A R T I C L E S  

a n d   I N T E R V I E W S

 

"Ask Martin" Q&As - www.wishboneash.co.uk

 January 2001 - September 2005

Q: I really enjoyed the performance of guitarist Robin Berlin on the Walking the Reeperbahn album. Has he played on any other albums you can recommend? I checked www.allmusic.com but couldn't find anything... Johan Bengtsson

A: Robin Berlin, or Robin Bastard as I used to call him, is a very fine player. He is Dutch, played in a band over there called the Pink somethings or maybe Purple whatevers, cannot remember. He lived in SW London for a few years, where I got to know him through my friend Roy Hollingworth. He is a tall skinny version of Jeff Beck and plays similarly too I reckon. He is back in Holland now, still playing as far as I know - must give him a bell as well ! Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: How the hell do you do this? The Pilgrim I can just about do (put fingers into autopilot and scat the rest) but Vas Dis and Sometime World.........Do you have two brains? i.e. One for the bass and the other for the vocals? Please tell me the secret! (Terry)

A: You do not need two brains Terry, but you do need to be schizophrenic. Its a bit like that - I will attempt to describe : Teach yourself the bass part very well, over and over. Now, gradually start singing a few licks whilst playing bass on kind of autopilot. So its just your fingers and some part of your brain that you are not particularly conscious of working together and your conscious mind can concentrate on the vocal until the fingers lose it at which point you have to switch back to conscious brain operation of bass playing and so on and so forth.

Its not the easiest process to describe, but that's about it in a nutshell. I hope this is helpful, if not - become a 6-string strummer - much more easy.
Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: I've just started dabbling with lap steel guitar and wondered if you happen to know what tunings Ted favours, especially around the Wishbone4/Live Dates era. (Andy Jackson)

A: I have not got a clue on Ted's lap steel tuning I am afraid, and at the risk of sounding like a girl I don't even know how many strings the thing has got. So I cannot actually help much with this one - Sorry (Such a well used English word).
Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: I've always felt that much of Wishbone 4 is let down by poor production, particularly the more rocky numbers (Doctor, So Many Things To Say etc). Is there any chance of you re-visiting it and producing a remixed/remastered version? (Andy Jackson)

A: Andy - Wishbone 4 was a leap into the dark for us, we abandoned our team from the first three albums and worked with a guy called Keith Harwood at Olympic Studios. Keith was one of the first people I met who did cocaine, I do not understand what he did to the tapes but the sound is definitely not right. There is a huge bump of mid-range frequencies and very little highs or lows - probably a tape bias problem - something set incorrectly. I do have most of the multi-tracks for this album and yes, its would be really great to hear the album as it was supposed to sound. It would involve a considerable investment of time on my part and I am not sure exactly when I would be in a position to do it, so please don't hold your breath. I will put it on my list of unfinished business, OK and hopefully I can manage to live long enough to get around to it. Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: It is my understanding that Wishbone Ash headlined at the Allen Theatre in Cleveland Ohio on Feb 1, 1974 and that the support act was BruceSpringsteeen & The E Street Band. Amazing billing, do you have any special recollections of that gig? Did you play other shows with Springsteen on that tour? (Peter Bambini)

A: This may very well be correct. I was constantly amazed at the number of people who would talk in glowing terms about playing some gig together (a guy from Supertramp did this once), although I would have no recollection whatsoever of this event. Didn't know we had ever played with Supertramp ! In the 70s there was a lot of pressure and we could arrive at the gig late and have to do Radio Station stuff, meet people, sign autographs, deal with equipment and road crew problems, so being in a dressing room at the back of a large gig with a hell of a lot going on was not the best time to be taking in other artists although if we knew there was someone on a show we really wanted to get a look at you could usually sneak off and get a look for ten minutes or so. So sorry if I cannot help you on your specific question Peter

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: I am a huge fan of Martin all my life. Despite been a Guitar player myself I always recognised the MASSIVE contribution of the guy. As a creator of many of the harmony guitar parts for Ash I wondered did he play 6 string himself. (Dave Conlon)

A: Yes I play 6 string guitar. Always have done - never really considered myself a bass player until well after Wishbone got going. I am just a creative type so I'll have a go on any instrument. I play keyboards and drums also, neither brilliantly but I can get a feel happening. On guitar I am a mainly a strummer - I can play lead but it tends to be a bit Hank Marvin. In Wishbone we developed a system where I would sing psuedo-classical melody, which Andy or Ted would learn on guitar complete with bends etc, then as one of them played it I would sing the harmony part, which the other guitar would play. You tend to sing very differently than harmony you would go to naturally on the fretboard, so the end result was very effective and so original that it became the band's trademark and was then adopted by other bands like for instance Thin Lizzy. It involved a lot of painstaking hard work and ended up sounding a bit orchestrated but it did help to give the band an identity.

