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Europe in the Summertime

I just arrived home last night from my solo travels in Europe. Once in a while I like to just ramble with loose plans based around some sporadic Wishbone Ash shows. These rambles allow me to reflect and recharge the batteries, even though I’m still mobile. I take a lot of reading material and visit old friends in their surroundings and eat some good food and sample of the grape.

The shows which provided the wherewithal to make the cost of all this worthwhile, were the Rock of Ages Festival in Germany, the Chateau Beaufort show with Doro Presch and then lastly, the Cambridge Rock Festival. Living Stateside, I can’t be flipping back and forth across the Atlantic anyway for individual dates and it’s far less stressful to take the road less travelled so to speak. The 11th century chateau was undoubtedly the most amazing location for a rock show and the hospitality and warm welcome from the audience that we received there was super. Cambridge. England too, nice folks who produce shows for all the right reasons. We’d played the Rock of Ages festival situated not far from Stuttgart, Germany, eight years ago and that was also a pleasure. Great crowd and the usual incredible German organisation.

It was great to get down on the farm in true French country style, with Danos, our intrepid sound man at his place in the Ardêche region. Dan has spent the last couple of years renovating a remote house there and I was eager to see the results of his work. With gorgeous views and lots of stone and wood, it was everything I hoped it would be. Again, good to catch up with my old friend and his wife Rosie, who fed me to bursting point. In addition, I made it to the Gorge of Ardêche, for the surprise birthday of another dear friend, Mikaël Samson, who has in the past, edited some of our DVD work. Visit this region if you get a chance. It’s where all those amazing prehistoric cave paintings are, some of the oldest recorded human artwork ever found on the planet. We swam in the river and hiked and ate a spit-roasted sheep. Unbeatable.

Then, I visited my dear 93 year old mother ‘behind the gates’, as they say in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex. This largely retirement community, is quite relaxing as you can imagine with its beach huts and beautiful examples of 1930s Art Deco homes and its ‘there’ll alway be an England’ mentality.

Lastly, I visited the Cotswolds home of Muddy and Mia for some wellness and relaxation in the countryside there, eating,drinking and walking the dog - oh yes, and picking blackberries. We did routine a few new songs for our upcoming tours. Just simple stuff. So, all in all a nice trip.

Last night Pauline met me and we drove straight from JFK to a Kenny Loggins show to which I’d been invited by our former tour manager back in the 70s, Mel Baister. Great to see him again. It’s been many years. I’m not especially a Kenny fan but hats off to him and the band. This was American professionalism at its best. Great vocals and guitar playing and the staging in the neighboring town to ours, Ridgefield at the Playhouse there. This is the town that inspired our recent song American Century. A site of the only Revolutionary War battle to have taken place in Connecticut.

Tonight I’ll be checking out the Tedeschi Trucks Band in Simsbury, CT (Derek Trucks is a favorite) but I wanted to get a quick blog down here. Folks are always asking for an update of the legal situation between myself and Martin Turner so whilst its painful to keep going over this tedious exercise, the latest is that of course the courts ruled overwhelmingly in my favor concerning the fact that once you've quit a band, you quit it and then cannot purloin the name back after a 15 year absence. All logical stuff. So, after a wait of 9 months, Guildford Court set a hearing to glean some financial info pertaining to settlement of awarded court costs and legal fees etc. Unfortunately, Mart had a tummy upset and did not make a court appearance!!!!

Sadly, we’ve now been told by his lawyers that he’s filing for bankruptcy. We’ve seen no evidence of that yet but apparently he has signed over his share of the equity in his million pound Surrey home to his wife, who has been financing his latter day musical career with one assumes, some of his own funds. That’s what we’ve been told so I’m just waiting to find out how he will meet his various legal and financial obligations. Prepare for a long wait folks. It ain’t over till it’s over. So sad that it all had to come to this, when just one of the many honest attempts at mediation could have avoided all this misery, and those that have for their own selfish reasons, been poorly advising Mart could have been side-lined.

Enough of that though it’s a sad chapter in the history of Wishbone Ash. On a more upbeat level, the band’s current tour date sheet is stacked. I mean really stacked. Come September we’ll be touring the West, Mid West and North East in the States plus Canada. I’m really excited that we’ll be at Infinity Hall, a beautiful venue in my home state of Connecticut. The UK tour has been worked on for a year by our stalwart agent, Andy Nye. The legal issues over confusion and brand dilution have made his work in particular really hard BUT he’s prevailed with a really solid tour. Many of the old haunts plus some new places for you Brits to catch up with what we have on offer. The feature of both of these tours is that we’ll play the entire Live Dates album in the same song sequence like the famous 70s album. There’ll be a few other surprises along the way too, I can assure you.

Moving into 2015, we have tours of Holland Belgium, Switzerland and Germany like always. I’m sure there will be extra dates in Poland and France coming on line and I will tell you that negotiations are under way for some more South African dates. So all that remains is to pass on best wishes to all our friends from the band and crew and see you down the road apiece.

