Families

I’m having a pretty interesting week since returning from Sweden Rock. (Fantastic festival by the way, and we played a great show). I’d managed to stop off in the U.K. and stabilize some rather alarming occurrences with my 96 year old mother Ruby. It was all to do with how the ‘care business’ for the aged, which I’ve now found out, sometimes works against the greater good, exploiting the interests of people in care, as well as those of their families.

You see, my dear old mum decided to take a week’s respite in a nice care home but was ‘encouraged’ by an administrator to simply stay on (at great personal cost), which she wasn’t fully cognizant of, having just received a diagnosis for vascular dementia. The administrator of this facility, gave me a hard-core and alarming sales pitch telling me that my mother only had ‘weeks to live.’ After this jaw dropping piece of news, I was then informed that should my mother’s finances be depleted before she herself expired, this illustrious facility “would never throw anyone out on the streets.” Their exact words, not mine. Yeah, right. There are some pretty manipulative and coercive people running what is now a huge industry in the U.K. and U.S.A. no doubt.

Anyway, Ruby is now rocking on, and way more happy back in her brand new apartment with some real professional and honest caring folks, together with frequent visits by yours truly as well as other family members. I know this is an issue for many of our fans out there, as their own parents are aging or dealing with diseases like Alzheimers and dementia, so that’s why I mention it. On the positive side, we also had a big family reunion in the U.K. around this time, with family members coming from as far afield as Australia. That was a tonic for dear old Ruby, I can tell you. At the end of the day, nothing beats, or is a substitute for family.

I also had another reality check. This time from two dear fans of ours, twin sisters in the States, who've followed the band in all its incarnations, since the early 1970s. We’d kept in touch over the years but recently they let me know, in no uncertain terms, that they were suddenly deeply upset by some political posts I’d been putting on my OWN personal Facebook page. It made me sit up and think about how the current political climate is dividing friends, families and now fans, it seems.

Everyone by now, knows that I’m a dyed in the wool social democrat with capitalistic leanings. My dad was a total socialist, verging on communist, going so far as to believe that money was the root of all evil (he had a point). So naturally, in my early twenties, wanting to rebel against all of this, as you do, my politics became slightly right of Attila the Hun, figuring that each man or woman was a self realized entity in charge of their own outcome with no need of a social parachute or ‘nanny state’ to help weather the storms of life. In fact, I’ve never even particularly bought into the idea of national boundaries and phony patriotism, to be honest. However, after building a family and a business and learning a bit more about the ways of the world, I’ve become much more of a centrist. People change, I guess.

Most people will know that the current Trump administration just nauseates me BUT of course I realize the huge divide and disconnect between the educated liberal elites and what used to be called the middle class in this country (the USA) and how the Trump phenomenon has come about. We also shouldn’t forget the role that technology and globalization has played in all the disenfranchisement that people are now feeling. Big forces are currently in play and just don’t get me going on Brexit.

These aforementioned fans are not the only folks I’ve fallen out with by having the temerity to air my beliefs. I’ve ceased relations with in particular, two non music-related, so-called friends, because they felt it wasn’t my place to speak out. Hey, I KNOW it’s been the same for many of you out there too. This is big stuff! On the other hand, I’m also in the ‘business of music’ and I simply had to take on board the fact that many people don’t have the same political beliefs as me and in this case, with my ‘sisters of mercy’, who are delightful people btw, I was told in no uncertain terms, that our music would never again be listened to by one of them. O.K. fair enough - c’est la vie. I have broad shoulders. Your choice, BUT in thinking on it, Wishbone Ash has numerous social media sites and at least two websites where the commentary really IS just about the music. Please go there.

So, unless I’m gonna be a Leonardo DiCaprio or someone, and dedicate all my waking hours to the environment, politics and the state of the world (which I’m not), I’ve decided to take the advice of my sisters and back off with the political rants. I don’t want to take on these battles. My views will always be my views but my real focus has to be the band and our music. To that end, this week I’ve been working on some new material and building up a little home studio in order to get some ideas recorded. I’ll just let the music do the talking. Politics can take a back seat for the time being - until it just won’t. I certainly enjoy healthy debate and in this particular case, with the old ‘friends' not the sisters, things got very personal and unnecessarily ugly and I realized that ultimately, these are some friends that I could do without.

