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 -
Right then, no rest - let's have some new gigs please!!! The only one I managed to get to was Bolton and it was utterly stunning. Also, thanks to your advice I have now modded the strap buttons on my T-Bird and managed to get through a whole gig on Saturday without it bashing me toes in! (Did bash the ceiling, though)
Never good dropping an instrument, although if you use 'em long enough they do tend to get shot full of holes - or at least mine has; me too for that matter, but we still rock on! Glad you enjoyed the Bolton gig.
Some of next years gigs are posted on this site - we start in Greece I believe, which has been seeing a fair bit of street action lately it would seem - might need to take a fire extinguisher with us perhaps! Maybe see you in 09 then - take care with the Viking Longship where you're gigging under a suspended ceiling - you can get hung up there.
Martin (12 Dec 2008)
This year I went to my first Ashcon in Chesterfield. Amazing how WA music still lives. The evening before I played with the fans for the fans gig in Chesterfield. I played the bass and did the vocals on some classics ("Lady Whiskey", "Queen of Torture", "Mother of Pearl", "Time Was" etc.) I found out that it is quite difficult to sing (and read lyrics) and play bass at the same time. After a while it went better though. I was wondering how you manage this. Basslines first and then the vocals? Routine? Being one with the bass? If I see some recordings it looks so simple...
Being one with the music ... that must be it
Greetings from Holland
Ray van Lier
I believe I have answered this question already somewhere back down the line, but just to repeat myself - it is simply a question of doing one thing on automatic and the other more consciously. For me I usually know the bass line pretty well and then I can concentrate more on singing, but as soon as I loose the bass line I switch to playing bass consciously and sing on auto-pilot. The process is not exactly as I've described here but as near as I can get. I have noticed sometimes that I can just sit back and watch my fingers and some part of my brain (not the conscious bit) just doing it on their own. It took a while before I started to experience this - late 70s or maybe a bit earlier. I think it comes with a lot of experience of playing and also the confidence that builds when you perform with other band members for many years.
Good luck, maybe a dash of multiple personality disorder helps also,
Martin (12 Dec 2008)
I was at the Nottingham gig last night and I thought it was tremendous to see Wishbone Ash music being played on such a large stage. I wish I was able to come to Portsmouth Guildhall tomorrow as I remember seeing one of the best Mark 2 gigs there in 78 or 79. Does this tour bring back good memories for you too? And do you think you might play this sort of venue again in the future? Perhaps if you do, next time a 2 band show could be considered so we get more MTWA time. I could suggest Asia (as you share a manager) or Showaddywaddy (as you share a guitarist). Only joking about Showaddywaddy - somehow I think the musical styles would clash - plus poor Danny would be worn out!
Yes the recent theatre tour was very wonderful. I was impressed with the renovation work that had been done on some of these old venues, it takes a great deal of work and money to accomplish this, and the result in the case of a good few of them was stunningly beautiful, which made for a very enjoyable and classy event, I felt. Positive noises have been heard from various folks involved about the possibility of doing more of the same next year or the year after, we shall see.
Gigs come in all shapes and sizes and there are pluses and minuses to 'em all - that keeps life interesting for us and hopefully for you too.
As far as putting shows together - I leave that to promoters, who generally know exactly what it's all about. Well done John Hessenthaller!
I can't afford to travel very far. As far as I see it Martin, you don't seem to want to grace Edinburgh with your presence any time soon, and that means I have to miss out... What happened to the fun I had in the 1970's when I wasn't married. I'm trying to put Wishbone back into my life as much as I can, but being married to someone who is not willing to be educated in decent rock music, it's an up-hill struggle to say the least. I can, at the moment, only manage to get to local concerts, and that upsets me.
I'm sorry we havn't been to Edinburgh as yet. I go where my agent and manager book me and there must be some reason they haven't been able to get me up to your neck o' the woods. I know that when we started a few years back there were problems with promoters being afraid to book my band in case Andy's band was unwilling to play for them again, but things seem to have opened up for us most places in the UK now so hopefully we will make it up to you at some point in the not too distant future.
