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 -
January - February 2006
Can I just say that this is really cool being able to ask you questions personally on your website. I just wondered if your Brother Glen would get the chance to support your band? I know he was playing in a band a few years ago down Devon/Cornwall way. That would be really neat to see. Do any of your kids have a musical talent and if so are they in or considering joining a band?
Thanks in anticipation,
Yes, it would appear that I do have a somewhat musical family. My brother Glenn is still playing guitar mainly in a Shadows tribute band called FBI, although he also does a bit of Jive Rock 'n' Roll with an outfit called 59 Ford. Kids - Annalise, my wife's daughter has a band called B Movie in the States - they aren't doing much at the moment as she has a one year old baby but she'll get back to it in time. Andrew is busy all over the place DJ-ing, his crew are known as Vicious Circle and its all about Drum n Bass, so takes him to various countries and he is slowly becoming known in that somewhat underground movement. Jessica has been doing great, writes songs and sings and recently I introduced her to Vim De Vos and his band, she has been rehearsing with them and appeared with them for one song in Kingston recently (I couldn't go cos it was the night of the Borderline gig). I understand everyone is pretty excited about it. Lastly, born on the same day as Jessie (years later) is Melody Rose (I call her Mimi the Minx), she is the only one who has received formal music training, as well as dance and drama. I had her doing backing vocals on a Lucie Diamond track or two but right now she is still only 14 years old, can't wait to start performing. All in good time I say, she needs to finish her education first, but then I'm sure she will be un-stoppable. There you go on the musical Turners.
Best wishes, Martin (27 Feb 2006)
I have been very curious as to what brand of cymbals Steve Upton used to use in the ultimate heyday (Argus-ish era) of Wishbone Ash. Or did he use a mixture of brands? I know you aren't a drummer so you may not be able to tell me, but if you could shed some light as to what cymbal brands you remember seeing him use I'd be very grateful. I'm just very curious! But I have a gut-feeling he used Paiste, as I do myself. Can you shed some light?
I read somewhere that Steve Harris' from Iron Maiden was very much influenced by you, and that Iron Maiden bass riffs are mostly Wishbone bass riffs. How do you feel about influencing one of the all time best bass players in the modern rock world? My fav band are the Ramones, do you like the Ramones? :)
Yes sir, Steve liked a cymbal or two. I think he did use Paiste, but also had Zildjian. Around the Argus period he bought some new hi-hats because his old ones were split and ripped up. I actually asked him to use the old ones on some songs ("Time Was") because we prefered the trashy quality of the busted ones which sounded like a bloody steam engine, whereas the new ones were too tidy sounding. He later had little plinky jobs as well as the usual China which I'm rather fond of. Used to polish the cymbals sometimes - they tell you not to do that, but I swear they sounded really bright afterwards.
Iron Maiden and the Ramones are both bands I haven't really discovered yet but I'll check em out when I get a minute.
Best wishes, Martin (8 Feb 2006)
I found a website the other day with some pictures of Wishbone Ash at Lancaster University back in 1976. As it happens, I also saw you guys on that tour when you played at the Liverpool Empire (always a receptive venue for Wishbone). However, when I saw the band, you were not wearing this particular item of apparel! I'm sure I would have remembered that one.
Was this in deference to the halls of academia in which you performed?
My question is of course - do you still have this hat? And will we be seeing it in February?
I was not aware that I ever wore that insane hat. The stuff we do to entertain, huh ! I probably wore it for 5 mins, and you got a pic, sweet! The hat belonged to Ian Copeland who was acting as our agent at the time I believe. Ian is younger brother of Miles, our first manager, and older bruv of Stewart, Police drummer. The hat is Spanish and so am I, back a few generations on one side of the family tree. Thats about all I can tell you.
Sweet dreams, Martin (8 Feb 2006)
Thanks for taking some time to answer our questions. Do you have a favorite artist(s) with whom Wishbone Ash toured during your tenure in the band. The band was forever on the road from 1970-80 both headlining and supporting (and doing festivals, too). And I'd also like to know why (i.e. comraderie, musically interesting, heroes of yours, etc).
