If it’s January, it’s Germany. That’s the way our touring year always starts out. It’s tradition and the Germans love tradition. From my perspective, it’s a great way to start the year. The touring conditions are favorable, we might encounter a little snow in the east but there will be nice accommodations and a tight well-planned tour schedule. We have a full crew including our long standing tour manager and driver, Holger Brandes and to have the luxury of just focussing on the music each night is wondrous. Most importantly, as a professional musician, the feeling of starting the year out with lots to do rather than no work prospects on the horizon, is exactly where everyone likes to be. We’ve all seen too many years in the past where its been the opposite and it’s grim. Thank you Germany!
Of course, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland figure into our plans too. I only wish we could play more places in Scandinavia but travelling is really tough up there in the wintertime, with multiple ferry journeys and long distances. We will play a nice festival date in Finland in the summertime though and we’re all looking forward to that, especially native Finn, Muddy Manninen.
Being together for the beginning of the year also affords us the opportunity to plan the year out together while on our travels. There are a lot of logistics to discuss for upcoming tours in other European countries like Spain, France and Italy, plus there is the monstrous USA ‘smile’ tour which kicks off in the Pacific Northwest and works it’s way down through Oregon, California, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi and out towards the east coast for some dates in Florida, then wending its way up to Atlanta Georgia. That’ll probably rack up 10,000 road miles alone.
South Africa is on the agenda and already the tour there is generating some good media attention. We plan on capitalising on our previous dates with Deep Purple, by playing the Barnyard Theatre chain of venues. No doubt we’ll build in a little R & R - perhaps a photo safari or some down time in Cape Town, although it will be winter there. Nonetheless I plan on enjoying some local music if possible, as we did last time. Some of the African township bands put us lot to shame. I remember one 8 piece there last time, where the whole band all sung and played instruments, and as if that was not enough, they could all freely interchange between drums (naturally) and horns, guitar or percussion. I might also make a visit to Robin Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for all those years.
Aside from the road work, we have the special vinyl recording at Metropolis Studios to look forward to in May plus the DVD recording at Le Triton in Paris shortly thereafter. These two events alone, promise to be highlights of a busy year. There are some summer festivals popping up once the weather gets warmer and of course, we’ll tour the USA again in September with the UK following hot on its heels in October and November. www.wishboneash/tours
Some things that have interested us or occupied rare free time on this particular tour have been watching the events unfolding around Mervyn Spence, Ash bassist and vocalist during the 1980s, as he barricades himself in his attic. He is fighting against the Nationwide Building Society who are threatening repossession of his house after a mortgage refinancing dispute. Then of course we heard that Martin Turner, is pleading poverty after his recent court case loss over rights to the Wishbone Ash trademark, now declaring himself ‘bankrupt for his art’. Not sure about all that but at any rate, it seems that being an ex WA bass player is something of an occupational hazard. Watch out Bob Skeat! Well, Bob is not thinking about quitting the band, I can assure you. He’s having too much fun as you can see by the smiles on stage each night. In fact the band right now is fighting fit for the upcoming year, playing tighter than ever.
Last night I was able to try out a great vintage 1954 Fender Telecaster that was brought along to the show by German pick-up guru Andreas Kloppmann. He makes the custom pick-ups for my guitars and is an old friend. He had some great personal news, in that Fender Instruments will use his pick-ups under license, quite soon. In addition, if you’ve been following Facebook, Muddy and I got to test drive the new Tesla all electric car the other day while in Copenhagen. That was a blast and very impressive it is too, a glimpse into the future for sure. These recreational activities help to break us out of the touring regime though of course, we carry a full compliment of video entertainment to while away the hours. Favorites so far have been the new season of Mad Men plus Fargo the TV series which I highly recommend. When he’s not programming and updating his Polynome App for the Iphone, Joe can be seen deep into the Boardwalk Empire TV series together with the Fall. I’m currently into the British series Utopia and I’m working on my biography which is coming along nicely. I’m still focussed, along with the publishers, Jawbone Press on an autumn release, hopefully in time for the UK tour. Book signings will be on the agenda, no worries.
Speaking of which, we had pre show VIP meet and greet sessions on our last USA tour and no doubt we’ll repeat that idea on the upcoming tour. It was so great to do this and we made some great new friends. I particularly enjoyed following up with pastor Chuck Davis and his wife Ingrid when we joined them for dinner one night learning of their exploits in Mali. They’ll join us in Holland once more. Our fans do really interesting stuff. On this tour, we’ve had various intrepid British fans coming along for the ride in Germany and Denmark, Colin Hargreave, Ben Reinhardt and John and Jane Creese to name but four.
Those are some of the things occupying my mind on the road as we play our last two German shows in the next couple of days. Looking forward to catching up with our Dutch friends before we all take off to resume our ‘normal’ lives again for a few weeks before we convene for something unheard of in the Ash camp: Rehearsals. This Live Dates tour concept has proved to be even more successful than the previous tour where we featured Argus so we’ll be needing to come up with some more ideas. For sure, we’ll be including some more material from Blue Horizon on the next couple of tours, in addition to some little played gems from the past.
On the immediate horizon for myself will be snow shoveling. I hear we are knee deep in the white stuff in my town.
Take care everyone and see you down the road a piece ~ A.P.