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 - www.wishboneash.co.uk
Are there plans for the future to make a CD with new songs instead of all the old work of WA.
I would love to work with the new band on new material -some of which exists already. We are all keen to get into this project but I think its going to be a few months before it really gets going The New Live Dates album project was important to give us something tangible for people to hear what my band sounds like. It was recorded after we had only done a few gigs - already we are more confident and feeling like a well oiled machine, but I think it was an important exercise and hopefully captures the honest raw energy of our early live performances. I've seen and heard many so called WA live albums over the years, some of which have been extremely poor quality - almost bootleg recordings - conversely there have been a couple of ultra polished productions where clearly guitars and vocals have been re-recorded in a studio and all "liveness" has been sanitised out. New Live Dates has been put together with the same approach as I employed on the original LD 1 + 2 albums to give an accurate impression of how Live WA music should sound in my humble opinion - not everyone will like it but thats what its about. Having said that the reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive with a couple of miserable exceptions - and given where they came from, that was entirely predictable.
Martin Turner (30 Nov 2006)
Memory test; What colour knickers was Elkie Brooks (Vinegar Joe), wearing at your Alexander Palace gig in August 73? Clue... Laurie Wisefield penned song.
I guess you saw red. I was not in the habbit of checking on Elkie's knickers myself. I do remember her on a gig in the States after soundcheck and we were all out the front when a biker dude came rolling up on a Harley and started chatting, Elkie took off with him for a ride. We were always telling Robert Palmer (who was shy, great looking and a bit subservient to Elkie) get up the front and give it some, Robert seemed to lack confidence in the early days but got it together eventually. Elkie had a fantastic voice, obviously listened to Aretha quite a lot, but she was powerful. I couldn't believe it when I saw her pop up on TV with a single about Lilac Wine or something. She had a whole brand new set of teeth, got rid of the funky ones she had before.
Martin (23 Nov 2006)
The Sunday Dutch gig was a total joy; there seemed to be some filming of it going on at the mixing desk; Was this official and is there any chance of releasing a song or two, either here or uploaded straight onto YouTube? Finally, you said in another answer you had dinner with Steve; how is he - does he still smoke that pipe?
The folks at the Wilhemena had a static camera set up to feed live pics to the front of the bar so that people can see whats going on at the back of the room - as far as I know. They asked me if they could record and I said fine by me. They did give me a copy at the end of the show on DVD but I have not had time to look at it yet. I tend not to watch recordings anyway. I don't know how much of the show was recorded but as always in such situations the video feed will be static which tends to look boring - mainly because weare all so used to seeing five or six camera angles with edits galore so it stays interesting. Also, the audio will either be a mic in the room or a feed from the sound-board which consists of the whole sound on the night minus what was coming off the stage, so usually the vocals are very loud and the guitars probably quiet. Not likely to be an ideal representation of what was clearly a stonkin gig.
Steve Upton, yes we got together - it was great to see him again, also his lad Ben and girlfriend Ruth who is lovely. He looks older, people do when you haven't seen them for ages, but he was in great shape and it was a fun evening. I worked alongside Steve from the mid 60s in the Empty Vessels right up to when he left during the Strange Affair album. He always did a massive amount of work for the band behind the scenes, the everyday running of the band's business, we all looked to him as the main man in this regard and when he left to live in France the band was never the same. I have always had the greatest respect for his integrity, his wit, and working together for so long as bass and drums you become extremely close. I always felt that as his mates we should have stuck by him when he was going through a bad personal period, fortunately Miles Copeland helped him to get his life back together. No pipe I'm afraid but he did smoke a cigar after the meal which reminded me of us all travelling to some gig in Germany with young Jim Ebdon driving the vehicle. When he had to break quite heavy, then looked guiltily round at Steve sat in the passenger seat with his feet on the dash, in his leather coat with fur collar and cigar in mouth (looking like General, McArthur), "Sorry Colonel" says Jim nervously, and Steve with hardly a movement or sound just put up his index finger and waggled in from side to side as if to say "Dont do shit like that again boy", but all the time holding back an impish grin, just playing up to the moment. Very funny, maybe you had to be there but I found it magic, so mischievous was it.
Nice to see you in Holland, Dutch people as a gas aren't they?
Martin (23 Nov 2006)
I really like this song alot! You think you guys will ever do it with your band? I dig that reincarnation stuff plus the tune is just catchy.
Heluj, kinda like 'hello judge' morphed together ?
