Ash Wilson

Ash Wilson: The words tell a story

Having played in bands since the age of 16, Ash Wilson is now readying the release of his debut solo album, ‘Broken Machine’. He tells us about picking up his first guitar, the album that changed his life, why he had to learn The Shadows, the honesty of blues music, sharing too much of himself, working with his brother, life on the road, and his upcoming tour with Dan Patlansky.

How old were you when you first picked up the guitar?

I was 13 when I first picked up a guitar. My cousin brought an acoustic guitar to my house and taught me a Nirvana riff. From then I was hooked and asked for a Strat for my 14th birthday. I then went on the hunt for guitar-based music and came across players like Rory Gallagher and Kenny Wayne Shepard. Those are the two guitar players that most influenced me when I first started to get into electric blues guitar. I do think there are still elements of both of their playing styles within my playing due to influencing me so early on as a guitar player.

What one song or album changed your life?

Although Kenny Wayne Shepard and Rory steered my along the blues path, it wasn’t until I’d heard Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Couldn’t Stand The Weather’ when I really started to think that I wanted to try and make a career in music. I really think that album best showcases not only Vaughn’s songwriting but also his ability to go from ferocious raw power to gentle and soft emotive playing. I was also really influenced by the sheer breadth of genres covered on that album, it opened my listening up and taught me to appreciate songs and melody rather than just guitar solos. I think it definitely made me want to to compose songs that aren’t limited to any preconceived idea of how a song in any particular genre should sound and instead try and write songs that move and excite me in as many ways as possible, both in a lyrical, musical, and arrangement sense.

What’s the first song you learned to play?

The first song I learned all the way through was ‘Apache’ by The Shadows. Coming from Skegness there wasn’t much opportunity for tuition and I started playing in the ‘90s before the Internet so you had the choice of guitar magazines or books. I really wanted lessons as I’d always learned better from being shown something rather than reading something. I had a friend whose dad played in a country band and he was a massive Hank Marvin fan so when I went to him for lessons – that was what he taught me! No chords or scales just Hank’s guitar melodies. Because I’d asked for a guitar after playing one, rather than being inspired to play by hearing guitar music, I was happy to be learning anything. Although, I must admit it took me a few years to see the value of learning all those Shadows tunes so early on. I think it introduced me, on a subconscious level, to playing melodic lines that bring value to a song, rather than churning out endless flurries of notes simply because you can. I let myself go a little more live, I tend to play more for myself than the song because I’m more lost in the moment. When I’m recording I like to try and craft parts that suit whatever emotion I’m trying to convey in the music. I think with Hank you get the same ethos, there is no mess in Hank’s playing, everything he plays serves the song.  

What one song on ‘Broken Machine’ best sums up what you’re about as a musician or as a person?

That’s difficult to say as none of the songs are about me in the form of an arc, they are more about specific moments or experiences. I suppose the song that most sums me up as a person is ‘Hold On Now’ as it is about those quieter moments when I need to have a word with myself if I’m behaving in a way that I feel is unacceptable. Historically I’ve had periods in my life where I’ve been very self destructive; I suppose as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to recognise early on the traits of that behaviour and have a quiet word with myself! From a musical point of view, I think It’s hard to pinpoint one person’s musical identity from one song. I’d like to think that the whole album represents the wide collection of influences I’ve picked up as a lover of music.

How important are the lyrics to you? In a genre where the words are often throwaways that go between the guitar solos, yours have a lot of meaning.

Lyrics are very important to me, but I must admit that before I started writing lyrics and operated as just a guitar player I was very much in it purely for the solos! I think that over time I’ve learned to develop an appreciation for lyrics when listening to songs, and I’ve tried to bring storytelling to my own compositions. However, it’s not up to me what a person would get out of listening to my music as once you let it out into the wild it ceases to be yours and belongs to whoever is listening to it. If someone gets anything at all from my music that’s enough for me!

Were you ever worried you were sharing too much of yourself in these songs?

It’s taken a long time for me to become comfortable with the idea of being so frank as a lyricist. When I first started writing my own material I used to be very cryptic and I think by processing the words that way the message I was trying to convey would get lost. In the end I think blues music is and should be honest. I’m also a big fan of artists such as Tom Waits and Nick Cave who both bare themselves wide open in their lyrics, I figured that I probably should try and be more clear about the message in my songs. It also means that when I’m performing songs live I can put more emotion into my singing as the lyrics mean something to me, rather than lyrical passages simply being a route map to a lead break.

One of the things uniting your songs is that they all seem to have a blues base. What’s the appeal of the blues? And can you tell me a bit about the challenges of putting your own spin on a genre that’s so distinctive?

In all honesty the album has turned out very differently to how I had planned. The whole idea was to not put a spin on it and try and put out an album that was traditional throughout. The musical leanings that the album bears came very naturally and there was more than one occasion where I would be freaking out, fearing the album was losing its identity as a blues record. In the end, as I’ve said, to me the blues first and foremost is an honest music and very early on in the process of recording the album I decided to just allow the musical personalities of myself, Phil, and Roger dictate the direction of the music in the room rather than any preconceived ideas I may have had going into the studio. We went in the studio with a blank canvas, so every song was born out of a jam we had in the studio. It was an extremely exciting and rewarding experience.

