Music: Hello Andy, and thank you for giving me a piece
of your time it is truly an honor. Now, it is not only my opinion,
but the opinion of countless fans and critics alike, that "Argus"
is the definitive Wishbone Ash record. Would you agree, and what are
your feelings about calling any particular album a "definitive
Wishbone Ash record?" Are you comfortable with that?
Andy Powell: I am actually. There
is much more to Wishbone Ash, but this is the album in which we pulled
it all together and defined our style which was truly unique. In many
ways I believe we made a big mistake in abandoning this vision when
we recorded "Wishbone Four," which was a hastily put together
record done under duress. You know, a big part of the creative process
is reflection, and we could've used a bit more at that time; but,
we were under the gun story of my life!
DM: There has been talk for many
years about doing an orchestral version of the "Argus" record.
Is this idea still "in the wings," or has it been forgotten
AP: Yes, it could work, and I've
benefited by investigating the process; but it's huge, and requires
a lot of the above. I've already learned a lot about the pitfalls
of using the wrong orchestrator, and have indeed found a wonderfully
talented German arranger/composer who I believe would be tres sympathique
to the project.
DM: If you wanted to introduce
someone to Wishbone Ash music, what album or song would you suggest
they start with?
AP: "Argus" or "Pilgrimage."
DM: I have heard many artists,
from The Flyin' Ryan Brothers to Judas Priest, site Wishbone Ash as
a major influence. In your opinion, is there any one band in particular
that you feel has captured the essence of the Wishbone Ash sound?
AP: Not really. These bands use
us and our technique as an influence, but they often miss the pastoral,
whimsical side the blues and emotion. There's a lot of English
melancholy in our music. Just listen to "Sometime World"
or "Leaf And Stream."
DM: It has been over 35 years
since Wishbone Ash got started. What factor do you feel contributes
most to the lasting power of this band? Do you think you'd still be
playing if the band had decided on Jesus Duck instead of Wishbone
AP: Well, to call the band Jesus
Duck, which was one of the names put forth by our manager, Miles Copeland
at the time, would have had certain limitations. I think the main
factors contributing to our/my longevity are a certain "under
the radar" approach. We were never a big singles band, which
tends to date you, and we've always been a player's band. Also, we
have an eclectic musical style which often requires a bit of digging
into or an open-mindedness, but then it can be really rewarding for
DM: How much has the World Wide
Web and the internet impacted the longevity of Wishbone Ash?
AP: Huge. We don't really need
labels, magazines and radio so much. The web enables us to get right
to our fans with no "BS."
DM: Wishbone Ash has used many
producers over the years, from Bill Szymczyk to Tom Dowd. Which producer
do you feel was the most beneficial to the band and its sound? Is
there anyone that you wish you would have had as a producer (Martin
Birch, George Martin perhaps)? And lastly, if you could work with
any of the big producers of today (Rick Rubin, Robert John "Mutt"
Lange, Steve Lillywhite, etc.), who would it be?
AP: Bill Szymczyk was tops - great
with people, great ears, and an ability to get the job done. Cool.
Rick Rubin would be someone I would love to work with. He seems to
me to know his onions thinks like a true muse and producer,
but is able to bring out the best in these artists, their true colors.
DM: You're going off to that proverbial
desert island, and you have room in the suitcase for one album (from
any artist). What would it be?
AP: A Beatles album maybe
DM: Are there any young bands
out today that have really impressed you? If so, which ones?
AP: A lot do, but sadly they have
a short shelf life. I'm currently listening to The Cardigans, who
I rate; but also I've checked out Franz Ferdinand, and the Arctic
Monkeys, whose singer is extraordinary. I'm addicted to songwriters
these days. Ray Davies' new CD is good, but the production is a bit
DM: With the new album, "Clan
Destiny," there seems to be a renewed creativity within the songwriting
process. A song like "Surfin' A Slow Wave" has a much different
sound than anything Wishbone Ash has ever done. Do you feel that the
current lineup is the most flexible and diverse Ash lineup yet?
