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
This is not a loaded question, honest, but sort of follows on from Billy's question. Do you recall a "Spam-era" gig in 1985 and Andy announcing to the crowd that you were in the audience? Obviously you had been out of the band for several years. My recollection, a bit hazy, is that you got a great roar from the crowd. As the band was flagging a bit and you weren't doing anything much musically I always wondered if there was any discussion about you getting back into the band at that point.
Any thoughts or recollections?
Spam had a really nice voice, but I can't recall the show you refer to. Earlier this year we played a show where I thanked Andy Powell for coming along. There was a chap in the audience who looked vaguely like him, so it was said for a bit of fun, you understand. I have generally always been willing to play with the band, it has been a fairly important part of my life after all. Andy's band rolled up to play Guildford (where I live) back a few years ago and Bob Skeat was unable to get there because his wife was taken very ill that day. I was about half a mile away, but did they call me? - they called Graham from the tribute band Ashbone U Wish, and he came up from Croydon and played the gig. Actually it was the best I had heard them sound in the bass department. Freaked Graham out somewhat when I yelled up at him on stage, just after they finished playing, and asked him for his autograph.
Thoughts and recollections? How long have you got?
Later, Martin (27 May 2008)
Can you shed some light on past attempts to reunite either the original Wishbone Ash or the mark 2 band? It seems, according to Andy, that he had tried but to no avail in the past. Can you recall the time periods of such attempts and why they failed?
(Excluding the 89 - 91 period). Reunion attempts - I don't think so. I lived for years thinking it surely must happen, grew old in the process! There have of course been the odd requests for appearances at Ashcon or other gigs - usually to improve attendance and income, etc - been there, done that, no thanks. My manager has suggested a 40th bash next year. Ted and Steve have made positive noises but we have yet to get Andy on board. We did have an offer made for a minimum of three original members, but I feel that it really ought to be the complete original band. Not easily accomplished, it would seem, but we'll keep trying and who knows, one of these years - at least we are all still alive - too late when that changes. I could say more, but I am not well known for my tact, so for the sake of peace and harmony, thats enough for now.
Best wishes, Martin (27 May 2008)
Mart, I always liked "Hometown" from There's The Rub. Is it a tribute to Torquay perchance?
"Hometown" may very well have been written with The Engish Riviera in mind but it was all a long time ago and I cannot be certain. I was also very fond of returning to London after having been on the road for weeks, sometimes months. Do you know what I mean? - that excitement, that thrill of anticipation when you return to a place you love after so long away. Maybe not one of WA's most popular tunes but it has a certain joyous quality that I like to express sometimes. I am definitely due a visit to Torquay when theres a minute this summer.
Martin (27 May 2008)
On "Outward Bound", "Lorelie" & "Say Goodbye", you play some beautiful lead bass lines but when performed live they have been played by the guitarist. Have you ever rehersed them with you taking the lead? Im sure with your sound and style they would have sounded just as good as the original recordings
Well spotted on the bass lines. What you are talking of is usually overdubbed, practical in the recording studio but not always so on stage. Ray would normally play the parts down low on guitar to reproduce what I was playing, that way we don't loose the low bass line. Hope you are happy with this, the alternative is I get more arms grafted on and another neck put on the TBird, a lot of hassle for a few licks.
Thank you for noticing, Martin (27 May 2008)
I was just wondering if you have tried the new Gibson Thunderbird Guitar of the week in Zebrawood. I just got one and like it a lot. It is very heavy though. There is no neck dive on this one. Very pretty bass. Anyway, thanks for all the great music through the years and for inspiring me to be the kind of bass player that I am. Oh, one more question, if you have time, I noticed great tonal differences in your bass sound on Wishbone Ash One and then on Argus. For example, "Phoenix" and "Handy", very woodsy clicky tone, beautiful. And then "Time Was" and "Sometime World" with its agressive strong grind. What different basses and amps and speakers did you use on these songs to sound so different?
You have been paying attention, well done. Now let me think, it was half a lifetime ago. On the first two albums I was faffing around with various basses trying to find the one for me. I had been using a home made jobbie that I bought for £10 but Derek Lawrence told me to throw it away and get a proper instrument. On first album I played a Fender Jazz mainly - completely bloody wrong for my style in retrospect. Likewise on Pilgrimage I messed around with a Fender 6 String for a while (too complicated) and used a Precision which I have always got on well with.
