Wishbone Ash live shot, 1976. New guitarist Laurie Wisefield is on the far right with the Gibson Explorer (courtesy wishboneash.co.uk)
GibsonBass I think you’ve proved in the recordings
that it works well for what you’ve done. Do you think like Laurie changed
the dynamic of the band at all or was it a combination of the fact you were
recording in America and Laurie joining?
Martin Turner Laurie couldn’t have been more different
than Ted really. Ted and Andy had a fantastic rapport, Ted was the blues feel
merchant and Andy was the kind of flash front man leaping about all over the
place and playing all the flash stuff. When Laurie joined the band he’s this
good looking little mighty munchkin who could play licks that we didn’t even
know existed, he was so flash he really was. I used to tell him hey man it’s
not about how many notes you can squeeze in to the friggin’ song just relax
but he’s a great guitar player you cannot fault his technique it’s really,
really impressive. Unfortunately I think Andy kind of found that a bit intimidating
at first. I could tell that it really fazed him, it knocked him back in terms
of his confidence. Laurie and him would be playing together and he’d be struggling
to stay with Laurie so then I’d find him in the corner of the studio practising
to get up to Laurie’s speed. I’m like Andy listen mate you don’t need to do
that, that punchy little new boy might be flash but he can’t do what you do,
stick with your blues thing but Andy needed to do that. It’s always good to
learn new skills and he did he picked up a lot from Laurie and eventually
emerged as an even more confident more accomplished musician but I think at
first it was quite a shock to the whole band just the impact Laurie had largely
because he was so radically different from Ted. Had we brought in another
player who was similar it wouldn't have been so seismic
GibsonBass Is there an album
you can say from that that you think would be definitive for the mark 2 lineup?
Martin Turner When we did Just Testing in ‘80 we’d
been back in England because we’d been living in the States for three years.
I felt it was wrong to go and live in America. We were spending huge amounts
of time and working there, I think we were in danger of losing our British
identity and I think actually we did and in the case of the dreaded Locked
In I think we completely lost our identity there for ten minutes. What the
hell were we trying to do? At the end of the Locked In album I was convinced
my career was finished. As far as I was concerned the album sucked it sounded
horrible. I had a major problem with my vocal chords and I ended up in a bloody
foetal position on the floor sobbing and I was ready to call Samaritans, it
was desperate. I think gradually we re-established our identity because the
American experience, the culture is very stimulating in so many ways but also
extremely overwhelming, you can’t help but become immersed. Although us English
partners speak the same language it’s not the same culture. Just Testing
we did at Surrey Sound and it was a funky little place that I’d work in doing
sessions and stuff and I really liked it. It wasn’t as big and corporate as
some of the places we’d been and I felt it gave a bit more freedom and for
me that particular album contains some of my best creative moments both as
a singer and a songwriter and also as a bass player. I know that the way that
the pitch of understanding that Steve and I had established at that point
was akin to telepathy. I mean we just kind of were bolted together when we
were playing musically and I could literally be standing there recording and
I’d be looking at my fingers but it was like watching someone else. I wasn’t
that conscious of what I was doing and the thing was so locked together.
GibsonBass You lock in on fills and stuff don’t
Martin Turner Yeah that’s right and Laurie was playing
some great rhythm guitar when we were putting the backing tracks down that
had a lovely rock ‘n’ roll edge to it. Andy at the time was the one guy that
lived way up north of London and we were down in Leatherhead doing the album,
he also had two small kids so he had to be up with his family quite a bit
around that era. He did come to the studio but not as much as the rest of
us and although that album was hard work, it always is, it was intense, I
really enjoyed making it. Even now I can listen to say New Rising Star which
is not one of the main songs, it’s tucked away on the album it’s not dynamic
it’s slow and pacey but I love what I’m doing on the bass. I love the bass
not me, because it’s got an incredible freedom about it that you can only
get when you’ve got immense confidence and you’re working together with a
team that gives you that. That’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling to have when
you’re making music it really is and that high that I got when I was making
that music comes back to me when I listen to it.
By the late 1970s Martins main stage bass was his Gibson Explorer inspired Hamer - with Thunderbird pickups and bridge - picture Beat Instrumental magazine
GibsonBass I’ll have to check that one out cause
I’ve not listened to it.
Martin Turner You could say the same about some
of the others, Imsomnia is a bit manic, I mean the guitar sound that we put
together for Andy it’s hard to believe that it’s a bloody guitar. It sounds
like a synthesizer It’s an outrageous sound really. It maybe wasn’t as commercial
as everyone wanted. I think everyone seemed to be at the time a bit thirsty
for commercial success that they’d see other bands getting around them but
I didn’t give a fuck about that. It’s like I’m going to do what I do and I
felt that that some of that stuff we were doing was really a bit experimental
and arty arguably but it was certainly what I was in to and that was why I
was so gob smacked when they turned round and said they wanted to get a singer
in the band.
GibsonBass Is that when things started to go wrong
for the Mark 2 line up?
Martin Turner I was absolutely gob smacked partly
because I thought it was the most stupid decision I’d ever heard. A band that
peaked in 1973 and is now it’s 1980, we’d just been paid a quarter of a million
dollars to make an album and you guys are bitching about lack of success.