Good thing too, because I’m now at working with my son Aynsley on 4 or 5 songs for a solo project. (You can hear some of his input on Ash tunes from the Blue Horizon CD like Take It Back and American Century). I’ll vent my spleen in these new songs. Just joking - most likely this project won’t be fully realized for a year, since I have to fit it in when the schedule permits. It is inspiring me though, at present.

It was the summer solstice a couple of days ago. I really hope you all can dive into summer with joy and peace. By all accounts it’s already hotter than ever for my friends in the U.K. and most definitely for my friends in Arizona. That’s on another level.

Dates are going up all the while on our website and for those asking about us appearing in the western U.S. states, we’ve decided to work those into our schedule for next Spring. Oh yes, and I’ve been promised some Canadian dates for September 2017 so we’ll let you know when those are firm. I’ve got some fun personal musical events coming up which you can read about on the new andypowellmusic.com website and these will include checking out concerts by Eric Gales, Bill Frissell, Paul McCartney and believe it or not, Rammstein tonight, at Jones Beach. I like variety in my musical diet. A few of my U.K. friends are having a wonderful time at the Glastonbury Festival this weekend. Ain’t music great?

Toodle Pip ~ A.P.

Postcript: I just called Ruby and she was busy trying to find a live broadcast of the Glastonbury Festival on TV. Rock On! She’s going to be just fine.

Mark reflects on Sweden Rock

With Sweden Rock in the rear-view mirror, we asked Mark Abrahams to share his thoughts on playing his first gig with Wishbone Ash:

Wow, what an experience!

As the saying goes, ‘Been there, done that, got the T-shirt’. Well, I always had the T-shirt … now I’ve been there and can say with pride and amazement ‘I’ve done that!’

The festival had a great atmosphere; off stage the band had plenty of laughs and jokes, and on stage I feel we put on a superb show with lots of energy, a great set list and played to a lively and appreciative crowd. From opening the show with ‘The King Will Come’ to closing the set with ‘Blowin' Free,’ I loved every minute.

From the stage, looking out over the crowds of people, it was nice to see fans there wearing Wishbone Ash T-shirts and showing their support. After our set it was good to meet and chat with some fans of the band and I was chuffed to hear their words of support and positive comments.

Sweden Rock Festival was a great experience and I’m looking forward to playing our next festivals on the 20th of July and 9th of September, both in Switzerland; then I’ll be counting down to the U.S and Canada tour in September and the U.K tour in October.

Photo caption: Who's having fun? These guys!

Living the Dream

We’ve all now had a chance to come down from the first show featuring my new guitar partner, Mark Abrahams. This was such an intense flurry of activity preparing first, in London with a couple of days rehearsals and then suddenly it was Sweden Rock in front of a cast of thousands. What a way to debut, after the turmoil of Muddy Manninen’s departure and then followed by a relatively quiet reflective time for Bob, Joe and myself. Mark on the other hand was shredding guitar for weeks like a man possessed, before the big event, holed up in the back room off the music store that he owns located in Castleford, West Yorkshire.

It all went excellently and I can now report that this is going to be a first rate relationship. The good ship Wishbone sails again! As mentioned before, Mark has the music of the band infused in his very DNA having grown up with it from the tender age of nine, courtesy of his father, and super-fan, Brian Abrahams. Everything clicked; jokes, camaraderie all inspired by the days’ designated tipple. The only frustrating thing is that now we are waiting impatiently for our next show in Switzerland on July 20th at the Magic Blues Festival in the Swiss mountains.

Otherwise, my time has been taken upon with interviews, working with publicists Kate Goldsmith and Billy James updating our contacts and social media presence. Last night I participated in a podcast with a gentleman by the name of Mark (to be shared here in a few weeks). That was interesting. He wanted to present an in-depth look at three songs of mine and really get into the intricacies of how the music was inspired and finally put together. It actually forced me to revisit and reimagine the early atmosphere of being in the newly formed Wishbone Ash as it was back in 1969. We would spend all day in rehearsals planning out our lives in music, writing these songs and constructing guitar riffs, bass lines, drum fills all with deep scrutiny. In the course of relating all this I remembered that the intense pressure to come up with ideas was actually because our very lives depended on it. We had no visible means of support and were actually playing (not praying) for our daily bread. I’m not sure too many bands go through that level of deprivation and suffering for their art these days, working with home made gear and guitars and living in condemned accommodation, but we surely did. Perhaps that’s what gave the music its intensity. Today, the dream still lives on. Deep intensity is brought to bear in all we do and no one in this band takes it for granted that we are entitled to the opportunities that come our way. It’s a kind of creed that each and everyone who has been through the ranks of the band adheres to, until they don’t. It's just that simple.

