When you’re the first to play a Flying V guitar live while creating the dual guitar sound and ultimately becoming the subject of iconic rock photography, you can only be Guitarist/Vocalist/Songwriter Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash. As one of the founders, this extraordinarily talented musician and his band started their worldwide phenomenon in 1970 with the release of their self-titled debut album. Wishbone Ash are still going strong over fifty years later with a total of twenty-four studio LP’s and eleven plus live albums under their belt, and are currently touring with a new album LIVE DATES LIVE released September 29, 2023 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their highest selling live album LIVE DATES, originally released in 1973. Florida fans can experience this amazing show on October 27th at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, October 28th at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton and on October 29th at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa.

Catching up with Powell while he and his bandmates Guitarist Mark Abrahams, Bassist Bob Skeat and Drummer Mike Truscott were playing in England, he revealed some details about the new album, the eleven hits that comprise the outstanding track listing, the new show, a bit about the early days and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with the new tour in support of the fifty years and the remake LIVE DATES LIVE album?
Andy Powell: Firstly, the original album was LIVE DATES, recorded over a whole tour, so we were able to save the best nights. It was recorded on the Rolling Stones Mobile (studio). So, what we’ll be doing is just recreating that whole album played live in one fell swoop, and then some additional songs outside of that album context. That’s what we will be doing, and actually it flows really well as a live set. Sometimes if you play a live album or an album that was recorded in a studio, it doesn’t really work onstage as a crowd raising thing. This set was designed back in the day, fifty years ago to be a complete show, so it works well as a live performance. Yeah, the fans love it and of course the marketing option is doing great, and of course it marks the fifty-year anniversary which is quite sobering in its own right.

SFL Music: The album has songs like “Jailbait”, “The Pilgrim” and “The King Will Come”. What inspired those songs?
Powell: Well, that was from the show. All the songs that we were writing, it’s kind of autobiographical. We were young (he laughed). Early twenties, late teens and you don’t have a life at that age. You haven’t lived a life, so all these songs were events that were happening to us as we were traveling, and the major change in our lives was really we were coming to the United States and staging these tours, and these tours of the states in order to try and break through into the American market, which we did to a pretty large extent back in those days. Well, “The King Will Come” came from the ARGUS album (released in 1972) which preceded LIVE DATES. That was I would say, our biggest critical success although LIVE DATES the album, superseded it in pure worldwide sales. “The King Will Come”, all the songs on ARGUS actually, those were written just a bit prior, a couple of years prior, and they were just the results of we were the fresh form of the band. We would travel and do shows all around Britain. A couple of us were grammar school boys. We had something of an education. We had a little bit of the classics, we’d read. Like all the progressive rock bands from the early seventies in Britain, if you look at the lyrics that were written for those songs, they came from our school boy studies because that was the life that we experienced at that point. Then you come a little bit later and you get songs like “The Pilgrim”. It’s us experimenting with jazz prog if you like, and flexing our sort of improvisational muscle. Then songs that sort of came from, influenced by travels in America. Songs like “Blowin Free”. It’s basically about leaving a love affair behind in Europe and traveling to America. I mean, you have to imagine back in those days, the early tours that we did, there was no internet. International telephone calls cost a fortune. We actually sent telegrams. Everything’s fine..stop..see you in six weeks..stop. So, when you went away, you really did go away and you were cut off. It’s just a great road song influenced by traveling across plains and sunshine and freedom really. The freedom you get when you go on a giant road trip which is essentially what a tour is. Then you come to a song like “Rock n Roll Widow” which is also on the album. Our first venture into Texas and the first show we did there, that was in Austin and we had a fatality in the audience. A shooting. That’s common place these days. So, that song was really written from that experience. All the songs had some reference to being a traveling band. Nowadays, songs become a little bit more esoteric. A little bit more to do with more mature life experiences, if you will. You know, personal things, philosophies, things you’ve learned, which you learn an enormous amount traveling around the world. So, it’s all about that really.

SFL Music: You did relocate to the U.S. in 1974?
Powell: Yeah, that’s right.