Re-incarnation stuff - fascinating aint it ? When you really look at peoples faces sometimes you can see an animal. I rekon Steve Upton was a fox in some previous life. I've always had some special rapour with the Heron and the wolf. Maybe I was one once. Meat or fish sir ? Andy Powell must have been a turtle - his nickname was even "Snap" back in the early 70s. Ted could well have been a lion and I think Laurie may have worked alongside Snow White in another life. A psychic told me I was a pirate who got chucked off a ship in the Carribean when it was captured by government soldiers - I drowned - what a total bummer. "What did you do in your last life, man?" "Oh I just robbed and raped and pillaged, but I ended up being a sharks breakfast." Strangely, I have always had a severe fear of going under the water, didn't learn to swim till in my 40s. As a kid, when I drew a picture it was nearly always of a pirate ship complete with skull and crossbones.
Hopefully we will perform "Fire Sign" one day - I did like the version that WA recorded in the late 70s - it only took me 8 years to get it onto tape. Every time we performed it Steve would fall off his drum stool in hysterics when I sang the line "I hope I'm not a dog or maybe a monkey". We got a lot of laughs out of it though.
Martin (22 Nov 2006)
PS - If I dont see you later in this life....I'll see you in the next one.
I didn't used to like this song but since I've heard you playing it live it has become one of my favourites. The lyrics (and the way you deliver them) are very emotive. My question is - what is the background to this song? Was the "silver lady" based on a particular person?
Wow , spooky man, same here - I wasn't too sure about this song either but since I've heard me play it to death - I mean alive - I've really grown to like it too.
You talk about me delivering the lyrics, was I your postman? When I was a lad I seem to remember doing that one Xmas to earn some money!
Emotive, imotive, ipod or just motive, verse 2 does get into motive transport in the form of "straight eight cars" which of course is poetic licence meaning V-8 cars (which doesn't sing good) - any bloke going to the US for the first time falls in love with the sound of a V8 engine being floored on main street at kick out time.
Background - Hmm some things need to remaain in the none public domain methinks. Steve's idea, with me doing a re-write to get it sing-able. There were quite a few dirty wimins hanging out at gigs back then - they varied from slinky babe angels yet to grow wings, right up to Dame Edna lookalikes wanting to come in dressing room, please. Steve obviously locked the door and started writing, a sensible use of creative juice! Damn - I had dinner with him only this evening, I should have remembered to ask him. I remember the Lady was quite particular, but then again so were we all.
Ahhh, Silver Lady,
Thanks for the memory,
Martin (22 Nov 2006)
Andy Powell recently stated "Nigel Gray did some excellent work with us, often under difficult circumstances, like during the late 70’s when the band spirit was on the wane. However, he bought some special ideas to songs like "Pay The Price" and our version of the old Chuck Berry song, "Come On". He was brave and quite creative and could keep his nerve while under real pressure." I wasn't aware Nigel produced Just Testing - I thought that was produced by "Martin Turner, John Sherry and Wishbone Ash", as per the credits. Can Martin confirm Mr. Gray's involvement in Just Testing, or is Andy's memory getting a little vague...
I don't know what the "band spirit was on the wane" quote was all about, the way I remember it was that John Sherry and I were fired up to be producing together for the first time and I pushed for Nigel's studio because it had a great funky vibe and I rated Nigel - all good, all systems go. Leatherhead was easy to get to for Steve and me, Laurie used to stay over at mine but for Andy up near Hemel Hemstead it was a long schlepp and his wife Pauline needed him around because they had two small lads at the time. (The rest of us hadn't started babies yet - still doing the soundcheck). So usually it was the three of us bashing away and Andy would come and get involved when he could. Nigel was around but not normally involved, he was already working with Police and also recording with Kevin Godley and Lol Cream. (Lol was great, helping us out with effects pedals and various stuff). Andy is correct in that Nigel did engineer a couple of sessions when Martin Moss (Goldilocks) the young engineer wasn't available. We tended to take three days to put down a backing track, also known as slow! We were under-rehearsed and being fairly experimental with sounds during this period as well as finding a role for Claire Hammil whose very presence in the studio was great for getting guitar players to perform with lead-in-pencil. She did a good job of writing with Laurie and singing backing vocals but shouldn't, I believe, have become so involved with the band as she did later - great girl, wrong band.
That album was a massive amount of work for me, writing, playing bass, guitar, singing and producing over nine months and although it was a bit arty and experimental I felt that Just Testing set a new course for the 80s that could have taken us in an exciting new direction which is one reason why I disagreed so strongly with the decision to get in a singer/frontman. I was used to dictating the agenda musically but accepted the democratic process when it came to business decisions. Sticky one that, because they felt it was a business decision and I saw it as a fundamentally musical issue. Just because there was a three to one split, it does not make the majority position a right one. I have always felt it was a bad decision and it was not the only one. WA had a history of shooting itself in the foot on ocassion and has always displayed a kind of schizophrenic quality which has ultimately arrived at the existence of two seperate Wishbone Ash bands.
