Hello and welcome to your first Forgotten Scroll Interview. It is a real honor to have you with us.
It is our privilege.
I want to start with this flash back in time pointing the days of the beginning. When and where did the band exactly start to be in existence?
Rob Davis: Randy founded Ashbury as a cover band in Tucson in June 1980–it was a 4 piece dual electric guitar band. Rob was the producer and “live” sound engineer. This cover band was named Ashbury, other than that it had nothing to do with what was to come for the Davis Brothers. In November of 1982 Randy moved from Texas to Tucson and recruited Rob and obtained financial backing for an LP project. We then approached Johnny Ray to play Drums. Johnny agreed. Randy would also perform as Bass player. * Robert “Tony” Allmendinger auditioned for the Bass player duties, but the Producers chose to replace him with Randy once recording had begun.
Who were the founders of Ashbury and how did you get together?
Randy & Rob Davis: I have heard that at first Randy Davis and Rob Davis performed an acoustic / electric 2 piece show and this fact somehow driven them the beginning of the band. Is this correct? ~ Randy & Rob Davis were the founders of Ashbury. We performed an acoustic/electric 2 piece show in 1980 for a living–but wanted to expand to a full band.
Was it a guitar-vocals two piece set? Who did the guitars and who the vocals? Do they kept the same spots in Ashbury? Are those two guys brothers?
Randy & Rob Davis: Rob played acoustic guitar and lead vocals. Randy played acoustic, classical and electric guitar and did lead and harmony vocals. The show was 98% cover songs, from James Taylor to Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple–to name a very few. In Ashbury Rob plays acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Randy plays acoustic, classical and all electric guitars and lead and harmony vocals—the 2 collaborate on string arrangements–and on our 2nd album Randy played all instruments. Yes we are full brothers, Mom can verify this! LOL!!
Was there any activity of the band’s founders in other groups prior to Ashbury?
Randy & Rob Davis: Randy worked in other Rock bands–Rigid Spur, Ashbury South, Prophet, Redliner—along with backing several major label Artists. Rob worked mostly as “live” sound engineer with Rigid Spur, Ashbury South, Prophet, Redliner and numerous major label Recording Artists (Leslie West, Spirit, and many others).
Johnny Ray: I first met Rob when I was in a band called (PROPHET). He was the sound tech and backing vocalist and my roommate on the road. At the end of the night he used to play his songs for me and I told him that if he ever wanted to record them I WAS YOUR MAN, so when the time came he called me and YOU all know the magic that ensued,,, It was an awesome session!!!
Lets give a point about the name of the band. Who had the idea of it and does it mean anything special?
Randy & Rob Davis: The name Ashbury originated with Randy–it was his concept–taken from Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco to signify straight forward American Rock!
How was the first period of the band? How often did you rehearse? Where there any difficulties you had to face back then?
Randy & Rob Davis: Remember, “Endless Skies” was performed and recorded by 3 people–Randy, Rob and Johnny Ray. We then transformed into a 5 piece band to perform “live”, after the album was released. The album was recorded in Tucson, then we relocated to Phoenix (larger city) where we were receiving alot of radio air-play. We rehearsed every day and there were Reel-to-Reel tape recordings made daily! We faced nothing but difficulties in 1983 America which was obsessed with Michael Jackson, Boy George and New Wave bands. Club venues wanted COVER Bands. Concert promoters wanted “signed” major label bands.
Johnny Ray: The band at that time was a recording project of the Davis brothers, I was called in and 12 hours later we had all my tracks done, after that I went on to play with a band called “SLAYER” for a while and some other local Arizona projects and didn’t even know if the project had been pressed till Rob got a copy to me, needless to say I was very happy with what they had done. And to know it is still a viable entity after all these years make me very happy for my involvement.
Which was the first song that the band composed? Can you remember the name?