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: I wonder if you could tell me why 'So Many Things to Say', off Wishbone Four, has never been, apart from immediately after the release of the album, a feature of a live set. I would have thought that, being a good rocker with a nice melodic piece as well, it would have been suitable. I may be prejudiced, as '4' is one of my favourite albums - it contains the poetic' Everybody needs a friend'. Could you tell me what 'So Many Things to Say' is about - it seems to be something to do with anger during or after the end of a relationship. Also, regarding 'Lady Jay' on 'There¹s the Rub', it would have fit nicely on '4', was it conceived at that time? (Bill Holder)

A: So Many Things to Say - I always felt that the song was regarded as a bit off on a tangent for Wishbone, a bit throw away, noisy racket, Who-ish kind of stuff. I liked it live on stage especially, although I had to be very careful because it was the kind of belter that could screw your voice up, and that may even be why we stopped performing it. Arguably better than having to cancel shows because of sore throat syndrome. I think Lady Jay had been an idea that I had been kicking around since the 60s, so yes it could have popped in anywhere really.

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: You produced the "Night of the Guitar" album with Andy, Ted and many others including Randy California. I'm a big fan of Randy (who sadly passed away in '97), is there any memories of him you can share? Finally I wish you would put out a new solo album soon, if I had to make a top ten list of my favourite albums WTR would be on it! (Johan Bengtsson)

A: Thank you Johan, very sweet.

Randy California on the "Nightmare of the Guitars" as it became known - I thought Miles Copeland was a brave man to put that many name musicians together, but the show was hugely enjoyable even though there were a few ego issues to be resolved. Randy emerged as the kind of Leader, he was a genuine 60s hippy type with the whole peace and love package intact - a lovely man. His rendition of Hendrix's "Hey Joe" was spine-tinglingly wonderful and he made that song belong to him as well - you need to be great to do that. As the man who mixed the whole show in two days, I remember being amazed at Alvin Lee's guitar sound (Gibson 335 into Marshall 50W amp). The only guitarist on the show where you pushed up the fader and didn't have to touch anything else - it sounded that good.
Leslie West was a huge character and an extremely funny man although could become wearing. Robbie Kreiger struck me as a little sad, I do not know if he was damaged by drugs or had some kind of illness but something was not right. Imagine playing guitar alongside Jim Morrison and being the guy who wrote "Light my Fire" - wow. He asked for the multi-track to be sent to California, to re-do vocals I think. I didn't send the original but copied it first. That tape, I discovered a few days later was on the Pan Am jet that crashed at Lockerbie. When Robbie rang to ask where the tape was, I didn't I dare tell him. Even to have just held something in my hands that was on that plane had the effect of involving me and I can tell you it sent a shiver up my spine. Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: I remember reading in 1979 that you "dropped" the tuning of your bottom E-string. Is this true, by how much, why, what tracks can this be heard on and do you still do it? (Leigh N)

A: Yes Leigh - I did do this. I dropped the low E string down a tone to D. So then you have two D strings - correct . Only 3 notes to remember now.

I used this on The King Will Come - just the front section and various other bits and pieces. I developed this technique on stage because if you are dropped for the front bit, you kind of have to stay that way for the rest of the song, which worked fine, so I used it on quite a few other songs too. I was not aware of anyone else doing this little trick back in the early 70s.