To more recent matters, I’ve also recently been working with immigration lawyers and booking agents putting the finishing touches to our upcoming tours. The U.S. Canada and the U.K. tours are all set and very shortly we’ll be announcing German, Belgian, Austrian and Swiss tour dates for the beginning of 2018. There will also be some Dutch dates and French dates coming a little later. Oh, and for all you forum fans, our forum will once again be up and running in a week or so, being opened up for new members, after a spate of hackings. That way, diehards will be able to track and comment on tour dates, shows and on the road happenings with one another. Also, don't forget to check in with my own new website andypowellmusic.com from time to time and please note that the band's official Facebook site for news is Wishbone Ash, among all the fan-based Facebook sites out there, which we love by the way. See you down the road apiece.

Best Wishes and Best Bones ~ A.P.

Gone fishing!

I speak for all the band in taking a minute to state our revulsion of the act itself and to pass on our sympathies for the families of those impacted by the Manchester disaster. These are strange times. It’s like being on shifting sands these days. I sometimes wake in the mornings and have the phrase “Abandon All Hope” on my mind, but that’s just playing into the wishes of the perpetrators of these heinous acts, and on the other hand, who am I to think such things when Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis live under totally intolerable situations - actual war? Hope springs eternal.

As writers and commentators, on life in general though, these things simply stop you in your tracks. I remember the difficulty of making sense of 9/11. We were in the studio and producing the Bonafide CD at the time. A lot of bands and writers abandoned projects then. It was simply too overwhelming. For good or for bad, we did not. I thought Ancient Remedy, the song from that album, was a brave attempt to even dare to comment….but in reality, sometimes it’s best not to. The words of that song have once again, particularly resonated with me after Manchester, I must say.

However, gently moving on, a big part of the creative process, is taking that down-time for oneself, to reflect and simply take stock. That’s one thing I’m doing right now. People realize that we’re on the road for about half the year. But after all, what use can you be to anyone; your family, your audience your band mates, unless you settle things with yourself and take that time out to contemplate, meditate, rejuvenate and reinvigorate. That’s my theory and I know others who believe in this.

It’s been a whirlwind of change in the Ash camp, what with Muddy’s departure and our newest recruit, Mark Abrahams, waiting in the wings. I can’t wait for this new phase to kick off in earnest. In the meantime, to aid in the reflective process, (a process that many people view as wasting time), I’ve been fishing. Did some yesterday in fact with Roger Filgate who sends his best wishes. (By the way, for the squeamish, we do throw ‘em back). Afterwards, we even picked up guitars and knocked out some tunes for old times sake. Yes, fishing aids in the meditation on life. I really believe it. In fact Deepak Chopra says that 20 minutes a day, being in nature, is no bad thing. Try it. Walk the dog, plant some flowers, take a walk in the woods. It’s all good. I’ve also been doing yoga and walking a lot too. It helps

Some fun things happening in Ashland: The mega box set, Wishbone Ash, The Vintage Years, is well under way now and big thanks to Ian Crockett at Snapper Music, the project manager, for cutting through all the inter-band politics and legal crap to deliver the goods. In addition, I’ve been approached to be interviewed for an upcoming documentary on the Flying V guitar. I told the producer, I’d be honored to film an interview for that at the upcoming Sweden Rock festival.

By the way, I have a new personal website, currently in the build stage, where I’ll be sharing a more personal perspective on the music game, my gear, more of my thoughts and oh yes, a possible solo album, among other things. Check it out ~ andypowellmusic.com

Dates are now going up on www.wishboneash.com for Wishbone Ash tour dates throughout the U.S. and U.K. and yes, our German friends, when it’s January, it’s Wishbone Ash time. That particular tour is being booked for 2018, as I write.

While being off the road, I’ve been checking out a lot of live shows of late. Sometimes Pauline accompanies me, if it’s an act that she approves of, like the Zombies, the other night. Great show! We met Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent and original drummer, Hugh Grundy with Steve and Jim Rodford backstage (thanks to Bob Skeat). As all of us were Hertfordshire lads, we shared memories of St. Albans, near where I grew up.