Going back to Just Testing at Surrey Sound, I believe it contains some of my most emotionally intense writing and singing. Steve and myself had reached a virtually telepathic bass and drums understanding - which is why the bass on "Haunting Me" has an amazing freedom and brave wackiness about it, likewise Laurie's lead playing on the same song. His guitar work on "Living Proof" just flies and Andy's lead work on "Haunting Me" and "Insomnia" (although he needed persuading to get that experimental) is so original it is hard to believe that it came from an electric guitar. I would like to pick up where it left off one of these days.
To be continued,
Martin (22 Nov 2006)
Do you have any favorite authors and/or poets? Was there any books or other litterary works that inspired WA lyrics?
I am not a huge reader, especially not novels, which I did enjoy when I was much younger. I did work with my friend Roy Hollingworth who was a wonderful wordsmith/poet and introduced me to Tennyson, Byron etc back in the 80s. I listen to BBC Radio 4 quite often especially anything involving the use of words/language: Just a Minute, Quote Unquote or I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again.Most of the songs I have written have been about my own life experiences, sometimes past, sometimes future. Having said this - clearly a song like "The King Will Come" is something I wrote with the teachings of orthodox christianity in mind. I have to confess a fondness for Carl Yung's writings and also those of Alistair Crowley if you are in the right frame of mind. Also started to explore the Hindu religious writings which I feel drawn to, but need another lifetime for. Tend to stick to Sound on Sound (anorak bilble for recording fanatics) and suchlike nowadays, Hope this illuminates!
Martin (9 Nov 2006)
Hi Mart, I've just watched the Argus: Essential Albums DVD and was astonished that "Leaf and Stream" wasn't mentioned at all! Was this an oversight, deliberate or editorial? I love the song. Steve's lyrics, your vocal and Andy's thoughtful solo really make the thing. To my mind, it is an essential part of Argus! Nice to see yourself and Ted back together (albeit on a sofa and not a stage!).
At the point that the interview was filmed, the production company were keen because they knew that I had the original multi-track tapes available and that with Ted on board at least half the band would be present ! They did say that they did not, at that point, have a release scheduled or indeed. They obviously wanted to gather more footage and I assumed that they would be contacting the other members of the original band. I did help to put them in contact with Steve Upton, whom when I spoke with him seemed keen to be involved but subsequently changed his mind and declined to be interviewed. I am baffled as to why nothing was included on "Leaf and Stream", maybe we did reference it and it wasn't used, or more likely we left it for Steve to comment on.
I have seen the DVD refered to elsewhere in negative terms, but certainly from both Ted and myself it was a sincere look back at what many consider to be the bands most important recording. Its a pity the other guys couldn't have been involved - we would probably have ended up having a huge punch up on camera or put the band back together in a spirit of "peace and love" man. It could have been a truly 'spinal tap' moment !
Hope you liked it
Martin (30 Oct 2006)
Question for Ray or Keith - I'm curious about how you guys manage to reproduce all the classic Powell/Turner/Wisefield guitar arrangements so accurately. Not just the solos, but all the licks/riffs/fills etc. seem to be there, copied faithfully. Do you refer to the original masters for this?
really pleased you think Keef and I are doing a decent job playing the classic Wishbone guitar parts. We do constantly listen not only to the original tracks but also the comments made by fans like yourself as we realise a lot of you are players and perhaps know more about gear or what I prefer to call toys than we do. We’re both (with the help of Martin) constantly striving for those truly wonderful Ash guitar tones. As for Powell/Turner/Wisefield you can never over state the fingers on fret board thing. When Ted joined us at the Roadhouse gig (I’m sure it applies to the others) his touch was amazing and I think he could have played a broom handle with a piece of string on and he still would have sounded unmistakably Ted. I’d really love to see and work with him again, a very likable guy as well who said some really nice things about Keef and I that made us feel welcome to share the stage with him. If you want any details about guitars, pickups, amps, pedals or anything else please ask away.
Ray (4 Oct 2006)
Not sure, but I think I recall reading somewhere that you gave up smoking with the help of some alternative/homeopathic medicine. I'm struggling with various 'traditional' methods and cures and was wondering if you could shed any light or offer any suggestions on how to beat 'the weed '
I quit for three and a half years a while back after getting brainwashed at Allen Carr's "easy way to quit" clinic in Merton, SW London. Despite the agony of watching my little brother Kim die of cancer over a period of a year, I find myself still smoking. I have a friend here in Guildford who is an alternative medicine practitioner and wants to try me with Hypnosis (without the G) to help me stop. I notice I haven't taken her up on it as yet! When the Engish and Spanish first started going over to the Americas and were trading with the Indians - sat around a fire eating and drinking then out came the peace pipe (the other famous weed clearly) they must have said "hey we need to trade you for some of this stuff", the Indians quietly said to each other - "give em some of that poisonous rubbish - they'll be back across the ocean before they realise". This is my own theory and we are still picking up the tab for it now hundreds of years later! Anyway, best of luck with it - you could try Hypnosis but I think it only lasts for a while, but then so do most things !
