– by Matthew Picken
Talking to Ash Grunwald is so easy, as he’s a very relaxed, down-to-earth type of guy. With our mutual interest in surfing, our conversation quickly flowed onto the rise of recent shark attacks, both around the world and in Byron Bay, where Ash currently resides. He even told me about how one local man’s dog was eaten by a shark while they played fetch on the beach. We both agreed that the global over-fishing of edible fish stocks was a likely contributor to the attack and others like it.
Eventually I remembered what I was supposed to be doing and got our chat back on track with a few questions about Ash’s music and new album Now.
Good morning Ash, how are you today?
Hello. I’m good brother.
You’ve spent fourteen years as a recording artist and, in that time, you’ve released ten albums and EPs. Your eleventh, Now, is due out on September 25th. What’s it been like to record over the years?
The bit in the middle that has been most of my career I have used a pretty bazaar technics in the studio, a very modern computer-y way to make music. Even thought I was playing very bluesy raw music, the way I put it together was very computer and I love that. I think it’s a new art form and really cool, but for this new one it was doing it in a plush studio with a really great producer, great gear and everything. Just going tick tick,tick that’s the best studio the best desk the best gear and the best players. Just trying to do something like that because of how long I have been doing this. I felt like doing it the proper way and see what that’s like and it was a really really enjoyable process, a great experience and I am very happy with the final result. It’s just as much about that time that I spent in the studio and the stuff I learnt in there as well.
I’m really into my song-writing so the APRA award for “Long Time” that is Blues ‘n’ Roots work of the year award, that was really cool and that means a lot to me.
For one year, you were a host on triple J’s Roots ‘n’ All program. How was that and how did it all come about?
They just asked me, I was very honored it was a round 2005 and it was very good era for Blues ‘n’ Roots and it was just taking off more and more. People used to ask me “why Blues ‘n’ Roots was going off so much” and I would say “its good live and a good scene but also Triple J’s Jordie Kilby has been great playing a lot of people’s stuff” and then I got the offer to be that guy, in that position, I felt wow that is so cool from the whole scene to be the one to pick and help people in that scene. It was really cool and a hard thing to leave, but after a while its like I love doing this but I way rather be doing a gig .
To have “ Break Out” in Triple J’s top 100 in 2008 must have been nice after your time there.
Yes and that was the thing too, when I took it on. I was happy to take it on but I am still an inspiring musician and I don’t want you to feel like you can’t play my stuff because it’s the ABC and I hoped it never happened, but Triple J were very supportive of me and that was very cool.
In October 2009 you recorded “live at the Fly by Night” here in Perth. How do you feel about what happened to that venue and venues around Australia closing down?
I don’t know why it’s happening, it’s sad. I love the Fly by Night and I did many gigs there, it was amazing. I had so many amazing nights and it’s a great thing. You need venues to play live music so I don’t know what that means if they all close down. I guess there are a lot of pressures on people. The Fly by Night are such a cool crew to work with. I really hope they find another venue. We are not playing there venue this time but we are playing at the Rosemount on the 10th September, Divers tavern on the 11th, the Indi bar on the 12th and at Mojos on the 13th and I love theses venues, but next time I would like to play with the Fly by Night and give it a try with there new venue. You know venues have great periods of awesomeness and then they change hands or different things happen and you know some venues last a lot longer than the musician’s that play them. And you know life is constantly changing so if you are in a bad patch in anything in life the good news is that the only constant is change. It also goes both ways even when your on your glory period of just killing it as a venue or anything like a musician or person, that will change at some point, the only constant is change
Over the years, you have toured and performed with some amazing artists, who has been the best and why?
Well Jack Johnson was the biggest in one whole tour I did, with like 20 000 people
I saw that in Sydney
Oh, you saw that in Sydney? Cool that was almost 20 000 people. It was so much fun and Jack is a really humble cool dude, just like he comes across is how he is a cool guy. The first time I meet him was in Fremantle at the Blues ’n’ Roots festival. I used to travel around by myself with a big long bag we used to call the sausage bag it was massive long. I don’t know what it was designed for but it was massive and I was wheeling it in and he was like “ hey man do you want me to give you a hand with that? You can put it in our dressing room if you want” So here was the head liner for that show just being so cool like that and I thought what a great guy and it was a good feather in my cap to have supported him. The other one was James Brown that was a really big honor to support him the year before he passed away. So that was really cool.
One of your songs “Walking” was featured in the Hollywood movie “Limitless”. How did that come about?
That was my publisher with their American contacts and affiliates, so it came about in a normal industry way and it was a really great thing and great for me. It was a spin out to be in the theater’s watching that main scene in the movie where he first takes the drug that gives him limitless mental facticity’s and they turned it up really loud so it was really cool.