What the fuck are you on you know. Lack of success my arse, the last gig we
played was in a Spanish bull ring and we got paid like eight grand, what are
you talking about lack of success, “well no we’re talking you know commercially”.
GibsonBass I think a lot of bands would kill for
what you’ve had in Wishbone
Martin Turner I said that to them, what you mean
commercially what you want to be on friggin’ Top Of The Pops and they’re like
“yeah it’d be good. You know, front man we’d be able to do some of that shit.”
I’m saying Jesus you guys are creating a problem that doesn’t exist, you’re
then trying to fixed it with some half arsed friggin’ idea that ain’t gonna
work. What is this singer going to do when I’m singing the Argus material
on stage is he going to sing it for me or is he going to stand at the side
of the stage with a pint of beer while I sing it as I did on the record? So
it was “ah we knew you were going to say that so we’ve decided we are going
to do it whether you like it or not”. I was like oh yeah, we’ve got a little
conspiracy going on here. Right you fucking guys need to get out of my house
right now cause I was about to hit someone. I was that fuming I mean I had
steam coming out of my ears. I was so friggin’ angry and it’s like right you
bunch of creeps sod off. I was so emotional about it I was in danger of hurting
someone and they all slunk out of the door like naughty dogs and that was
the end of my involvement in Wishbone Ash 1980.
GibsonBass You got back together with the mark
one line up around 87 was it?
Martin Turner Yeah I was kind of beginning to calm
down a bit by then. I mean for years I didn’t even want to hear the name Wishbone
Ash so traumatised was I.
GibsonBass At that time after Wishbone Ash in 1980,
did you get approached by other bands or consider working with other bands?
Or did you kind of think no I want to take a back seat now?
Martin Turner I had various offers, some of them
absolutely off the wall. I nearly went off to Botswana, the Calaharie Desert.
I got on great with a guy called Banjo Marsell who I was recording with, I
wouldn’t say we fell in love but we just really hit it off and he’s a great
guy. Him and all the people he knew had been involved in Gracelands, the Paul
Simon album which was recorded with a mobile down in that neck of the woods.
They had all these people ringing up wanting to come out there and record
in this studio that Paul Simon had used which didn’t exist it was a mobile.
So they were actually buying a club to run for live events and building a
studio, there were a queue of people waiting to come Stevie Wonder, Diana
Ross, all these folks wanting to come and record there and they wanted me
to just pick up my studio and go out there and do it with them. I was seriously
on the point of doing it but then I kind of wimped out at the last minute,
my life was too much of a mess at the time. I did a lot of working with black
musicians and creative people, people from the States. Also Dennis Bovelle,
this Barbados dude who worked with Linton Quasi Johnson, the Jamaican poet.
He was the dub king at the time Dennis, a fabulous guy and again me and him
we got on really well. We were from completely different backgrounds but
recording and working together we just wanted it to carry on but we ended
up going our different ways.
1988 version of Blind Eye / Lady Whiskey from the reunion tour (click the central arrow to activate video)
GibsonBass So in 1987 what happened? how did the
band get back together, did they approach you?
Martin Turner I think it was pretty obvious that
their career had taken a bit of a nosedive. Who am I to describe their albums
but I mean I can’t listen to them, they just sound lost. The first album they
did after I left which Jon Wetton was going to be playing on, when I heard
that I thought wow that’s going to be great. I knew Jon Wetton, we’d met and
got on great and I knew what a great player he was and also his song writing
and singing skills that he’d been developing. So I actually thought at first
wow looks like Wishbone Ash are going to get the commercial success they seem
to yearn for, and he was gone before he’d finished making the album. Subsequent
to that the next couple of albums I think, maybe I’m talking out of turn but
I thought they varied between extremely ordinary to like abysmal. So by the
time they got to the late 80’s they had financial problems, they’d been advised
to go bankrupt. They didn’t but things weren’t good and they needed to do
something and actually Miles Copeland first spoke to me about it. I had my
studio at that point in the basement of his IRS building in Notting Hill Gate
and I was in their one day recording and he walked in and said “listen I’ve
started a record label, there’s going to be a label called No Speak Records
and I want you guys to put the original Wishbone Ash back together and make
an instrumental album for me. I’m like “Wow, that’s an interesting one, yeah
I’d be willing to talk about that provided I can produce the record” You know
there I was with a studio, etc.
GibsonBass Yeah I guess you’d got more and more
in to producing.
Martin Turner Which was agreed to first of all that
I would produce it with my brother Kim. Then he had to go off on the road
with Andy Summers and William Orbit got involved for the nuevo of course.
Now William’s brilliant but he’s not really a guitar man, he’s like synthesizers,
drum machines and all that jazz so it was a strange kind of miss match to
make but I think we came out with a reasonably good album. William’s a great
guy but I think his manager saw it as a career move for him to work with a
name band from a different kind of genre of music. It really wasn’t ideal
that we used drum machines, William wanted to do that for speed really but
Steve should have played on that whole album. He programmed Steve’s parts
very accurately and it was modern technology that had just come out, all brave
new world but to me it was crap compared with the real thing you know organic