The Rock and Roll Report Chats with Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash On Making Music and Having a Reason to Believe

Wishbone Ash in concert

*Wishbone Ash* are about to release their first single in over twenty years. Following a fan-based Facebook campaign the band went into the studio and recorded *Reason to Believe* which will be released on 17th May 2010.

Reason to Believe lays down a marker to a whole new set of fans. Though aware of the band’s iconic name many may not realize that Wishbone Ash are still tearing it up musically and continuing to take it to the streets with over 150 live dates worldwide this year alone. The single brings together the traditional aspects of Wishbone Ash including the twin guitar attack but the production adds a modern twist. The result? A very radio friendly single that hooks the listener on first play.

Wishbone Ash have been touring relentlessly as well as releasing new albums and DVDs to an ever growing army of fans new and old. Last year the band celebrated 40 years of making music, embarking on a full European tour to promote their anniversary DVD Live in London. Wishbone Ash just keep active and continue to do what they do so well, which is to play and make great music.

As part of last year’s anniversary celebrations the band played an exclusive show and party at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Special guests (and former band members) Ben Granfelt, Mark Birch & Mervyn Spence did an incredible job and their contributions to the long history of Wishbone Ash can be seen and heard on the current DVD.

The present day line up of Wishbone ash is, *Andy Powell, *Lead guitar/ Vocals, *Bob Skeat, *bass/backing vocals,* Muddy Manninen*, lead, slide and lap steel guitars and *Joe Crabtree*, drums and percussion

Find out more at.

I have only just recently seen Wishbone Ash on the first date of their UK tour, this was my first live experience with them and I loved it. I must confess that I had not heard too much (if any!) Wishbone Ash before getting news of the single release and tour dates, but now I really do have every reason to believe. I now have a desire to collect all of their albums. It has been an education to see where so many of my old favourite bands have got their inspiration from.

*Here is my Interview with Andy Powell*

*Nick -* Way back in the beginnings of Wishbone Ash, is it true that your pre set warm up jam with Ritchie Blackmore led to Wishbone Ash being recommended by Ritchie to Derek Lawrence who then aided in the deal between Wishbone Ash and Decca/MCA?

*Andy -* That’s correct. We had a little ‘duelling banjo’s thing going on pre gig and Ritchie seemed impressed with my guitar playing and later, with the bands set we thought that we should have a record deal. The rest is history, I owe him big time.

*Nick -**Argus *is the album that most people claim to be your best, is that also true in your opinion?

*Andy – *It’s the most definitive or iconic, being almost like a concept album in a way. I think it’s an album which we band members most joined together in a common cause or with a very strong idea in mind which is not always the case when you start recording a disc. Lets say, we were very empowered at the time because usually made it or failed on their third album and this was it for us. I felt that we should push our English roots in a musical way and our bassist and major lyricist at the time, Martin Turner, explored more timeless classical themes which we were all discovering in these books we were reading, like the Bible and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Also we had started to play bigger venues than the clubs we had been used to in the UK. We’d been to the USA and stadium rock was happening, so * Argus* was in a way designed to fit these bigger venues. In that way, it was an altogether bigger statement than the previous two albums. It needed to be.

*Nick – *Retrospectively, was working without David Lawrence as producer and calling yourselves Wishbone Four a good or a bad idea?

*Andy – *Working with Derek was very good.* *Self producing an album after the great *Argus *album like *Wishbone *4 (the album’s low key title) was a bad idea.

*Nick – *Was the added pressure of becoming an arena band the cause of the ensuing stream of line up changes?

*Andy – *We actually were a very stable band* *except for our original guitar player Ted, being replaced in 1974 by Laurie Wisefield who lasted 12 years. Yes, the pressure of touring could be said to have caused lots of stresses. It’s not an easy life. The changes thereafter were mostly spread out though, with members on average lasting mostly five or six years.

*Nick – *Was the *Front Page News *era as enjoyable as the experimental and traditional periods, and do you have a favourite period?

*Andy – *Well, we were a bit conflicted due to our move to the USA. Not all band members felt comfortable there, and plus we were all starting to grow as individuals with relationships and our own private lives.

We were growing up. America was a real learning curve for us and that phase lasted about four years. Speaking personally, it was a time that taught me a lot about myself and the life I had chosen. I very much enjoyed the post ‘locked in’ period in America when we decided to get back on track, focus on the music and our needs and we produced our *New England *album in the USA, in our own studio and on our own terms.

*Nick – **Just Testing *and *No Smoke Without Fire *was a return to the original style of Wishbone Ash, was the time between then and the current line up particularly trying or just a state of evolution?

*Andy – *Definitely a state of evolution. I did not particularly enjoy returning to the UK and producing those two albums you mentioned. Even though I did some of my best guitar work on those records, I felt the direction was not always the best. Personally, I have enjoyed everything from there on quite a bit more since it was clear the band would not remain the way it had been going on. Say goodbye to the old days and all of that…

*Nick – *There seems to have been some controversy recently over the use of the band’s name instigated from Martin Turners Wishbone Ash, is this issue finally resolved?