Your brother was heavily involved in the writing and recording of ‘Broken Machine’. What are the benefits of working with your sibling on something that’s obviously such a personal album?

I loved working with my brother on this project. We have a very similar set of influences and also with Phil being my brother I feel comfortable in being open with him on a musical and lyrical level. We are pretty close so I guess there really are no drawbacks! Phil’s influence on the album is definitely more on the musical side of it rather than the lyrical side. He’s very good at pushing me to being more creative and has higher standards than I do. I am sometimes guilty of ‘it sounds fine!’ where Phil is always pushing for the better part and better performance.I know working with him that I’ll always play to the best of, if not beyond, my ability and I find comfort in that, even though sometimes that manifests in frustration on my part and then inevitably a row! Usually it’s all calmed down over a coffee, I’ll then try what he’s asked and annoyingly he’ll be right and saying: ‘I told you so!’. It’s a lot of fun working together and I’m looking forward to writing the next album with him.

How long did you work on ‘Broken Machine’? And how does it feel to have it come out now?

We worked on it in two halves as once we’d finished the studio sessions, which took about seven days, Phil and I went on tour in Europe with the Sean Webster Band. This put about a six-month gap between studio sessions. So, from start to finish, it took around a year, but mainly because there were so many breaks between sessions. In the end we finished all the vocals and overdubs at our parents’ house. I think it feels all the more amazing to have the album due out now as it does feel like a long time since we started it. I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response we’ve had in reviews so far. It’s quite nerve-wracking sending the music out to so many magazines and websites so it’s hugely rewarding to have such a positive response.

You’ll be heading out on tour with Dan Patlansky next month. What are you most looking forward to about it?

I’ve not met Dan before so I’m probably most excited about that as I was a Patlansky fan before we got the tour. It’s always great meeting different players as there is so much to learn on the instrument, especially from a player of Dan’s ability. Mostly, when meeting or hanging out with other guitar players the conversation generally centres around gear! Guitars, amps, pedals, string gauges etc! I, like Dan, have a family at home so I’m sure the conversation will come up, it’s a little different for Dan as he’s quite a lot further away from his family than I am and he’s away for longer. You do have mixed emotions when on tour – I always feel lucky to be in a position to tour and do gigs, however I do feel guilty when I’m not at home. It’s a mixed bag, I try and be the best person I can be and perform as well as I can when I’m away. I’d feel pretty bad if I was up partying until 5am whilst my wife is looking after our daughter. It’s all about the music for me now, the most rewarding thing for me is coming away from a killer show knowing we’ve given it everything, enjoying a modest glass of wine with my bandmates at the hotel before bed, knowing I’ve got it all to do again tomorrow. It’s a privilege to do this and I feel blessed to be in the position I’m in right now.

  • Ash Wilson’s debut album “Broken Machine” is released on 21 April. More info at www.ashwilsonmusic.com.

Don’t miss Ash on tour with Dan Patlansky in the UK in April and May.

DAN PATLANSKY INTROVERTIGO UK TOUR
With special guest Ash Wilson
24 HOUR BOX OFFICE: 0844 478 0898
BOOK ONLINE: thegigcartel.com, http://danpatlansky.com/shows, www.ashwilsonmusic.com

Mr. Kyps, Poole
Saturday 15 April 2017
Tickets: £12.00 / Box Office: 01202 748 945
Book Online: SeeTickets.com
8a Parr Street Lower Parkstone Poole, Dorset, BH14 0JY
www.mrkyps.net

Islington O2 Academy, London
Tuesday 2 May 2017
Tickets: £16.50 / 24 Hour Box Office: 0844 478 0898
Book Online: www.thegigcartel.com/Artists-profiles/Dan-Patlansky.htm
N1 Centre, 16 Parkfield Street, Islington, London, N1 0PS
www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academyislington

Manchester Deaf Institute
Wednesday 3 May 2017
Tickets: £16.50 / 24 Hour Box Office: 0844 478 0898
Book Online:  www.thegigcartel.com/Artists-profiles/Dan-Patlansky.htm
Venue Tel: 0161 276 9350
135 Grosvenor Street, Manchester, M1 7HE
www.thedeafinstitute.co.uk

Cardiff The Globe
Thursday 4 May 2017
Tickets: £16.50 / Box Office: 0844 478 0898
Book Online: www.thegigcartel.com/Artists-profiles/Dan-Patlansky.htm
125 Albany Rd, South Glamorgan, CF24 3NS
http://globecardiffmusic.com

Bristol The Tunnels
Friday 5 May 2017
Ticket Price: £16.50 / 24 Hour Box Office: 0844 478 0898
Book Online: www.thegigcartel.com/Artists-profiles/Dan-Patlansky.htm, www.bristolticketshop.co.uk
Venue Box Office: 0845 605 0255
Bristol & Exeter House, Lower Station Approach, Bristol BS1 6QS
www.thetunnelsbristol.co.uk

The Factory, Barnstaple
Saturday 6 May 2017
Tickets: £13.00 / Box Office: 07446 692 751
Book Online: Underground Tickets
The Factory, Petroc Brannams Campus, Oakwood Close,
Roundswell, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 3NJ
http://thefactoryvenue.co.uk/

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