Randy & Rob Davis: The “Band” did not compose the songs–Rob and Randy wrote all material and some were written before 1982. “Madman” was the 1st. “Endless Skies”, “The Warning” and “Mystery Man” were written long before the studio, “Vengeance”, “Take Your Love Away”, “Hard Fight”, “Twilight” and “No Mourning” were written for the debut album just prior to entering the studio. Johnny Ray had full creative autonomy for the Drums—which is where the great chemistry came together–Johnny played every song exactly as we wanted it through his own creativity and talent!
Can we mention some of the influences of the band back then? Your style is quite unique, very catchy and melodic, meanwhile mysterious and magical. So what were the bands / artists / kinds of music that have inspired you to compose your stuff?
Randy & Rob Davis: Our influences were numerous and varied across a wide range of musical styles–but the main influence was and still is Jethro Tull. Ian is the greatest composer/performer and band leader of the 20th century–simple as that. Others include Wishbone Ash, Scorpions, Allman Brothers, Outlaws—and James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Dan Fogelberg, Al Dimeola and we also cut our teeth on Black S!abbath.
Was this unique style of Ashbury a result that was created through practice and rehearsals or do you have the vision and the main goal to play that way before even you enter the rehearsal room?
Randy & Rob Davis: Our goal was to have a very unique and original sound which would be instantly recognizable as Ashbury. Our sound along with our writtng and choice of songs to record is very deliberate–as we are capable of playing many genres of music (check out www.reverbnation.com/ashburyonline to sample how versatile we can be performing “other” styles of music)!
Johnny Ray: For me… All my rehearsal was done in the studio the day we recorded, on the fly, 1st takes on most of the songs. Some of which playing to finished tracks and a click track, and for anybody that knows how recording sessions go, that is a VERY difficult way to put down the drum tracks. It’s typically done the other way around, drums 1st then everything else. It was quite a challenge, but without those challenges there is no great art!!! That is when we are defined as an artist…Its when the best work comes out of you.
Which was the first stable line up of the band?
Randy & Rob Davis: In Phoenix, AZ. in 1983 after the release of “Endless Skies” the line-up was Randy Davis~electric guitar and vocals, Rob Davis~acoustic guitar and vocals, Mark Zilmer~Bass, Pete Smith~Drums, and Phil Lupo~ Keyboards and Flute .
Was there any release prior to the debut LP? Have you done any demos? Is their any material prior to the debut LP that still remain unreleased?
Randy & Rob Davis: No. Ashbury released nothing prior to “Endless Skies”. We have done several demos this year 2010–in preparation for a new album.
So lets share some information about the debut LP. When and where was it recorded? In how many days?
Randy & Rob Davis: The debut LP was recorded in January 1983 at Westwood studio in Tucson, AZ. It was recorded in approximately 50 studio hours. We mixed in February, approximately 47 hours. The LP was mastered by John Bittner in Phoenix.
There is a little confusion about “Endless Skies” year of release, so can you please tell when exactly it was released?
Randy & Rob Davis: “Endless Skies” was released in May, 1983 and received “Album of the Year” award from KSTM-FM radio in Phoenix. KSTM-FM did a “live radio interview” with Randy & Rob (not the entire band) and were the first to play the album on-air! KSTM-FM awarded “Endless Skies” “Album of the Year” a second time in 1984! Dennis McBroom (on-air personality) compared the album to Jethro Tull and The Moody Blues. He endorsed it as the best album to “ever” come out of Arizona.
“Endless Skies”, what is hidden behind that title? Why have you selected this?
Randy & Rob Davis: “Endless Skies” is meant to describe the “human condition” as we ponder the infinite boundaries of our universe and our role in it as we “travel between the Eternities”! Presented in a mystical, magical/Fantasy setting It is intended to make you “ponder the possibilities and reflect”–for if we do not increase our awareness as Mankind–we may not have much more future on this planet.
Well the debut LP was a private LP by the band. Have you tried to find a record label to release it? What was the response of the labels (if any)?