By the time we recorded the Argus album I was playing a Rickenbacker and it was a lovely instrument but the neck broke on a trip to Holland and I got rather annoyed and over-reacted, calling it a girl's guitar. I blagged one of Pete Watts (Mott) Thunderbird Basses and have used it for over 30 years, although not always for recording, mainly for live gigs. The early days were frustrating for me - I knew what I was going after but could never seem to get the right gear to give me what I was after. The choice and availability nowadays is fantastic by comparison and there is no excuse for sounding crap anymore. Valve amps are also essential, the tubes make the room warm and one needs to sweat to make proper worthy music. There you go, a pinch of salt is the only other things that springs to mind,
Good luck, have fun,
Martin (20 May 2008)
First I’d like to say I’m a big fan of your bass playing and you’re a huge influence on my own playing. Your style and tone is very special and characteristic and to me stands with the ultimate in rock bass. Thanks a lot for all the music you gave the world throughout the years. It’s been such a huge inspiration!
Question. Your playing style can be very aggressive at times. I know the T-bird has a very aggressive tone of its own, but during certain Wishbone Ash songs or parts it sounds like you’re releasing a lot of anger. The bridge part in "Time Was" comes to mind (5.42 – 6.00). You’re banging out octaves like a raging rhinoceros. It gives me goose bumps time and time again. Was there a lot of anger and discontent in you back in those days? Were there times in the studio when you were experiencing specific certain emotions when laying down your parts? And did you record those parts deliberately when feeling that way?
Anger is an emotion we all have from time to time and who knows maybe I store it and run my bass on it as you suggest, but actually I have always thought of bass playing as akin to sexual energy and I would say that my playing is at times very sweet and melodic and at other times I guess a bit pushy, rampant even. I'ts really not for me to review my bass playing though, I just do what comes natural to me, and I know that always the playing and performing of music brings me joy as the main emotion.
Always when I write songs, I am writing about things that have happened in my life and obviously the emotional content I put into my songs is strong for me personally. I've always been amazed at how people from all over the world, (sometimes only able to speak very basic English), still pick up on the emotional content. It's part of being human that one relates to such things when others express stuff that is common to us all.
Anger can be an expression of many things: frustration, either personal or social (as in the Capitalist world right now), depression, injustice, etc, but when I was a very young guy I do remember getting into a lot of male violent bull**** on the streets and for me playing an instrument did serve to channel that "kill/f**k" energy (as I called it) into something more positive. So there you go, take yer pick - football, boxing, rock music, get stuck in and make something wonderful.
Anger = N Gear (some new fab equipment), Grange (me old mate Geoff - Blue Bishops wonderful frontman), Near G (big G is always around), Argen (from the land of Argus).
Hope your'e feeling refreshed after your break and ready to rock. I've been listening to Walking The Reeperbhan again and each time I must say I enjoy it more. It just got me wondering. Would you consider doing another solo album, or would you prefer continuing working only with your Wishbone guys. Hopefully we will catch up with you soon. Take care and best wishes to you and the band
Yes enjoyed my break.
I do love making music so it would be super to get the creative flow going again. Whether future projects come out as solo or MTWA doesn't really matter to me, (probably MTWA would be advisable), what',s more important is that it happens although I cannot see how it can be done this year. Maybe next.
Love and kisses to you,
Martin (20 May 2008)
Forget the politics Mart - what did you really think of Number The Bravewhen you first heard it? I was mightily disappointed. The cover was naff and the songs (bar two) were average at best...
I don't have a copy of this album so it is not something that I am that familiar with, and I am not fond of rewiewing other peoples music or my own for that matter - my job is to create the stuff. Having said all that, I can say that obviously at that time I was pretty angry and upset at the decision my mates had made and when I heard that John Wetton had joined the band I found myself suddenly quite thrilled that clearly there was a good chance that my old band could maybe achieve the commercial success thy seemed to crave, with JW involved. I spoke with John only a few days ago and was staggered to hear that he had offered the band "Heat of the Moment" which later became a hit for Asia. In my opinion he was exactly the right man for the job - strong song writer, great bass player, and has a fantastic voice. What a great pity that they were unable to recognise his talent. I hesitate to quote JW any further, and I remember the album containing two strong songs. I thought that they wanted a frontman/lead vocalist, (this was what I couldn't agree to), low and behold there he was in their midst but for some strange reason they didn't use him. They also failed to use Laurie's song "Hard on You" - the best he ever wrote IMHO. Ah well - the rest is history but the words "shot" and "foot" spring to mind!