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: Argus is always tossed around as one of the 'peaks' of Wishbones' musical & lyrical highlights. The album is laced with biblical references, your religious bent is obviously open considering your later but also talented song-writing offerings, but do you really believe that in 'the end' the king will come or to put it more theologically ' did Adam have a belly button? 
Father Ted

A: I really don't know about the religious issue. Iv'e tended towards Paganism or Magical and Psychic kind of stuff - went to a Spiritualist church back in the 60s, but I was brought up in the orthodox Christian church - I sang in the Choir, becoming head Choir boy - and have always loved religious music although I did develop a fairly negative attitude to organised religion generally. I would say that songs like "the King will come" are about me adopting a view and putting it across strongly but as anyone who knows who has dealings with a Libra person, ten minutes later I can be adopting a completely different standpoint and people can find this a bit fickle, because they cannot tell what you do actually believe and I would appear to contradict myself. But this must be part of the nature of Libran people, I am not fickle but I do adopt a position often in order to stimulate a debate and get people talking with some meaning and passion rather than bloody mindless drivel like what happened with Jordan on telly last night. What a silly tart, she has a belly button but its eclipsed.

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: While I couldn't blame you for being tired of talking about Argus (I am quite a fan of your other great accomplishments) after all these years, much research has left some questions unanswered for me. What amps did you guys use recording Argus?! Most say the band used small Fenders in the studio early on. While I can believe that for LPs 1,2, and 4, the Argus sound is completely different. I maintain that the exquisite instrument sounds on that record (except maybe the Hi Hat) contributed to the records enduring success (combined of course, with the energy and drive of youth, fabulous songs, and everyone playing at their peak). The sound of the instruments comes thru so well, without a lot of colouration from the amps. Did you drag the Matamps in the studio, or was it just exceptional engineering, or...? By the way GREAT job on the remaster! (Jef)

A: The sound of the Argus album probably has to do with using the same team: Derek Lawrence Producer, Martin Birch Engineer, and the four of us had worked the first three albums together and had built a very good understanding andsystem together. De Lane Lea at Wembley or CTS as it became known, was very new and the equipment was pretty damn good. We were using mainly Orange amplifiers and had at this point made enough money and visited the USA on tour enough to amass a very good selection of guitars.

I was still experimenting with basses a bit but the remarkable thing that I can recall is that we rehearsed the Argus material at my house in North Kensington, actually I had a downstairs flat, I had got Ted and Steve the flat upstairs and Andy was living just around the corner, so we were able to get together easily. We used acoustics and a practice kit, just the bass was through a small amp, so aside from performing some of the songs live on stage, a great deal of the material was only played for the first time with an electric set up when we recorded it. It was very exciting to hear that material in the studio and boy did it sound good. I can remember quite clearly being absolutely drained at the end of the sessions, I was reduced to tears, it was the male equivalent of giving birth that album. One day recently when I came out of my front door, up on a hill in Guildford I suddenly realised as I looked down the valley at the mist, that I was living in the Argus album cover, a scary moment, especially when I looked around and saw the flying saucer. My eyes are not so good now - it turned out to be a helicopter. Rather than remastering all these albums I want to have a go at re-shooting the cover of Argus, I've got some ideas best left in my imagination, but if there is anyone outthere with a red velvet cloak, a helmet and a spear, please contact me. By the way - Steve's hi hat cymbal was broken and curling up on the Argus session, but he was quite attached to it, or maybe just too tight to buy new ones, but I do remember it sounding very much like an old steam engine which was OK for some of the songs we felt.

We obviously got a bit used to hearing it - it certainly sounds trashy.

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: One of my favourite Wishbone Ash albums is "There's the rub". I saw Ash at Reading when it was released, and I have always thought the bass playing is particularly brilliant. I play bass myself, and year's on now, I'd really like to know what kit Martin Turner was using when rub was recorded. On some tracks (e.g. FUBB) it sounds as though a distortion unit was used, but on others there is just a nice low end growl (just the natural pickup sound ?). Trevor

A: Trevor, whatever guitar or amp I use it always seems to end up sounding the same - like me, if you know what I'm saying. TTR sessions in Miami I was using 2 old 60s Fender Precision Basses. I used a Fender Concert Amp quite a lot with 4 x 10ins speakers, it was already old and very used, and I am afraid I gave it a right hammering - I don't think its really a bass amp,but it did give the grunge and break up that I was after. Bill Szymczyk (Producer) was always trying to get me to play with a more orthodox sound (a la Eagles etc), and we did differ in our idea of how the bass should sound. What we ended up with was a bit of a compromise between Bill and myself because I was unwilling to go for what I felt was a conservative and unoriginal approach. I concede that it would have made his job easier if I had been more co-operative and maybe even made the band's music arguably more commercial sounding, but I have always been a pushy uncompromising son of a bitch and what you hear on the record is the way I saw it - pretty much. I did acquire a small pig-nose type little amplifier around this time, called: "Dwarf". Designed for Bass about 6ins wide x 10ins high, battery or mains. Controls are: in - jack, out - jack, clean / dirty switch, volume. That's yer lot. I used that little jobbie to record about ten albums with - still got it, but it needs attention.