Randy & Rob Davis: Well the debut LP was NOT by any Band!! Ashbury has always been Randy Davis & brother Rob. Johnny Ray (who had worked with Rob in Prophet–but had never worked with Randy) was recruited as a studio session drummer (the best in the southwest)! Johnny Ray is NOW a member of Ashbury and will take his place on the new album and all “live” concerts. We are currently looking for the right Bass player to complete the line-up. In 1983 Rob traveled to Los Angeses and met with many major label A & R executives–some turned us down; 2 labels offered a recording contract for the Davis brothers—but not as Ashbury–and not for “Endless Skies”. They saw us as a commercial commodity which they would mold into a sellable product. Not Hard Rock–but more in a pop/easy listening vein (England Dan & John Ford Coley style). They saw Rob as a pure singer ala Dan Seals or James Taylor. They saw Randy’s lead guitar capabilities reaching far beyond Hard Rock and into commercial mainstream. Their plan was to shelf “Endless skies” (too unique–not sellable) and put us with a producer who could create Top 40 Billboard success. We refused-simple as that. The label execs told us straight out “Endless Skies” would never sell–but with their direction–the Davis brothers could become a household name. We were not impressed. We did not sign
In how many copies have you pressed it?
Randy & Rob Davis: The original LP pressing was 1,000 copies. Only a few dozen now remain. The CD was first replicated in 2001–sold out. Rockadrome has now replicated twice and “Bootleg” copies in vinyl, cassette tape and mostly CDs have been reported in the thousands. Approximate sales of “Endless Skies” estimate at around 20,000 total (including digital sales). We currently receive about 5 offers a year to do a new pressing on vinyl.
How did you manage to distribute the LP back then?
Randy & Rob Davis: It was distributed in America by Tower Records, and Zia Record Stores in the southwest also.
What was the next big step of the band after the debut’s release? Did you try to set up any touring?
Randy & Rob Davis: That was our intention—in hindsight–we should have come to Europe in 1983!! Promoters wanted a signed major label band. Large club venues wanted Cover bands.
Johnny Ray: As a drummer and side man to a lot of entertainers over the years, I’ve just been trying to stay as busy as possible. Maybe in another interview I can get into all that, but this is about Ashbury…
Apart from record labels was there any response from fans and / or press back then?
Randy & Rob Davis: We received radio airplay in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, New York, Oregon and California. We never received any royalties. We also had a very devoted local following in Phoenix.
Apart from the “Endless Skies” LP itself there is not much information about the band. So lets examine some things together and spread some light. First of all was there a time point that the band officially split up after the release of “Endless Skies”, sooner or later
Randy & Rob Davis: By November of 1983 it was obvious that our goals would not be achievable in America. We had no idea of how popular we would become in Europe. We chose not to become a cover band again and disbanded to other pursuits. Randy & Rob would not perform under the name Ashbury again until 2010. There is a second Ashbury album in existence.
Almost 21 years after the “Endless Skies” release. So can we say that the band reformed or it was never actually split?…
Randy & Rob Davis: Excellent question. Randy & Rob have always been the whole band as far as Ashbury. “Endless Skies–Rob played acoustic and vocals–Johnny Ray drums–Jerry Van Dielen was a close friend of Randy and an award winning pianist–who had no desire to be a member of any band professionally, nor did he want a musical career–he contributed the piano solo in “Endless Skies”–other than that, Randy did ALL other instrumentation–All Arrangements!! There was NOT a band called Ashbury when we went to the studio in 1983!! Ashbury has always been the Davis brothers! Randy & Rob write everything, produce everything and do all vocal work–there is no band collaboration and never has been. Johnny Ray is NOW a full member of Ashbury as of 2010, and he will be part of the creative process for the new album.
…Or can we simply mention “Something Funny Going On” as a full Ashbury release or it was more or less a personal album by the guitarist Randy Davis that was simply released under the Ashbury name?
Randy & Rob Davis: A large part of “Something Funny Going On” was written in 1983 for our 2nd album–to be performed by the 5 piece band we had formed AFTER “Endless Skies” was recorded. That band never went into the studio. 20 years later, due to the popularity of Ashbury’s “Endless Skies” Randy & Rob recorded “Something Funny Going On”—in the same fashion as “Endless Skies”–only Randy now also played the Drums. Randy plays all instruments in order to control the exact sound and creative process that we want in our songs. Ian Anderson imposes this same control over Jethro Tull’s sound and production.
