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 -
I'm a bit tired of hearing those with agendas go on various sites saying that you have no right to use the WA name because you chose to leave the band on three occasions. I read that you have denied leaving voluntarily. Can you clear this doubt up once and for all - did you fall or were you pushed?
I have dealt with this sticky matter previously but, briefly - in 1980 I was presented with a situation where the other guys wanted to bring in a lead vocalist, something I could not agree to and which I thought was completely wrong for the band. They informed me that they were going to do it anyway so there was a parting of the ways on a three against one basis. I do not believe that what happened can be accurately described as me 'leaving' at all. Pushed would be a better description, but what happened subsequently? They did not actually bring in a lead vocalist (other than Claire Hammil for ten minutes). Andy and Laurie (whilst he was still involved) tried to take over that role without a great deal of success it would appear. On the other couple of occasions, in 1991 and 1996, I was informed by Andy Powell that my services were no longer required for various reasons, which I took to mean he would be financially better off without my involvement. Thats about the size of it, and unlike other versions I have seen, this is the truthful one.
Martin (3 June 2009)
hope you're well. One obvious question I've never asked you and have never seen mentioned (apologies to anyone who's ever actually done so) is - who were your influences in learning bass and making it your main instrument when you were setting out in music? Guitar players get all the chicks, surely? Also, who have you really rated as players down the years since? The rockers, the proggers, the reggae guys (who are the heart of their music in my opinion?) Name names please; those of us who think four strings are enough for any man await - and thanks for your time again.
I have to confess to being a bit of an odd one as far as bass players go.
In the early days I never really thought of myself as a bassist because I was a guitar player/singer and only played bass on stage with my brother Glenn playing guitar in the Empty Vessels days (60s). Even after Wishbone started in the 70s I had still not found the right instrument for me and my unorthodox style. Around 1971 I discovered the Rickenbacker Bass and soon after the Thunderbird which I have played pretty much ever since although I do have a couple of old Precision basses that I mainly used for recording. Influences? Hmmm, in the very early days I liked Jet Harris mainly for his hairstyle if the truth be told, McCartney was good back then and I remember being very impressed with John Gustafson when I saw the Merseybeats in the early 60s. He was the first guy I ever saw playing a T'Bird and it was nearly 10 years later when I managed to get my hands on one.
Bass players I have loved for their distinct style would be Andy Fraser of Free (whom I got friendly with for a while in the 70s when my brother Kim was playing drums with his band), then Ronnie Lane in the Faces and Robbie Shakespeare of 'Sly and Robbie' fame. All of these guys have what I would call great feel, which has always meant more to me than the technical "play lots of notes" mob. There are dozens of others I could mention, and yes I do believe that bass and drums are the heart and soul of most music, what the other guys do is just the icing and fluff on the top really. Ha ha! Is that good enough for you Niz mate ?
Oh and another thing, I have, over the years, gotten to know many young ladies who connect/collect bass players.
There you go,
Martin (3 June 2009)
I'm a great fan of the song "Lost Cause in Paradise" and am surprised it hasn't been in the MTWA set more often - it's a MT classic IMO.
I was listening to the version on Here to Hear and was thinking how great the guitar work was on it. I know Ted did the beautifully melodic solos, but I also think Andy's work on the song is fantastic too. Could you tell me what guitar Andy Powell used on Lost Cause in order to create that great sound.
How are thee Lee? Well I trust ?
Andy Powell was not involved in the recording of the song you mention. Steve did play drums and I had programmed two keyboard parts and had mapped out the guitar parts thoroughly. Ted is double tracked on guitar on left and right and also sang the low harmony with me. Ted also plays the bluesy solo at the end. It sounds like a Strat but I remember he was playing a PRS a lot around that time so who knows!
I wrote this song in a room a few feet from where my oldest daughter was sleeping as I knew that my first marriage was on the rocks and I was bracing myself for what I knew was to come. So, for me, the song contains a lot of personal emotion, and I was very grateful to Ted that he was able to pick this up and help interpret the song so beautifully. I'm glad that you like it and I'm sure we will be playing it again at some point.
All the best
Martin (3 June 2009)
Locked In is, I think, generally agreed to be a misfire but I'd be interested in getting an idea about why you thought this was the case (indeed, that is if you do think that is the case!!).
For a band which prided itself on songs, too many of the songs seem half-formed or not much more than jams. Did you get into the studio too quickly with no enough time to work on them?
Tom Dowd is also a producer with an impeccable record but the sound of the record seems very thin indeed with the more successful tracks sounding either weak ("Rest In Peace", which always sounded terrific live) or very muddy ("Say Goodbye" and "She Was My Best Friend"). The latter in particular isn't usually a feature of Tom Dowd albums - ref his Clapton albums of similar period.
Following on from There's The Rub, Locked In was such a disappointment at the time - and also, I think, one of those career moments when a strong album might have been of significance.
What was you take on this album and this period in WA history? And wht the end results seemed to be less than the sum of the parts rather than the preferred way round.
I have talked about this period before, but here goes again.