~ A.P.

P.S. I almost forgot; my first stop on this whole European sojourn was in Dublin where I’ve been working with Colin Harper on the much requested biography. Yes, Mart has had his turn. Mine will be forthcoming in 2015.

New Russian Interview with Andy Powell

Dear Mr Powell!

1) Mr Powell, “Wishbone Ash” was one of pioneers, who began to use two lead-guitars at once. Did you expect that time this step would be so promising, as time has shown?

Andy: Well, we knew that we had found a unique style and signature sound as soon as the four of us started to constructively work out new music together. It was very exciting - immediately. I did not realise that it would spawn a career and large body of work spanning 45 years.

1) Mr Powell, “Wishbone Ash” was one of pioneers, who began to use two lead-guitars at once. Did you expect that time this step would be so promising, as time has shown?

Andy: Not really. All bands and musicians were experimenting a lot and pushing the musical boundaries. The LP was really starting to be seen as a complete statement, rather than a collection of songs . The concept album was born. FM radio in the States meant that long tracks could be featured on the radio.Things were becoming more liberal. Most importantly, the post-second world war generation was very large in numbers and started to influence the way society and music were to become. This is still a very big demographic group and that's partly why bands like ours have longevity. This generation demanded it, kept loyal to their bands and encouraged us to be productive. Support is what it's all about.

Regarding the two lead guitar set- up we have: Musically it still stands up and gives so much more to a performance without the need for keyboards or a horn section to colour the music. We do it all with the guitars.

2) The unique sound of your group was formed thanks to commitment of different musical styles. How long did you have to look for the compromise?

Andy: Not so long because at that time audiences were very receptive to so many musical styles. Within the band we did a very large amount of rehearsal though. We were very work orientated and we and our manager had a very strong plan to succeed. You might say it was a life-or- death, do-or -die feeling of survival within the band.

3) Many maybe more popular groups disbanded long time ago, but “Wishbone Ash” has been existing so many years, releasing new albums. What’s the secret?

Andy: I'm a very positive person. We love to play live to audiences. We really nurture our fan base. This started years ago with our fan clubs and then we were one of the first bands with our own website. Our fans sponsored an album recording of ours in the 90s called Illuminations before there was any Kickstarter etc. Now we have Facebook. Our fans love our fan conventions which we've had in England, Germany, the States and even on Cruise ships.

4) Is it true that Ritchie Blackmore was so impressed with your playing and just thanks to his participation there was signed a contract with DECCA? What was the story?

Andy: We were opening for Deep Purple in the UK and Ritchie was doing a soundcheck by himself. He was playing guitar and I cheekily plugged in my guitar and he'd play a lick and I'd copy him. It was a kind of guitar duel. I think he was impressed and asked if we had a record deal. I said 'no' we did not. He told me he'd put us in touch with the producer of their hit 'Hush' and that was Derek Lawrence. Derek then introduced us the head of Decca, Don Shane, in Los Angeles. Incidentally, once Decca began releasing our records all over the world, it also was a major contributing factor to our longevity because our music was heard in multiple countries around the world - far more than if we'd signed to the UK Decca.

5) Do you consider “There’s the Rub” the best in your career?

Andy: Its a good album. I really like New England but Argus would be the definitive statement from Wishbone Ash.

6) Please, some words about your new album “Blue Horizon”

Andy: It's dense, with lots of musical references - cool songs and much guitar playing - twin leads, jamming, slide guitar, EBow. I think it's a great album, very evocative of the past but with modern production and style.

Thank you very much! Andy Powell.

Interview conducted by Dmitriy Avdeev, “Petropavlovsk kz.” Newspaper.

Deluxe Edition Re-Releases

4 new re-releases are now available featuring interviews about the recording of the albums and bonus live tracks.

The titles are: The Power of Eternity, Bare Bones, Illuminations and Bona Fide.

Find them on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Intelligence

The word Intelligence, in the sense that the military uses it, is the art of forward thinking and planning, while having a sense of where you stand in space and time and geography I guess, and then sometimes applying lateral thought solutions to problems as they occur on the fly, all the while meting out information to the troops on a need to know basis so as to not cloud the proceedings in the fog of war. Phew, that was a long sentence but it somehow sums up touring for me.

As commander in chief I’m often so consumed with piloting the actual ship that I’ll not have all the intelligence to hand but can generally rest assured that someone in the platoon will have a handle on a specific aspect of it all, whether it’s knowing if there is parking available ahead of time for our tour vehicle and trailer, what the weather conditions will be like or any one of a miriad of issues about to occur down the road.

