Andy in Ballyshannon
New Andy Powell interview by Trevor Hodgett Irish News 17 May 2013
New Andy Powell interview by Trevor Hodgett Irish News 17 May 2013
OK, how to sum up this huge swathe of gigs in a simple blog post. Can’t be done really. The proper way to do it would be a travelog or TV show like Anthony Bourdain or something ( a well- known, somewhat rock & roll New York chef and food show / travel personality ). Our’s would definitely top his though, both for food, exoticness and rock & roll. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Anthony but there’s just simply nothing like a real rock & roll lifestyle - living it, loving it and delivering it.
Before I attempt my summation of what we’ve just been through, before taking a well - earned rest during the lazy, hazy days of summer, I want to confirm that on some of the last few dates in Poland and Turkey, as some of you quickly noticed, our dear compatriot Bob Skeat could not join us on our travels due to personal family matters. My good bud, Pete Bennett, late of Roger Filgate’s band, flew in specially from the States to fill Bob’s shoes, bringing with him, his trusty 1963 Fender Jazz Bass. He did a kick - ass job. We did not drop a beat. Sincere thanks to Pete and all thoughts and best wishes to Bob.
I already attempted to sum up Europe and North America but really just touched on things. Yes, we played to many incredible audiences and the music developed along the way, as we responded to different conditions. The song Open Road, for example, from the old 1980s Twin Barrels Burning album, developed into a show stopping barn - stormer. It became a guitar work - out. I think I’m gonna push for this to be on our next CD as a bonus track. Stupid and mischievous business people in the background have continually thwarted attempts by Mervyn Spence and myself to get both this CD and Raw to the Bone rereleased through Germany’s Repertoire Records as twofer, so we’ll just add it to our next record. It’ll be way better than the original anyway, and it has become OUR road song for sure, of late. Speaking of which, recording starts in earnest in August for the new studio CD, here at Read Hall, UK, where I’m penning this blog before heading out for a final festival in Poland.
Back to the tour: We wound things up in Ankara,Turkey where we played at this amazing club - to call it such, is an understatement. The Jolly Joker is one of a chain of 3 in Turkey and is truly rock & roll. We were treated with such overwhelming respect and hospitality, I cannot begin to thank our host Hakan and his team, enough. He treated us to a meal, which will go down as one of the finest in all the travels I’ve undertaken with this band. We sampled all the delicacies that this amazing country has to offer.
Ankara is a beautiful, chic, modern city that sits on rolling hills at an elevation of around 1000 metres and before dinner we charged around it in a white Land Cruiser, playing a recent Jolly Joker recording of Uriah Heep’s performance there, at serious level to get in the mood. Man, they are sounding good these days. I was only sorry to hear of Trevor Bolder’s recent illness. Get well soon, my friend.
Ankara, the city, is quite different from ancient Istanbul, a city which we also could not get enough of. The night life and vibrancy of this place have to be experienced to be believed. Even at 2.00 am on a Wednesday, people were partying like it’s 2099. If you are a sensory addict, as I am, you just simply drink in the sites and smells of this ancient city which has a unique feel being the exact point where East meets West, culturally speaking. Ancient mosques, including one of the world’s oldest and biggest - the Hagia Sophia, a myriad of winding streets selling everything under the sun, Turkish tea, belly dancers, musicians, carpets, spices, vegetables, fish, kebabs and housewares. Life is lived out there on those streets. We walked a lot of them.
I’m crazy about food and so the first order of the day was to sample some of the famous sardines caught fresh, right out of the sea by the many fishermen on the Bosphorus Bridge from whence they are sold directly to the restaurants below. We had a lunchtime feast of battered sardines and a delicious Sauvignon Blanc produced in Turkey - world class and not cheap!