What is exactly this “Funny” that “Is Going On” hahaha?
Randy & Rob Davis: That song is about Corporate Fascism in the music industry in 1983 (Hunter Thompson once described the music business as a vile trench filled with thieves and pimps–then went on to say that there is a down side to it too!!). It’s about Artists being used as a money-making product at the behest of Record labels. Since it is also the title cut representing the entire album–it also encompasses governmental corruption and the deliberate dismantling of the Western economy and civilization as we know it (The Cold Light Of Day). Witness what is happening in Europe and the U.S. right now! There is something going on…and it’s NOT funny–it’s corrupt and evil–so the “Funny” is definite sarcasm!
When and where did you record the second CD? In how many copies was it pressed? Was it a private pressing once again?
Randy & Rob Davis: “Something Funny Going On” was recorded in 2003-2004 in our home studio–24 bit, 24 track digital.. The first pressing was not intended for commercial release—done for a loyal fan base. We had so many requests and inquiries for orders that we decided to replicate and release it through our website earlier this year. Rockadrome also sells it but it is NOT on the Rockadrome label. The 2010 edition we manufactured 1,000 copies. Sales have been strong enough that we are also digitally distributing it through itunes, Amazon and all the usual sites. We are currently negotiating with a German label for more European distribution.
What was the line up of this album?
Randy & Rob Davis: Randy & Rob Davis. We did everything–start to finish. We are currently having “Something Funny Going On” remastered for vinyl–for a 2011 release. The new album will be studio recorded with outside engineers (and probably on analog format 2 inch tape)!! We believe that is better sound than digital. With Johnny Ray back on Drums!!!
Comparing this second album with “Endless Skies” can you find any similarities or differences?
Randy & Rob Davis: Both! Obviously nobody wants to record their first album over again–yet you don’t want to sound like a different band. First of all, “Endless skies” is more fantasy based themes–“Something Funny Going On” is a reflection of today’s reality dealing with corrupt governments, failed personal relationships, following your dreams at all costs, and in this era of political correctness and false positive attitudes–the western societies are falling into decay and corruption. Instrumentally we approached the music identically–only adding more advanced string and keyboard arrangements with “Something Funny Going On”. As one fan in Ireland stated about “Something Funny Going On”–“it is SOOOOO obviously Ashbury”!
Johnny Ray: It’s NO different, just some of the BEST song writing I’ve ever heard!!!!
Do you agree with the fact that the band started to have its fame long after the years of tis main existence (early 80s – “Endless Skies” release period)? I guess that it was both the great music included into your debut together with the fact that it is now a rare piece of vinyl having now a cult status among the collectors, so all this mouth by mouth noise around the band finally brought the attention to people that never heard of you. What is your opinion about this?
Randy & Rob Davis: Yes, the success we are having now proves that “Endless Skies” is a timeless album that should have been marketed by a major label. The merits of the music itself on “Endless Skies” is why this album is known, and “one of the top ten most sought after rare collectibles”–Steve Purdy of LSD Sounds (American collector & dealer). We did nothing to promote Ashbury or “Endless Skies” throughout the 80’s or 90’s–yet it’s popularity was growing every year. When dealers from around the globe and several labels began contacting us with interest in the late 90’s we began to realize what was happening.
Johnny Ray: Its one of the GREAT things about being an artist, the music you create has “Endless Skies”. It will live on forever….. whoa!!! Is that too deep for ya!!! I’m just happy that it has brought so much pleasure to so many people and There WILL be more!!!!
Do you think that the Internet helped a little in order for the Ashbury name to be spread around?
Randy & Rob Davis: Definitely! Had the internet existed in 1983–Ashbury would have had a way to continue as a DIY band–so much music exists today and is recorded and produced today because of the internet. In decades past–the major labels controlled everything!
Do you think that if you have managed to press “Endless Skies” on a big record label now Ashbury would be THE big band?
