Below is a recent article published in The Magical Times
About Ash Mandrake
The tradition of the travelling minstrel, and the itinerant bard is alive in England.
For Ash Mandrake, the last 8 years as a self employed business man within the UK have been deeply rewarding. Ash lives in vehicles and tours constantly, taking his unusual live show the length and breadth of England. Finding pockets of humanity around the country and attracting an audience who are delighted by a show which is eclecticly diverse but also coherent; both diverse and coherent, like the life of any open minded adventurous person.
Ash Mandrake was born and brought up in Manchester. He started playing guitar at 14 and this interest continued through university, where he sang and played in rock bands. For more than a decade, he lived with the uneasy tension between a true passion for creative expression and a powerful drive to achieve academically. He studied hard; science, humanities, management. He worked globally, in industry and universities; as a computer programmer, a teacher, examiner and manager. But he also worked for a while as a stripper/kissogram, and studied fine art part time. Eventually, something had to give. And in 2005, Ash gave in to just being himself, making music, growing pumpkins and making hats. What a relief !
Ash has had no formal training in music or milinary – He is self taught.
musical style and influences
Ash’s studio and Live work are focussed differently. The stage show is about entertainment. The studio work is about making art. The live show incorporates hats, stories, comedy, loop machines, a double necked guitar and theatrical engagement with the audience. All soundscapes are built live without the use of backing tracks. Choice of genre is wide ranging and eclectic. The show brings together covers and originals in sets which are carefully crafted to move through changes in energy and emotional states, leaving the audience on a high.
“Twice he brought tears to the eyes of the audience, once through the sheer beauty and emotion of his rendition of Starry Starry Night, and second, through total and uncontrollable tears of laughter. It was as though the whole audience had been mass hypnotised. Nobody could stop laughing.” (Roger Nuttall: Bishop’s Cleeve 2011)
Ash’s studio work is comprised a solo and band EP and an album Titled Footprints From A Tribal Id. It took three years to manage the data and mix for this album. It is poetry over opera and is roughly a palindrome, with tracks representing birth and death at the beginning and end. The beauty and harshness of winter are respectively celebrated and fearfully acknowledged, as the tribe are guided by their bard through harsh despondency and darkness. The centrepiece, Shade and Flake is a battle, out of which the tribe emerge to heave the sun from the horizon and then celebrate it’s joyful magnificence.
“…an odyssey through the ancient traditions and birth places of the music of this planet, the expected Celtic and Germanic threads running alongside rhythmic tribal explorations from Africa and India and evocative banks of vocals that link the earliest religious music of western Europe with campfire chants and the dramatic renditions of the Icelandic saga.” (Review by Green Man Music)
“This is a profound work, and impossible to categorise. One can hope that one day it might be studied alongside the canonical classics of poetical and avant-garde composition” (Nathan Lewis Williams).
Early Influences: Johnny Weismuller (The first Tarzan) Laurel and Hardy (Blue Ridge Mountains Of virginia) Yma Sumac (the film “Secret of The Incas”) Zulu (sound track from the film) Later Influences, Musical: Shostakovich, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd, Queen, Hendrix. Influences – Stage Show: Tom Waits, Wild Willy Barrat, Men Diamler. Other Influences: Heronymous Bosch, MC Escher, JRR Tolkein, Ursula Le Guin, Hans Christien Anderson, Monty Python, The Fast Show.
Creating a better living and working space on the road.
For seven years, I’ve been converting vehicles to tour in. I’ve lived on the road in a Nissan Micra, a Ford Mondeo, A Citroen Berlingo and a Renaut Traffic Camper Van. The challenge has been to have both power and physical space for work. I’ve toyed with the idea of having a large horse box with the car that comes out from the back like Thunderbird 4 coming out of Thunderbird 2, but I think eventually, I may end up with a Mercedes Sprinter with a Suzuki Carry in the back and a caravan in tow behind. The trick is to marry up income from gigs with petrol costs and tour design. This is an ongoing task with mistakes being made along the way. I’m constantly working towards a better mix.
Multiple loop machines and sound spacialisation.
During my album launch in 2012 and during a gig in Stafford Theatre, I used modern loop machines to send sounds to up to 6 different places in an auditorium. It worked really well. It took a long time to connect and test run the kit though. I’m hoping to improve the set up time this year, and expand the experimentation to 7 loop machines and 10 sound locations.
Remaking the 16 string guitar
I am currently in discussion with luthiers in West Yorkshire. The 16 string guitar comprises 2 necks which are bound using boot lace and leather. The top neck is a normal electric 6 string. The bottom guitar is a 10 string with four bass strings and six strings at the top end which comprise 3 sets of octaves. There is partial defretting at the bass end. It is an A based baritone. We are working on a complete rebuild from scratch and are hoping to begin work some time in 2014.
A new album for 2013 Nov
My album “Footprints from A tribal Id” was mainly about choral textures. I’ve never recorded using the lower neck of my 10 string guitar in the studio. I’m hoping to do this during August of 2013. I’ll be working on a new album with Steve Forward (Essex) – The 10 string will feature prominently.
Taking the act to Europe
I’m working on building a tour of Northern Europe for June/July 2014.