. Should send him a Xmas card methinks! I know he has a back problem (some kind of spinal deterioration - not tap) probably from years of drumming straight handed, who knows! I too was very fond of his rather unique style, and I would love to play with him again but I very much doubt that it will happen I'm afraid to say.
Martin Turner (19 Dec 2005)
Andy Powell a few years back said that the first time he met Sting he played "Handy" note for note. Considering the Miles and Stewart Copeland connection and also your talented brother Kim being The Police's road manager do you believe you were a bass playing Role Model for Sting in anyway. Style wise you both are very fond of Arpeggio' and 1st and 3rds.
Stingo (as he was known amonst the crew) did call my house once and I congratulated him on some award he had just gotten and he responded by being very complimantary to me, so I figured he had checked me out. He really is a very healthy living person for the music biz - must be doing something right - and has written some wonderful songs and my wife and I are rather fond of Trudy, she is quite a lady.
My brother Kim came to my studio once and needed to get a mix of a live "Dont Stand So Close To Me" recording. It was for the B-Side of a single release of the same song done in a slow, moody studio recording which was actually released just after the band had split. They wanted to use this live version but Kim told me the bass was a problem. Sounded fine to me, until the middle section where it crashed big time, (like someone had grabbed him on stage). Kim says to me "your a bass player, get your guitar and fix it", "what?", says I. I nailed it in about 45mins and he played it to Stingo next day. "Yeah fine", says he, Kim asked him: "does the bass sound OK?". "Yeah of course"."Thats my bruv" says Kim, "Really!", etc. etc. Called me later to say the mix sounded good and out it went. I dont think it was one of their big records, and best not mention it to any Police fans maybe. Sometimes these things just have to be done.
There is quite a link between the two bands. Same manager - Miles Copeland, his little brother Stewart used to play with us when we were rehearsing at their house in the early days, my brother Kim was involved with them from day one, was pretty tight with Sting for many years, he even went to the rain forest with him to meet Cheif Raoni. I have little Andy Summers son living with me, so he has two Dads - yours truly and Andy in LA. Like a lot of people I would love to see them on a stage performing together again but I doubt that it will happen.
Martin Turner (30 Nov 2005)
PS - Oh, one other thing - check out Sting's auto-biography, very entertaining and fascinating. He is a good book writer too!
My question is: Martin, what is your policy on the recording of your live shows by fans. Do you encourage it, allow it, or are you against it?
Hi Zilla baby,
If people really feel that the ticket price they pay for a gig entitles them to record it then what the hell am I supposed to do - leap off the stage in the middle of a tune, bite their heads off and drink their blood? I usually leave that kind of grizzly endevour to Godzilla people, in any case I wouldn't want to smudge my makeup!
A good friend of mine sent me a copy of a Chris Difford album recently (called: I Didn't Get Where I Am). Very personal and mellow, moody album, brilliant in my opinion, so I'll pass on the copy and go buy an actual CD of my own. That way we will all have real people continuing to make and perform emotionally-based music rather than a bunch of computer generated elevator pop muzak wallpaper.
In the end we all use our free will and make our own decisions.
I'm sure that bearing in mind karma and all the wisdom you can muster, you too can make your decision. There will always be people who just don't consider the consequences or else get an orgasmic lttle squirm of delight cos they got something for nothing but I trust in human nature and beyond.
Best bones as well, with meat on em,
Martin (30 Nov 2005)
I've been a (ten a penny) bass player for 32 years now and I understand the Bassist/drummer relationship inside out. I hate my current partners guts (10 long years of working with him) but I know I'd be lost without him.... Question is, how did you handle the Strange Affairsituation when Steve Upton threw in the towel? Was there any real attempt made to convince Steve to stay or did you all just accept the situation and let him go?
This is a big question - I'll try to answer. During the aptly named Strange AffairSteve was going through a marriage split that involved 3 children. He was clearly hurting but I know that musicians take haven in music at such times to mentally escape their troubles. He was struggling to play like the Steve we all knew and loved. I tried for days to get him up and running and I thought I was getting there with him but Andy and Ted felt we had a problem and when it was discussed with Steve he just decided to abruptly leave, mainly to sort out his life and also to not hold up the album. I felt we should have helped him - he was more important than the album. Steve had been with me since the mid 60s and he took care of all the day to day business of WA in the most honest manner for the benefit of all concerned (a big task). I called Ray Weston, who I had worked with and Robbie France was recommended also but even then, I thought it would be temporary and that Steve would be back. Andy was happy to assume the business tasks but I felt that the band was not the same without Steve.
Bands that stay together till death us do part are usually stronger, line up changes change everything and WA now is mainly for Andy's benefit. I'm sure he feels he has every right to earn from the bands substantial reputation and I know he works hard touring a lot. The fact remains however that you can play the same notes and sing the same words but it doesnt create the dynamics and magic that was once generated by the four characters that constituted the original band during the 70s . I dont mean for this to sound like sour grapes - Andy is a fine guitarist and hard working but what he is doing now is very different in everything but name. You could say the same about what I am starting out with, but, one of my reasons is to redress the lack of spirit in many of the songs that I wrote - at the risk of sounding like an arrogant f**k: when I hear a bunch of people I hardly know playing WA music and it has no soul or spirit, I think to myself if I can't do this better or at least how its supposed to be, then I need to get an operation and change my name to Martina.