Randy & Rob Davis: Would love to say yes, but NOT hardly–haha! There would be at least a dozen or more Ashbury albums had we signed with a major label and our story here would be much different.
Johnny Ray: Major label support is always nice to have, who can really say what might or might not have happened!!! Sometimes being involved with a major label can ruin a perfectly good band!!!
But lets examine a different case: I sometimes think that it was somehow a personal choice of yours to keep the band’s name on a cult status and to do your releases in private pressings. Is there in a corner of your mind the thought that your Wishbone Ash meets Legend style would not appeal to many people? So you decided to let the “chosen few” to discover the band?
Randy & Rob Davis: It was our personal choice to turn down the label that offered us a contract. We demanded that we be given complete artistic control over our music and what we would release! We did not intentionally decide on a cult status–friends of music around the globe discovered “Endless Skies” and brought it to cult status–we truly had nothing to do with that. We are glad that it happened!
The years have passed and the re release of the debut on CD came through Monster Records / Rockadorme Records (current name). How did they find you?
Randy & Rob Davis: Collectors and labels have found Randy right here in Tucson–he is listed in the public phone directory. Rockadrome happened to approach us at just the right time–we had already reissued “Endless Skies” on CD in 2001. When Rockadrome called we were sold out and going into replication. We decided to sign with Rockadrome and get away from running a website and see how things went with a label.
Is the 2001 edition of “Endless Skies” -on CD- done by Monster / Rockadrome or was it a private press?
Randy & Rob Davis: It was private-press, done by Randy & Rob–pre Rockadrome!
Are you happy with the Monster / Rockadrome re release? Is there anything extra on the CD (any bonus tracks maybe), in how many copies has it been pressed and in how many editions / re-pressings ( I read somewhere that your debut is the label’s top seller)?
Randy & Rob Davis: We believe the CD of “Endless Skies” is very representative of the LP, so yes we’re happy with it. No bonus tracks on the CD–same song list as the LP. 3 editions–Rockadrome is currently on their 2nd pressing. We still get reports that there are bootleg copies on vinyl still being manufactured in Europe–of course almost all music and movies are subject to pirating in this digital age. We are Rockadrome’s #1 seller in Heavy Metal and Hard Rock categories.
In general, are you satisfied enough with your Rockadrome Records co operation?
Randy & Rob Davis: Rockadrome should congratulate itself, we have been a profitable venture for the label.–but we don’t particularly like record labels, period. They are like stockbrokers–they produce nothing–but exist to make money off the works of others.
There is also a re release of the 2004 album am I right? Can you give any more information about it? Who has done it? What are the differences comparing with the first 2004 edition (I know there is some new artwork and photos)? In how many copies does this re issue exists?
Randy & Rob Davis: Yes we re-released “Something Funny Going On” in 2010 with new artwork, photos and lyric sheet. A limited release of 1,000 units.
2010 found the band having a new album. Give me all the spicy details please. Title, how many songs will it have, who is going to put it out and all this stuff?
Randy & Rob Davis: Excellent question. With the addition of Johnny Ray as a full member of Ashbury-the album will not be recorded in our home studio with Randy playing all instruments. It will be a studio album with Johnny on drums and probably a Bass player other than Randy!! Due to these changes, the new album will be a 2011 release instead of late 2010. Ashbury fans have already heard the 1st demo “End Of All Time” and we have had excellent reviews and feedback from fans! We may do a CD and vinyl edition release and are in negotiations concerning these details—we will keep everyone posted on current and new developments. Look for titles like “End Of All Time”–“Out Of The Blue”–“Searchin'”–“He Plays A Good Guitar”–“Already There”–“Celtic Cross”–“Eye Of The Stygian Witches” and several more–maybe a couple of bonus trax on the CD which would not be on the vinyl issue (due to time restraints).
In a few words how would you describe the new album musically?
Randy & Rob Davis: Vintage Ashbury!
Going back to the debut again. I am noticing that all the song topics are fantasy inspired. Who have written the lyrics? What is the biggest inspiration for such lyrics? Is the lyrics writer a fan of fantastic literature? And if yes can you point some favorite writers and books?
