1. Thank you very much for taking your time to make an interview with It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine. You are very active these days and will be releasing a brand new album titled Elegant Stealth on the 25th November. Are you excited about it? We all are and can’t wait to hear the album!
It’s my pleasure to talk with you. Yes, we are extremely excited about the release of the CD Elegant Stealth. We all feel we’ve done some extra good work here and are eager to know what folks think.
2. Tell me about the process of recording and producing your latest album? What can you say about the concept behind the album?
We started writing 2 years ago and actually produced a rockumentary style DVD about that process. It didn’t hurt that we were in a very conducive location – an old manor house in Normandy, France.
Then we had some more writing sessions at my place in Connecticut last summer. Finally we got to our studio in Lancashire England, last November, to produce the basic tracks and some vocals. Some more overdubs were done back at my place in the USA. In addition, work was also done in the UK and in Helsinki, Finland by my co guitarist, Muddy Manninen. It’s been a real global affair! A labour of love, you might say.
The main concept behind the album was to write and record, together as a band, to capture the creative thing as we jammed out and worked collectively. We hoped that we’d get more of a stage vibe going and I believe we have got close to that spontaneity.
3. You also have a new documentary out. Please share a few words about it!
As mentioned, it was recorded in France. The video crew and producer were French and very experienced in this kind of thing, having worked with musicians in Africa and France, but never with a rock band originating from England. At first, you can see us slightly uncomfortable with having cameras there 24/7, but pretty quickly we became oblivious to them and settled down to working on producing new material.
4. I know you will start your tour in 2012. Are you excited to be on the stage? Will you be presenting only the new album or will you also add your amazing stuff from the past?
Myself and the guys in the band are always excited about being on stage. It really has to be that way, otherwise why do it? We really do love what we do. We’ll certainly preview a few new songs from the album as well as some of the classics from the band’s long past. We understand that folks want to bask in memories of the old days as well as check out our new stuff, hopefully.
5. Let’s go back into the late 60’s. Were you or others in any bands before forming Wishbone Ash?
Yes. I was in bands from the age of 12 actually, and always, in my own naive way, treated it as a professional thing, even at that young age. During my teens, I was in a succession of bands in the provinces around London. Mostly they were 4 piece rock outfits and then also what we called soul bands. There were at least 2 of these which specialized in Stax and Motown style music – Sam and Dave, Otis Reading, Marvin Gaye, James Brown – that kind of thing. We used to have great singers and some of my friends from those bands have also gone on to have careers in music but ironically, one of the singers is now a TV presenter for a fishing show having had a successful career in business!
Speaking for the others in the band now, I believe it was definitely the same for them. I know they played in bands as teenagers. We all got the music bug at a young age.
6. What are some of the nicest memories from producing and recording your debut, Pilgrimage and Argus?
Being young and free in London. It was a great time to be alive, producing your own music. The music business was really exploding and London was the epicenter of it. Pilgrimage was pretty much us just going into a studio with a great engineer and producer and playing. It was was essentially our stage set. That was Pilgrimage. I believe it was recorded and mixed in a very short time – 10 days maybe. We were getting more experienced at recording.
Argus was a different thing. We were conscious that folks were expecting a bigger statement on this, our third album, so we took our time writing and mapping out the musical direction. The band was starting to think big. We’d been to America and played big stadiums and in the UK, we’d played summer festivals and the Town Hall circuit, so we needed music that had a bigger statement about it. We had a great manager, Miles Copeland, and by then, we’d really got comfortable with Derek Lawrence our producer, and Martin Birch, our engineer.
Everything about Argus was epic in a way, even the cover art, and it became a huge seller and really defined us as a band. I felt we really worked as a unit on that album. It was a true group effort with everyone’s role being clearly defined, yet very open ended. Martin Turner handled most of the lyrics. I handled arrangements and many guitar parts, but we all overlapped into each others’ territory. Drummer Steve Upton, wrote the very poetic lyric to Leaf & Stream and Ted Turner came up with the iconic riff in the King Will Come, as well as the whole opening section to Time Was and the song Jailbait. I wrote the bass part in Sometime World as well as the vocal melody. Martin came up with guitar lines. The harmony vocal lines and song melodies were a sometimes overlooked but integral part of the sound of this very special album. There were great, great guitar solos by yours truly and my harmony twin, Ted Turner, and some killer opening riffs and guitar lines like Blowin’ Free and Throw Down the Sword. Actually some great song endings too.
No one person could have produced that record on their own . It was us truly melding as a band. Great openness, great creativity, a kind of collective consciousness, mutual respect and subsequently now, great memories. We actually, and finally sounded cool – I remember thinking at the time 😉 The public obviously also thought that because the record sold millions around the world.
7. You saw the whole world while touring. Do you have any particular memories or should I say stories you would like to share with us?
Oh my – let me see. The first time in America was special because I’d grown up in the UK in the 50s which was really quite drab. We were trying to recover from a war. But, we’d seen this magical place called America, on our TV screens. I remember when color TV came in, so to finally visit the place, traveling on BOAC I can remember the light – it was like Technicolor all over again but this time for real. I was sitting on Miami Beach and I can remember pinching myself to make sure this was finally, actually real. America meant and still means a lot to me. We toured with the Who, I remember as well as Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Quicksilver Messenger Service. Sounds like ancient hippy history, doesn’t it?
Visiting Russia was something also. We were there in the depths of winter. I never realized it could get so cold. The Neva river was frozen solid. There were like icebergs on it. People had it rough. On the other hand we saw the Hermitage Museum and all the splendors of St. Petersburg / Leningrad. We had junior KGB acting as interpreters. They were very dour and you weren’t allowed to leave your hotel room without supervision.Our security at the shows was the army. They were rough with the kids. But there was such an outpouring of emotion that we’d gone there.
India was amazing. Such extremes of poverty and then on the other hand, great wealth. Overwhelming visually, but incredible in every way. We are one of the few rock bands to have toured there. I have a book full of memories of those trips there. It was a very special experience and even today, there are people who write to me who remember coming to our concerts there.
8. What are your future plans, besides going on the tour?
I want to write a book someday, and produce a solo CD.
9. I’d like to thank you once again for taking the time and effort to answer my questions! Would you care to send a message to all of your fans and readers of It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine?
Yes, I want to know what drugs you are all on 😉
Seriously, thanks for your support for one of Britain’s treasures, Wishbone Ash. As John Lennon said “I’ll wear it gratefully”.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
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