Ash Grunwald

Author: Tex Miller

The evolution of Ash Grunwald’s blues sound throughout his career has been an interesting journey to follow. Having already played a stellar set at the Wool Exchange in February this year, Ash is set to get you grooving again this Saturday night at the Torquay Hotel. The gig at The Wool Exchange (February) prominently featured the rhythm section of The Living End, and this was seen as a one-off performance. Yet, given the explosive energy and chemistry between the trio, they are on the road for the Gargantua tour. Although he was in the airport, jet-setting around and getting ready to tour once again, it was great to talk to one of the legends of the Australian blues scene.

“We’re really excited about the Torquay show. I used to live there for five years, so it is always fantastic to get back down there and soak up the atmosphere. Hopefully, fingers crossed, there will also be some waves, which would be good,” Ash said about the homecoming show.

Having written a stack of songs over the last decade, the decision of what to play on the upcoming tour must be hard; yet given the party atmosphere of the majority of Ash’s songs, there is definitely something to get you moving on the dance floor. From just a quick YouTube, if you have nothing on this Saturday night, Torquay is the place to be. To coincide with this tour, Ash is releasing a new album entitled Gargantua, which was born out of this collaboration. The first taste of this album, ‘The Last Stand’, went live on social media last week to rave reviews and steers away from his 2012 release, Trouble’s Door.

“The sound of this record is as far away removed from the last few albums as possible. It’s still got a lot of bluesy elements to it, but it’s the classic rock band setup. We started off recording for a few hours and that turned into six solid days of work. There’s two new songs, two covers and some reworkings of my older tunes. Playing with The Living End guys is fantastic because it is a lot more high energy than what I would usually do. The recordings were a lot more raw and original with everything done live. They are definitely one of the best rock rhythm sections in Australian music.

“The way that the Living End work is that they practice and practice; and Chris Cheney is an amazing guitarist and taskmaster, so that was definitely an interesting concept within the recording process because I am the complete opposite,” Ash said about the new collaboration.

The first single off the release, a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, started out as just a bit of fun as a promotional piece of material for the tour; yet after receiving airplay on commercial radio, the response from Ash’s fans has been extremely warm and positive. “It’s always good to change things up when you’re playing someone else’s song. Cee Lo is a great singer and I wanted Andy to go really rocky and arse-kicking in the chorus, rather than being smooth. Looking back now, it’s a lot more high energy than we first thought, but it’s going be epic to throw down live.”

I’ve got my tickets, have you?

When & Where: The Torquay Hotel – June 15; The Corner – June 27; The Prince – June 28.

This Is Not The End

Author: Izzy Tolhurst

Surf roots bluesician Ash Grunwald has taken his collaboration with The Living End bassist Scott Owen to the next level, inviting the band’s drummer, Andy Strachan, to join them in the studio.

Ash Grunwald and Scott Owen, notorious bass-straddler with The Living End, allegedly forged their friendship and founded a musical collaboration over furlongs of soy sausages. As it happens, their respective wives play together in a band with Kram called Mr Cassidy, so social mingling was inevitable. The first fruit of that friendship saw Owen join Grunwald on a track from his most recent album, Trouble’s Door. However, the speedy acquisition of The Living End drummer Andy Strachan to join Owen and Grunwald on their latest endeavour, has resulted in a full collaborative album, which the boys are about to launch an album via a national tour.

The project and tour preparation is now in full swing, and following the commercial success of their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, the trio have announced that their debut album, titled Gargantua, will be released late June.

“It has been a truly fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants expedition,” Grunwald admits of the whole process. Particularly the mere six days this band spent at St Kilda’s Hothouse Studios – which boasts a worldclass Neve console, featuring 24 Neve 1073 mic pres, on which albums by AC/DC, Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo were recorded – to create the album.

Grunwald describes Hothouse as “an Australian Sound City”, referring of course to the documentary directed by Dave Grohl that details the history of Los Angeles’ Sound City Studios. But Grunwald is making specific reference to the Neve 8028 analogue mixing console that the St Kilda studio utilises. Craig Harnath, the longterm owner of Hothouse, also has an overwhelmingly “massive collection of guitars here,” says Grunwald, like a kid in that sort of store. But amidst the multitude of guitars sits a Neumann U47, the microphone apparently manufactured “for the perfect broadcasting of Hitler’s voice”. And it‘s Harnath’s Neumann U47 that Frank Sinatra allegedly sang into when he was here when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and he got in trouble for calling that news reporter a ‘two-dollar whore’, a member of the recording team discloses excitedly.

Several tracks on the album have already been previously released by Grunwald, including Walking and Breakout, both ‘fist in the air’ songs that have been reinterpreted with Owen and Strachan. And throughout the speedy process, Grunwald says he’s “learnt the value of professionalism. Because I’ll tell you, these guys are as tight as a fish’s arsehole.”

But for drummer Strachan, it’s Skywriter, taken from Grunwald’s 2006 album, Give Signs, which speaks most of their experience together. “That song sums everything up for me. The first time we played together was in Geelong and I didn’t know what we were doing… but Ash just said, ‘It goes kinda like this,’ and as he played it we started tracking it, and that’s the final product.”

“There’s no bullshit. That’s the whole thing [about] working with Ash – if it doesn’t sound good and if it doesn’t feel good then don’t do it! It’s kind of where this whole project is at; we’re only doing it because it sounds and feels right. We’re not trying to be anything or anyone else, and we don’t think too much about what’s been done in the past, but rather inject what we feel is required to make it different.”