Its impossible to talk about WA without considering Steve. He was "only the drummer" , sometimes brilliant, sometimes downright odd, but his style was very recognisable and his running of the band was crucial, he was the guvnor in that respect, I was the artistic leader and Ted, Andy and Laurie the front guys, performing the band's trademark harmony guitars. Sure, everyone contributed, and there was a good "one for all, all for one" mentality, the four way tension and balance was very strong but when Steve walked, part of the spirit went with him and it was never the same again.
Hope this helps to put the record straight,
Martin Turner (30 Nov 2005)
Why is it that Ted's vocal contributions were so minor from Argusonwards? Of course his solo vocals were great, but yours and Ted's voices blended so well on the intro to "Time Was", I was wondereing why that combination was not used more often. How did you all decide who sang what?
Hi, I always used to try and encourage Ted to sing as I did also with Andy and Laurie later. My take on it has always been that when you are born you do not have the ability to talk, language is a learned behaviour and the apparatus is the same for talking as it is for singing, so basically anyone can sing. Half the battle is confidence, and in my case because I had always sung from a little boy (in church choirs mainly), I did not find it an un-natural or self-concious thing to do. Singing in a rock band however is a slightly different thing in that you have to able to sing very loud to get across when you have 125Db back line behind you, I think Ted and Andy found this fairly hard work and also saw themselves as primarily guitarists, with maybe an attitude of believing that it is better to do one thing really well than to try to be a "jack of all trades" and end up being average at all. For myself I play guitar, bass, keyboards, I sing, play drums, write songs, engineer and produce - as long as it is to do with music, I love it, and I cannot help but do it from the heart. There is plenty of music out there and not everybody can like everything, so I accept that some folks are not into what I do but have their own faves as do I. I know that the Argus album was me and my mates working at peak efficiency and I would be a liar if I said I am not proud of what we accomplished at that time. It is great that it has lived so long and inspired so many people across the world. Anyway - got to go wash the dishes,
MT (26 Sep 2005)
I was wondering if you intend to have any keyboards featured in the new band format? I originally thought you might have expanded it to a five-piece with a keyboardsman to give a more textured sound - but believe me I have no complaints about the four-piece twin-guitar set up at all. Perhaps you will play some keyboard parts yourself (as either intro pieces - or with one of your guitarists deputising on bass) which would add enormously to the range of material and sounds the band could create in a live concert setting?
Either way I suppose it will be simple enough to multi-track keys in the studio and I look forward to hearing some fresh studio output from you man - the first since Reeperbahn and Deep after all. Equally I am really keen to see the new band on stage, and wonder if you have any touring plans cooking?
Finally, as a bassist myself who always saw your bass as not just fulfilling the contrapuntal role - but also acting as a melodic instrument - a third guitar no less - I am hopeful that the bass guitar will be upfront where I think it should be.
Keyboards - when we recorded the Nouveau Calls, Here to Hear, Strange Affairtrilogy I got very into using keyboards, the Reeperbahn album also. We did look into using a keyboard player around that time and I spent a day with a guy who came highly recommended but he found my style and the parts we had recorded very hard to reproduce because they were extremely unorthodox, he said. Well, I was never trained to tickle the ivories so what he said made sense. The live solution we opted for was to dump the keys and a click-track onto DAT tape (used as a 2 track), the drummer got the C/T signal and keys came through monitoring + PA. Bit of a messy set up, but it kind of worked and with my plans for the new band I will be using a similar system, probably with MiniDisc. Lack of actual keyboard person equates to more room in gig bus, dressing room and on stage of course but most importantly the parts are accurate (no extra jazz) and for the tiny amount of keys used, pre-recorded works best for me. I have to admit that I am not mad about watching someone bash away on a slab of technology, there is still something sexier about good old fashioned guitars.
As far as touring plans go, it will be fairly modest, we are having to start from scratch, so the agent is looking to book 2 or 3 weeks in late Jan early Feb 2006 here in the UK and we'll see how it goes from there. Oh - there is also a gig in Sutton (SW of London) in early December which will be our first.
Best bones, MT (25 Sep 2005)
Have you tried out the various Line 6 pieces of kit (Bass Pod XT etc.)? I find them bloody great for recording (can't afford all the vintage gear or to chuck my amps out of the back of a van to achieve that 'knackered' sound!) Even makes a tame sounding Fender J-Bass sound like it's in pain! Can't wait to see the new band and the master back in action
I have used the Line 6 maroon kidney shaped jobbie in the studio for recording guitar. I was fairly un-impressed until we diescovered the little speaker simulator switch on the back - that made a huge difference to the sound and was really very good and certainly easy to use. It just seems to lack the balls that you get when speakers are moving air. I am a fan of small amplifiers for guitar - one of the guys in the Bishops uses an old 1960s JMI AC 4 into a 15ins speaker and it sounds dynamite. I've not used a Pod for bass - should give it a try really, I'm always interested to try different stuff for recording, but somehow it always seems to end up sounding like the same old pushy bass player so I guess its down to what comes from the fingers in the end.
