SIXTY SECONDS WITH...
A minute’s all it takes to find out what makes a great guitarist tick. Before he jumped into his limo for the airport we grabbed a quick chat with contemporary UK blues singer-songwriter,
This month we meet Lincolnshire’s writer and player of contemporary blues, Ash Wilson.
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
AW: Jim Dunlop Gator Grip 2mm. I’ve always loved heavy picks, as I have more control of dynamics than with the thinner type. I also love the way these sound, I think because having slightly curved edges they sound less harsh striking the string.
GT: You have to give up all your pedals but three, what will they be?
AW: First of all a tuner! All of my guitars are reissues so I have tuning issues between and occasionally during songs so my best friend is my trusty Korg Pitchblack! I’m a big fan of Fuzz Face fuzzes and the best I’ve come across is the KingTone Vintage Fuzz pedal. You can go from clean as a whistle to full blown bone shaking fuzz with just the volume pot on the guitar, so I’d definitely take that. Finally I’m in love with the small in size but big in tone Ibanez Mini Analogue Delay. I’m really into slap-back and with the repeats being quite dark it blends better with the direct signal.
GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to do so in a band?
AW: I flirt with bass guitar and have done a couple of jobs as a bassist in a theatre pit but never in a band. I’m a massive Glen Hughes fan so I was going to join a band as a bassist that would be the angle I’d be looking at.
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
AW: Although I can read music I’m really out of practice with sight reading and would have to put some serious hours in to do it confidently.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
AW: I think as long as you are using a good quality cable you can’t go wrong. I know people who swear by £150 jack-to-jacks but I’ve never had any issues with Planet Waves.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing that you’re slightly jealous of?
AW: The player I’m most into at the moment is Doyle Bramhall II. I love his style and the way he underplays, using interesting note choices to express himself. On a side note, his tone is to die for.
GT: Your studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?
AW: The one I own that has real sentimental value for me is my 62 Reissue Strat from the ’90s. I’ve had it half my life and wherever I’ve toured it’s been my main guitar ,so lots of memories associated with that instrument. Whether I’d run into a burning building to rescue it or not is another matter.
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
AW: My 633 Engineering Groove King. It’s a 50 watt 6L6 tube head that sounds a little like a Super Reverb but has a feature called ‘Variable Feedback’ which effectively enables you to set where the power tubes start to break up. It’s a great feature meaning that no matter what size the room is I can get that ‘just breaking up’ natural valve tone. As for settings; no two rooms react the same so I usually just try and set it to suit the room. It’s an incredible amp, I’ve yet to find a bad sound in it.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars?
AW: I have a Les Paul ’58 reissue and the neck is pretty hefty on it so I have a lower action than I would on my Strat to compensate. On the Strat I’d say it’s medium - high enough to play slide on and just miss the frets.
GT: What strings do you use?
On my Strat I use D’Addario EXL 117s, 11-56 gauge as I’m tuned down
Eb to so I need a heavier string to compensate. For my Les Paul and ES-335 it’s EXL 116’s, 11-52 gauge as I don’t need the extra heavy bass strings with humbuckers. I rarely use a Telecaster but when I do I tend to go for EXL10’s, 10-48 as I much prefer the tone of a Telecaster with lighter strings.
GT: Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
AW: David Gilmour. My parents had a live VHS tape that they had recorded off the TV of Pink Floyd’s Pulse tour. I pretty much wrecked the end of the tape constantly watching Comfortably Numb trying to work out the solo!
GT: What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
AW: A Fender Stratocaster. I didn’t even know what one looked like. I’d mentioned to a friend I wanted a guitar and he said, “You should get a Fender Stratocaster”. I thought, “Wow, Fender Stratocaster that sounds amazing!” I still think it’s the coolest sounding guitar name on the planet.
GT: The best gig you ever did?
AW: I think I’d have to say my first ‘Ash Wilson’ last year. I’ve always been in bands and I found real security in being the guitarist on the side. When I started doing my own shows I was pretty nervous about being the front man, especially that first show playing my own songs. Everyone was really welcoming, and there was a really amazing vibe in the room. I came off stage on cloud 9. That’s the aim really, play every gig like it’s my last because it’s a privilege to be up on stage.
GT: Worst playing nightmare?
AW: I was on tour in Poland and it was our first show. We got to the venue an hour after we were due to go on having just finished a 26-hour drive. Upon getting to the venue the fellow who’d put us on insisted we literally unload the van and go on. I got everything set up and managed to play maybe three notes before my amp blew up before then getting an electric shock on the microphone.
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learn?
AW: I liken music to conversation. It’s more interesting if there’s more than one person to talk to, and no one likes people who talk too much.
GT: Pre-gig warm-up routine?
AW: I never used to but now I sing I have to as I need to not have to think about my guitar playing. I don’t really do any formal routine; I just noodle about 10 minutes before I go on, before reminding myself of the riff for the first song!
GT: If you could put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be?
AW: I love the groove of Jeff Porcaro, so we’ll start there. On bass, James Jamerson, Dr John on Fender Rhodes and vocals, Jimmie Vaughan guitar, Aretha on vocals.
GT: Who’s the greatest guitarist that’s ever lived?
AW: We have yet to see anyone innovate like Jimi Hendrix. He contributed more in four years than most do in a lifetime.
GT: Is there a solo you really wish you had played?
AW: Hundreds! If I had to pick one it would be BB King’s playing on Sweet Little Angel from Live At The Regal. The way the BB lays into the first few notes is sheer class.
GT: What’s the song of your own of which you’re most proud?
AW: On my new album Broken Machine the song Show Me How To Love You was mainly recorded live. When it came to the solo section, rather than continuing with the rhythm I just went for it. Thankfully the guys went with me and we ended up jamming the whole solo. I’m really proud we managed to create something in the moment.
GT: What would you most like to be remembered for?
AW: I’d be great to be remembered as a guy who had great tone. But to be remembered with anything music related would be amazing!
I PLAYED THREE OR FOUR NOTES BEFORE MY AMP BLEW UP, THEN GOT AN ELECTRIC SHOCK ON THE MICROPHONE