I took as many photos as I could in the limited time that we spent there, so you can get a feel for things by browsing through those. The band members are all going through life changes it seems - some good and some not so good, as are you all, I’m sure. The summer will be a good time for all of us to catch up on our neglected personal lives. Muddy and Mia Manninen are finally making the long talked - about move to the West Country in England, near Bath. They are even bringing Mia’s horse with them! Joe will continue his global travels, I’m guessing. He never stops and has an unbelievable network of friends in many countries. A true child of the internet, he gets the networking thing going like no one else I know.
As for me, I’ll be playing in Ballyshannon in a week or so,at the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival which has become quite a thing over the years. I’ll be hooking up with old friend, Pat McManus and we’ll air out a few classic Ash tunes plus some songs from Rory’s catalog. Then it’s straight back Stateside, and to the surgeon for me, to get a torn rotator cuff tendon repaired, something I’ve been dealing with for 3 months. It’ll be a 6 week ( minimum ) recovery for that, but I plan to be fighting fit for our festival appearance on the island of Vrsar in Croatia. in July. It’ll give me some time to hang out with family and friends and especially my two darling granddaughters, Sophie and Ella. Our autumn UK tour dates are up on the site including a London appearance at the Islington Academy.
ASHCON 2013 IS A GO000oooo!!!!! Start making your reservations for that one which takes place on November 2nd. . Guy Roberts is your point man firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s going to be great, as usual with all the attendant events that surround it. More on that, later.
Very quickly, I’ll let you know that we are virtually complete in our booking of the 2014 European tour, focusing largely on Holland, Belgium and the GAS territories ( Germany, Austria and Switzerland ) and there will also be a French tour next year PLUS 2 tours of the USA and Canada - one Spring tour in the South and West and one very similar to the recent jaunt up and down the Eastern Seaboard and then on out to the Mid West. That one will happen in the Fall.
All this and a new studio album will help us sleep well at night and we’re all really looking forward to meeting up with you, our dear fans and friends, as we drop into your locales somewhere on the planet. Now if we can just finalize that complete world tour I’ve been promising myself, well then, we’ll really be cooking with gas!
Sayonara ~ A.P.
Richie Havens has passed way. I was really sad to hear this. I had hoped we might meet again since he was the quintessential New Yorker and I’m often in the City. He visited us at a show we played there, once, dancing around in the audience with that big infectious smile. This was after we’d spent time together during the 1980s on tour in, of all places, India. He’d bought his band along on this particular tour and we had some great times talking backstage and in hotels. We found ourselves in some mighty strange locales including Mumbai's famous Streets of Shame from whence hailed the WA song that appears on the Twin Barrels disc. Richie was a very interesting and interested man, foretelling the expanding communications revolution and philosophizing about almost anything. He was definitely of the 60’s mindset - a romantic. I loved his sense of wonder about the world.
On tour in India, when we had down time, as I said, he’d join us in the strangest places often bringing his Guild guitar. I remember one night in a restaurant somewhere, he got up and did an impromptu version of a Fleetwood Mac song after we’d all been watching a performance by these amazing female classical Indian singers. People were enthralled. That voice, his furious guitar technique strumming in open tunings while using his thumb to fret the strings. A true original, he told me the Guild Guitar Company would supply him with his guitars direct from the factory because he’d wear them out so quickly. I bought a Guild F50 after hearing the sound he produced from his Guild. He had the ability to make any song he chose be his own. So much passion and fire in his playing and singing.
Everyone knows the impact he made on the Woodstock Festival. I believe he went on before anyone else due to the fact that many of the acts and some of the audience were stuck in the crazy traffic en route to the festival. I just remember him as a humble musician ready with a shy smile and word for everyone. A gentle man and and a gentleman, who I will sadly miss.
Well folks, I guess even I have to start admitting my age here. We have just completed a mammoth two continent tour - Europe and North America and my whole body is feeling it. We had a lot of shows, its true, but now it’s Spring ( kinda ). While we’ve been on tour, Easter has passed and in our absence the animals have come to view Powell Acres as their very own spring feeding ground. The first day back, three large deer were in the garden munching away at everything, not even perturbed in the slightest as I banged on the glass door to shoo them away, but this was after I took a few photos. The wild turkeys have been out in force too.
