Interview with Mark Abrahams Part I
- How, and when, did you discover Wishbone Ash?
My first introduction to Wishbone Ash came when I was 9 years old. A friend of my dad could play the intro to “Blowin’ Free” on guitar and as he knew I had just started to learn, he showed me how to play it on an old acoustic guitar he had recently given to my dad. To this day, I still have that old acoustic in my guitar collection!
A couple of years after my first discovery of Wishbone Ash, my dad had a couple of VHS videos of the reunion gigs, and I would sit and watch them for hours. I was hooked, and it wasn’t long before I was playing along to some of the songs.
The first time I actually saw the band live was in ’95 on the 25th anniversary tour.
- I imagine it was the guitars that first caught your attention? What about them, in particular?
Guitars! I love them; don’t we all? ... Would you believe I can still smell my first Gibson guitar catalogue?
It was the sound of the twin lead guitars that first caught my attention. The sound was different to any other music I had heard up until that point. When I was learning the guitar, I didn’t just want to learn to play the music, I wanted my guitar to sound like Andy's and Ted's did on those videos.
Speaking of guitars, for a while I owned a Gibson Les Paul that Ted Turner had owned and used in the late ’80s / early ’90s. It was a lovely early 1970s black Les Paul Custom. It’s a shame I don’t have that anymore.
- When did you start playing the guitar?
During a school assembly, we were introduced to a lady who would be providing guitar lessons on a weekly basis. I signed up and started learning guitar. My guitar teacher from almost 30 years ago came to see me play at a gig recently; she said I could take the colour-coded chord stickers off my fingerboard now. Ha!
- You’re very familiar with WA’s music, through hearing it for much of your life; have you also covered their tunes in your bands?
I played a set of Wishbone Ash music at Ashcon in Mansfield in 2002 with a tribute band, but never covered their tunes in any of the other bands I have played in over the years.
- In the past, have you consciously sought out bands that use the twin-guitar format?
I haven't, and the bands that I've played in over the years haven’t usually had this format. With Coyote, though, there are two guitarists, and for some songs there is a twin-guitar element with harmonies.
- What was your focus at Leeds College of Music?
I spent 2 years at Leeds College of Music, where I studied Musical Instrument Technology, specifically the electronics side of things. During my time there, I learned to build cool little guitar effects boxes and how to fault-find and repair things like amplifiers and effects pedals – all things that have been useful over the years.
Actually, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been assembling and wiring up an effects pedalboard to use with Wishbone Ash. For the gear heads like me I’ll give you more info on that later.
- What are your favorite Wishbone Ash tunes?
Probably the same as most other fans! “The King Will Come,” “Warrior,” “Jailbait,” “Lorelei”; but as well as the classics I have also really enjoyed a lot of the more recent songs, especially from “Bona Fide” and the most recent album, “Blue Horizon.”
- What other kinds of music/bands do you enjoy?
Blues is a favourite of mine, people like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, Paul Kossoff and Peter Green. I’m also a huge fan of Mark Knopfler. As a guitar player, Knopfler has the lot: feel, tone, technique and doesn’t write a bad song, either!
I recently attended a Joe Bonamassa concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London which was amazing; and I will also be checking out Guns n Roses in June.
Other gigs I have been to over the years have included Dire Straits, The Who, Gary Moore and Eric Clapton. Classics!
- Are you also a songwriter?
Not a songwriter as in lyrics; but riffs, melody and grooves on a guitar, definitely. Every time you pick up a guitar and just improvise you are, in a way, composing something. The possibility of working on new music with Wishbone Ash is something I’m very excited about.
- What was your reaction when Andy approached you for the Wishbone Ash gig?
Well, After I checked it wasn’t April 1st and I was awake, alive etc. … Seriously though, even to just be considered for this gig would have been a dream; to be asked to join Wishbone Ash is a lifetime dream come true.
Reaction-wise, I did what any other Yorkshire man would have done. I sank a few pints to celebrate before getting to work the following day, playing through as many Wishbone Ash songs as I could before we start rehearsing.
- What message do you have for the fans?
I’ve been overwhelmed by the response from Wishbone Ash fans, and I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to you all for the positive comments and ‘welcomes’ to the band. Thank you! It means a lot to this Yorkshire lad who’s just had the dream of a lifetime come true.
I’m looking forward to performing with the band and meeting you all along the way.