We closed Part 1 of the interview by discussing Ash Wilson's tussle with the emotional vocals required for the good old-fashioned smouldering soulful numbers on Broken Machine. Less traditionally though, there are quirky aspects to some of the opening tracks on the album – like, I suggest, the snippets of synthesizer on the title track.
“The synthesizer’s an interesting story," is his response. "I had a part-time job in a little piano academy, and they had a bloke come in and donate a load of stuff, and the lady who ran the place didn’t want any of it. So I got this old 1980s Korg organ-string synth out of it, which I think is a similar one to what Vangelis used when he did the soundtrack to Blade
Runner, it had that sort of sound to it. So I played it to my brother and said ‘Look
mate, you can play the Vangelis thing’.
And he said, ‘We’ve got to play this thing on the album.’ And I’m like – ‘Come on, this sound and our record?
How’s it going to work?’ So Phil
took it home with him, and came up with this synth part that’s on the title
track, in the chorus. There’s this low
end thing, and a little melody that sort of skips away in the background. He put it on the title track for a joke, and sent me it, and I
thought it was really funny and was like, ‘Yeah, wicked man, take it off
though’. So he took it off, and the pair
of us were like, ‘Oh, I think it was better with it on!’” he laughs.
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It helps to create a sense of alienation though doesn’t it, I suggest, that Blade Runner-ish sound going with the ‘broken machine’ metaphor?
“Yeah definitely!” Wilson agrees. “That’s kind of how we sold it to ourselves, because at first we were like – no-one in their right mind would put an organ synth on a blues album! But then we started talking about this whole ‘broken machine’ thing – I’d got the lyrics by this point, and I was ‘well actually mate, it kind of contextually makes sense, because this thing isn’t working right!’”
All of which leads me to observe that the Wilson boys had learnt something about the different sounds that they could pursue.
“Yeah, for sure. You don’t need to just stick to guitar, and bass and drums. If you’re trying to create an interesting thing to listen to, and an interesting thing to sing over as well, from my own point of view as a vocalist the music inspires you a certain way, and if the music pushes you in a certain direction then – it’s that honesty that I was trying to get across.”
If by now you’ve picked up the idea that younger brother Phil Wilson was a key component in the development of Broken Machine, then you’d be right. He not only plays drums, he’s credited with producing and mixing the album – and as a co-writer of the material. He may be the junior partner in years, but since the age of 16 Phil has been on the road with guitarists like Scott McKeon and Jesse Davey – much to the chagrin of his older brother, who explains how their musical relationship developed as a result.
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“I’m ‘Oh man, you just keep playing with these people, that I’m not even fit to stand in the same room as!’ So what that did create was first of all a respect for my brother, because he’s operated on a totally different level, and also because he’s my brother I’m really happy to play things I can’t play in front of him, and sound really bad on the journey of trying to find something that sounds really good. Because he’s my brother, and it doesn’t really matter.
“So I’ll come in with ideas, and play them to Phil, and he’ll go ‘Have you thought about doing this? Have you thought about doing that?’ And generally I’ll go ‘No. That’s a really good idea, let’s do that.’ What’s really cool is Phil has no knowledge of harmony, so he can’t tell me what chord to play or what type of chord to play, or where it needs to go – so I have to find it. So we have this bizarre relationship where I generally bring the ideas, and he says things that then create new ideas.”
As Wilson says, it’s a relationship that works for him.
“It works really well, because I can write songs myself, but there’s a certain sound when I write with my brother, and that why I’ve always said ‘We wrote this together’. Because he pushes me in a different direction, and makes me sound not like me any more, and I can’t do that the same way without him.”
Just as the album came to completion though, Phil got the call from Laurence Jones, and so is otherwise engaged as Ash Wilson starts to take Broken Machine on the road. Roger Inniss has signed up full-time however, and the breaking news is that he’s now joined by Russ Parker on drums (formerly with Scott McKeon – those connections again!) to form the trio that will be the Ash Wilson Band for 2017.
“There’s a long term plan,” says Wilson, “of trying to get it so that there’s a formidable unit and it’s a regular unit. And Rog and I have got a few things up our sleeve.
“I’m quite restrained on the album with my guitar playing,” he adds. “I don’t really go bonkers. But live I have the facility to be a little bit more exciting with my guitar playing, so I think that’ll be one element where hopefully people who are into that will say, well the album’s great, but live he does all this other stuff with the guitar.”
Broken Machine comes out in April. The road beckons. Either way, make a point of catching Ash Wilson. In the meantime, you'll have to make do with the video of the title track - 'Broken Machine' itself.
ICYMI, check out Part 1 of the Ash Wilson interview - 'Scratching The Itch'
Check out Ash Wilson's forthcoming tour dates.