Broken Machine Definitely NOT
Ash Wilson in Conversation
I was delighted when I was sent your debut album Broken Machine to review. It is certainly an album full of blues strong guitar that makes compelling listening.
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Lincolnshire?
AW: I played the guitar, but didn’t like guitar music, early on it was acoustic chords but had no interest despite being exposed to guitar music by my parents. It wasn’t until I heard a Kenny Wayne Shepherd tune on the radio, that I thought ‘I really like the sound of that’. Then I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan, through him Jimi Hendrix and through him Howlin’ Wolf and further back through this one bit of exposure. I met a guy when I was at Music College who had a friend who was into blues music. Other than Eric Clapton, who everyone knows I didn’t know many exponents of Blues. If you like Blues you need to meet Trev he was my education in the blues and electric guitar.
Then I had a band with him for a few years called The Melts. He played harmonica and sang while I played guitar. It was my blues pilgrimage early on that is what got me into the music as such was pretty much Trevor to be fair. The kind of music Mum & Dad listened to was more Progressive Rock the likes of Genesis and Pink Floyd. So not much blues guitar, though Dave Gilmour is a massive hero of mine and is a super blues player, I didn’t identify him as a blues guitarist until much later on. I come from a musical household, where everyone is well into music but blues was something I brought in after meeting different people. Then Dad came out of his shell and that he really liked Rory Gallagher it was a strange development really after not having any blues in the house. Dad brought all this old blues to the table that I hadn’t heard before on records saying you should listen to this and listen to that. I can remember saying to my Dad why didn’t you play this stuff years ago. He said, didn’t think you would be interested and to be fair I wasn’t. I played piano when younger I didn’t really have great yearning to play that instrument again. Until my cousin came over with an old acoustic and showed me a few chords I thought really cool and liked it. I didn’t know where to look other than the likes of Gilmour and when you first start to play you have no idea how to deconstruct what was going on as couldn’t play the guitar. I asked for guitar lessons for my fourteenth birthday and then met a guy who had a band and Dad’s old records got really interested in sixties blues boom in the UK and further back. As I have got older I have gone further back, I hate to admit didn’t get into Hendrix for ages didn’t like the sound of the recordings I was so used to produced music. I didn’t like the fizzy guitar sound of Hendrix I couldn’t get my head around it then I got it. As I started to hear the depth of vinyl and the monstrous fuzz tones that we all try to get. Started to go further back and appreciate Leadbelly and Robert Johnson then came back through Muddy Waters. It was a cock-eyed way of finding music I didn’t go back in chronological order I was bouncing all over the place.
BD: Broken Machine is your debut album how did you decide on using Superfly Studios, your brother to produce the album and then Hoax guitarist Jesse Davey to guest and master the album?
AW: Superfly, well I have been friends with Wayne Proctor for coming up to fifteen years now and worked together on Indie projects I was involved in. So after my first blues band parted company, I put together a Blues trio together with my brother Phil and Laurence Jones’ current bassist Greg Smith and we went out did local shows. Wayne came to a show and said should come to the studio after hearing track Throwing Knives which wasn’t bluesy at all. It was then called Bluewater and Wayne had just started producing and did an EP with him where Wayne played drums and Steve Amadeo (Ainsley Lister’s bassist – and playing with Ian Parker at the time). Alt Rock band Djune with no guitar solos the music was all about the song. We played for couple of years opened for Ocean Colour Scene despite that we never really got past the first rung, that said we were a good live band. It was in a way a vanity project with my brother Phil, alt rock inspired by Feeder, Queens of the Stone Age, etc. Recorded an album at home on a limited budget but no deadlines spent a year and learnt a lot. Then the opportunity to join Sean Webster. Not performed on the stage for a long time and not played lead very much had been locked into rhythm guitar. Sean plays a lot on the continent especially Netherlands. Played with him for about a year then got itchy feet, yes lots of work but all very specific whereas I like to do different types. So setup side project the idea was to record in the style of Jimmy Vaughan, a traditional blues album. Three guys in a room, with the whole album sounding similar to Peace & Love I was paranoid that the album would never get done, the obvious choice was Roger so rang him and he said yes so the eighth wonder of the world was on board. Only booked the studio for a week to lay down album of straight blues. I had known Andy at Superfly so obvious choice for engineer the studio close to where I live, love the music they have produced. I believed that it would be a speedy process seven days last the music job a good ‘un.
