Ash Grunwald – Now

With one of the most talked about live shows at this year’s Byron Bay Blues Festival, Ash Grunwald hits The Jack in Cairns on Sunday 25th October as part of his national ‘NOW’ album tour. Recently returning from a massive tour of Canada including shows at the Winnipeg and Vancouver Folk Festivals, Grunwald brings his 8th studio album to North Queensland for one massive Sunday session!

Catching up with Ash recently, I asked him about the making of his latest album in his hometown of Byron Bay at Studio 301. A studio which is earning a reputation as the ‘go to’ studio for a lot of bands in the area.

“It is the main good studio in my area and it was really the one to go to and record with Nick Didi who was working there. He did The Waifs and Kasey Chambers’s album and obviously has a good bio of all of the stuff he has done in his career. But 301 got sold recently so it’s an era gone by already. That amazing Neve desk that everything went through is gone out of that studio and is in Sydney cause its world heritage listed”

One of Studio 301 draw cards with many musicians is the Heritage-listed, ex-Festival Records vintage Neve desk the studio features.

“At the time I didn’t realise how good the desk was until a mate of mine who works in the studio said that it is possibly the best desk in the world!. That particular desk has recorded a lot of Australia’s classic albums. So using that desk you don’t want to mess with it too much once it’s gone through all those nice pre-amps. So you want to do everything then and then, and that pretty much ended up on the album. Very much an old school recording to tape kind of process, which was a big difference for us.”

Listening to ‘Now’ you can really feel and hear the traditional power trio reminiscent of seminal acts such as Hendrix and Cream. Along with collaborator Pete Wilkins (formerly Blue King Brown) on Drums & Percussion, the group create a modern psychedelic, swamp rock blues album with a fat bass sound courtesy of Ian Peres (Wolfmother) on synth.

“For a lot of my career I’ve tried to do something different and not so straight down the line. Even on this one to make it a bit different instead of using Bass Guitar we went with the Bass Synth. It just sounds fat as all hell, which was my vision. Ian Peres makes it sound amazing.”

“I just wanted to take that psychedelic rock thing and just have one element of it. I’d used the Moog on my last studio album Troubles Door to do some bass lines, just because it was so fat; analogue, warm and beautiful. So I wanted to take that into this new kind of three piece thing but have it played live rather than being re-done in the electronic context. I’m really happy how it turned out.”

Premiered recently on Double J, ‘Second Guess’ is the first single from ‘Now’ and hits you off guard with an overflow of groove from the opening riff. Adding tight percussion and that unique Moog synth bass line, it’s the essence of what made Australia and the rest of the world originally fall in love with Ash Grunewald’s music.

“It’s a bit old school in that it’s just musicians playing together to make that sound, rather than over dubbing it and fiddling around on the computer which I’ve done a lot of in the past. Second Guess is really about getting out in nature and reflecting on society and where we are at. Being like these busy little bees that we’re being these days. We’ve got these tools that are great when we’re controlling them, but it’s almost like they’re controlling us now. In the sense that our behaviour has been changed by our tools. I was thinking a lot about that and it definitely came out in the song writing.”

A strong campaigner against Coal Seam Gas Mining, Ash has never been one to shy away with his political lyrics. In Second Guess “the overlords defending that hallowed right to trade” express his discomfort about our current world.

“I don’t have any problem with private enterprise, people making money, that kind of thing. I just think the world has been taken over by its corporations and it’s out of control, the corporations are too strong. It’s a funny thing (a corporation),it is almost like a living thing, it’s something that exists but the individual humans in it come and go. But the corporation keeps going and keeps getting bigger. Keeps doing what it aims to do which is grow that business and make as much money as possible. Like when you think of something bad happening or someone getting fucked over because of what a company is doing, we often imagine an evil dude at the top of the ladder chuckling to himself, but it’s not really the case. It’s that institution that keeps on churning on through the years, and they’ve just got way too powerful. That’s why it’s affecting humans on such a huge level. I almost feel like we’re being farmed, we go and we work and there are a lot of toys we want to buy. Then we pay interest on everything, and we get fined and we pay tax, and tax on tax. It’s almost like we’re cattle. You can say ‘that’s life’ but that hasn’t always been life. Definitely not to the level it is now. The way it’s going I just see it going further and further. I just don’t think companies were so refined fifty years ago.”

Ash Grunwald’s forthcoming release would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the support of his fans through crowd funding site ‘Pledge Music. With a desire to be socially and morally responsible and conscious, Ash donated 5% of all profits raised from his Pledge Music campaign towards 350.org, an organisation working towards building a global climate movement to eradicate the use of fossil fuels and to create a sustainable future.

“One of the great things and I really did think this was a fantastic thing. When you do a pledge as a musician you have to give 5% to a charity as part of it, which I think is fantastic. So I nominated 350.org especially because of some of the lyrics on the album. There trying to do something about giving us a path forward to a fossil free future which is easily achievable, but it needs to be spelled out to governments. I just think it’s good to monetarily contribute from the proceeds of that to something that’s working towards a solution.”

Ash Grunwald performs at The Jack. Cnr Spence & Sheridan St Cairns – Sunday 25th October. Support by Drewboy. Tickets from The Jack

Ash Grunwald performs at Dalyrmple Hotel. 310 Bayswater Rd, Garbutt, Townsville. Tickets from Moshtix

Mitch Sullivan

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