The Blues Machine

AshGannicott

Today I’m chatting about music with UK guitar phenom, Ash Gannicott, of The Blues Machine. With his impeccable technique and his dedication to his craft, Ash has been likened to legendary Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist Rory Gallagher. I hope you’ll be as interested as I was to learn about what he thinks of Jerry Garcia, what his ties are to the Jersey Shore, and all the juicy details of his upcoming European Tour. Enjoy!

1. I usually begin of these interviews by asking about the interviewee’s backstory. Being a teen, you have a significantly shorter backstory than most.  However, based on my research, you’ve had quite a number of significant experiences within that short time. Please map out for the readers the path that Ash Gannicott took to get to where he is today. When did he get involved in music and where did his drive come from?

Coming from quite a musical upbringing, it was more or less inevitable that at some point I’d stumble across an instrument. I started seriously playing guitar when I was 12, and I was fortunate enough to have enough people around me supporting me and helping me along the way. Like everything, if you enjoy it, you’ll do it, and that’s more or less what keeps me playing guitar.

2. You are considered a force to be reckoned with when it comes to your blues guitar technique. First of all, why Blues? Secondly, what did it take to get your skills to the level they’re at today? What is a typical practice session like?

I had a rather chance encounter with a famed Irish musician called Albert Niland who likened me to Rory Gallagher. I then decided from that moment that I’d check out what Rory Gallagher’s music was like, and in doing so, I decided to learn the odd riff, the odd tune, and since the blues rock sound and style seemed to come naturally I stuck with it. I honestly don’t know how long I practice, I seem to practice by accident. Even now as I type this, I’ve got a guitar on my lap. Every now and then, no matter what I’m doing, I’ll just pick up a guitar and play something. Or see something online and have a go at it. I suppose that’s how I manage to practice enough without it getting boring.

3. I heard it through the grapevine that you’ve played with some Jersey Shore folks who were touring in your neck of the woods. I’ve also heard that they’d extended an offer to come stateside to perform with them. How did you end up playing out with these guys and will we get to see your skills on US soil?

My band The Blues Machine got a support slot when NJ act The Billy Walton Band had a show at a venue local to me. It was a great night, and was called up to guest with them on the encore numbers, a precious moment at an astounding gig. I’ve had a talk to them about touring over the pond and they’re up for it, it’s just a case of us finding the time and the funds to do so!

4. Most musicians get started by modelling their technique after someone before them. Who were some of your greatest influences in regards to arrangement and style and what was it about their work that spoke to you?

As I’ve mentioned above, Rory Gallagher was a big influence to me. Initially he was the guitarist who I tried to copy note for note, sound for sound, but then I found I’d kinda hit a dead end. It wasn’t that I’d learnt it all, it was that it almost felt hollow, as if all I was doing was copying someone else. I then went further back to Rory’s influences, and eventually ended back at the big names in blues. The guys like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters taught me the fundamentals of blues, and I’m pretty sure they’re two of my “accidental” influences. I suppose they did more for my playing indirectly that I realise.

Aside from guitarists, the bluesman who really got me was Howlin’ Wolf. I remember hearing his voice and at that moment I realised that blues didn’t have to all be about broken hearts and love. I realised it could be angry, violent, and really quite threatening. The most important moment in my playing came when I realised WHY I played blues. It’s been said before by numerous people that blues is that it’s the easiest music to play, but the hardest to play well. I went through a rather dark phase of my life, and the blues was the thing that kept me going, and was the only outlet for my anger and emotion, and although it was a rather unpleasant time for me, it was the most important for my playing. I suppose I was able to connect to it on a whole new level.

On another note, apart from the blues, my biggest influences are Frank Zappa since everything he did was decades above of his time and there’s never been anyone else quite like him, Bert Jansch – as without him I wouldn’t be able to play acoustic guitar like I do, and Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead. I’m quite a big Grateful Dead fan, as their idea of politics and community with their fans is so integral to their whole take on life. And they’ve got a pretty relaxed view on life.

5. I spent some time in Germany – loved it! So when I heard that you’d be doing a European tour this summer that will culminate in Hamburg on the Reeperbahn those great memories came flooding right back. Made me want to call about plane tickets. Why don’t you tell the readers about this tour. Where will you be playing? Who will you be playing alongside? How many shows are slated? Give us the full rundown.

Close family friend and prominent european musician Nige Bray offered to sort out a tour for us in the North of Europe, and of course we couldn’t refuse. As we’re still all in college and don’t own cars, and we need someone to drive us, my dad has volunteered to do the driving! It should be an amazing experience, even if it’s all three band members, Nige, and my dad in the van, plus all the gear. To keep costs down as much as we can for the tour, we’ve not got any prearranged hotels or overnight stops. It’ll be a week of sleeping rough, either in the van our on the sofas of people we’ve met along the way. The tour is scheduled for the beginning of august, and we’re going gigging in Belgium, Holland and Germany.

6. If you could play a gig with any three musicians on the planet, who would they be and what about each one of them earned them a place in your short list?

This is a rather hard question to answer…! Like all guitarists, I’d love to play with all my guitar influences, Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher, Frank Zappa, Jimmy Page, but it wouldn’t make a very good band as there’d be too many guitars, and if they’re no longer with us, it might prove difficult!

From musicians who are alive at the moment, I’d love to be able to put a jam band together with Terry Bozio on drums (I’m a massive Zappa and Jeff Beck fan), Rick Wakeman on keyboards (I also quite like a bit of prog every now and then), Victor Wooten on bass (the guy’s a genius!).

7.  Many times music is a familial gift. It’s sort of a genetic thing that runs through many generations. Do you have other musicians in your family? If so, who are they and what are their stories?

My dad played in semi-professional bands for most of his life, and I suppose it was almost inevitable that I would become interested in music from it. It’s useful to have someone on hand who’s done it before, and can give advice and go “I’ve been in this problem before, this is what you do to get out of it”. Apart from that, my family is pretty un-musical.

8. I’m going to assume for a minute that you are doing your best to map out a successful trajectory for yourself and your music. What does this trajectory look like? What would you like to accomplish personally and musically in the next few years? And how are you planning on getting there?

I honestly don’t know. I’d quite like to take a gap year off when I’ve finished college before university, but I honestly don’t know. It would be foolish to say anything this early. I’m just excited for any opportunities that may come my way!

Thank you, Ash!

Greg Coutu – Circle One One

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To learn more about The Blues Machine, see them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thebluesmachineuk

You can also see more of Ash Gannicott’s work with folk band Fish Out Of Water at facebook.com/fishoutofwateruk