Never mind, lets have a cup of tea darling,
Martin X (15 Jan 2008)
I have been getting back into There's The Rub just recently - definitely one of my favourite albums of all time which I have a few questions on which I hope you can answer! It's been great hearing a few tracks from this album in your set these days - is the album also a particular favourite of yours? As this was the first album the band made after Ted's departure and I was wondering whether any of the material existed with Ted still in the band? Also was the recording in Miami arranged before Ted left?
Next is a bass question - how did you get that heavy sound on the bass? I seem to remember from talking to you previously it was due to some device or other but I don't remember the name of it. Anyway - love it whatever it was!
Hope you can shed some light here - thanks for the time and the music as always!
There's The Rub was a first for Laurie but also the first studio album we recorded in the USA. The material was put together during rehearsals with Lol but when we arrived at the studio to record, Bill Szymczyk (Producer) was a bit suprised that there was no Ted - the album was sheduled before he left. Bill wanted to work with a British "guitar" band and he learnt a lot from us about the care and time we spent on guitar recording - he put it to use with The Eagles. Indeed he was the man who got Joe Walsh involved with them. I learned a lot from Bill about record production and this album started a long relationship with Criteria Studios that saw us back there working on lots of subsequent sessions throughtout the 70s. Ted had written an instrumental in the early days that we later used when recording New England - Candlelight.
The bass was recorded with a 1960s Fender Precision mostly, through a D/I and Fender Concert Amp with 10ins speakers although I did discover arround this time a tiny little amp called a "Dwarf" which I used right up to Just Testing - kind of a bass version of a Pignose - no tone control, in, out, clean and dirty, thats yer lot. On There's The Rub Bill wanted a more orthodox bass sound so we had to compromise somewhat. On some songs the bass is fairly standard but on others it is pushy and snarling away, as is my more normal modus operandi.
I remember a great moment when we had taken a break to go to Tony Roma's one evening to eat. We were sitting there when in walked some huge 6ft 8ins gangster dude followed by a dynamite blond slinky minx of a chick whom everyone was quietly checking out. Szymczyk leaned over to Laurie (about 4ft 6ins) and as one Jewish guy to another said: "Laurie, I'll give you $250 if you go over and say to that guy - "'scuse me Sir, could I screw your wife for you Sir? " - it was hillarious and surreal, we had a huge laugh, and no, Laurie declined and still lives to this day.
There's the rubbish on TTR
Martin (14 Janaury 2007)
Were "Warrior" and "Throw Down the Sword" conceived and written as one track? Though each track appears as a separate entity I have always regarded them as inextricably joined with "Throw Down the Sword" always following on from "Warrior". I have heard quite a few Ash compilation albums which have the two titles split in the track listings and quite often "Warrior" following "Sword" a few tracks later. I have been playing Argus since a teenager in the early 70's and personally I find the compilations which do this itrritating.
Don't bear a grudge, because although I'm reluctant to review these two songs, I can understand your annoyance when we only perform one without the other, because ideally they do belong together. So, I've had a word with the chaps and we will play them both on the upcoming tour for you, OK?
Martin (14 Jan 2008)
I remember a while ago you mentioned you that and the Mrs. were big footy fans and that Match of the Day was never missed. Just wondering who your favourite team is? Do you go to the games often? As it's coming up to the business end of the footy season, who do you want to take the Premiership, FA Cup & Champ League? I'm a Liverpool fan so it's Liverpool for the latter and I'm hoping everything else gets cancelled so Utd. can't Chelsea win!! My wife however is smug Utd fan. Can't remember why I put up with that come to think of it!!
Keep on Rockin!!
The Knight Who Sez Nee
As a boy I supported Torquay United. Ugh! Have some good memories of matches at Plainmoor though. I lived in Southfields SW18 during the 80s-90s and during this time it was easy to hop on the district line and go up to Stamford Bridge. I used to take a small person or two with me and in those days all three of us would get in for about £25. Nowadays I still have a fondness for Chelski, they will always be my team but I am a bit of a tart and really just like football played well by anyone. Man U and Arsenal have looked great this season but I have also really enjoyed watching Man City under Sven. Portsmouth have been doing great also. Looking forward to seeing how Anelka shapes up in blue. He could well fit like a glove and it could be the making of him, I hope so. It would be good to see someone get hold of Newcastle by the scruff of the neck and sort 'em out. The folks up there deserve better. I can remember seeing Drogba warm up for the first time and I had an instinct that he would be a great warrior. It took a while but he has been great for Chelsea - he reminds me of Hendrix.
