An Auditory Exploration with Martin Turner: Founding Original Member of Wishbone Ash
Martin Turner is best known as one of the founding original members of Wishbone Ash, a key creative force who was instrumental in many of their albums from the 70’s and beyond, including the iconic Argus. After the aptly title Strange Affair in 1991. Martin Turner would find himself on his own – eventually releasing his own collection of albums. Turner’s latest masterwork is Written In The Stars, a stunning collection of tunes destined to enrapture Wishbone Ash devotees as well as inspire a whole new generation of fans. We caught up with Martin Turner via intercontinental exchange to find out more about the auditory exploration of Written In The Stars and other cosmic topics of intrigue. Read on…
Is there any overall story or concept behind the CD title, Written in the Stars?
The main song “Written in the Stars” is kind of about my belief that, pretty much everything exists like a blueprint, kind of on a cosmic level. And then on a personal level too, our lives are about 70 years and it’s a blueprint. Yeah, it’s written in the stars. Obviously we make our choices; we go through on our spiritual journey, so to speak.
That’s the concept really. What a wonderful set up the world is, our planet, especially with today’s technology. Telescopes – they can see into deep space, all kinds of stuff about what goes on out there, but it’s noticeable that they haven’t actually found a planet exactly like ours yet. [Laughs] So, it’s a fascinating subject, and that was really the loose theme for the album. The opening tracks, “Beauty of Chaos” was just an instrumental. What I had in mind was the irony of, say when you look at another universe and there’s like a supernova explosion or something, we look at it from millions of miles away, that is light years away and it looks absolutely fantastic and beautiful, but if we were actually there in the in the midst of it, it would be totally chaotic, like hell. So, that was just the theme for that song really, and all the other songs kind of link in just a tenuous way, some on a personal level, some in reference to stars, generally.
How does Written in the Stars compared to the classic Wishbone Ash albums?
I’d rather leave that to other people. I mean, obviously there are links, say for instance, the harmony guitar thing. Which, we do from time to time and that appears in a few places on this album. When we started Wishbone in the 70s, we used to do that. I mean, I was brought up on classical music. I tend to be pretty good at coming up with what I call, “pseudo classical melodies.” So that would be an obvious link, other than that I don’t know. I just do what I’ve always done really, which is write songs and record it. It’s for other people to judge. Maybe it comes out sounding like Wishbone Ash, maybe sounding new and different. I don’t know. It’s hard for me to be that objective.
How easy or difficult has it been to record material for an all new album? Or, did you find you are now more creative than ever?
Yes. I mean, since I’ve started up again, I think it was what? Ten years ago I got back on the road playing shows and I’ve tended to concentrate on the old Wishbone catalog and the many, many albums, I had a choice of material to choose from. I’ve been happy doing that, but a lot of people would suggest isn’t it about time you made a new album? So we finally got around to it this year. And I’ve made the mistake of thinking that the guys in my band – the drummer and guitar player were primarily performers because that’s how I’ve known them; but I was really pleasantly surprised when we actually got into the studio and started working on our ideas, just how creative they are. It was really refreshing and it gave us a lot of impetus, and with everyone being inspired by each other.
When you look back on Strange Affair, your final album with Wishbone Ash, what do you think of it now?
I think it was aptly named. It was a strange affair, yeah. Very much so. Tricky period. I think Andy Powell was getting ready to go and live in the States. Steve Upton, the drummer, left during the album which was massive. He had been the backbone of the band in the sense of running it on a day to day basis. Finances, taking care of business, he was brilliant at that. It was a bit like going over a cliff. But, we got the album made. I was very focused on the mechanics of getting the album made, I was producing it, I was engineering it. Which is why there’s not a huge amount of creativity from me on the album. I was too involved in the mechanics of getting the thing made. Do you remember when they used to call them “records”? I think that’s a good name, because it is a record of what is happening in everyone’s lives in that given point and time when you make the music. That was a strange album, no doubt about it.
After that Ted Turner departed from the band. Do you still keep in touch with him or any of the former members?
Yeah, he’s in a band that’s managed by the same manager as I have. We’re both pretty close to London, so we get together now and again. Steve Upton, the drummer, is living in France. I speak to him fairly frequently and we saw each other a couple of weeks ago when he was over here to see his children. We went out and had a meal – that was nice. Ted is in Arizona, I speak to him on the phone now and again. He’s got an English wife. So when he comes here for visits we see each other. We get on – we’re almost like brothers. We’ve got the same surname, so why not? [Laughs] Unfortunately Andy is the only one – that’s where the cancer spread, really.
Is there any chance of you and your band making your way to the states to do a show or a tour?
Well I hope so. We would very much like to do that, we did it a couple of years ago with a band called Nektar. They put a tour together which I think only lasted two weeks. Maybe 10 or 11 gigs, which is not really long enough. You’ve got to be on the road for a month, at least, I would say to make it financially viable. We lost money on that tour. It’s just finding someone that’s capable of putting that together.
Do you have any messages for your fans here in the states?
Yeah, any Wishbone followers – it’d be nice if they would check this album out. It seems to be from the feedback and comments, very well received here in Europe. Quite glowing complimentary things have been said.
Martin Turner’s Band:
Martin Turner (vocals/bass)
Misha Nikolic (guitar/vocals)
Danny Willson (guitar/vocals)
Tim Brown (drums/vocals)
(Interview by Ken Morton)