Its what you call "keep it simple", and you do not need a road crew when you go to the Studio to record.

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: I absolutely went nuts when I first heard "Broken Down House" from your solo album. Brilliant song. Your lyrics, on this song and many others, seem very personal. Are you currently writing during these turbulent times? Just wondering... (Brian Worth)

A: Broken Down House is indeed a very personal song, it contains a great deal of emotional energy that was my life at the time. I'm not a classic trained song writer, my stuff is hap hazard and quirky but you can be sure it is from the heart, and this particular whacky little piece is typical of my artistic outpourings and if my memory serves me right I played all the instruments except the lead guitar. Yes I am always trying to write but my life has been crazy the last couple of years, so it's not easy. Must try harder would probably fit.

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: Do you think there might be any near-future plans to remix or, at least remaster, "There's the Rub" for a CD reissue? I don't know what MCA did when they first issued it on CD in the early 90's, but it is quite muddled and flat. I have gone back to the vinyl and burned a copy of that for listening purposes and it is so much better. After hearing the amazing job you did with "Argus", I can only imagine how fresh and powerful "TTR" would sound (obvious, by now, that its my favorite!) with your involvement... (Brian Worth)

A: There's the Rub would be a difficult one. The original 24tr Multi-tracks were left at Criteria in Miami and it has subsequently changed hands - stuff usually gets thrown at this point.

I would be very sheepish indeed about attempting to remix something originally done by Bill Szymczyk as I consider him to be one of the best Producer's of Rock-Pop ever. I learnt a great deal from him and I think that the album he started recording (in the same room) the very next day must rank as one of the all time great albums. I am talking of the Eagles "Hotel California" which when I hear it, I hear the room: Studio C at Criteria, I can also hear the tricks he learned from us about recording guitars. The Eagles had always been great song writers but tended to be more vocal orientated, armed with English guitar recording techniques and bringing in Joe Walsh (a genius move) elevated the whole thing to a new level - great stuff.

Since I am often in Florida - I have tried a couple of times to re-establish contact with Bill, but I have not succeeded as yet. But I'm sure I will at some point.

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: One of the melodies that used to be very popular in eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century was called "On the slopes of Manchuria". It is a waltz (and a very beautiful one) written by a Russian composer, whose name has slipped my memory. Am I right that a few notes or bars of it I can be heard in Vas Dis? Was that waltz of any particular inspiration for you to compose your number? And what does the title mean (What's this???). (Rich T.)

A: Although "On the slopes of Manchuria" sounds like it would be very interesting, I can assure you it has no connection, as far as I am aware, with as "Vas Dis". We did not write it - we found Vas Dis in the 1960s on a Jazz album by the Brother Jack Macduff quartet, copied it as best we could, but its always going to sound different when a rock band plays a Jazz tune. It was tricky to sing and play the bass part at the same time. We have always figured that the title is a phonetic version of "What's this" spoken by a black american, maybe Jack MacDuff. I am however a very big fan of Russian Classical Music - I listen to a lot, always have done

Best Wishes, Martin.


Q: I gather that you saw Ted Turner upon his return to England, would you care to comment on how he's doing these days and what his current plans are? Gordon Miller

A: I have not seen or heard from Ted in a very long time (maybe 5 or 6 years). Actually - I lie, he sent me a Xmas card - must give him a bell and see how he is doing.

Best wishes, Martin.


Q: Would Martin consider recording "unplugged" versions of some of the WA songs which really are very melodic. I know Andy has brought out Bare Bones but the band does have an immense archive ! (Len Reed)

A: Yes of course I would consider an un-plugged although I have not actively investigated it.

It would have to get in the queue - other Wishbone projects first, then next solo album, plus finish building studio etc.

Best wishes, Martin.


Q: Who played the guitar solos on the following WA 4 songs? "Everybody Needs a Friend", "Ballad of the Beacon", "Sorrel" (pt 1 & pt 2, wah-wah), "Sing Out the Song" (acoustic). (Markus G.)