Hi Brian, The list of people we played alongside in the 70s would be long indeed - here are a few. ZZ Top - first heard them in a field in Texas, could not believe there were just three of them making that huge sound. Billy Gibbons was great both guitar and vocals. Joe Walsh was supporting us on one tour when his "Rocky Mountain Way" hit the No 1 spot in the US charts, I remember hearing it on radio as we rolled up at the gig, walked in backstage and he was playing it live. If the tour had continued too much longer we would have been supporting him. Aerosmith - we supported each other depending on the city, great band, saw they got No 1 spot on MTV one night for rock n roll decadence - they did part of their apprenticeship with us! On this side of the pond - Mott the Hoople - we toured with when "Young Dudes" was out, I also attended the recording sessions at Trident and became quite friendly with Mick Ralphs who even came and played at rehearsals with us when Ted left the band, but Mick had already commited to join Bad Company. Vinegar Joe played shows with us in the early days, and I was always encouraging Robert Palmer, who seemed to lack confidence and was in Elkie Brookes' shadow somewhat. He got there eventually. Gordon Giltrap got hit by a car in Switzerland when he was out with us and I had to talk him up that night when he was stuck in a hotel room with a busted collar bone ready to call Samaritans. Squeeze came out with us in their early career days and I can remember doing a couple of sessions with Jools. To this day I am a huge fan of Chris Difford, I loved his solo album I Didn't Get Where I Am - very personal, wonderful songs, also very fond of East Side Story. Back in the seventies we did a radio show with John Peel with us supporting Rod Stewart and the Faces. They were a great band, Ron Wood a great guy and wonderful guitar style. Played a good few gigs with the Who, I always loved that band especially with Keith Moon and they were great fun to hang out with. I could go on but thats enough for now,
its time to get horizontal.
Night, Martin (8 Feb 2006)
Apologies if you've been asked this question many times before. In your days of touring with Wishbone, is there a particular live gig that sticks in the memory as being an out and out favourite? If so, where, and why?
All the best,
My fave gig is usually the one that I'm playing although there are a few that spring to mind. I can remember supporting Mott the Hoople on their "Young Dudes" tour and one of their crew got me very stoned backstage, not something I do too often. I thought the gig sounded fantastic but I got some flack afterwards from the rest of the band for being all over the place. Strange - it sounded bloody good to me. There was a famous gig on the Startrucking tour in the mid 70s, we got stuck in Stuggart and eventually had to hire a lear jet to get to Marseille and travel on to Avignon where we were headlining the last day of a three-day festival in a Roman amphitheatre in Orange. Bad Company had played the day before. Ike and Tina Turner were on our show and got arrested at French customs (someone had told them there were drugs hidden in their gear). This caused some heavy backstage debate with the promoter, I heard there were knives drawn at one point. It was rumoured he pulled this stunt with customs to chisel some money off the fee - nasty. Meanwhile I had some kind of food poisoning, I was sick and fell asleep backstage in the lions den on some amp covers. Kevin our assistant gave me a prod about 2am and told me I was on stage soon. Ugh, there was nothing I felt less like doing, John Whatsit and his Mahavishnu Orchestra were just finishing up. We went on and could not believe the sound in this place, those Romans knew what they were doing - magic sound - and as we finished with "Phoenix" the sun popped over the top and shone on the stage. It was a fantastic gig. Quite a gig, and it was spoken about in France for a long time I believe.
Martin (21 Jan 2006)
Is there any possiblity of a Live CD coming out of the gigs over the coming year or so? I, for one, would welcome this. This band has been a long time coming. It would be good to have a record of the music, the sets look great.
I am mixing live recordings at the moment - they're from a rehearsal back in November at my manager's studio - they lack the atmosphere of a live audience so I doubt if they'll ever see the light of day. It's an exercise to allow everyone working on the project to see how it sounds. We do intend to record a show or two on the upcoming February tour. I would think we should get something that belongs on a little silver disc by then OK.
Martin (21 Jan 2006)
Hi there Martin,
"Surface To Air" is one of my favorite recordings by Wishbone Ash, and I would just like to know the story behind its creation. And being a bass player influenced by your playing and sound, I would like to know what equipment you were using at the time. Thank you very much.
"Surface To Air" was put together very fast - we were in Miami recording with the Albert Brothers I think and were a bit short on material. I stayed up very late one night back at the house (a villa belonging to one of the Bee Gees) where we stayed, and put the song together by about 4am. It was recorded the very next day if I remeber right and I was very specific about what I wanted to be played, partly because there was no time to experiment and also because I had a clear picture of how I wanted it and I believe that songs come out stronger when they are the product of one clear vision. I put the vocals on with Andy and Laurie and during that session I got quite a lot of flack about the lyric which I have to admit is pretty mad but is loosely based on the principal of getting where you want to go through the feedback of where NOT to go. I sang Eagle instead of Ego which is not a very picturesque word. The vocal session ended up getting crazy with Laurie gaffa taped to the microphone stand and a lot of laughter and madness - it would have been a hoot if it had been filmed. All the product of late nights and too much substance input methinks !
