02nd May2012

Interview with Andy Powell from Wishbone Ash

by rockchicago

Interviewed by Kevin Pollack 



Wishbone Ash is a British rock band which achieved success in the early and mid-1970s. Their popular records included Wishbone Ash (1970), Argus (1972), There’s the Rub (1974), and New England (1976). They were one of the first bands to use twin lead guitars.

Wishbone Ash are considered to be one of the major innovators of the harmony twin lead guitar format. Their contributions helped in Powell and Turner being voted “Two of the Ten Most Important Guitarists in Rock History” (Traffic magazine 1989), and part of the “Top 20 Guitarists Of All Time” (Rolling Stone). Melody Maker (1972) described Ted Turner and Andy Powell as “the most interesting two guitar team since the days when Beck and Page graced The Yardbirds”.

Formed in Torquay, Devon, in 1969, out of the ashes of trio The Empty Vessels (originally known as The Torinoes, later briefly being renamed Tanglewood in 1969), which had been formed by Wishbone Ash’s founding member Martin Turner (bass & vocals) in 1963 and complemented by Steve Upton (drums and percussion) in 1966. The original Wishbone Ash line-up was completed by guitarists/vocalists Andy Powell and Ted Turner. In 1974, Ted Turner left the band, and was replaced by Laurie Wisefield. The band continued on with strong critical and commercial success until 1980.

After revolving line-ups featuring former members from King Crimson, Trapeze, and Uriah Heep, Wisefield left in 1985. In 1987, however, the original line-up reunited for several albums – Nouveau Calls, Here to Hear and Strange Affair – until 1990, when Upton quit the band. After Martin Turner was replaced in 1991, the band recorded The Ash Live in Chicago, before Ted Turner left in 1993.

Above info taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishbone_Ash

I recently chatted with Andy Powell about the band and what’s going on with them.

Q: Tell me how Wishbone Ash came to be?

Andy: The band came together under the aegis of Miles Copeland. He’d seen Martin Turner together with his brother Glen and drummer, Steve Upton playing in a club in Hampstead, London. They were called Tanglewood. Guitarist Glen decided that London was too hard a nut to crack, so Miles and the other two guys started to look for a replacement and perhaps a keyboard player. I went along to an audition – I’d seen an ad in the Melody Maker Magazine looking for a positive mided individual, as did Ted Turner. The line is that no decision could be made as to which guitar player was best suited for this new outfit, so both of us were invited to Miles’ parents’ house in St. Johns Wood, London. We did some jamming together, tried a few songs and I also questioned the guys about what direction they wanted to go in. The rest is history. Both of us joined the party and a new band was born. We quickly realized that a new sound might be possible using the twin lead guitar idea. One of the first songs that Ted and I wrote was “Blind Eye.” That piece featured the guitars almost like a horn section, and it set the foundation for a methodology of working in a new way with guitars.

Q: Where did the name Wishbone Ash come from?

Andy: Two lists of names were compiled. We needed a name which would not pigeon-hole us as either heavy or light. Wishbone was on one list. I was thinking of ash trees and we put the two words Wishbone and Ash together. They sounded perfect.

Q: After all the instability with the band, how come you decided to hold it together still?

Andy: Instability? Well, compared to most bands we’ve been quite stable for major periods of time. All through the 70′s there was only one change and then through the 80′s, things were up and down a bit. The original line-up reformed for 3 albums, and then devolved again as people left one by one. This current line-up has proved very stable, with bass player Bob Skeat in his 16th year and Finland’s Muddy Manninen in his 7th year for example. All of this is to be expected in a band that has survived 43 years. Look at the Allmans, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull. It’s the same for those bands too.

Q: What was the influence behind your new release Elegant Stealth, and what was the creative process like?

Andy: We wanted to make a very democratic album. We decided to get it together in the country as we had done several times in the past. Normandy, France was the location this time. You can see the whole spontaneous process on the DVD, This is Wishbone Ash, which is a fly-on-the-wall rockumentary about the making of Elegant Stealth. Sessions ran every day for a week and all the ideas were recorded. Working this way took a little longer, but the results have been very satisfying for all of us. Later on, we refined things in our studio in Lancashire, UK. Since one of our engineer producers was German, some mixes were also done in Nuremburg. Other final mixes took place in New York.

Q: What is your favorite song that you’ve written and why?

Andy: “Ballad of the Beacon” is a song I wrote, which really sums up the ethos of a traveling band. I like it very much these days, and also “Sometime World” and any of the tracks on the Argus album, which I co-wrote with other original band members.

Q: How do you feel about Martin’s version of Wishbone Ash?

Andy: It sucks. It’s devalued the brand name, confused the market, and done him and me no favors. He came to me after 18 years away from the business and the band, and asked if I’d mind him using the name Wishbone Featuring Martin Turner. I said that was fine. The next thing we saw was this name grab thing – Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash. It’s wrong and it’s cheesy. The fans are turned off.

Q: You are considered to be one of the greatest progressive rock bands of all time. What are your views of progressive rock music now compared to then?

Andy: The early 70′s was a golden age for experimentation, so it’s kinda hard to beat that vibe. Every band had its own distinctive sound, and don’t forget, we’d all been listening to a wonderful palette of music up to that point, and it all came out in this flowering of ideas, but in a rock format. I don’t listen to many current progressive rock bands these days, but I do like Swedish prog rockers, Plankton.

Q: Did you come from a musical family?

Andy: Not especially, although my father could get a tune out of most things. I had an aunt who was a great pianist, and would lead the family in what we called sing-songs at Christmas and so on.

Q: Many consider the album Argus to be your most popular album. How did that album come to be, and what was the songwriting process for that album?

Andy: Argus came to be, I believe, because we started to play bigger rooms, the town hall circuit in the UK, and auditoriums and festivals in the states. We needed bigger themes and simpler arrangements. These venues were crying out for that. We saw this when we opened for The Who in the USA on the Tommy tour. They wrote the book on stadium rock after all. Big statements and, in a way, this inspired the Argus album. Although, the songs were written largely on acoustic guitars, the idea was to give the music more color, more atmosphere.

Q: What does the future look like for Wishbone Ash?

Andy: A full date sheet, solid musical projects, a wonderful fan community. It’s all good. The good ship Wishbone has been a real success story and I’m very proud of that. It’s come through a lot of hard work, faith, hope and love. It’s a hell of a legacy. All the members, past and present can be proud of that.


Be sure to catch Wishbone Ash performing TWO shows at Fitzgeralds on May 4th. Their  appearance at FitzGerald’s is a CD Release for their new album, Elegant Stealth, and will be two completely  different shows with different sets — one set beginning at 7:30 and the second one at 10:00. Or, you  can buy tickets for both sets here: http://www.ticketweb.com/snl/VenueListings.action?venueId=32814#main

One Response to “Interview with Andy Powell from Wishbone Ash”

  • Howard Johnston

    Well there’s a totally one-sided and revisionist commentary if I ever I read it. Perhaps the ‘good ship Wishbone’ might better be served if Rock Chicago interviewed Martin Turner; Ted Turner; Steve Upton and Laurie Wisefield for their views about things. I mean – that would only be fair wouldn’t it?

    I love this comment particularly: “also “Sometime World” and any of the tracks on the Argus album, which I co-wrote with other original band members”

    You might want to ask the actual author of most those songs (Martin Turner) what he thinks about all of that, as opposed to somebody who added a few riffs and intros etc.

    The charade continues unabated into its 20th year. The last genuine album by Wishbone Ash was ‘Strange Affair’ …

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