Best wishes MT (25 Sept 2005)
All the songs on the first 5 albums plus New England are credited to all 4 members? Any clues as to who wrote what? I know you came up with most of the lyrics. Who wrote the music?
Argus (Neil Ferguson)
The first couple of albums were very much the product of an "all for one - one for all" mentality. We spent huge amounts of time jamming which is evident on songs like "Phoenix", "Handy" and "Errors". "Blind Eye" is a pretty standard 12 bar format with Ted's vocal and lyric, "Lady Whiskey" was my lyric and vocal. I would generally sing the guitar harmonies which we "guitarised" - they sounded better on guitar than they would have as vocal but have a more complex harmony structure than a guitar player would normally create. This gave us a unique identity that became a trademark sound. I was also quite good at coming up with what we called "Noddy" riffs such as the guitar lines on "Queen of Torture" - Ted's lyric based on a crazy bondage relationship he had with some girlie.
Pilgramage: "Vas Dis" is a Brother Jack McDuff tune from the 60s that my brother and I were fond of. Its Jazz really - I had taught it to Ted when he first joined the band to improve his chord knowledge, the WA version is a lot rockier than McDuff and does get a move on. "The Pilgrim" - built on bass riffs - the slow section with Teds melody on top and then the 7/8 fast section - I spent hours putting this together and it borrows somewhat from classical music I had studied. Andy did a good job of improvising the guitar over the top, not easy with that time signature. "Jailbait" - Ted helped by Steve, how long can we get away with one note experiment. "Alone" was a sweet song that I put together but the vocal was edited out leaving only the intro and outro. "Lullaby" - Ted's idea mainly with a lot of input from Andy. "Valediction" was Andy's song, I helped with vocal harmony and there is a "reggae-ish" jam on the end led by Ted.
"Where Were You Tomorrow" - Andy's bluesy vocal on a straight 12 bar jam with the lyric by Miles Copeland our then manager. As I said earlier these two albums were very much the "honeymoon" period with everyone working together and a lot of fresh experimentation, Steve and I had been together for quite a few years before which also gave us a good wishbone backbone.
More to follow later.
Best wishes, best bones, MT (21 Sep 2005)
I have repeated a number of times the info you posted some time ago about the tiny amp and PBass you used for There's the Rub. Have had a number of people very interested in hearing that. Not surprising, as WA has always attracted so many players as fans.
I am certain many other fans as well enjoy hearing things about the instruments we associate with our favourite players. Ted Turner looked and sounded great with the Firebird he was playing on a very old video clip I saw a while ago. Also, recently read a story about a mob scene during a WA show where Mr. Powell actually had to use his V for a weapon (I assume defensively). Your Tbird is identified with you much the same way the V is with AP.
I usually used my old 1960s PBasses for recording mainly because engineers were familiar with them, knew what to do etc. On the There's the Rub sessions I played through an old fender conert amp 4 x 10 which was falling apart. We had it extensively repaired and it never sounded the same again. Bill Szymczyk and I struggled a bit to reach a compromise over the bass sound, he wanted it more orthodox, I wanted it with attack and crunch. Learnt a lot from him however and I have the utmost respect for his Production technique. We were after a distorted guitar sound one day and asked him about Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" sound, he brought in a Pignose, we thought he was joking but used it and it sounded good. I acquired a bass version called "Dwarf", it had a line out, a switch for clean or dirty and a volume pot - recorded many albums with it. I now use a "Gas Cooker" tube direct box made by Ridge Farm here in Surrey. I've found that no matter what I use it seems to end up sounding much the same. Whish seems to prove it comes from the fingers and the brain.
MT (20 Sep 2005)
A bassist recalled seeing Mott the Hoople appear with a T'bird, and really enjoyed hearing it. Itmay well be the one you've been playing all these years. I also have a Hamer (6-string), it's probably my favourite, but it doesn't have a vibrola, and is quite heavy, so I play it a bit less. Loaded it with the Gibson re-issue PUs that have the mis-matched windings between coils and I enjoy many of the those early WA tones from it. Gibson do make wonderful humbuckers.
The T'bird - I had flown out to do a gig in Holland with my new Rickenbacker bass - the neck broke on its first flight - I was rather unimpressed and decided it was a girl's instrument - not up to the rigours of the road. I called Pete Watts and asked him if I could borrow a T'Bird from him. He gave me this thing which had gone up in the air at a Mott gig and been smashed into 13 pieces, the road crew had glued it back together on the road and it was a horrible mess. After a week I called him and told him he was an asshole for treating it so badly and that I would buy it from him and get it sorted. He said he didnt want to sell and I replied that was a pity as I was about to come around with £250 in nice new crisp banknotes (Mick Ralphs had told me he needed money), "oh really" said Pete, "well come over and we'll chat about it" - its been with me ever since.
Thanks Pete you old tart. Had to get it rebuilt and resprayed - I still have the original headstock to prove that the serial number is legit. I must love it, its been with me longer than either of my wives.
Later - MT (19 Sep 2005)