For anyone who has ever played football, it is inspirational to see a great athlete do something wonderful and there really is no buzz quite like when your team scores a winning goal. There aren't many places left where you can give vent to the male instinct to do battle - its printed in our genes and our jeans. I must confess I love to get along to banger racing also which serves to satiate my longing for anarchy/madness now and again. I do not get to boxing matches nowadays although I did as a kid. I even penned a little ditty, "Football and Boxing" - its on the Lost Pearls CD.
Anyway enough testosterone for a while I'd better get back to me ironing and washing up darling,
Martina X (14 Jan 2008)
Silly question I know. When singing along to "Throw Down The Sword" in my car; instead of "Hoping For an Answer" and "Searching For an Answer", it ends up "Soping for an Answer' or 'Hearching for an Answer' as I'm lost in the song, not remembering weather it's the 1st verse or second. Ever done this live??
Its really easy - Hoping, 1st verse, Searching 2nd verse, so it's in alphabetical order - H then S. Having said this there were quite a few times in the 70s where one of us would get the wires crossed and it would end up coming out much as you described.
Martin (14 Jan 2008)
With all due respect, the current campaign might arguably make you the best kept secret in rock. The band have passed the "tests" and offer a fantastic and quite unique Wishbone Ash experience. But you NEED to get into some bigger venues - and at least play in the rock heartlands of the north east, Scotland etc. Why is there no advertising; no gigs at obvious places? Seriously - this great adventure needs to look outwards and maybe take risks.
It's a while since you posted this question, but hopefully you can see that there has been some progress and I trust that this will continue through 2008. Yes, it's slow progress but I feel that the guys in my band have done a good job and also that my team Martin Darvill, Don McKay and Gary Carter have all done great over the last couple of years. We have started using our own sound-man - Mick - who has also made a big difference I would say. Howard has done brilliantly with the album designs also. So all things considered I think that we have nothing to grumble about even though we have yet to play in Scotland and various other WA strongholds. This is purely down to promoters who have done business with M.r Powell for years and are reluctant to give my band a try. Those who have been willing have found that it's really OK and doesn't need to be a big loyalty issue at all. The music biz is a tough place nowadays and so I am happy with our overall progress. There will always be minor frustrations but if we keep them in perspective and look at the mint rather than the hole, no problem.
Right, better get on with it then,
Martin (14 Jan 2008)
Which Wishbone Ash bass part did you create give you that, "Hey that's impressive" moment. Either through its technical difficulty or simplicity
Hi Aim on,
For some strange reason I am very fond of the bass part on "Haunting Me" which appears on the Just Testing album. Steve and I were playing with an almost telepathic understanding at this point and although the bass is not that impressive technically it just has a wild, unfettered feel to it and expresses the emotion in the song well, unusual for a bass part also. God knows if I could ever play it again the same, as it has that very pure subconcious flow to it - the intellect part of me brain having not been very involved. Obviously, it is hard for me to divorce the emotion involved in such a song which in this case was a very important part of my life and that's why its hard for me to reveiw my own creativity - it's probably better left to someone else. One other song worthy of mention would be "Life Line" from the same album. The bass part is strange and unusual and again attempts to express a fairly extroadinary event. Most of my bass playing is unorthodox, loud and pushy - a bit like me I suppose. You would never believe that I'm actually a shy chap would you? In the end the music has to speak for itself, so anything that I might say on top is fairly incidental methinks.
Martin (14 Jan 2008)
My question is would your band consider doing this at any forthcoming gigs? I know you play guitar a bit as well, and obviously Ray and Keith do - and of course Rob is quite a strummer too. I can see the four of you sitting on stools at the front playing a few favourite numbers from the past, and really getting a great balance between four acoustic guitars and the four-part hamony vocals as well. I think it would work quite well. Any thoughts?
I know it's a question for Mart but it's a subject close to my heart so I hope you and Martin don't mind me butting in. Some of my all time favourite concert moments have been the acoustic interludes, most in my mind are Neil Finn - a song writing God - and Jackson Browne who Keef and I where lucky enough to catch on his solo acoustic tour a couple of years ago. I would love to include an acoustic section in our set and my vote would go for "Leaf and Stream", "Everybody Needs a Friend" and maybe "Some Conversation"
We have talked about doing this at some point. No immediate plans however, but it is a good suggestion and I think might work very well in a "special" gig/convention type situation. One of theses days!
Hope you are well,
Martin (14 Jan 2008)