Interview - Andy Powell
7th April 2012
Le Forum - Vauréal (Paris)
We are pleased to meet you again Andy. You are in France today, near Paris (Vauréal)
for a gig with your band Wishbone Ash. After leaving France you're going to tour the USA, aren't you?
That's correct. Yes. It's good to be here and to see you again.
We just have these two shows in France and then about a three or four-week tour of America.
AM : And of course other countries like the Netherlands, Slovenia, Germany, the UK.
Yeah, through the summer we are doing a few festivals and then in the UK
we do a tour in the autumn and back again to Germany.
AM : How many gigs do your band play per year?
It varies between 100 and maybe 180, it depends you know,
maybe average 150, something like that, not too bad.
AM : It's good!
Yes it's good.
Wishbone Ash is a band of 4 musicians, who are?
The four musicians are myself Andy Powell, Muddy Manninen on guitar, he comes from Helsinki, Finland, and then Bob Skeat, long time bass player with the band, from London, England, and on drums Joe Crabtree from Lancashire.
AM : Joe Crabtree is the youngest guy in the band.
AM : So he is not from the same generation, can you explain the advantages of working in a multi generation background?
Well the one advantage is if the drummer in the band is a young guy, that's good because he needs to be fit, but the music side of things, actually there is no age difference in music, because many musicians, even people that play different styles of music, they all grew up with 70's rock, 60's rock, musicians have to be so educated, they have to know all the different styles and so if I talk to Joe on a level of a musician, it's just like talking to somebody twice his age, in fact, there is no age difference in music, it seems to me.
AM : I think you're right!
Yeah, that's the great thing about music, it's a different language.
AM : It is.
You have released recently a CD.
Yes, this is our new CD called "Elegant Stealth".
AM : So let's talk about it.
There's a pretty picture of a butterfly on the front. This CD was a couple of
years in the making and we did some sessions, first of all in France,
we started the writing sessions in your country. And before we released the CD,
we released a DVD which was like the story of the making of the record.
This really represents the modern Wishbone Ash, the way we sound today,
but a lot of people are saying it's one of their favourite albums already,
so we must be doing something right, I mean it's got all of the trademarks on it,
the twin lead guitars and what I hope is that there are some really good songs
from the heart, and it was recorded at our own recording studio we have now up in Lancashire.
Why did you chose this title?
The title Elegant Stealth, well Wishbone Ash is a band that some people say,
they don't even know that we are still going, they sometimes wonder,
there's a mystery about the band sometimes, we are somewhat under the radar
as a band, even though we've been playing for 42-43 years, in one shape or form or another,
and we hope that what we do is kind of stealthy, we go all over the place,
we tour a lot, we hope to do it in an elegant way. We think we have our own style,
we try to do the things with some degree of class, that's what we feel,
we work really hard on what we do, we are proud of it, that's where the title came from.
AM : There's a butterfly on the record sleeve, who designed it?
AM : Yes.
This was a young artist by the name of Jason Boast from England. At first I thought
a butterfly is a very stealthy insect, one can land on your shoulder you don't
even know it. The style is very very subtle and subdued which I quite like,
it's a very nice package actually you can see the lovely booklet here,
butterflies are very mythical strong image, funnily enough, it's kind of cool,
I like it.
How many tracks are there on this album?
Now you're asking the wrong guy because I never remember these things.
Andy is counting the tracks, one two three...eleven tracks.
Yeah, Pat is an old friend of ours. He toured with his band The Mama's
Boys back in the 80's. That band opened for Wishbone Ash in the UK.
We remained friends, and we rekindled our friendship recently, a couple years back,
and I've been to Ireland and played with him and actually played some shows in
France with Pat McManus band. We just enjoyed this playing thing we had together
two guitar players. I'm a fan of his playing, he is a fan of mine, so he very
nicely wrote this song, which he sort of presented to me and said you know I
think it will be great for Wishbone Ash and I was looking for something a
little bit more celtic flair, something with a little Irish feel to it and
he came up with this song.
AM : Which is called "Can't Go It Alone"
Yeah, Can't Go It Alone. You know I was really pleased to be able to interpret
that song with the Wishbone Ash flair. It's great to collaborate with Pat.
He's played on our shows, sometimes he fits in on fiddle and other times guitar.
He is a great man, a great friend. I understand he tours quite a bit in France.
AM : Yes and we are very pleased to have him on rock-interiews.com
Oh, do you?
AM : Yes we do.
AM : The other songs are written by all the members of Wishbone Ash, Bob,
Joe, Muddy, plus Ian Harris, your lyricist.
Yes Ian Harris.
AM : What about Tom Greenwood?
Tom was the producer on most of the tracks, except for 3 or 4.
Like a lot of producers these day he got involved with coming up with some
keyboard arrangements, he also did quite a lot of the backing vocals arrangements.
AM : And also Pauline Powell.
(smiling) Yeah, Pauline my wife, she assisted on one lyric.
AM : That's great.
It's really a group effort, a team effort really.
What are the themes developed in these songs?
The themes. I mean love is always a theme in rock and pop. There are some
lyrics there which speak from the heart, relationship type of lyrics and
also some social commentary really. When you're travelling around, you do
pick up lots of influences, there's one song for example called Heavy Weather,
which is like a metaphor for relationship, but in the US particularly last year,
and Japan we had some amazing, crazy weather and you couldn't turn on the TV
news without seeing something that was weather related. Of course we have all
the people who say that the global warming is not happening, fine, you know,
but we all see these things even where I live, some bizarre weather, tornados
and so that was the inspiration for that song for example. So many different subjects,
many different things, and that's the great thing about travelling and being a musician,
if you keep your eyes open you get material for songs.