He is not going to do the same stuff as you now is he and I doubt you go off on Saturday afternoons to re-enact tribal battles involving 22 grown blokes in shorts, a ref, and a round bouncy thing, do you, and he is never going to don a pink leotard and tutu and partake in ballet sessions at local church halls, is he? So, tolerance darling, each to his/her own !
Hope you have some fun like we did in the 70s
Best wishes and lots of love
Martin (22 Nov 2008)
I caught your excellent show at the Buxton Opera House. Your concert coincided perfectly with my recent visit to England. I was the fellow with the Canadian accent who shook your hand and complimented you on the show as you were getting into your van after the gig. Do you plan to do any shows in Canada? I know that there are fans here. Once again... thanks for the great show!
Glad you enjoyed the Buxton gig, weather was a bit "English" that night, as I remember, but what a fabulous venue. I fell completely in love with the exquisite renovation of a truly wonderful old building.
Would love to come to Canada but sadly there are no plans at the moment. One day hopefully,
Martin (22 Nov 2008)
The bass on Argus: Through The Looking Glass does really sound amazing. Seeing as I've come into some money recently I was wondering in particular WHAT bass you used to create this album? It sounds like a real blokes bass, possibly even a Rickenbaker which you don't seem to use any more which is a shame cause there VERY pretty basses, not sure if it would match the white suit and feather though ....
Cheer Martin, keep up the great work
I do have a Rickenbacker, its an old 70s modified 4000, that has ended up modded to a 4001 spec with a toaster pick up. I did use it on the ATTLG recording but it doesn't sound quite right for some stuff so I borrowed a few and found that Tony Clark's gave me what I was after. Thank you very much Tony for the loan. I think Tony's is a 1975 4001 or thereabouts and I did manage to get it to give me the snarl I was after. Back in the early 70s I did use the 1972/3 model that they only produced for a while with the chequerboard binding and the toaster p/u. Would love to get hold of another one but they only come up very rarely and are usually overpriced for what they are. I am pretty happy with the TBird for stage but may well give the Rick a spin at some point.
Martin (17 Nov 2008)
I appreciate that your stage attire has been the subject of many jibes on the forum, but this is a serious question. Your stage image these days is pretty unique I would say and very much "you", if you get what I mean. In other words you don't conform to traditional rock 'n' roll stylings but have your own distinct look onstage which fits the music. I wondered where do you get your stage wear from. Items such as the white suit, the black jacket and the various shirts you've been wearing lately. Do you have a stylist as such or use one particular outlet. Hope this doesn't sound like I'm making fun, becuase Im not. They way a band looks under the bright lights is important in a rock show, I believe and I wish more rockers made the same kind of effort as you.
Hope to see MTWA live again soon.
The white suit is actually not a white suit at all - just a linen jacket and a pair of pants roughly the same colour. I am a lover of mad shirts and will buy 'em wherever and whenever I see em. Quite a few bits and pieces are actually big girl's blouses but thats OK with me as long as they are lightweight and fit the bill for playing on stage - not tight, feel slinky. I don't make too much of an effort, or have a sylist - the hand embroidered black shirt I wore on the last tour a few times came from a charity shop and cost only a few bucks. Tassled leather jacket was expensive, so it evens out. I have always had the confidence to not be afraid of looking like a twonk, but even I am amused at some of the stuff I wore in shots taken years ago. A few folks were a bit fazed about me wearing magpie feathers (in my white hair plait) on account of it having been shot by a friend of mine, but I do usually wear chicken feathers which have come from a place very close to a wishbone. Feathers are quite magical things - the fact that they have flown through the air etc and can have a spiritual quality to them. I have a USA Indian feather aura cleanser which is an extremely powerful piece of kit and I treat it with the utmost respect. I guess I just love birds and feathers. Birds of a feather !
You've got me wanting to go shopping now,
See you later
Martin (17 Nov 2008)
Back in the early 1970s, Detroit FM radio station WABX started their own TV programme called The Detroit Tubeworks. It was broadcast on a low-power UHF station called WXON on Sunday nights. During the course of its time on the air, many bands would be featured playing live in the studio. One of those bands was Wishbone Ash. I do recall you playing on the show and I'm wondering if you have any memories of this broadcast (like what songs you would have played)? I'm also curious as to whether a copy of the broadcast exists?