*Andy – *No, it has not been* *resolved. Increasing liberties have been taken with the trademarked name which has been owned by me for over twelve years. Martin Turner after an absence from the music business and band for over fifteen years decided that it was a pretty good name after all and that he should reappropriate it. That has caused a lot of confusion and consternation with fans and with the business side of things – agents, promoters and the like. Don’t get me wrong, i think that it is great that he’s back out in the clubs playing and singing again but he should have done the right thing, as other returning muso’s have done and called his band ‘The Martin Turner Band’. After all, credible former ‘Purple’ bassist Glen Hughes is back out there playing but does not call himself ‘Glen Hughes Deep Purple’. Mick Abrahams does not call himself ‘Mick Abrahams Jethro Tull’ does he? And so on

*Nick – ** *‘Reason To Believe’ may be the first single release for twenty years but Wishbone Ash have been far from inactive during this time, could you tell us a little about the bands progress in-between single releases?

* Andy -* Where should I start? 150 tour dates worldwide per year. Three DVD releases, a one hour documentary about the making of our current album, several studio albums like *Illuminations, Bona fide, Clan Destiny, The Power Of Eternity, *a CD of acoustic versions of classics and new songs called *Bare Bones, *two dance records., *Trance Visionary *and *Psychic Terrorism, *numerous live CD’s like *Live In Geneva, Live in Hamburg. *Fan club conventions on cruise ships in the Caribbean, Germany, the USA, and each year in the UK, an award winning website, books like *The Collectors Guide To Wishbone Ash*, seminars in music colleges, Rock Camp…The list goes on. We have recently fitted out our very own recording studio and are hard at work on a CD of new songs.

* * *Nick -* I have heard five mixes of ‘Reason to Believe’ which are all superb, did you have much or any input* *with the Al Carson or Hi Fi by Design remixes?

*Andy – *Thank you very much. Yes I very much worked with Al Carson in NY but also the HiFi mix interjecting my needs to the over flow of the music.

*Nick – *Forty years is a truly respectable innings for a band to stay active and together, do you have any advice to share that may help younger budding bands and acts?

*Andy – *Thank you. Yes, keep true to your goals while being a little pragmatic, develop a strong work ethic, cherish your talent and skills, stay off drugs, practice, have fun, network Etc. It’s tough these days because the music business and labels have imploded in a way so new artists have to do it all, PR, marketing and so on but these activities bring a lot of life skills.

*Nick – *What are your hopes/plans for the future?

*Andy – *Good Health, continued enjoyment of what I do, travel even more and discover new places and audiences and keep the creative juices flowing.

* Nick – *You have pioneered the twin guitar sound which has influenced so many other bands, what has influenced you?

*Andy – *Well, a bit of blues, a bit of folk, a bit of rock. I first came up in the sixties so I was listening to sixties guitarists like Hank Marvin, Burt Weedon, from that i got into Chuck Berry he was a huge influence and after that I slowly got into blues guitarists, people like Albert King, BB king. Then of course Eric Clapton, Peter Green all the great British players, Jeff Beck, wonderful.

*Nick – *Of all the varied venues that you have played at, what do you prefer, large or small?

*Andy –* You know I like them all for different reasons. I mean when you play in a small venue you can play fast songs because, you know if you plat fast music in a very big venue a lot of the notes get lost. So if you’re playing in a small venue then you can get a lot more music across and it’s a lot more intimate. A big venue is very exciting because it’s a big sound. I like them all, it’s all different, and I’ll play anywhere you know. If you’ve got a spare living room and you want me to play there, I’ll play there.

*Nick – *‘Reason to Believe’ is wonderful, its brought the sound up alongside modern media with a great blend of old and new Wishbone Ash. What do you think?

*Andy – *Thank you, I agree it has a real modern sound and i feel really good about it. It has a modern sound, it shows what we are about as a band and has a really catchy melody. It makes a really good trailer for the album and maybe will make a really good single, we will see…

*Nick – *I have seen from tonight’s gig that your fan base runs right across several generations. How do you explain this?

*Andy – *Yes we do have a community of fans, through the internet we do have families who bring their kids up into music, you know* *they listen to it in the car, they get to enjoy it too, I think it’s really nice to have a community of fans. Over the years we get to know so many of them, it’d really nice. It’s almost like the Grateful Dead but not quite, you get the idea.

*Nick – *How would you like to see the future of Wishbone Ash?

*Andy – *You know I usually think ahead about a year or two, we make plans for projects that we are going to do. The projects that we have right now are an hour long documentary movie that we have just recorded in France which shows the making of ‘Reason to Believe’ and it shows some other songs from the album, so I’m kind of hopeful that we will release that in some way, either on the TV or with an album or in its own right as a movie. We have a new album shaping up and a lot of touring, we are going to Tokyo, Japan, we are going to Cape Town South Africa with Deep Purple. We have another tour of America planned. We have just done fourteen countries in the last three or four months, and you know what, that’s the future. With record sales getting smaller and smaller and a lot of bands are just getting out on the road. That is the message for the future is get it out live, small venues, large venues, festivals. Just keep producing new music, that’s what the fans want, that’s what we want, we’re a live band creating new music.