A: OK: to the best of my recollection:-

"Everybody Needs.." - solo work played by Andy.

"Ballad of the Beacon": again by Andy except slow passage in the middle (2m.30s) by Ted.

"Sorrel": Wah wah solo work normally played by Ted but this particular one by Andy.

"Sing Out the Song": Andy plays again - very sweet accurate acoustic solo!
Hope this is of help.

Best wishes, Martin.


Q: Martin, how much is your Hammer 0001 bass guitar worth? (Marcus G.)

A: I have not got the foggiest clue as to what the instrument would be worth! 0001 is a very serious serial number, you don't get too many of those, it is fitted with two 1960s Gibson Thunderbird pick ups, which I would guess would be very valuable in themselves (might even remove them if selling). It also has a metal flake finish which I understand is a very difficult paint job to do. On the minus side it currently lives in a flight case from hell, very large, very heavy and in need of repair (seen a lot of action). It also has a very slender finger board - almost down to the spacing of guitar strings - not to everyone's taste methinks but good for someone with fairly petite hands or an ex guitarist. I don't use it so much nowadays favouring the T'Bird which is virtually part of my body. I could only guess at a price - purely as an instrument maybe between £500 up to £5000,
depends what someone was willing to pay, given the history and its one owner status which is for someone other than me to assess. I can say that I have absolutely no intention of selling it and can only imagine at this point that it would probably get torched with me when I go to the "big gig in the sky" one day. Like everything concerned with "old tarts" though I'm sure if someone really wanted it that bad and actually intended to use it, and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse - I would sell it. I hope this contradictory reply is of some help!

Best wishbones,

Martin.


Q: In "Lady Jay", I wonder about the lyrics "I can't trace her/Lost her from my life/But the Manor lady's bright young son/Can take her for his wife". Is that correct "I can't trace her". Could it be "I, a country sir/Loved her for my life/But the Manor lady's bright young son/Did take her for his wife"? Also, I see one printed as "She found death's open arms/And lay in them in grace", but I hear "She found death's open arms/And lay in their embrace." Do my ears betray me?

Also, in "Front Page News" "You've got ???? eating out of your hands". I wondered if it could be "those editors", but it sounds like "the zetta". Is that short for a British newspaper? (Dee Wilkinson)

Dee,

I first discovered the Legend of "Jay's grave" as it was known, in the 1960s, in Devon where I lived. The story goes that a local aristocrat's son, probably in the 1700s, had fallen in love with a peasant girl. His family disapproved and he was forbidden to see her. He did however continue to see his true love to the extent that she became pregnant and in the trouble that followed she decided to take her own life as a way out. She was buried by the side of the road in unconcecrated ground (suicide dictated no burial in holy ground). Flowers appeared at the side ofthe grave on a daily basis during all weather, at all times of the year, and were attributed to her lover, but even after he died the flowers continued to appear and still do, to this day. I visited the grave on the wilds of Dartmoor, on a cold and dark November night to see the windswept flowers for myself and I can tell you it was a pretty eerie experience, that put the hairs up on the back of my neck. I wrote the song many years later because I could not forget the romantic and yet tragic nature of this tale.

Thank you for asking about it - I had to take a listen, for probably the first time in twenty years since I last heard it and was struck by the beauty and folkiness of it. Many people ask me about playing Wishbone music on stage again and when Ihear such material it does strike me that it deserves so much to be performed, and I seem to be best positioned to do it. If I can sort my life out and find a way I will aim to do just that - I do seem to be very much alive right now if you can understand me !

The line in Front Page News you refer to reads: "You've got Rosetta eating out of your hand" this is a reference to another legend about a Rosetta stone - a famous Egyptian jewel credited with all kinds of magical power but about which my knowledge is fairly limited. Hope this provides some answers for you,

Much love
Martin


Q: At your Alexandra Palace performance in Aug 1973 an Ash member (it was Martin! - GC) dedicated "Everybody Needs a Friend" to Doris Day. Any recollections of this? (Marcus G.)

Sorry Marcus,

I cannot throw much light on this one. Steve Upton was fond of telling me that my voice sounded like Doris Day which at the time I was not very flattered by (didn't quite fit my Rock n roll image of myself). Looked at from today's perspective I would take it as a compliment, and I can only imagine that the comment was an "in joke" which the band would have at least understood.
Hope this helps,

Best wishes,
Martin