I'm sorry but I cannot honestly remember the show you speak of. We did used to do rather a lot of these at around the time you mention. I wish I had a copy of all of them both in the USA and a few we did in Germany and Holland, but you zap in, zap out, it's edited later, broadcast when you're on another continent, you don't get to see it or ever get a copy. Such is life - be interesting to watch if a copy did still exist though.
Martin (17 Nov 2008)
Hoping you're well and that you enjoyed/are enjoying the tour. I've hadArgus: Through The Looking Glass for a few days now, and really, really enjoy it - but there's one factor that's quite shocking. That bass! It just sounds "alive" like a wild creature! Is that down to recording techniques? Or did you really cast a spell on it? I listened to it with headphones late last night...and it was pretty damn amazing. How do you do it?!
Hope to catch a gig before too long...7 months is quite long enough.
All the best,
How are you? Well I hope, and it's a pity we didn't make it to the west country on this tour - there are lots of folks I would like to have seen, your good self included.
The bass - wild, alive, creature, hmmmm. Well I suppose I am all those things, kind of, and yes you spotted the "magic" ingredient, very important. I do feel like I am a mad wizard at times - making music is a very magical process. The creative spark is invisible and so is the end result which travels back through the air to the listener. And yet it can have such a magical effect for all of us - good isn't it?
I also use headphones quite a bit when I'm working, so you are listening to exactly what I was listening to when I stuck it all together with glue, metaphorically speaking of course. Anyway, I do hope it brings you enjoyment, a lot of hard work went into it that's for sure, and it makes it all worthwhile when people tell me they love it.
Lots of love
Martin (6 Nov 2008)
When are you going to do the right thing and release Wishbone Four the way it should have been? I've always loved the material on it -Wishbone Four is just begging to be sorted proper.
See you all soon guys.
I did retrieve a load of 2ins multi-track tapes from Olympic Studios back in the 70s or 80s when it was sold to Mr Branson. They would have ended up getting skipped, but I rescued them and have been storing them ever since. I have altogether a veritable mountain of tapes, which can take weeks just to wade through let alone actually get them into a condition where they can be played and transfered to a digital format. The labelling is damaged, faded and in some cases non existent, and even where labels are legible it is not always the case that what is on the tape in the box actually matches what is on the label. The whole lot of tapes weighs a bloody ton, so when I have completed my body building classes I'll get stuck into them, cos you really do have to sort the lot in one hit, or at least organise it in one.
When I initially checked a few boxes, I spotted Keith Harwoods name (W4 engineer) and assumed they must be the W4 album multitracks which were recorded at Olympic. I have looked at them since and been unable to find any W4 multitracks, only live stuff - same songs, same engineer, hence labels. I'll look again at some point but I am not optimistic that they are even there. So there you go, thats all I can tell you for now,
Martin (6 Nov 2008)
I want to personally compliment you on Argus:Through The Looking Glass. This rendering of a classic album is an absolute masterpiece, I am astonished at how good it is. I am going to say something here that might bother some but I will say it anyway, you have made a great album even better. I know that those are strong words but I believe them, I have listened to it three times all the way through now (I have only had it for three days) and it has sounded better with each listen. The detail that went in to it is more and more evident with each time I play it, and I know this album as well as any since it is my favourite by Wishbone Ash and have heard it so many times over the years.
The first thing that jumped out at me was your bass playing, it is just tremendous, from the first song to the last you at at the top of your game, in my opinion. Second thing is the extra guitar, going from the twin to the triple guitar attack just gives it that much more punch, and these guys in your band are top notch players. The vocals are also outstanding, you are sounding as good or better than you ever did, and having John Wetton along for the ride just adds to it, I just love the beginning of "Time Was". And your other guys are also very good, just a wonderful job.
Some highlights for me are of course "Time Was", and this version of "Sometime World", which is my all time favorite Ash song gave me goose bumps.Every song is just brilliant
I also want to add that I like that you put "Throw Down The Sword" after "Warrior", I think it fits perfectly in that slot, and putting "Blowing Free" at the end is also spot on. I am guessing that you might have wanted to do it that way on the original but were hampered by the restraints of working with vinyl.
