For well over a decade, Ash Grunwald has been pushing the musical envelope with his experimentation in the blues and roots genre. With a staggering ten albums and a couple of ARIA’s under his belt, he shows no sign of slowing down. His captivating live performances are a true testament to his overwhelming talent as a musician. Adelaide is the first stop on his national ‘River’ Tour, which will be showcasing his upcoming album ‘NOW’, due for release this September. Recently, we spoke to Ash in anticipation for his upcoming show this Friday at The Gov.
How are you Ash?
Good. Just cruising up the highway to the Gold Coast for a rehearsal.
Looks like you’ve been flat out as you’ve only just arrived back from North America. When was the last time you took a break?
Yeah I was just in Canada the week before last. I don’t really have long breaks, just little breaks in between but it’s been pretty cruisy. When I got back I had a week and a bit off and then I had Broadbeach Blues Festival on the weekend, which is up on the Gold Coast. It was good, really fun.
Do you have any exciting plans for while you’re in Adelaide or are you keeping it quiet?
Keeping it quiet. Keeping it focussed. That’s a boring answer.
No, that’s fair enough. You’ve got a big tour ahead of you!
Now, you’ve got so many fans that have been with you for such a long time, what can they expect from the ‘River’ tour? Are you going to be experimenting with anything new in your live performances?
Oh yeah, I mean the whole sound is pretty different. For the album I wanted to do like psychedelic, blues-rock.
Yeah, I can definitely hear that sound in ‘River’.
Yeah. Instead of having a bass player, we’ve got a synth player doing those bass lines and Ian Perez (Wolfmother) is on that for the album. He’s just amazing. He’s a real musical genius. The album has become everything I hoped, especially in terms of using synth instead of bass; we’ve just got such a wonderful new sound. The music is very different and I just love playing with Ian. You know, my guitar style has always been a bit of a wall of sound and Ian, well he plays like heavy, fat synth and so that's a mega wall of sound as well. So you’ve just got a drummer and two walls of sound. It’s that power trio thing, you know. I’m really excited about it because, as I said, it’s something different. If I was coming out with just me, a bassist and a drummer, you know, it’s kinda cool because you’ve got good songs and good players and whatever but it has been done a lot since the time of Hendrix onwards.
Sounds amazing, can’t wait to hear it. You have quite a few political messages in your songs... What’s the message you’re trying to get across with the upcoming album, ‘NOW’?
I’m sort of documenting a stage that we’re in as a society and what we’re gonna have to move through if we’re even going to survive on this planet. I really do believe that corporations are probably at the very top of it; banks and multi-national corporations, are sucking the life out of the earth and out of the people. Many of us are just willing participants who don’t even slightly realise or care. We do half of the work for them like when we tell people at a barbie to shut up because they're talking about these things. You know, it's like we just don't want to know.
When the CSG (Coal Seam Gas) thing came along it really woke me up and jolted me a little bit and made me realise that’s the shit they’re actually doing. They’re gonna go through with it and anytime you think, ‘oh no, they wouldn’t do that’, it’s actually like, ‘well, yes they would.’ If there’s a buck in it, they’ll do it. So I think that’s one of the strongest themes that runs through the album, but my songs are generally pretty personal.
How long have you been working on the album?
It was the longest process I’ve ever had because of the nature of the lyrics and what not; I really wanted to nail them. The producer, Nick Didia (Pearl Jam/Springsteen/Rage Against The Machine), who’s an amazing, amazing producer, really was encouraging me by saying you know, you’ve got a message and you don’t want to be bashing people over the head with it and come across as overly preachy. So it was a lot of rigorous re-writing and really trying to nail it. It was like demo, demo, demo and then I took it away from the band. I went off on a holiday and just re-recorded everything.
Whereabouts did you take this holiday?
Bali. One thing I did on the album, that very much involves Adelaide… I think my number one fan, maybe in the world, used to come to The Gov every single time. Last time I played at The Gov I visited her and she had terminal cancer. When I was in Bali I found out that she passed away and they wanted me to play one of my songs at her funeral. So with my wife, who’s a really good songwriter, she helped me write a song for the funeral. I recorded that while I was over there, just on my phone and they played that at the funeral.
Wow, that’s really moving.
Yeah, I ended up recording that and putting it on the album.
What a great tribute for your number one fan.
Oh it was, yes. I’ll probably play it at the gig but it’s gonna be a hard one to play. It’s all very heavy but I felt like I needed to be a part of that, a part of her journey. It’s a very private thing and I was lucky enough and honoured enough to be asked to be a part of it.
You’ve played shows all over the world, so what’s it like to play for your Australian audiences? How do we fare on a global scale?
Well, I think everywhere is different but there’s a lot of similarities. As everybody around the world thinks, it probably is true that we’re the rowdiest ones. Some audiences are dead quiet while you play and then just clap at the end. Some people really love that and as a performer I really respect that. I think I could get used to that but I’m still used to the Aussie rowdy crowds. But yeah, I love it and I’ve been doing it for quite a while. The first time I played anywhere in Adelaide was in The Gov front bar. I love playing at The Gov because you get to be so surrounded by the audience and it’s like being surrounded by friends. There’s not many shows where you can do that.
I think that's all we've got time for...it sounds like you’re driving right now?
Yeah I am.
That's a little dangerous, I don’t want to be responsible for anything.
Ahhhhh I think I’m going off the road!! Ahhhh!!!
Disclaimer: Ash Grunwald didn’t crash his car, he is alive and well and we look forward to seeing him this Friday night at The Gov.
WHEN: FRIDAY 29TH MAY
WHERE: THE GOV
TICKETS: $30 + booking fees.
In the meantime, check it his ultra funky new sound in 'River':