I went on a country walk this morning and the the skunk cabbage shoots were poking their forceful points through the winter debris by the side of the road. The native Americans used to cook this stuff up by boiling it slowly with hot rocks from the fire in a wooden bowl of water and yes, this ‘vegetable’ smells just like fresh skunk with maybe a touch of rotting meat thrown in for good measure. I once took a simple course in Native American studies when we first decided to make Connecticut our permanent home base so I learned a few things about life back then. When the European settlers came here they settled down by the coast in our tiny state and gradually they explored inland using the rivers like our own Saugatuck River, where they encountered the natives. Trading took place immediately. The Europeans craved sweet things and the woodland indians had maple sugar made from the sugar maple trees, which were in abundance. The Mohegans gladly traded this product for copper pots and sturdy implements once they saw how much easier it was to boil that skunk cabbage in a sturdy copper pot.
After the American Revolution, our town was bequeathed, rather arrogantly, by George Washington, to one of his favorite generals, John Read. The indigenous people in the area gradually dispersed as the whites moved in. Once they built the railroad, linking the area to New York, people like Mark Twain took up residence. He actually built an estate in our town called Stormfield. The town next to ours, Ridgefield, was also settled but prior to the Revolution. It sits on a ridge as its name implies. This town, recently voted Connecticut’s Best Small Town, was actually purchased from the Indians this time, by a bunch of traders and merchants who hailed largely from Essex and Norfolk in England. Living down on the coast at that time, they managed to persuade the indigenous folks there to sell them the land on the ridge for their new town for a mere $100 irregardless of the fact that the then current dwellers in the region had no real concept of land ownership.
Later, these same former English immigrant folks ( now Yankees ) were to do battle with the British Redcoats who were on their way back from Danbury CT where they'd destroyed an American ammunition supply. They were confronted in battle as they marched up the new Main Street in Ridgefield. This was the only recorded battle in Connecticut and a new Yankee militia under Benedict Arnold, harassed the Brits before being eventually being driven away in a running battle, but not before inflicting casualties on the British. Anyway, I always enjoy coming home and doing pretty much of nothing in the lull before getting back on the road. I like taking walks and musing about the history of the region in which I live. It can be relaxing.
Update: As I finish this blog, I’m now once again wending my way back home after yet another transatlantic flight. This time we were in France for a few dates. I’ve been taking a few days in Marseille with friends and it’s great to get a preview of Spring. The seafood is great down there in the South of France and they’ve finally renovated Le Vieux Port with pedestrian precincts and places to hang out and eat, listen to music and even buy freshly caught fish direct from the Med. Anyway, shortly after all this, we’ll be in Poland and Turkey which both promise to be interesting. There is a strong following for Wishbone Ash in both those countries. All this traveling puts me in mind of the old Beach Boys song, "I Get Around".
Tootle Pip ~ A.P.
Sitting at a rest stop on Interstate 95 here in the States, checking out Facebook and I'm stopped dead in my wanderings with the shocking news that Storm Thorgerson, one half of the iconic album design team Hipgnosis, has passed away at 69 years of age. Along with his partner, Aubrey ( Po ) Powell, Storm was true to his name, creating amazing and sometimes controversial images to go with the emerging new British rock music of the 70s. He designed several of our most popular album sleeves including the classic Argus imag,. Live Dates, Pilgrimage, Just Testing, There's the Rub, New England and more.
His work, inspired by his study of film making, went on to be seen in the imagery of some of the biggest names in Rock like Led Zeppelin, McCartney, Pink Floyd and many more. I fondly remember our brain storming sessions on several projects. He'd throw things, and do anything to provoke an idea and in most cases achieved something excellent.
A true English eccentric, he will be missed. Our condolences to his family and colleagues.