Like I said I felt that I had to compliment you personally, I am going to love this take on Argus for years to come.
I very much appreciate your post above; it is direct feedback that tells me that I probably am doing something right. This project was actually an extremely difficult thing to do in the sense that if we were to change it too much, it would cease to be the album we know and love, but if it was too similar, then what is the point in re-recording it? That is a difficult balance to get right.
When I told my band what we were going to do, they all replied that it was not possible to re-record a "classic" album and make it stick. I told them that we were going to play it all again but this time it would sound even better. I wasn't too sure myself to be honest, but I had to convince them to go for it and, to give them their due, they did a great job. It was recorded in about exactly the same amount of time as the original - roughly two weeks - but when I got the mixes back to my studio and could evaluate them more critically on equipment I knew very well, I was suprised at the clinical and sterile nature of the sound. This is an aspect of modern computer recording systems that I am not a huge fan of, having grown up with the old steam driven tape recorders. So, I actually spent several weeks of somewhat radical mixing, to get hold of it by the scruff of the neck and knock it into shape. I do have a studio stuffed with old valve analogue gear, which definitely helped to bring out the warmth and fatness in the sound. Not being a technical man, I tend to work instinctively, a bit like sculpting maybe. It does however take a while.
I did purchase a CD many years ago of Roy Orbison's greatest hits, thinking that they were original recordings, but how could they be in stereo when the original sessions must have been back in the mono days. When I actually bothered to read the sleeve notes I discovered that the whole lot had been re-recorded in the 80s. The album sounded fantastic, even better than I remembered the originals sounding, and I am talking across the board - voices, bass, drums - it all sounded wonderful and in glorious technicolour stereo. So, I don't know for sure, but maybe that was at the back of my mind, the fact that I had heard someone else achieve what I was after, or very similar.
Anyway, if it brings you and others more pleasure then that makes all that work and effort worth while.
Martin (6 Nov 2008)
Good to see you representing the band at the Classic Rock awards ceremony. Any stories you can share?
Bit weary after the tour but soon got into the spirit of the thing, usual stuff - autographs outside, flash bulbs in yer face, slinky babes to show you down the red carpet and chuck you in the media run, more photos, interviews, etc. Roland Hyams (publicist) was with me - he knows everyone, we got to the bar and I passed on the obligitary champagne (I am not a fan, give me beer or whisky any day), so the remaining option was Guiness - as a sponsor they had the "beer" monopoly, so downed a few of them! After about an hour I felt like I had swallowed a small pond so resorted to plan B which was to richly reward some Czeck hostess to find me regular beer, good girl.
Met a main man from Marshall Amps (also sponsors), had a chat with Ozzy and Sharon, didn't hold em up though - he had quite a way to shuffle to his table. I was not the biggest fan of his music but I do admire both of them greatly for their wit and sheer British oddball star quality. We were nominated for the Universal Argus re-issue, but Metallica won that for the re-issue of their first three albums. First time I'd seen Jeff Beck since Sunset Riot House in the 70s but didn't get to chat - it was too busy. Congratulated the lead man of Airbourne on their award. Nicky Horne did a great job hosting the event, I thought, although he did go heavy on the Gary Glitter jokes. Managed to have a chat after the awards. We had a table with Joe Bonamassa amongst others. Good words followed from David Coverdale, Todd Rundgren, Jeff Beck, Slash, Sharon and Ozzy, Gary Moore (who introduced Peter Green), Jack Bruce and Harvey Goldsmith, who made me aware of a very interesting charity called Childline. Ron Wood was his inimitable self and later I chatted with him about a gig we did together at the Paris Theatre in the early 70s with John Peel as DJ. Wishbone were pretty new to the music biz back then, and Rod and the Faces were very generous to us at the time - that show always stuck in my mind as a great evening. I introduced myself to Slash with a "Hey Mr Slash, Martin from Wishbone Ash - we rhyme man" ..... "Yeah man we do too" - the things you do when youre P****d! Had a chat with Dave Ling - Classic Rock, who is looking more like a Gandalf style wizard with that crazy hair. I didnt do the aftershow party, it was already midnight and I didnt fancy staggering out of some club at 3am after all the "I friggin love you, man" drunk routine and then have to find a £100 cab back to Guildford, so I got into me limo and said "Home James". Well, to be honest, I said it to the driver at the front of the district line tube but I don't think he heard me, got me home though!