Jesse got involved as I had sung on his solo album, Big Blues. He has not got the public image that he deserves, I am a big fan of Jon Amor who is a superb guitarist, singer and writer who hasn’t got the wide public image he deserves. Met him through Barry Middleton at The Running Horse, same time as I met Wayne. The Hoax was before my time missed them in their heyday. Jesse’s guitar is powerful and exciting, on Big Blues, by the first solo I was enraptured by it when Phil played it to me what a concept a record for a film. A Soundtrack but no movie. Jesse’s own guitar pedals sound just incredible and I was interested in his gear and wanted to buy a pedal. Listened to Infamous Vampire that JD has mastered and he asked if I would like to sing on the record. It was an amazing experience as we started by co-writing over Skype in one night we had Revelator. The lyrics are quite misogynistic but fun to listen too. It reflects on the fifties and sixties winking of an eye and Revelator is a party rather than the book of revelations! A bonus that Jesse didn’t hate it.
So with Broken Machine thought be cool to get Jesse to play on The Hitcher idea for the music came out of a jam. Late night drive, reminded me of a past experience. I though get Jesse on this song with a high ghostly vocal circa Glenn Miller and I’ll sing falsetto, visualising she was driving with the ghost of me. Told everyone else and the second guitar adds extra to the existing to a hypnotic level no difficult chords the other person is the emotional crux as I sing I was the last to know.
With Phil on Drums and the experience of producing the Djune album in our bedroom Phil as the producer was a perfect fit. As the album developed it became less a Jimmy Vaughan inspired collection. The songs took shape and the variations in sound reflected the purpose and meanings of the lyrics. We worked together Roger had his input he was clear when a song didn’t work and sent me away to build on the lyrics. Broken Machine was shaped by my experience and the interaction of Phil and Roger.
BD: Does the Title of the album Broken Machine have any particular significance?
AW: The song Broken Machine came first, not a deliberate album title. Broken Machine is about relationships that do not work. The whole album is my life up to getting married. It is Ash from 15-30 nothing in the album covers the now it is set in the past. That said the track seemed the perfect words of the album title as it reflected the past.
BD: The album is in your name with the musicians chosen featured. Will this be the band you use when you tour? I am assuming here that you are going to be touring the album so we can hear the music live.
AW: Tour Plans… well, we are supporting South African guitarist Dan Patlansky when he tours in May. Really excited to be on the same bill and getting my music known across the U.K. we have other festivals and dates in the pipeline, it is all happening fast and once confirmed, there are some exciting Autumn dates in the pipeline I will be the first to be shouting about them through social media.
The band will definitely be Roger on bass and we are looking for a permanent drummer watch the space for the announcement. With the increasing number of gigs it would be impossible for Phil to continue in drumming role due to his commitment with Laurence Jones. So answer is yes, lots of opportunities to hear Ash Wilson play Broken Machine and more live.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. The lyrics are very strong including Domestic Violence on Words Of A Woman. Do the lyrics always come first or sometimes a guitar lick or riff inspire you?
AW: This was written after the birth of my first child I was feeling emotional and vulnerable. I overheard a conversation and put myself in a wife’s place when husband has an affair, the emotional abuse when it is found out. The song is emotionally charged as the poor women thinks today is going to be the same as any other day and in a couple hours later her entire world is turned upside down. Exploring how, why the lyrics are emotional and found them difficult to sing live.
BD: Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting?
AW: Normally my own experiences, the exception to date is Words Of A Woman. In fact, Roger loved that line hated the rest of the lyrics he felt were not so great, went away thought about it and remembered an event I had overheard a complete stranger. Talked to Roger as not sure about writing about someone else’s emotions, he said do it so wrote down a song that really works. Lots first on this album never written ballad before took a year to write. Could have gone to Sean but thought do it myself blaming my voice ability to level a room without doing anything but his voice. Played three years worked every time with Sean.
Moments that you had are gone we change, write and visually I try to make the words paint a picture then it is easy to write. Often it is a phrase or even nonsense at the start and write over and around and the flow of the song builds. The story unfolds. Or it can start with a guitar solo and that inspires.
Emotional involvement is a must especially important for a ballad like Holding Hands
Next album more confidence singing about other people as well as myself. I am quite conscious of people watching anything that affects not sure about going political frustration what is on TV politic
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing
Drums: Steve Gadd
Bass: Pino Palladino
Guitar: Jimmy Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall II (could have 10!)
Rhythm Guitar: Keith Richards
Keys: Stevie Wonder
Vocals: Etta James/Muddy Waters
These playing on the same stage would be really hard but interesting music would happen that I am positive.
Check out Bluesdoodles Review of Broken Machine HERE
Check out Ash Wilson’s Website HERE