Also, backstage down in Washington D.C. we met my hero David Lindley after his wonderful solo show. We talked of his friend, Ry Cooder , another of my heroes, who says, “Gigging is like being in a series of boxes - the dressing room box, the airplane box etc.” We also shared tales of the RoundHouse in Chalk Farm. Of course, that’s where Ted Turner and I lived, or more correctly, right behind it, on Gloucester Avenue, back in 1969. What a gentleman David Lindley is. Been listening to his albums all week and all my adult life, it seems.

In June, for something completely different, my son Aynsley will accompany me, to Jones Beach Theater for the experience that is Rammstein. Check out their videos on YouTube - probably one of the most amazing live shows going. Try the song, Engel for starters. I know that there are more than a few Ash fans who are closet Rammstein fans too.

In July, Pauline and I have tickets for Paul McCartney. He’s playing in Miami. We'll visit South Beach and Coconut Grove just like old times. Should be funky and really hot there. I’ve seen Paul on several occasions in the past and once, decades ago, went to a party he held at the Peppermint Park Club in London where he was celebrating the purchase of the Buddy Holly song catalog. Unfortunately, it was the night that Keith Moon was to leave us. I’d been sharing a table with him that evening and we talked of those crazy U.S. tours we'd been on and then he was taken from us...... Fast forward, Paul is now getting on in years and I need a fix of that wonderful music. He has THE best band these days and they can really do those old songs justice. Also, Sirius XM satellite radio, here in the States, has a dedicated 24 hour Beatles channel which I’m digging, as I drive around.

Robben Ford was cool the other night though - sweet jazz blues tones from his gold top Les Paul, played through a custom Dumble amp. However, meeting him after the show, he wouldn’t pose for a selfie! Eric Gales is coming up soon, at the Iridium in Manhattan. I’ll be heading along there with fellow local guitar slinger, J.D. Seem, who I met at open mike dates we’ve played together. Oh yes, and recently, I’ve been playing a lot of those. Monday open mike nights at The Note bar and grill in Bethel, Connecticut are not to be missed. Come on down. There’s often, some serious talent on display there. One of our crew, young Emma Kiara, a fabulous singer, has managed to get a scholarship to Richard Thompson’s summer writers’ camp, held each year in upstate New York and of course I couldn’t miss his own recent solo concert at the Tarrytown Theater. Richard plays there to a sold-out audience each year. They love him and he loves them.

I could go on and on but getting back to Sweden Rock, we’ll be looking forward to checking out my personal favorite, Kings X there, plus Aerosmith, Ian Hunter and the Scorpions et al. You know it’s gonna be good when the chef sends the band members VIP menus for their á la carte food selection! The staff could not be more accommodating to us, that’s for sure. After that, I’ll be participating in a Powell family reunion over in the U.K. and giving thanks for that.

Enjoy some fine days and my best wishes to you all. Go fishing! ~ Andy.

Interview with Mark Abrahams Part II

- Mark, we hear you are a Les Paul and Strat man, two guitars that have always been an important part of the Wishbone Ash sound. Can you elaborate?
I’ve always loved Les Pauls and have a couple of very nice ones. My favourite and most used is a Gibson Custom Shop ’57 Gold Top with RS / Lindy Fralin pickups. I also have a lovely old Les Paul Standard fitted with Kloppmann pickups. I have a few Fender Stratocasters; my main Strat is a Custom Shop ’62 reissue finished in sonic blue. This pairs up perfectly with the Gold Top as they both have nice big necks.

I also have several custom guitars built for me here in Yorkshire by Elvidge Custom Guitars and a cherry red Gibson ES335. I also have in my collection some beautiful, Japanese Tokai guitars.

All my guitars have either D’addario or Dunlop 11-50 gauge strings.
-Let's talk about effects...

For effects I have a pedalboard (pictured) based around a Carl Martin Octaswitch switching system, which enables multiple pedal changes by pressing only one button. It’s a life saver, as I’m not a good tap dancer!

Pedals on my board are – Fulltone Octafuzz – CAE MXR Wah – Ernie Ball Volume – Nemphasis White Scream Overdrive – Ibanez Tubescreamer Mini – Friedman BE-OD Overdrive – Mooer Soul Shiver Rotary Pedal – Boss GE-7 Graphic and Boss DD-7 Tap Tempo Delay. There’s also a TC Electronic Delay mounted under the board which is only used with the volume pedal for swelling effects ... and of course, a tuner!

-We mustn't forget amps...
I’ve used ENGL Amps for a long time and have also enjoyed using Soldano and older Marshall Amps previously.
We thank Mark for being such a great interview subject!

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.