SFL Music: What prompted you guys to do that?
Powell: American manager, Miles Copeland (III). Then he went on to manage The Police and other bands. The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, but we were his first band. He did an amazing thing really. He signed us to the parent company of Deko, MCA which they became Universal. So, we were signed in L.A., unlike other British bands at the time who would have been signed to a subsidiary in London. So, what that meant was, because we were with a bona fide American label, we were treated like an American band and our product as they called it, was released simultaneously all around the world because Deko, MCA just had a vast network of distribution. So, when our albums came out, that actually speaks to the longevity of the band to the last degree because those classic albums, they went out everywhere. Like all over the world. I mean, you could go to Finland. You could go to Japan. You could go to India which meant yeah, a Wishbone Ash album would have been in stores which is an incredible thing. Also, in conjunction with that, we were getting quite a lot of money for these record advances and so, we were prompted to spend that in America. Also, if you brought that money into the U.K. at that time, the tax liability on large money in a short period of time was 83% (he laughed). So, there was all these forces. American manger, American label. Making records with an American producer or a couple of American producers. So, we thought, well why not? Let’s just do that for a year, try a sort of tax exile thing. Then that became two years, became three years and I think a couple of the guys in the band, they were homesick. They didn’t really take to America. I really took to it like a duck to water because unlike living in post war Britain where I’d grown up, I suddenly realized that America’s a fun place, right? I mean, you can have a lifestyle. You don’t need even a lot of money. I like to do everything boating, skiing. I like the recreational stuff, and so I took full advantage of all of that and it became a lifestyle. It became ingrained in me you know, in my early twenties. I made friends and put down roots and subsequently, I just became American in my kind of sensibilities.

SFL Music: You were an innovator with the dual guitars and the Flying V guitar. What drew you to the Flying V? Was it the sound?
Powell: Well, it wasn’t a popular guitar. Now, it’s one of the three iconic guitars in rock you’ll see a lot in metal bands, but I happened upon it. Gibson brought the guitar out and they couldn’t sell it because most people thought it was a bit too far out. I was in a store in London buying equipment. Orange equipment which had just come out and now it’s really popular gear, but we were one of the first bands that used it. I was in the store trying amps out and I didn’t have a guitar with me, and there was one of these Flying Vs on the wall which was a ’67. We’re talking ’72, so it was only five years old, but it was fresh out of the case because it couldn’t sell. I tried the thing, I went, this is incredible! It was a great sounding guitar all of the sudden, and so I fell in love with it immediately, bought it and I realized very quickly, it was performance guitar because you can’t really sit down and sing. It kind of prompted me to perform with it more onstage, instead of being a serious musician which I was and still am, but it made me project a bit more, and I think at the time, rock photography was really at its peak and the magazines in the U.K especially, the weekly music press, photographers loved seeing a fresh new image and so I was all over the magazines. I think that’s what really helped with the familiarity of the band. A picture’s worth a thousand words, with all due respect. It’s like if you get your photograph on the internet or in a magazine, it’s cool. So, all those factors played into my choosing that guitar. I still love those instruments and subsequently, the original one has become extremely valuable by Mid-Century artifacts that people pay a lot of money for because they produce so few of them.

SFL Music: What inspired you to become a musician and play the guitar in the first place?
Powell: Well, if you think back to the fifties and transistor radios, and always hearing in England the equivalent of surf music which was the music of Hank B. Marvin and the Shadows. That was a band that they played a lot of instrumental music. They influenced a lot of British guitar players from Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck before they got involved in the blues. Every British guitar player, Peter Frampton. They were always, tongue in cheek sort of mention the Shadows really, and then of course it was Chuck Berry. Chuck berry, I never heard anyone kind of do that with a guitar, rock n roll thing in you know, late ‘50’s early ‘60’s. So, I started playing at eleven years of age. I couldn’t afford a guitar, so a lot of us kids would attempt to make our own guitars. I didn’t do it in wood shop. I did it actually at home on the dining room table. My mother must have had the patience of a saint with me carving this wood and stuff. Yeah, I made a couple. So, I really got to know and understand how an electric guitar was put together. That was my teenage years. Some kids would be into whatever it was, drama or sports, and I was just obsessed with learning everything I could about guitars. It was magical, and you can imagine of course in post war Britain, we couldn’t get access to fine American instruments we’d seen in magazines. So, the next thing we’d do is just make our own.

SFL Music: That’s very clever. You’ve been cited as influencing other world renown musicians. You guys are still on tour and recording new albums. What would you say is the secret to the success that you’ve had?
Powell: Well, that same passion that kind of got me into it. Just keep your passion. Become excited every time you pick up the guitar or you write a song or make a new album. Have that sense of wonder about you just like you always did. Of course, you’ve got to deal with the practice. You’ve got put in the hours. I mean for me; I get up on stage and I just summon up that passion and I’m like a kid again (he laughed). I think that’s the secret to it. You somehow respect the creative news and you just relate to the passion thing. I think that’s the key thing. If you allow yourself to become sinical or jaded, then it’s time to hang up the old guitar really.