Yesterday was truly a taxing day which encompassed all the issues a touring band might encounter along the way, some of them quite extreme. We set off on the highway, leaving Phoenix Arizona for the town of Ramona in California. Pretty soon we made a turn on to 78 and before I knew it we were into serious desert conditions cutting SW on a two lane black top, while passing through increasingly more arid conditions. Someone called me to do an interview en route but the cell reception was fading so we abandoned that. I noticed the outside temperature gauge gradually increasing as we made our way. Scrub land gave way to exotic cacti and then Sahara like sand dunes.

Some intrepid folks had hauled dune buggies up here to ride the dunes. It looked like a lot of fun but in 100 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, I was dubious. I was so relieved that I’d had the good sense to get the oil changed in our van the previous day, as well as all the fluid levels. There were no gas stations along the way but we did pass some California Border patrol people on serious looking ATVs. Eventually, we ourselves were pulled over and a very fit movie star-like lady smilingly asked us if I was “carrying any criminals on board?”. I replied that if she “classified musicians that way, then I was”. She laughed and waved us on after asking our nationalities. I guess people smuggling is a big issue in these parts.

There were wild turkeys and buzzards of course and even a wild pig was encountered on the way, although that particular creature was in the form of road kill. The temperature was rising and eventually it made it all the way to 109 degrees. After an interminal distance and and incredible array of different landscapes we started to climb. This was worrying me because the engine temperature gauge was steadily moving towards the red. Eventually, I could hear the coolant liquid bubbling and boiling. It was time to stop and let things cool down. Shortly after we started on our way again the scenery changed to lush verdant pastures and pines as we descended from 5000 feet. This was more like the California I knew. We entered gorgeous horse country and there were some prime specimens in the pastures as we arrived in Ramona.

The crew and promoter were extremely good and the venue, a converted cinema, first class. A riotous crowd and some folks all with their stories to share with us after the show, made for a fun evening. We decided to take our medicine in one go and drive the 1.5 hour journey to San Juan Capistrano after the show, so that we could have a somewhat relaxing day before the gig there. After about an hour (I’m getting pretty tired by now) I see a strange light formation in front of me on the freeway. I could not fathom it until I was right on top of what turned out to be a car going 90 degrees across the 4 lane freeway. My split second decision was whether I should go in front of him at 60 mph or go round his back end. Remember, I’m pulling a 1500 lb trailer loaded with gear. I opted for the rearward manoeuvre, all the while hoping the driver, if there was one, would not suddenly decide to reverse the direction of his car.

We made it sailing past him and I was not about to stop and find out what it was all about but needless to say it was one of the more bizarre events I‘ve ever encountered on a drive. It reminded me of the time a giant elk decided to stroll across a freeway in Colorado. What a day!

The next day was indeed pleasant and worth it all. We went down to the harbor at Dana Point not far from our show location and had a relaxing brunch at one of the restaurants there, followed by walk in the gentle sunshine.

~ A.P.

Florida

Woke to a huge temperature drop here in Florida, this morning. I had to make a 7.00 am appointment at the Chevy dealer service department in town here, in order to get the running lights fixed on our tour vehicle. We’d had a great opening tour date the previous evening at Lou’s Blues, a whacky club situated right on the ocean front in Melbourne Florida.

So I’m bleary eyed in the hotel lobby, taking advantage of the complimentary coffee they have on offer here. Myself and another gentleman are praising the offer of free coffee and he waxes lyrical ” the elixir of life’ he says, while stirring the coffee in his cup. I agree, while secretly stashing that phrase away for some future song lyric.

In a radio interview the previous day, I’d been asked how we write our songs and where I get my lyrical ideas. Well, it’s innocent phases like this one, encountered in the course of our travels, that I often muse over and yes, purloin. That’s how the process gets going.

So now I’m at the dealership service desk and I ask my genial greet - person, Robin, if she likes music, ‘cause we’re a rock band on tour and I need my vehicle fixed pronto’. I’m thinking that if I bribe her with a copy of the new disc Blue Horizon, she’ll bump me up the line. Then I think to myself, what a stupid question, ‘do you like music?’. It would be a strange thing to hear a response like ‘No, I can’t stand it’ . Music and coffee help the world go round, it often seems, these days.

Back to the interview. It’s for a show, strangely called Rock and Vintage cars, which is refreshing. The interviewer and I hit on many correlations between the two passions. Storm clouds are gathering and a torrential Floridian tropical downpour ensues. I’m trying to talk about Chuck Berry’s guitar riffs sounding like car horns and train whistles, and there are loud police sirens outside as the wind is howling and the rain literally lashing into the entranceway of the club where I’m standing. The ocean is roiling and everyone leaves off working on the sound check to watch the storm. Half an hour later and it’s all over.

Needless to say, the show that night was great.

~ A.P.

P.S. Serious coffee recommendation in Orlando: the Drunken Monkey - hand roasted beans, vegan treats and regular breakfast specialities, home made cookies. Excellenté. Say ‘hi’ to owner Larry, a huge WA fan