Do you think it's easier to make an album nowadays?
For the technical sides, yeah you can make an album anywhere. We can make an album here
with a laptop, and a couple of speakers but I think writing is difficult,
as it always has been. I mean to write good material, it's got to come from the heart,
you have to wait till you're ready, you know, that's the hard thing.
To write good songs is hard. There's no easy way but the recording can be very easy now.
Although with the rock bands you know, there is so much rock music out there,
you really have a lot to stack up against with the sound side, the technical sides,
so you can still spend a lot of time recording.
Here is a DVD, a rockumentary.
Yes, this is the DVD I was telling about. We put this out before we put the album
out and you can actually see on this DVD how we write, because we had these writing
sessions which last initially for a week in France. So these songs came out of
the ideas you can see on this DVD in fact.
AM : This DVD, rockumentary is directed by Christian Guyonnet.
Yes, a French producer and director Christian Guyonnet produced it. He is an old friend of ours.
He's done a lot of documentaries, not necessarily always music, but he came to me with the
idea, and actually we put the production together, so it was great and we were able to do
this in Normandy which was a lot of fun.
AM : Could you please tell us where exactly it was made in Normandy?
Well, it's a place called Blangy-le-Château.
AM : A wonderful place.
It was a house of another friend of ours, a big country house. It was the beginning of the summer,
so it was a beautiful location, which is very stimulating. If you're in a beautiful place,
a romantic place, you know you're inspired by that, it's better than being in a dirty
old basement somewhere. The food and wine didn't hurt either which was good, and we all
enjoyed that, so we made a kind of vacation, a nice feel good place to be for ourselves,
our families and to be creative.
In this documentary you are driving very nice old cars. Do you have a favourite brand?
A favourite brand? Well yeah, we took our cars over there. We all like driving
around the countryside in old cars, that's one of our passions.
We like all kinds of cars I mean, if money was no object, I'm sure we have lots of them.
In this day and age of being careful cause some of them (Andy hearing some music sound)
oh that's the opening act warming up there. I like all English sportscars, any of them,
Austin Healey, Morgan that kind of thing.
Do you have some French musicians'friends?
Yes I do. I know a couple of the guys from the old band Les Négresses Vertes,
if you remember them.
AM : Yes.
Stéfane and Matthias. In fact I've just returned from the French Alps skiing with Matthias.
Yes, over the course of our travels we meet a lot of people, so we have now old friends
in France and in Germany mostly.
AM : You met Francis Descamps.
Yeah, we recently played with him. He's in a spin-off band from
formed a band which is
Les Gens de la Lune,
and we played with him in a town called Sochaux, which was great,
really good fun. We don't get to play many shows in France as we would like. We'd like
to come more often, it's difficult for rock in France, as you know.
We are pleased to come when we can!
AM : I know it yeah.
What is your funniest memory as a musician?
My funniest memory as a musician. There are many. Let me think. Sometimes these
days I'm very strict when I play, I don't take a lot of, maybe a little bit of wine,
but that's about it. I fell off the stage once in Switzerland, tripped over the monitors,
but I think a lot of people have done that you know. For example
fell off the stage in London which was bad, I think he broke his leg. Luckily
I didn't break anything but sometimes when the lights go out, you lose your
balance and you could easily trip and fall on stage, that could be pretty
funny to the audience, for you it's kind of scary.
AM : It can be yeah!
What do you like to do when you are not on tour or writing songs?
Just the last couple of weeks I've been skiing, I like to do that.
AM : In France.
In the French Alps, wonderful weather and everything, that was nice.
I also like, I've taken up Yoga recently, cause I find that it's really good
stress-buster, and I'm very interested in the way yoga works on the head,
the heart and the spirit, I'm fascinated with that. I like gardening.
I like anything that's involved in nature, walking by the beach, countryside.
I like a little bit of culture, when I'm travelling, I always try to check out...
You know Europe is great for that, I live in the States so I'm always ravenous for everything old.
AM : And also have time maybe with your family because you are used to becoming a grandfather now.
Yeah, well a lot of us rock and rollers are grandfathers now which is weird,
you never thought you would say that, you're a rock'n'rolling grandfather,
yeah I love being a grandpa with my two granddaughters, we have an expanding
family so, I'm like the patron the old guy there.
AM : With Elodie Claire.
Yeah a French name, our youngest edition.
Are you going to write your autobiography one day?
I'm always writing blogs for our website and I like to put my thoughts down,
so I think it would be natural for me to perhaps write a book, you know.
When I feel that perhaps the journey is coming to an end. At the moment I'm very
immersed in a new album, a new DVD, I still feel very creative, I'm not ready to
sum it up yet. I've been in the band mostly for 43 years, I've a lots of memories,
good times, bad times, and it would be really interesting to write it down and
I certainly have talked to a good few people about it for sure.
What are your plans for the future?
We have the summer touring. Muddy and I actually have been playing a lot of blues for each other,
and we were talking about perhaps making a Blues album. I would love to hear Wishbone Ash
do something that's really down in the Blues vein. We've never done it, although we enjoy listening
to Blues. So that's just off the top of my head, something that would be fun to do as a break
from an actual studio album. I have also been playing with my son Aynsley, he is a guitarist,
keyboard player, fantastic drummer also, in Brooklyn we've been doing some sessions together.
So it's something I really personally would like to do actually play some music with him.
He came on the road with Wishbone Ash and played in the band last year
in Germany which was fantastic to me...
AM : So we wish you the best and thank you very much for your time Andy.
That's my pleasure, it's good to see you again, thank you.