We had access to all kinds of gear at that time - I'm talking equipment now. I tended to use a 1960s precision bass and a Fender concert guitar amp or a little thing called a "Dwarf", bit like a bass version of a "Pig-nose", one input, one output, clean or dirty switch and volume control - keep it simple - I must have recorded about six albums with that little jobbie. Guitars - God knows - they had so many, all of 'em good, but you know, no matter what equipment you use it always ends up sounding like you !
Best wishes for the new year
Martin (4 Jan 2005)
Walk in just about any record shop (at least in the UK) and there in the racks will be a batch of WA CDs. Most of the internet retailers carry them. Which has been the band's biggest selling album over the years? Do you get detailed breakdowns of what is selling on a regular basis?
I'm not a man who gets into market research stats but suffice to say that Arguswas the most critically acclaimed album, it hovered around the charts for a year and took many people in the business by surprise when it won album of the year in Melody Maker's annual awards. Judging by the long running sales to this day which obviously I see through virtue of royalty statements, then that particular album would come out on top methinks. Our record company were very fond ofLive Dates 1, statistically this scored high sales-wise I believe, but that could have been because it was a double album and counted as two units. I like to think of ;em all as just "records" in the sense that, for better or worse, they are records of where the band is at in any given period of time.
All the best for 2006
Martin (3 Jan 2006)
I have two questions for you Martin sir, if that is OK?
(1) Perhaps you might consider doing a diary thread. I've seen this approach on other sites and it actually helps deal with a certain amount of questions about recent activities and future plans, etc.
(2) More seriously, I have always been intrigued at the idea that "F*U*B*B" started off life as a song with lyrics rather than an instrumental. I think it was called "The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse" (obviously a light and whimsical number) and I wonder - was it ever recorded with the vocals, and if so does it survive - even in demo form? If not - perhaps you might consider publishing the lyrics for us to gain an idea about the song construction.
The Dreded Hun
Sounds like "Honey I'm home". Anyway your questions: Diary - I dont got time to get a wash and a shave nowadays, let alone start keeping a friggin diary - I tend to write as a cathartic exercise, to get emotionally based stuff off my chest so I can sleep at night, this usually ends up as song raw material and would probably read like the ramblings of a mad person in its raw form, so if its all the same to you I'll keep it tucked away in my little bag thank you.
"FUBB" - we got stuck on this one. Steve was always writing the lyric which, yes, was about the four horsemen, etc. I had several goes at singing it and just could not get my head around it. It was too heavy for words - I asked him if he could give me something more lightweight - kinda Andy Williams love song or something but he just kept comin back at me with "the end of the world is nigh". I could not sing his words and mean it, so "we have a problem Houston". Bill Symzcyck suggested we just edit out the vocal section (the rest of it sounded so good and it would have a great shame to loose the song completely). At this point (Criteria, Miami 1974), I had never seen anyone edit a 24-track 2ins tape so I was for it big time, just to be able to watch and learn. Bill slashed it up in 5 minutes and it sounded like it was meant to be, so we went with it.
In the light of world events since that time, maybe Steve was not so far off the mark but the lyric sent a shiver up my spine and I just didnt want to know. I think the end result fitted very well into the album and stands up as an instrumental piece. I'm happy to leave it like that but if you want more then try find Steve (he may still have the lyric).
Best wishes for 06
Martin (3 Jan 2006)
I seem to remember some time ago you said that you had been talking to David Bowie about singing techniques. Maybe i misunderstood what you said. Can you shed any light on this?
Happy New Year to you Auld William,
I don't remember any conversation of the type you describe, my contact with Mr.B has been haphazard over the years. He came back from Switzerland and stayed at my house in Barnes in order to go to Marc Bolan's funeral about which he was extremely upset. I was actually off gigging with WA but his PA Corrine was great friends with my first wife Maurn and some time later they both came over to my house in Sheen for a party. David was intrigued to hear some recording I had been doing with Edwin Starr and I had to give him a copy to take away, that was a fun evening. We saw Coco and Bobo again in New York about 75, they were getting set up there at the time we arrived to live there, even helped try and find us a place to live.
Quite a few folks have compared my vocal style with Mr. B and I guess in places it sounds similar, a bit down to effects and trickery (I would say) which we are both inclined to use, but then again if you are an artsy, funky white bloke with a like background then the chances are there will be similarities. Havn't seen Coco for years!
Best wishes for 06, Martin (3 Jan 2006)