AP: Pretty darned flexible.We
can go heavy, bluesy or retro. We all listen to a lot of music and
have deep knowledge.
DM: You have mentioned in other
interviews that you have used an old 1952 Telecaster (that used to
belong to Roy Buchanan) since the mid-70's for much of the recording
you do in the studio. You have also pointed out that you do not bring
this guitar on the road. My questions are: How much of "Clan
Destiny" was recorded with this guitar? And, why not use this
versatile, fat sounding guitar for the stage?
AP: A good 75% of the guitar work
on "Clan Destiny" was using this axe. In addition I used
my Chilcott Angel V, and a cheap Mexican strat. I don't use it on
the tours because it's valuable, but also the Flying V has a lot more
head room on big stages, and it's also a performer's guitar. I've
adapted my whole stage style around this instrument.
DM: I have also heard that the
intro to "Throw Down The Sword" is also your warm-up exercise.
Is this a fact?
AP: I had been listening to Fairport
Convention and some other jigs and reels, and so wanted to make my
own one up. It's at a little slower pace than one of theirs though!
DM: And are you still warming
up with it?
AP: Not these days!
DM: Your signature red Flying
V has become a trademark image for you, and you have mentioned in
the past that it is a comfortable fit for you and your style of playing.
If you had to choose one guitar, and donate the rest to me, which
one would you keep?
I'd keep the 1967 Gibson Flying V. I can do most things with this
guitar, including catch snakes or impale nasty security men with
it. This actually happened at a gig in the Soviet Union when the
security was getting out of hand.
DM: Wishbone Ash just might
be the hardest working band in the history of rock 'n' roll. With
a tour schedule that has you playing over 200 dates every year,
all around the world, when did you find time to write and arrange
the songs on "Clan Destiny?" Is there a set formula or
scheduling technique that you use for getting new material written?
AP: Well, I've bought so much
into the lifestyle that I don't differentiate between being on the
road or at home. My best songwriting ideas come on long, solitary
American road trips like the one I just completed from Vancouver
to Boston. I feel as free as the wind and really get inspired. Also,
yard work works for me digging in the dirt and walking in
the woods. The song "Mountainside" was written while working
on a farm at harvest time, for example. Nature is the best.
DM: Being knighted and given
the title of Sir Andy Powell by the Queen of England do you
ACCEPT like Elton, or DECLINE like Bowie?
AP: Oh, I don't know. I feel
like a world citizen these days. England feels a little claustrophobic,
but I still love it and it's my true home. So yes, why not accept
one? I've been a good ambassador for the U.K. music industry. Kinda
quaint idea these days. Even though the lustre has gone off the
Royal Family, they still hold a lot of weight. Did you know that
Brits are not true citizens of their country? They are subjects.
Makes me a little uncomfortable, that one.
DM: If you could pick any band
or artist in today's music market to collaborate with musically,
who would it be?
AP: I'm currently digging Gabriel
Gordon, and Doyle Bramhall II. He rocks! Respect!
DM: Will we ever again see a
reunion of Ash alumni like we saw in the late 80's when you signed
with Miles Copeland's I.R.S. Records?
I never say "never" to reunions, but I have grown rather
tired of trying to galvanize some former members into action over
the years. I guess, these days, everyone wants to do things on their
own terms me included. I had always been the "fall guy"
when it came to initiating these reunions, and also making the invitations
to a successive number of new players. Then, as band members left
piecemeal, I just continued in the role that had been pre-described
Martin Turner has made things difficult lately in that regard, deciding
after a 15 year hiatus to get a band together nothing wrong
there but to rather cheesily call it "Martin Turner's
Wishbone Ash." Prior to this, we'd had a gentleman's agreement
that he would not go down this road, but obviously it was not working
for him commercially. Having rescinded his role in the band all
those years ago, it's not doing much for his credibility with former
band members and the larger fan community to reclaim something that
he gave up on. Why now? Why not back then? Fortunately, I've never
had to deal with this dilemma, since I never quit the band. Can
you imagine Roger Water's Pink Floyd, Mick Abraham's Jethro Tull,
or Ritchie Blackmore's Deep Purple?
