Wishbone Ash started their career way back in 1969 and more than 45 years later the band has gained worldwide recognition. Their latest studio album Blue Horizon (2014) received excellent reviews and it continues to solidify their musical reputation. Up till now Wishbone Ash have released 24 studio albums, 11 live albums and 5 live DVDs and they are still going strong. Tonight Wishbone Ash will be playing in Heerlen (The Netherlands), being my hometown and before the show, just after the sound check I have a chat with founding member Andy Powell.
Tonight you start with the European 2016 Tour; will tonight’s set list be the same as set list of the 2015 Pilgrimage U.K. Tour?
Andy: “No, actually not, we will be doing a couple of more new tracks from the Blue Horizon album, if that is okay with you…”
Of course, but I thought that you were going to play the Argus album in its entirety tonight?
Andy: “Is that so?’
It was advertised like that…
Andy: “Well, then we cannot and will not disappoint the audience, so we are going to play Argus tonight. I just gonna have to tell Bob, Muddy and Joe about this, so that they can rehearse a bit, ha ha…. No, we are flexible, we can do this of course, and we have played these songs very often, so that will not be a problem.”
In 2014 you releases Blue Horizon and the reviews were actually very good (mine as well in fact…), but how did the album sell?
Andy: “Well, as you know, CDs do not sell that well these days thanks to Spotify. But vinyl has outsold CDs in the last two years, so that is a very positive development. But Blue Horizon sold a decent 10,000 copies each territory that we “operate” in, so we were actually quite satisfied with that. The days of selling millions of albums are far beyond us and will never return I expect.”
Wishbone Ash I still and has been very popular in Germany, what could be the reason for that, you think?
Andy: “It is true what you say; it is what it is…. We never stopped touring in Germany, we always went to Germany; you can even say we always play in Germany in January and the people expect us to come and they come to our shows! Every year in January they come, it is almost a family thing over there.”
Is there a significant difference between Dutch and German fans?
Andy: “ Yes, there is actually, the Dutch are more relaxed and they tend to drink more and the venues in Holland are very laid back. Furthermore the city supports the venue financially and that is something that is unheard of in the USA, as that is socialism and the Americans hate that!”
What was the worst venue you ever played in?
Andy: “Ha ha, that what a couple of years ago when we “used” to play in some sort of crazy punk clubs where everything was trashed and destroyed, you know, but that is not funny anymore; those days are over as even hard core metal bands want to have a decent dressing room and a good venue to play in.”
Blue Horizon was your 24 th studio album and “only” 12 of those ended up in the charts; does that bother you as a musician?
Andy: “Twenty- four, really? Well, you know times have changed, in the past we had those big contracts and we had to satisfy our agents and record companies. But those days are long gone, now we satisfy ourselves, we still like to play, we love to tour and we love the crowds that still support and like us. Since the X-Factor programmes we even have young kids who come to our show and they even like it.”
They see that you can really play…
Andy: “Yeah, exactly, but you know it is what it is.”
Lots of rock magazines label Wishbone Ash as a classic rock band, is that a compliment, or not?
Andy: :”Whatever, we are/were called twin guitar rock, heritage rock, prog rock, dinosaur rock, you name it; it does not matter to me as long as people still come to our shows. I think that an individual style was very important in the seventies as you had trendsetters like Yes, Jethro Tull and Deep Purple; and that is where we come from. Labels are for the press!”
Is Argus still the best Ash album?
Andy: “If you had asked me that 20 years ago I would probably have said no.. But looking back over all those years I think that Argus defines what Wishbone Ash is, so yes, it is the best Ash album ever.”
A couple of months ago you released your biography called Eyes Wide Open, how was the response so far?
Andy: “You know lots of people bought the book after a gig and a really got a lot of positive feedback as many people seem to like it. Of course you expect a lot of sex, drugs and rock and roll in a rock biography and that is what you get of course, ha ha… But it is also a music documentary about the fifties, sixties and seventies, it is about being on the road, it deals with philosophy and what do you learn as a human being from being a travelling musician. We have been around the world and you learn a lot from visiting very different countries. I am into politics and touring around the world makes you see how politics works, how life works and that is very interesting and worthwhile as I can really recommend to everyone!”
Do you think that a Wishbone Ash reunion with Ted Turner, Martin Turner, Steve Upton, Laurie Wisefield and you could work?
Andy: “You mean with five band members, which would be interesting. But really, I think that would not be a good idea, it probably is a romantic idea, not more than that. If you would do this then it must come from the heart and not because of the money. But I think that Ted is not really into rock anymore, Laurie would be ok I think, but Steve has not played the drums for years, so that would be a problem as the drummer needs to keep up with our speed. The guys that are now in the band are the best I ever played with; it is a very solid band and we are all good friends. The name Wishbone Ash is very precious to me, so we will go like this.”
What is the best thing about being a musician?
Andy: “Playing live is almost like family time, as we are touring all over the world we sort of create a huge family and every time I am in Holland, Germany, South Africa or the UK I meet old friends and I talk to them and I love that. We are all on the same page, we all love rock music and we all like to talk about rock music; that is great.”
What is the worst thing about a musician?
Andy: “Ha ha, bad coffee!!!”
Which five albums would you take along on a desert island?
Andy: “Difficult…. Something from Joni Mitchell, a Beatles album, I think Abbey Road or maybe Revolver on vinyl. Then maybe some blue grass music and a heavy rock album as well.”
Plans for the future?
Andy: “I would love to do an album with acoustic guitars some day and I would love to play some Ash rarities as we have been doing songs from Live Dates and Argus too much already.”
Thanks for your time.
Andy: “You are welcome.”
Interview and photos by Martien Koolen
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