It’s fitting I met up with Australian blues legend Gwyn Ashton on a day of hurricane force winds. Ashton’s blend of blues, psychedelic, and classic rock has been blowing away audiences for decades. Once I learned he was splitting his time between Prague, the UK, and Australia, I knew I wanted to meet up and talk music.
Born in Wales, Ashton relocated to Adelaide with his family at the tender age of 5. Both parents were musical, his father sang, while his mother lead choirs and played piano. But, like many kids of his generation, music first truly came alive when he saw the Beatles perform on television. “Twist and Shout” laid the groundwork, but it was when Ashton got his first guitar at age 12, the story really begins.…
“I engulfed myself straight away,” says Ashton. “I taught myself with a children’s guitar book. I never did have any formal training.” Without a teacher, Ashton was able to experiment and grow in complete independence and rely solely on his own imagination and experimentation. He relates an incident where he was playing around on a reel to reel and decided to run his microphone through into the sound hole of his acoustic guitar. What came out was raw and electric, and young Ashton blew his OWN mind. “Mum!” he shouted. “I’ve invented electric guitar!” It was this sort of discovery and freedom that set the tone for most of Ashton’s career.
First in Australia, then Europe, Ashton eventually established himself as a ferocious talent on guitar, opening for names like Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and BB King, as well as jamming with a who’s who of classic rock. His numerous appearances led to an eventual induction into the South Australian Music Hall of Fame. Ashton’s 2007 release, “Prohibition” was voted Album of the Year by British Guitar and Bass Magazine, while 2017’s “Solo Elektro” received critical praise for its modern take on heavy blues riffs fused with 60s psychedelic rock.
Ashton’s solo work is his bread and butter and where he shines most as guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Interestingly enough, his one-man show came about (again) completely by accident. Booked as a duo, his scheduled drummer backed out at the last minute leaving Ashton to improvise minutes before taking the stage. Luckily, Ashton had the drum kit. He put aside his regular kick board and instead set up a bass drum. Kick-boom, kick-boom, kick-boom. The show must go on. Not only did the solo show work, it was a huge hit with the audience. “How long you been doing this?” asked the promoter. Ashton, with typical Aussie wit snapped back, “This is my new show!”
Ashton’s most recent offering, “Sonic Blues Preachers” shows a return to his signature style of deep down dirty blues with touches of classic and heavy rock. The southern rock-inspired jam “If I Don’t Feel It” and its chorus of wanting to “feel it or move on” perfectly sums up Ashton’s thoughts on making music. “I’m not a fan of the over-production of a lot of modern blues albums. I prefer the rawness of limited technology, harking back to the old days of just a room, a few microphones, the band all playing together and the engineer thinking that everything’s a bit loud!”
Follow Ashton’s latest releases and tour dates: https://www.gwynashton.com/
Or, on Facebook: gwynashtonmusic