Now, in addition to falsely claiming that he alone actually formed
the band, invented the twin lead guitar concept, and even invented
the name - he falsely claims he was sacked (by me) instead of leaving.
So, despite all my respect and admiration for all he's achieved
in the early days, it obviously makes things a tad tricky with respect
to a bona fide reunion and an ongoing relationship with him. At
the moment, there's a kind of "he said/she said" thing
going on with erroneous info flying everywhere like the current
myth that I tried to shut down the website his people started. Not
true. I merely asked, could they use a different name other than
"Wishbone Ash - The Official Site," since it was obviously
becoming really confusing with journalists, radio stations, our
record labels, and the venues we work with. Of course, Martin's
manager and advisors are eminently aware of this and are trying
to strategically capitalize on the last 15 years work that has been
put in by our team, which has unquestionably raised the profile
of the band on a worldwide basis. It's all about money and trying
to rewrite history...very Spinal Tap! It would have been of no interest
to them 10 or 15 years ago, because they assumed the whole thing
DM: You've been asked the same
questions over and over again while sitting through what has probably
been thousands upon thousands of interviews. Has there ever been
a particular question that you always hoped would get asked but
AP: Yes. My true role in the
construction, production, and writing of much of the classic music
of this great band. It would take a detailed analysis and much verbiage.
DM: With a little research,
we can hear you answer just about any Wishbone Ash related question
you can think of, but hearing you talk about your personal life
is rare. For instance, I don't know if you are married to a man
or a woman, if you have kids or if you are single. Do you make a
concerted effort to separate your personal life from your career?
AP: My married partner is a
woman actually. We have three wonderful sons who are all in the
visual or musical arts. I've done a really good job of separating
my personal life from my musical life, which I believe has been
important for my family's development - but of late, I'm seeing
a blurring of reality.
DM: What do you think of "Queen
Of Torture" being on a compilation called "Metal Age:
The Roots Of Heavy Metal?" Do you feel that Wishbone Ash contributed
to the beginning of Heavy Metal?
AP: I think that it's a definite!
We were at times punky as well as really heavy. Listen to the aforementioned
track, as well as "Lady Whiskey," and then "Runaway"
from "New England" righteously heavy, I'd say.
DM: Who is Andy Powell?
AP: I've been called a saint,
a sinner, even in an outburst from one individual, "the Devil."
I just do what I do with a lot of momentum, energy, and impatience.
I'm not always the most sensitive to others needs, but I can also
be a real pushover at times. I'm a good leader, hard worker, and
I play guitar and sing with passion which, thank God, I still
DM: Okay, Andy, just give me
the first thing that comes to mind within a few seconds. Try not
to give these too much thought.
DM: BLOSSOM TOES...
AP: First twin lead band I witnessed
DM: PETER GREEN...
AP: The Governor He wrote
the book on tone and emotion
DM: RITCHIE BLACKMORE...
DM: MILES COPELAND...
AP: He who dares, wins
DM: RAP MUSIC...
AP: The French variety is best.
DM: HEAVY METAL...
AP: If it includes King's X,
then it's cool in my book.
AP: Short for fanatics.
AP: Love it, love it!
My overall impression of Andy Powell was of
a restless soul in total control. A comfortable man that can't sit
still for very long without being creative in some way. A man that
appreciates and craves the intimate fan relationship. A man that
has led a complete life, and is always excited to be starting another
Extra special thanks to Andy Powell and Wishbone Ash headquarters
for providing me with the opportunity, and taking
time to answer each question so explicitly. Thank you.