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This Is Northern New South Wales

The Valiant Music Sessions – Ash Grunwald

  • Music

Ash 1Ash Grunwald is no stranger to releasing music. A veritable mainstay in the Australian music scene for the past 15 years, his latest release brings him to a total of 11 releases – including EPs.

The new album “NOW” has received positive reviews throughout the music-media world, and is currently being toured around the country until November.

Our friends at Valiant Music Sessions invited Ash in to perform the first single off the album “Second Guess” and we are excited to share that with you today.

Ash is fortunate enough to call the Byron Shire home, which gave us the opportunity to sit down with him and quickly discuss the ins and outs of the new release, but mostly just to have a few beers and a chat.

ME – How long has the album been out now, 3 weeks? How has the response been?

AG- I got some really good reviews. I got my first good review in Rolling Stone who usually bag me – laughs – I don’t really know in punter land what people are thinking yet. I mean, statistically, it’s only at number 50 or something so I can’t really say I killed it in sales.

The beer we ordered arrives –

AG – Let’s be Belgians! I used to play in Belgium a lot, the lady who used to book me, her and her husband, every round – we drank a lot of beer – it was really cool every round, even in mid conversation they’d go ‘clink’, always did the cheers with every round. It was really cool.

ME – Who recorded it?

AG – Nick Deveau – and he produced it. For me, all those different angles were a step up from anything that I’d ever done before. That Neve desk that was in there, it was so beautiful, when 301 finished they moved it back to Sydney because the mixing desk is world heritage listed, which I didn’t know.
The album – whether people like my particular songs or not, is one issue or whatever. But the actual sonics of it – it sounds like a classic album. That’s what I was going for, so I’m really happy with that.

ME – How have you found the process – 9 albums in from early on in the piece – of the transition in the media landscape? Things are becoming more and more digital, how have you found it trying to connect with people now?

AG – In terms of connecting with people – you see trends come, there’s a lot of things that I’ve seen coming for over a decade but sometimes they take a long time to bed in. It’s a really funny time to try and connect with people at the moment. The means are so varied, you’ve still got the traditional channels of paying a publicist and getting on the radio and getting something in the paper. You’ve got the whole Facebook vibe and now the last couple of years the ‘gram has become more of a thing. You’ve got all these followers but they’re from all around the world, but you’re playing in Bendigo tomorrow night, so how does that help you, you know – and that’s where you’ve invested all your time engaging with people – how does that equate to letting everybody in Bendigo know? So we put posters out, we do this and we do that, and we go back to the trad’ style stuff. Do we take TV ads out? That’s very expensive. Does anybody watch TV there anymore? I don’t know, I don’t watch TV, I haven’t for years. So, all of those things, it’s just a bit of a ‘wild west’ and you just need a combination of different approaches. I think the main thing in the modern era is to preach to the converted. I think the more things that you do to just direct it at fans that you have, don’t be worried about trying to build it and get someone that’s not your fan.
That’s like when you see a young band come through that has really big success really quickly – a lot of them – that’s what they’re doing at that stage in their life. You know, they’re just going ‘fuck yeah we just wanna rock’ or ‘we just wanna make this kinda music or that kinda music’ and they just only make the music for the people that are into that and they don’t care about anything else. It’s a natural thing. When you try and push things beyond that, you probably just waste a lot of time and money – and effort.

ME – What kind of place did this album come from, content wise?

AG – It’s probably the most meaningful album to me that I’ve done. There’s a lot of stuff – I guess from being involved in the anti-CSG kind of thing – on there about the continuing over corporatization of the world. A company is not a real entity – it’s not a real human being or anything. The human beings operate within them and work for them, and do sometimes catastrophic things on that company’s behalf but what is a company? It’s a collection, and it lives on beyond all the people and they just march on through time and they also march on geographically. Like, an English company can march on to Taree from Queensland, fuck the whole place up, sell the gas to china and then move on. I think, a lot of those kind of thoughts really do come into the album, but I’ve tried to not be literal in anything. I’ve had a lot of literal things I wanted to say but I steered away from there wherever I could. So that kind of stuff is on there a lot, but just a whole lot of things from my life over the last two years.

ME – How long have you been working on this album for?

AG – Probably the last 18 months I’ve been working on it. Demo-ing it pretty rigorously. Normally I just go into the studio with one producer who’s more like a beats kind of person, like my last album ‘trouble’s door’ I did at home in my studio that I built in Ocean Shores, but we sold that house now. That was pretty cool. I did that just with my buddy Col who is Vinnie Laduce.

ME – I know that guy, he’s a legend.

AG – Yeah yeah, so we did that together. How we did that – me with all my instruments and stuff and him on the computer doing the beats or I’d bring him some of my stuff and we’d bring it into shape a bit more. But that’s how Id’ normally do it, it’s a fun way to work. Even long time, my main single off the album, we’d pretty much finished the album and I was upstairs eating some food and I was like “We need a banger, let’s go down, 120bpm, four on the floor let’s do it” and it just happened. So that’s one way, but this one was done the old school rock n roll way where you demo it, you get songs that work on an acoustic and you go in with a live band and play it, it’s like you treat it like it’s analogue tape. So, I found out about that method which I’ve never used before – it’s great

ME – Lastly, tell me about the song “Second Guess”. Can you give us some insight into that one, what it’s about?

AG – I wrote it as a bit of a mantra. It covers themes that nearly every song on the album covers. It’s like looking back at city life, and city life is a metaphor for me of ambition… and, people act like little insects in a hive. So, it’s really about when you get that distance away like when you go on a camping trip or something and you go “this is EPIC. Why don’t we always do this?”. Whenever we go camping, we think that; devoid of possessions and different things that pull at you and suck you into that life. So, second guess is a lot about that and the chorus is self-explanatory – don’t second-guess yourself, because I’m a second guesser of myself. It’s a little bit of a personal mantra.