A catalogue of events combined to make this recording. Well, what can I say - I don't do album reviews - my job is to make them.
We had moved to the USA, which decision I disagreed with but rather than leave the band, I went with it. So we found ourselves homeless, living in a Holiday Inn on Seventy something Street with a bunch of hookers and trolling off down to Time Square daily to record with Tom Dowd who came with a massive reputation and who wanted us to record as a 'combo' with keyboards as per the formula that had worked with Eric Clapton and also with the Faces. Tom requested that no drugs or alchohol be used during the album sessions. Obviously his track record shows that he was a great man in the recording business, but although his previous experience with bands had lead him to these views, there is no doubt in my mind that it was wrong for WA. In addition to this I was informed that I had nodules on my vocal chords (from years of singing on stage in front of a very loud band) and so was not able to sing much, and it became apparent during the sessions that Tom was in the middle of a full on war with his wife from whom he was, at the time, getting divorced. And, right after the recordings started one of his best mates got shot and so he had to go off to a funeral and came back very down and dark. At the time Tom resembled a wizzened old, anxious, bent over, nutty professor in a grey suit - I saw him a year later in Miami, he was a foot taller, 10 years younger, very cool looking and full of beans. He had clearly come through a bad patch and re-invented himself.
No excuses here, just an attempt to explain how lost in space we both were when that album was made, and when I have had to listen to it, I cannot quite believe how limp it sounds. Maybe a candidate for a re-record? There the grubiness - we got some of 'em right, not that one though, bad timing all round. I think this album must have been where I learnt the saying: Life is like a carrot: one minute it tastes so sweet, next minute someone shoves it up yer bum.
Hope this helps clarify things,
Martin (3 June 2009)
Obviously at the moment the main focus for you and your band of merry minstrels is taking Argus to the masses throughout the first part of 2009 (and I look forward to seeing you and the boys in Liverpool). However, once Argus has been well and truly toured out, what's next for MTWA? By then we'll have seen that you're well and truly back in action and can still cut it on stage and the MTWA name will be becoming better and better known. We have two great live albums and your reinterpretation of Argus on the shelves. So what comes next? Are your songwriting juices flowing and, as I sincerely hope, is an all-new album on the way or will MTWA remain a legacy group? I'll never tire of hearing you belt out the classics but maybe it's time for a few new ones to complement the old 'uns?
We have a fairly busy year in front of us and are currently enjoying the Argustour, but yes, obviously as I have said before, it would be cool to find time to embark on a whole new album recording. I also have tapes from the past that I would like to work on, but we now have offers coming in from all over the world and I can see that the future is going to get busy. It therefore makes it hard at the moment to make definite moves on the recording front.
Martin (10 Feb 2009)
Just been reading through some old issues of Hot Ash and in an interview you gave, three songs were mentioned which I haven't heard of since. They are, "Chimes of Freedom", "Sienna", and "Heaven Is". Have these songs surfaced under a different title? If not, what happened to them?
"Chimes of Freedom" - This was a tune that Andy was writing, 1990-ish. We were going to take a look at it for Strange Affair and then again when I put together theLost Pearls album. It was a good enough idea but the song had only one verse over a guitar bass and drums groove so had not really been anywhere near finished, and since the moment had very much passed, we decided it was not worthy of inclusion as it was.
"Sienna" - This was a working title for a tune that I came up with, and I have thus far failed miserably to put together a lyric and vocal for it. I have always wanted to see it finished and I live in hope that I can pull it together at some point in the future. It would maybe need re-recording from scratch, although I do remember the recording I have with the original line up being very good. One way or another I must try and get that one together. Thanks for reminding me.
"Heaven Is" - Andy, Steve and myself on the Here to Hear sessions I believe. This is a fairly moody little instrumental which does actually appear on my solo album Walking the Reeperbahn (it later turned up on both the Here to Hear reissue and the Distillation boxed set).
Hope this helps,
Martin (10 Feb 2009)
Just wanted to say that your playing has given me a lot of pleasure over the years and continues to do so. Your playing and sound has been inspirational to me personally and to many others. I was more than happy to let you use my old Ricky 4001 and you can use it anytime for any future recordings etc...no problem. Like you I just love the tone and I have not played one that I like better, even if it is a "girls bass", ha ha.
My question to you is did you always use heavier guage strings on your old Rickenbacker to get that "growl" sound originally, or did you come across the idea of using heavier strings later in time? I know you used heavier guage strings on my bass for Argus: Through The Looking Glass. Cheers and keep on Rockin', mate. I'll be seeing you again very soon no doubt. I've lost count the times I've watched this band now! The last tour was the best so far. Regards...
Them old Ricks, huh! My original one was Maroon with chequer board binding and toaster pick up and I would still love to find another but they do go for silly money nowadays and are not as strong in some respects as your later model. The reason I called it a "girls" guitar is because the first time I ever took it on a plane the neck snapped and I figured it would not survive the six week tours of the States that we were in the habit of doing, with the crew chucking everything in the back of a Uhaul truck. It got left in Miles Copeland's basement where we use to rehearse, as did my Moog Taurus bass pedals. I wonder what happened to them, hopefully someone got it fixed and working. Now, that Sting used to use Taurus pedals didn't he? Hmmm. Actually I've got a bass that he was once interested in.