SFL Music: That’s good advice. Is that what you would advise a new musician?
Powell: Yeah, I think it is definitely trying to keep that intact to be inspired. It doesn’t just have to be one narrow genre of music. It can be, yeah tune your ears into everything and listen to everything. I mean, hone your musical chops. Hone your musical ear. Singing is an amazing release. I came to singing later in life after I kind of got to grips with the guitar. I discovered that I really enjoyed singing and it’s just like yoga or something. It’s an amazing release for a person to sing in a choir or sing in a little band or sing with other people. It’s something we probably used to do a lot more of back in the day as a society, but we sing in our bedrooms now to ourselves, and I think it’s a wonderful thing to do. Its therapeutic. If you have any hangups or your angst or whatever. It’s an amazing release, singing.

SFL Music: Did you take formal lessons or teach yourself?
Powell: No, I didn’t, but actually here or there I took a couple of spot lesson from people with the singing. Actually, when I was in New York, I went to a vocal coach for a couple of weeks and I actually made copes notes. That actually was extremely interesting. So, I did to some degree. Guitar not really, no. I just picked things up, got books and listened to an awful lot of people. Copied things at first that people were doing. Yeah, that’s how I learned really.

SFL Music: What did you think was so interesting about the vocal lessons?
Powell: Well, I mentioned yoga, breathing. To be a good singer and to project. I remember, I first went to this coach and he was coaching an opera singer and she was doing these exercises. I never heard anyone do anything like this. Crazy yelps and screeches and things that just open up the vocal cords so you can engage your brain with what your diaphragm is doing, your chest, your lungs, your vocal cords, and there’s lots of exercises than can be done to improve your range. To improve your power and to improve your breathing. It kind of gets into anatomy and it gets into yoga, actually.

SFL Music: Ah, I didn’t realize that yoga is connecting.
Powell: Yeah, because a lot of people when they sing recreationally for the first time or whatever, they sing with the throat voice. They haven’t really learned to open up the chest muscles, the diaphragm and to relax. The more relaxed you are with singing, the more powerful you become. If you watch Pavarotti, he’s projecting massive power and control. It’s all to do with harnessing the breath. Yeah, then this muscle memory comes into play with the vocal cords. You can hit certain notes just off the top of your head because I don’t know, the brain engages with the vocal cords, and it’s the same muscle memory that you use in your fingers when you’re playing an instrument.

SFL Music: Are you all doing any videos?
Powell: During COVID we were doing videos to keep the online presence going. I have a Patreon site where I do a lot of videos and you can join that, patreon.com/andypowell. I do tips like I just told you about. I get into just life on the road. A lot of real-life, real-world videos. We just actually did a re-recording of the LIVE DATES album which is an audio experience. It’s this current band’s tribute to that recording. That’s the latest release. There are fan videos all over YouTube you can find.

SFL Music: You guys have a festival called AshFest?
Powell: Yeah. When we do them in the States that’s what they’re called, but when we do them in Europe it’s called AshCon, like Ash convention, and those happen yearly and fans come from all over. They come from the U.K. obviously, but France, Germany, United States for sure. We just have a full weekend of all things related to our band.

SFL Music: Shows and merchandise?
Powell: All of that, yeah. Workshops and guest speakers and all kind of things.

SFL Music: You also have the box set for ARGUS for the fiftieth anniversary as well, correct?
Powell: Yes. That’s an amazing thing. We’ve been doing releases like box set, high end packages for the diehard fans.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you want fans to know about the tour or anything else coming out?
Powell: Yeah, check out the Argus box set. There’s a whole slew of things coming out in the next year or so. We’re working with an art gallery in London called The Flood Gallery. We’re producing the Numbered prints of the ARGUS album which people loved to get framed, and they’re actually collector items in their own right because we worked with Hipgnosis which was the renowned producer of lots of 1970’s classic artwork. They did all the Pink Floyd albums, the (Led) Zeppelin and the Wishbone albums also. We also have a coffee table book coming out shortly which is basically a lot of iconic photography from the band by some of these top rock photographers from back in the day. Plus, a lot of text interviews with the original band. Then in the little later future, we finally managed to persuade the BBC to release for distribution, all of the recordings that we did at BBC Night recordings. That’s hugely exciting because they’re great recordings of us and everyone who’s anyone who has recorded at BBC. So, that will appear in a box set. So, there’s lots of this retrospective material out. You mentioned the ARGUS box set. THE VINTAGE YEARS box set which came out a few years back. There’s a whole career retrospective. In addition to that, you’ll have my autobiography that’s been out a few years now. We’re selling those on tour. Whether I’ll have those on the American tour I’m not just sure yet, but there’s lots and lots of material if you’re a big fan of the band that just enriches the experience.

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