Ash Grunwald + Scott Owen & Andy Strachan for The Living End
Just two weeks ago, there was but a distant thought, tapping on the creative mind of Mr Ash Grunwald. It was a quiet idea but it was persistent. It softly projected the notion that somehow, maybe, two thirds of The Living End could be his band on more than just a single…the planets aligning perhaps so together they could bash out a full albums worth of tracks.
The formerly polite idea began to shout, on a Friday morning not that long ago, after Ash found himself in the somewhat unexpected position of performing live on Triple M Breakfast in Melbourne. He’d recently released his, Scott and Andy’s ripping cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ which was meant to serve as a beacon for Ash’s community; alerting them of the upcoming national tour that the lads are soon to embark on but ‘Crazy’ had a different direction. Developing a life well beyond the borders of a loyal fanbase, ‘Crazy’ made it’s way out into commercial radio land, and took Ash with it. So as the snowball rolled, so did the idea and that very afternoon Ash found his way to St Kilda’s Hothouse Studios with the lads from The Living End and amped up for a few hours of sonic exploration. Those hours turned into 6 straight days of recording that ended with an immense sense of excitement and an idea realized. With the encouragement and enthusiasm of Scott Owen and Andy Strachan, Ash Grunwald’s rock monster was welcomingly unleashed and GARGANTUA was born.
Comprised of two new and original tracks (involving CSG, Arnie and a fuck you attitude), three vastly different cover songs and a handful of utterly off the hook reworkings of some of Ash’s biggest tracks, this album documents the findings of an unplanned experiment in altered methodology:
Ash Grunwald + Scott Owen and Andy Strachan = GARGANTUA.
Last Stand – Came to life after Ash was asked to pen a track for the Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. Fortunately Arnie didn’t deem it fitting as the soundtrack to the pursuit of a dangerous drug lord, allowing the track to become the vehicle for Ash’s rage and disbelief at what he’s seen first hand of the nose-bleeds and health problems on the outskirts of Tara in South Western QLD – a direct result of the horrific Coal Seam Gas wells that litter the landscape. (In fact, whilst Ash was on the phone discussing these tracks he was sitting in a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by more than 50 trucks, the landscape being torn apart to build the super highway for the CSG industry in what was once splendorous outback Australia)
Breakout – One of the first times the boys played this song together (together at all in fact) was at St Kilda fest earlier this year, and it was a penny drop moment for Ash. Witnessing Andy behind the drum kit sitting on the track’s original disco beat for a few sections before exploding on the choruses, causing an unsuspecting Ash to air drum (something he’s not known to do), was an epiphany point. Ash glimpsing permission to embrace his love of heavy rock and an opportunity to breathe new life into a track that’s always been very good to him.
Acting Cool – One of the two new original tracks that presented itself during the alchemic process that the coming together of these three gents proved to be. Acting Cool was influenced by Jack Black’s Tenacious D tongue-in-cheek take on ‘the metel !’ (insert font befitting of beezelbub here) but is a sincere unleashing of Ash’s deep-rooted love for monstrous music, fulfilling his desire to completely down tune his guitar, distort his vocals and indulge in a half time, slow down change whilst throwing devil signs in the direction of people who’ve fucked him over.
Crazy – Where it all began…one of Ash’s fave all time tracks and one he’d often played live previously before finding himself in the studio a few months back banging it out with Scott and Andy, unwittingly creating for himself yet another fork in his musical road. (Released as a free download via http://www.ashgrunwald.com/ )
Black & Blue – Originally done by Australia’s only famed bluesband Chain. With a riff that Ash describes as ‘downright evil’, a junk percussion intro and field holler backing vocals, it ticked all the right boxes for Ash and seemed the perfect track to throw to the boys for them to rip their teeth into. ‘Whenever I hear or play that song,’ explains Ash, ‘I just imagine myself in the Sandman panelvan cruising to Sunbury in 1973 with a VB in hand, dog on the passenger seat…lapping up the sight and sound of seventies rebellion.’
Walking – A reworking of another song that’s been very good to Ash, used in television shows and films all over the world, including the big Hollywood flick ‘Limitless’. In this new version Ash has added absolute riffology onto the front and thanks to Andy - taken the tempo to a speed that frightened Ash a little when he listened to it later on, late at night by himself, in studio. ‘They’re not just Scott and Andy,’ said Ash when chin wagging about the remaking of his biggest track, ‘They really are two thirds of The Living End and their noticing in themselves what they give to The Living End, when they’re giving it to me. They are incredibly tight and they push the music along and that’s what they did for me.’
Smokestack – A real jam track and Ash’s all time favourite from Howlin’ Wolf - who still stands as one of his biggest influences. At the opening of the track the drums sit back on a shuffle and then let loose into crazy rock dance jam territory and on this version the lads took the untraditional step for a jam, of layering the guitars – for what purpose? For bringing the ‘metel !’ of course! (inserting again font of the devil!)
Raw – ‘I couldn’t wait to do this one!’ said Ash, ‘I did it with a full band on Hot Mamma Vibes – which at that time was three percussionists and me – and I loved it then because it was the evilest riffs we had on that album.’ Redoing the track with Scott and Andy took it into what Ash describes as his Rage Against The Machine area (and by RATM he really means Killing in the Name Of) a track that had an enormous influence on Ash. Scott changed the bass line to work with that focus and Andy followed suit on the drums before altering the RATM vibey drums into a shuffle, bringing the black man vibe to the heavy.
Mojo – This track was requested by Andy as a redo and Ash was more than happy to oblige. It took Ash back to a time long, long ago when he once explored the power trio scenario for a brief period, allowing him to reopen that door, letting his guitar wail for longer than he normally would and feeling totally awesome (and evil) in doing so!
Skywriter – Always a live favourite, Ash could hear Andy getting primal on the tom drums for Skywriter and he was not mistaken. Not only did Andy go to town but it was also the track where Ash saw first hand the true extent of both Andy and Scott’s incredible musicianship. ‘What you’re hearing – every hit of that drum,’ describes Ash, ‘is Andy jamming off me. It was the first time he’d ever heard the track and that’s the only version of it we did. It’s amazing and it’s spot on. As for Scott, there’s this sort of hammer on, pull off kind of thing that I do in the central riff on the guitar that’s a bit tricky to learn at first and Scotty sat down to work it out on his double bass and he asks me ‘how does that go’ and he did it in a few seconds?! How the hell do you do that on a double bass?? The guys a freak!’
Release Date: 20th June 2013