Big thanks to Roland and Classic Rock - good food, great company, all round fantastic event and I enjoyed seeing and speaking with people from the music biz that I admire and respect.
Ugh, I've been recording today and now its 3am already, off to get horizontal for a while, sweet dreams,
Martin (5 Nov 2008)
This is a bit of a guitar geek question but oh well...
How do you get that great guitar sound of yours? Apart from Strats and Les Pauls, what amps and effects (if any) do you use? What kind of settings would you usually use? Are there any tone secrets like putting pickups out of phase or guitar or amp modifications you use to help you get there?
Cheers. Keep up the good work, your doing a really awesome job!
Hmmm, guitars - standard amps, no mods. Old Mesa Boogie for Ray, old Marshall Combo (at the moment) for Danny. Ray's Strat has whacky pick ups that are stacked humbuckers and they are strange, kind of phase cancellation in the highs and lows somewhat, but it makes for a rich mid-range that goes towards a Gibson HB P/U. Danny started with a Strat but has played a Gold Top Les Paul and more recently a Gibson 335 I think - both sound cool. Strings are important - change 'em if you want rich jangle tone and up the gauge as your wrists get stronger. They got all kinds of pedals down there - main one probably Blackstar two stage valve boost.
Bass - Hartke Amp driving a 15ins cab for bass hooked to an Ashdown into a 2 x 10 cab for notso bass. Either on its own sounds crap - get the balance right. Important factor for me - Gibson Thunderbird bass, big ol Viking longship - get it hold by the scruff of the neck and make it growl and moan. Mods: I got 2 pick ups, I only use one.
We use fairly modest amps on stage and achieve power through use of dynamics and tightness. Balance between instruments on stage is crucial for vocal monitoring especially harmonies and I personally dislike players who use excessive volume to create the impression of power, its a cheap trick that usually has negative effects on both band and audience.
It's simple - if magic is to be created, it comes from the organic inter-reaction of the whole band, not any one part.
Having said all this - the thing that you cannot quantify is what comes from the soul of the player and really, that is the most important factor in music.
Cheers and bon chance,
Martin (5 Nov 2008)
Having listened to the the MP3 of "Time Was" at Cambridge, I found my jaw had dropped, and I was having a bit of time lifting back into place. I know you liked Keith very much much, and Ray brings not only great harmony singing to your group, but fabulous finger picking technique - an often over looked, yet major part of the sound of Wishbone Ash - but Danny? Don't you feel a bit like you just won the lottery? Has this level of guitar expertise elevated your excitement toward your group? I feel, based on this single track, Danny is actually in the ballpark with Andy, Ted and Ben Granfelt. Those three I feel strongly were the best guitarists ever to have performed this catalog. I am not one for rankings, and granted, art is in the eyes/ears of the beholder, I just feel this instance is exceptional.
Very happy for you. - And please, - can't say it enough, no disrespect inteded toward Ray, Keith, Laurie, or any of the highly skilled players Andy has used. I just feel strongly Mr Willson is indeed a unique find.
Best as always,
We were introduced to Danny by Keith Buck before he left the band and Keith assured us he would be a fine replacement. Danny has played for many years in a Brit band by the name of Showaddywaddy and will continue to appear with them to a large extent.
There are a lot of excellent guitar players out there nowadays but as I have always told my guys - it's not all about technical ability, there are many aspects that are required. Feel, character and attitude are all important and I have to say that Danny's arrival in the band has been a very positive development - he is a very "up" guy, extremely witty and also a great team player - so vital. This recent concert/theatre tour has served to cement the rapport in the band, its been pretty intense and everyone has come through with flying colours including Mick, our soundman. We are in good spirits as a band now and we are making tangible progress on all fronts, which will continue next year I am sure. With my manager Martin Darvill, agent Don McKay, publicists Roland Hyams and Dave Hill and Gary here at the website, I think we have a very strong team.
So there you go my friend, I do subscribe to the saying that it ain't so much what you do - its the way that you do it that counts.
Martin (5 Nov 2008)