On channel 7’s Home and Away when they first introduced the “river boys” every time they came on they played them a theme like music track. Was that you?
I have no idea. I have been on Home and Away heaps, so yah it probably was. But that’s cool I wish I knew what song, you know that’s really mainstream and I’m not into my soaps but I would never think that’s poxy, I think that’s great.
Will the album now be released on vinyl and what was it like to record with Ian Perez (keyboardist for Wolfmother) Pete Wilkins (former drummer from Blue King Brown) and working along side Nick DiDia who has work with bands like Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Bruce Springsteen, Rage Agents the Machine and Powderfinger?
Yes there will be a vinyl releases. It was crazy and really good to use that sort of older school method of just really nailing the music, demoing it all and then rehearsing it, and just coming in and nailing it. You know, for a lot of people and I should probably watch this and not talk about it in interviews, that would be normal. That’s what everybody would assume that you would be doing anyway. But I have never done it like that before as I have pretty much just written them in the studio a lot of the time because the way I did most of my music was that computery way where you do it in building blocks. You loop up a little, get a beat going the do a little base line and think this would be good as the course and just try all these little ideas out and its nothing like how they used to make a record and you know its it’s a more time consuming way to do it but in a way you would not think so, but its probably about the same really I guess cause you play things live in the studio so once you have it right its there and the way Nick mixes and does everything he gets all the sound right there and then. He doesn’t walk away and come back and mix something later and it sounds way different. If you want something on the album you have to play it on. It was a really cool way of working.
It’s pretty rocky and I guess Gargantua was rocky with the boys from Living End. Its quite heavy, its quite epic not meaning as in good but as in it has some big outros and stuff. It’s the rock side with a bit of psychedelic in it as well. Some of the music makes me think of big canyons, nature and cliffs that kind of grandeur. That’s the kind of stuff I was thinking while writing it.
What is your favorite track from the album?
I really like the last track “The Least Among Us”. It’s a big riff and starts with a field holler, I just like it.
What is you favorite track from your whole catalog to play live?
You know the old “Break Out” is a big staple of mine and there is a song from my first album called “Just Be Yourself” that I play gig in gig out and I just enjoy playing it and I don’t know why. I enjoy playing it so much it must be my resident grove and I still do it all the time and I still enjoy it, but I’m trying to get away from that. I’m going through my back catalog for this new tour and having a look and see if I can pull out a few other things that people would not have heard for ages.
Over the years, you have been involved in many good causes as well as social and political awareness campaigns. What one is the most important and how can your fans get involved?
I really think the whole CSG (coal ,steam gas) needs to be stopped and there is a group called Aussies Against Fracking that people could get involved in. I think that would be a worthy thing.
What made you in 2006 start your own recording label “Delta Grove Records”?
Really its no different to how I started, nothing really changed very much just I put it on my own label and went straight through the distributor’s rather than going through a record company. I have been pretty DIY from the start, like I did have a record company at the start but most of the time it’s been do it yourself, small with no big companies involved and that has been handed down with leaders in that being people like John Butler, The Waifs and Xavier Rudd you know going out there independently and doing really well. I never really had a manager for most of that time, so maybe I should have (lol) but it’s been good. It’s funny as I look at it and I realize that there is a few era’s that have come and gone in there, and before you know it that happens. Like I don’t know what the future for recorded music is or if we will even be making albums, I’m just not sure.
Out of all your musical influence’s whom would you like to perform and tour with?
Mmmm I really don’t know how to answer that one ….
It’s complicated, I would have just liked to see Jimi Hendrix play, that would have blown my mind. Jamming with him would have been another thing. He is still to me the man.
Howlin’ Wolf is my main bluesy guy that I am just in awe of and probably the biggest influence on me blues wise. Just making things big he’s just amazing.
If performing live was like a surf break what one would it be and why?
Arr I don’t know how to answer that one….
Performing live is like a beach break as it is different every time, some days its big and huge and all about the awe and the rush and some days its small and playful and just a bit of fun and in both circumstance’s it is good to have that as a part of your everyday life. If you can have both music and surfing in your every day life your just lucky.
Well thank you so much for you time today Ash we look forward to seeing you here in Perth soon and the release of your new album “Now”
No worries and thanks a lot for the chat
Ash Grunwald is playing in September
• At the Rosemount hotel on the 10th
• At Divers taven on the 11th in Cable Beach
• At the Indi Bar on the 12th and
• At Mojos on the 13th
And his new album “Now” is due out on the 25th of September
I strongly suggest you get out and see him live, as he is always one who never disappoints
Photo Credit: Matthew Picken