Smack-bang in the middle of the ten-track album, Gargantua is a cover of Black And Blue, a song by seminal ‘70s Aussie act Chain, who Grunwald jokes were “pretty much Australia’s biggest-ever blues band. They were the panel van driving, VB drinking, wife-beater wearing, going to Sunbury in ’73 kind of riffy ‘70s band.”

But perhaps the most enticing track on Gargantua is Last Stand, a song first composed by Grunwald and his regular producer Fingers Malone as a pitch for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. And while it didn’t gain Grunwalda film credit, his wife was persistent that the song be included on the trio’s album, saying, “Do that Arnie song! It’s catchy, and evil and heavy!” the dreadlocked singer recalls. “Then I realised we really should. And it’s probably one of the rockiest tracks on the album.” Running through the analogue Neve desk to get that essential warmth, the album tracks have gone through Hothouse’s ProTools HD3 Accel system on Mac Pro with 24 96k inputs and outputs, the digital part of the process allowing for the speed necessary to get the whole thing done in the six days the trio had to deliver the album.

This Is Not The End

Author: Izzy Tolhurst

Surf roots bluesician Ash Grunwald has taken his collaboration with The Living End bassist Scott Owen to the next level, inviting the band’s drummer, Andy Strachan, to join them in the studio.

Ash Grunwald and Scott Owen, notorious bass-straddler with The Living End, allegedly forged their friendship and founded a musical collaboration over furlongs of soy sausages. As it happens, their respective wives play together in a band with Kram called Mr Cassidy, so social mingling was inevitable. The first fruit of that friendship saw Owen join Grunwald on a track from his most recent album, Trouble’s Door. However, the speedy acquisition of The Living End drummer Andy Strachan to join Owen and Grunwald on their latest endeavour, has resulted in a full collaborative album, which the boys are about to launch an album via a national tour.

The project and tour preparation is now in full swing, and following the commercial success of their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, the trio have announced that their debut album, titled Gargantua, will be released late June.

“It has been a truly fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants expedition,” Grunwald admits of the whole process. Particularly the mere six days this band spent at St Kilda’s Hothouse Studios – which boasts a worldclass Neve console, featuring 24 Neve 1073 mic pres, on which albums by AC/DC, Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo were recorded – to create the album.

Grunwald describes Hothouse as “an Australian Sound City”, referring of course to the documentary directed by Dave Grohl that details the history of Los Angeles’ Sound City Studios. But Grunwald is making specific reference to the Neve 8028 analogue mixing console that the St Kilda studio utilises. Craig Harnath, the longterm owner of Hothouse, also has an overwhelmingly “massive collection of guitars here,” says Grunwald, like a kid in that sort of store. But amidst the multitude of guitars sits a Neumann U47, the microphone apparently manufactured “for the perfect broadcasting of Hitler’s voice”. And it‘s Harnath’s Neumann U47 that Frank Sinatra allegedly sang into when he was here when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and he got in trouble for calling that news reporter a ‘two-dollar whore’, a member of the recording team discloses excitedly.

Several tracks on the album have already been previously released by Grunwald, including Walking and Breakout, both ‘fist in the air’ songs that have been reinterpreted with Owen and Strachan. And throughout the speedy process, Grunwald says he’s “learnt the value of professionalism. Because I’ll tell you, these guys are as tight as a fish’s arsehole.”

But for drummer Strachan, it’s Skywriter, taken from Grunwald’s 2006 album, Give Signs, which speaks most of their experience together. “That song sums everything up for me. The first time we played together was in Geelong and I didn’t know what we were doing… but Ash just said, ‘It goes kinda like this,’ and as he played it we started tracking it, and that’s the final product.”

“There’s no bullshit. That’s the whole thing [about] working with Ash – if it doesn’t sound good and if it doesn’t feel good then don’t do it! It’s kind of where this whole project is at; we’re only doing it because it sounds and feels right. We’re not trying to be anything or anyone else, and we don’t think too much about what’s been done in the past, but rather inject what we feel is required to make it different.”

Smack-bang in the middle of the ten-track album, Gargantua is a cover of Black And Blue, a song by seminal ‘70s Aussie act Chain, who Grunwald jokes were “pretty much Australia’s biggest-ever blues band. They were the panel van driving, VB drinking, wife-beater wearing, going to Sunbury in ’73 kind of riffy ‘70s band.”

But perhaps the most enticing track on Gargantua is Last Stand, a song first composed by Grunwald and his regular producer Fingers Malone as a pitch for the latest Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. And while it didn’t gain Grunwalda film credit, his wife was persistent that the song be included on the trio’s album, saying, “Do that Arnie song! It’s catchy, and evil and heavy!” the dreadlocked singer recalls. “Then I realised we really should. And it’s probably one of the rockiest tracks on the album.” Running through the analogue Neve desk to get that essential warmth, the album tracks have gone through Hothouse’s ProTools HD3 Accel system on Mac Pro with 24 96k inputs and outputs, the digital part of the process allowing for the speed necessary to get the whole thing done in the six days the trio had to deliver the album.

Unlikely Three

Author: Unknown

Ash Grunwald’s friendship with Scott Owen, bassstraddler for The Living End, developed quickly around the coal pit in Grunwald’s backyard over many a soy sausage and a surf report. Soon enough, the lads themselves would stand side by side on the stage as well. One thing led to another and The Living End’s drummer Andy Strachan would take to the road with Grunwald too. The three ended up in the studio where they recorded a cracking, heavy version of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. Now they’re bringing it to the stage.
See them live, together, at The Metro on Friday 12 June and The Cambridge Hotel Newcastle on Saturday 22.