I saw a beautiful old Rick bass in the USA a couple of months back but the bloke did not want to sell it - must contact him to see if he's changed his mind. He did tell me that it was not advised to use heavy gauge strings on the older ones because of the slimness of the neck, can cause problems apparently. 110s didn't even exist back in 71, they had only been making wire wound bass strings since the mid 60s. I remember scrounging John Entwistle's discarded strings when we supported the Who on a gig - you could not buy wire wounds in the West Country, but hey, those were very different days, if someone had said "Internet" back then ,you would have figured they were talking about something you're Gran wore in bed to keep her hair tidy.
OK, say hi to the wife, she really should have married me, and become Tina Turner,
Martin (5 Feb 2009)
What is it about East Sheen and bassist/singer/composers? Something in the water perhaps? Reading a Pink Floyd book recently and I came across the fact that Roger Waters also lived there at some point - possibly when you did. Did you ever meet? He is another musical hero of mine. Hard to imagine Floyd without him (although they weren't bad in the 90s)...
Was this an inspired place for planning musical activities? Also home to Marc Bolan and I believe Debbie Harry at various times. It sounds like it might have been a rock 'n' roll version of Stella Street!!! You mention the East Sheen days quite a bit in the sleevenotes on Walking The Reeperbahn. It must hold special memories no doubt.
Howard, how are you old bean?
I bought my first house in Barnes (where we made Wishbone Four at Olympic), but came home off tour one day to find that every house now had a dresser and a chesterfield sofa in the lounge, so panic set in and I found a place in Sheen which at the time was a sleepy backwater off the South Circular complete with Morris shooting brakes and the odd motor boat in the drive. It was a strange area, which I liked. Max Wall lived over the road. We lived in a corner house half way up East Sheen Ave. The main attraction was Richmond Park which I could walk to. I discovered that I could get a bike in through the pedestrian entrance (they close the main gates at night) and use to love going up there to watch the sun come up over London, no traffic, like being in the country.
Big Roge did have a pad on Fyffe Road I believe, right beside the park - posh street that I always fancied a pad on, but we didn't sell quite enough records for that. I'm over it - not really me anyway. I actually made an appointment to go see another house in Sheen, which I then discovered was Marc Bolan's place - cancelled the appointment! I drove across Barne's common very late the night he died, and did wonder just what had happened there. Years later I visited "his tree" which helped me through a tough time in my life and which I wrote about in the song "Bolan's Monument". We did do a few gigs with Marc in the very early days and later I got to know his wife June a little, whom I thought was lovely.
I never saw Debbie Harry, unfortunately, but another Sheen resident was engineer Keith Harwood who also died in a car accident. I had some wonderful times there, heavy too, as it says in the song "Broken Down House". Became a father there - laughing and crying at the same time as I drove back through Richmond Park. Got forced out of Wishbone Ash there (I DID NOT QUIT), really learned a lot about recording there whilst working with all kinds of people also involved in music. My life was laid waste there when the dark times arrived. It took a long time but I re-invented myself there. So yeah, SW14 does have a special place for me personally.
Was very into early Floyd with Syd Barrett (I've gotta bike you can ride it if you like / It's gotta basket, a bell that rings and dings and makes it look good / I'd give it to you if I could but I borrowed it...). What a lyric, what a dude! Later I wobbled - didn't really get The Wall but loved Dark Side of the Moon, particularly fond of The Division Bell. David Gilmour is a great guitar player for me - fantastic sound, good feel and not too much technique so, yes, I guess I'm a Floyd lover right back to the days of Middle Earth and International Times in the 60s.
Take care and see you soon hopefully,
Martin (5 Feb 2009)
You know I like the cut of your jib, but if you wear that feather in Newcastle next time around, some of my less PC mates are going to say "wharra puff!" If you persist in ornithological additions to your barnet please carry a bottle of brown ale or at least stick a safety pin in your nose or something.
I have a skin condition called vitiligo, where you're pigmentation vanishes. I have a section of brain which is clearly thus afflicted and the hair which spurts forth from this area is white, so, one day at the haircut shop we decided to braid it and make it a feature. I am also rather fond of birds, both ones with skirts and ones with feathers. Mysterious creatures of the air, they fly, and sometimes so do I. Feathers are a wonder of nature and possessed of some power I believe. Now because girlies braid their hair and wear makeup, that would not stop me from doing similar when I felt inclined. I also take care of kiddies, cook a decent meal, even a bit of ironing, because maybe I feel secure in my sexual identity, or maybe to your mates I am just a freak - either way, fine by me.
I am not a fan of English Ale preferring Czech beer but I'll be happy for you to buy me a glass of pink champagne with a cherry in it when we next meet, and you can call me Martina, you mischievous young stud Stod.
Queer to hear,
Martin (5 Feb 2009)