Martin (14 July 2006)
Hi there Martin, how you doing?
Great gig at the Intake Leisure Club on Friday, we enjoyed it very much so thanks to you and the guys in the band once again......phew wasn't it hot though!! Anyway to the point of my message. I thought, as I am feeling in a Martin Turner sort of mood , I would give Reeperbahn a spin and found myself listening to it more closely. Have you considered any of the other material off that CD to add to your set? There are three that I think would be interesting to hear live - "Strangers", "Psychic Flash to Ginza", "Passion". My three favorites.........ok now tell me why that's not a possibility
I am sorry but I am not sure that we will be doing too much from my solo album out on the road. So much of it is rather keyboard heavy (I got into that whole thing in the 80s when it was new). Having said that we can reproduce keys on stage by using mini disc backing. What we are doing right now is mainly centered on the music of WA from the 70s. I am glad that you are into the album, we did talk about trying "Broken Down House" but I think we would need to re-work it especially in the drums dept. Hopefully eventually we can find time to take a look at some of the tunes but I think its unlikely in the near future.
I hope your finding time to play your T'Bird,
Love and kisses
Martin (14 July 2006)
Great performance in Birkenhead. Just wondered if you can tell me exactly where the photographs for the Locked In and New England albums were taken.
As far as I can remember the pics on Locked In were taken in New York and Atlantic had the front cover put together which I have to admit I have never been fond of, having always been paranoid of being under water. I was even informed by a psychic once that this fear sprang from having been a pirate in a previous life and having been thrown into the sea by goverment soldiers when they captured the vessel. This would maybe account for my fear and also why I used to constantly draw pictures of pirate ships as a child - but hey, who knows!
New England, I seem to remember, we worked with the Hipgnosis crew - Storm and Po - who had us paddling around in rivers in Connectict semi naked during freezing cold weather - uncomfortable but very amusing. Fin Costello was a photographer who we also worked with at that time. This cover seems to have attracted comments from homo-eroticism to Hitler youth but I've always seen it more as the outward bound camping holiday scenario meself. Maybe a celebration of the youthful male form in a natural setting complete with pointy stick - to do what? Cook some food? Pick your teeth? God knows. As with many of their covers I think the idea was to create thought provoking art and in that respect people can read into it whatever they wish. Vinyl sleeves were an easier palette on which to work than todays CD covers. Andy still lives in that neck of the woods - he may well be able to offer you some more accurate info on locations etc.
Hope this informed and amused you
Martin (14 Jul 2006)
Firstly, thanks for another great gig at the Boom Boom Club in June. I dragged along another huge Wishbone fan, and a new convert. My question is quite simply, how do you decide on the set list for the tour? Is it something as simple as going for some of your own favourite songs, or is it a bit more involved than that? Whatever the answer, I would just like to say how good it is that you don't screw around with the songs, and get into heavy ad libbing. It's great to hear them absolutely note-perfect, and also to be given a live airing ("Say Goodbye" especially - a great live song that got buried under the infamous Locked In). Keep touring mate, and we'll keep coming along to enjoy it.
There are a lot of considerations to take into account when putting a set together. Many people express opinions on the subject and we do listen. To date, we have done a handful of gigs and are happy with the songs we are performing. Although I was not in a hurry to include too much of the Argus material to start with, it has become apparent that we seem to be able to play virtually any song from the back catalogue and get it sounding decent. This is down to the men alongside me now. We do use as our reference point, the original recordings, and with today's technology and the right attitude (probably more important than musicianship in my book), together with vocal ability - it all combines to give a huge choice of material, which frankly the Mk 1 and Mk 2 bands would be hard pushed to equal. Of course the gear we had access to in the 70s was crude in many respects when compared to the mind boggling array of eletro gadgetry available now, but I know that the band in "the olden days" often struggled to replicate live, what we had accomplished in the studio. Andy, Ted and Laurie all considered themselves to be primarily guitar players (and very fine ones they were). Although they did all sing from time to time, they lacked belief and confidence vocally and although I always encouraged them, they seemed to prefer being guitar pickers. My attitude was: "if you can talk - you can sing - same apparatus", but you do have to want to sing. Keef, Ray and Rob all have a broad array of talents and are all singers in their own right, which has been immensely helpful in what we are doing. Wishbone Ash has a large collection of rich textured material to draw from and I find it very exciting to be able to revisit it again, which all bodes well for the future methinks. OK - I think I've rambled on quite enough on this subject and I still havn't got a bloody clue what we will be playing when we are next out. Hope this provides you with some elimination, sorry I meant illumination.
Its late, sweet dreams - Martin (4 Jul 2006)