Randy & Rob Davis: “Endless Skies” is largely fantasy based lyrics–but some would describe it as metaphores for harsh reality. Rob and Randy write all the lyrics–occasionally we collaborate. Quite often we write individually. Rob wrote “The Warning”, “Mystery Man”, “Take Your Love Away”, “Madman” and the lyrics to “Vengeance”. Randy wrote “Hard Fight” and then “Endless Skies” (Rob contributed a couple of lines, and the entire song was based on an epic poem that he wrote). Check the CD insert panel and it tells you who wrot which songs. Inspiration for lyrics is widespread and usually based on a theme or topic which we choose to write about. We consider lyrics to be as important as the music. Our favorite fantasy author is J.R.R. Tolkien, along with Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and the French author Voltaire (Voltaire taught us this is “the best of all possible worlds”!) haha!
Meanwhile on the second album the topics of the songs are more down to earth compared with the ones of the debut. Why this change happened?
Randy & Rob Davis: Once again it comes down to topics and themes. “Something Funny Going On” is written in the same Ashbury style with different topics. Once again we are describing harsh realities with our lyrics—but we try to include “between the lines” meanings in our lyrical content also.
Are there any other forms of art inspiring Ashbury?
Randy & Rob Davis: We appreciate all “Art” forms and consider them to be the best of human endeavors. We really love Hollywood movies too!!
Do you listen to music at home? And if yes what type? Is your personal listening to music (or the other band member’s music listening) somehow inspire or give a form to the Ashbury material?
Randy & Rob Davis: Yes we listen to a wide variety of music–lots of European artists–NO American Idol winners–they SUCK!! Jethro Tull has always been our favorite band since 1971–an inspiration and teacher.
Johnny Ray: I try to stay away from today’s modern music unless It’s a paid gig for me, so much of it is so contrived and fake, there are a few bands that write and record from the heart, but as a whole here in the U.S. digital recording and other modern techniques’ have taken all the soul out of so much possibly good music….
Lets change a little topic. Does Ashbury play live nowadays?
Randy & Rob Davis: We have done a few shows this year–2 piece only. To recreate our music live we want a full band–which we are in the process of lining up at the present time.
Johnny Ray: The original members will be back for some more AWESOME music….hold on to your seats, its gonna be a good ride!!!
Are you doing any track from the debut or it is just the new stuff that you are focusing?
Randy & Rob Davis: Our “live” show will include 7 songs from our debut album.
Johnny Ray: We will be mixing it up with new songs and the old hits, we want to please everybody you know !!
Back on the “Endless Skies” period was the band active on stage?
Randy & Rob Davis: Yes in 1983 we did several Concerts. We performed the songs from the debut album and many other originals–some of which are on “Something Funny Going On”–others which were lost forever.
Johnny Ray: I’ve been touring and doing as much as I can as an artist for the last 20+ years and kind of lost touch with the Davis bros for a long time, but now we are actively in pre-production for the next album and live shows to come, with as many trips as possible to Europe in the future, personally I want to meet as many fans as possible as soon as we work out all the logistics to getting us over there…
Is there any video footage from that era?
Randy & Rob Davis: Unfortunately we were not concerned with taping our shows. A TV station in Phoenix was producing a video for “Take Your Love Away”, but it was never finished.
How easy or difficult was to transfer that special feeling of the debut on stage?
Randy & Rob Davis: We had assembled a 5 piece band to recreate “Endless Skies” on stage. We rehearsed daily and were adamant that all songs be recreated exactly as the recording–as we will now also.
Do you find the band stronger on stage back then or now? Are the older songs performed in different versions on stage nowadays?
Randy & Rob Davis: We have performed some songs 2-piece “unplugged”, but only in limited venues and settings. Our philosophy is that the songs must be performed exactly as they were recorded–we don’t have new arrangements or new interpretations.
Are you planning to visit Europe someday? Have you been offered any shows on European countries so far, perhaps on one of those European festivals?
Randy & Rob Davis: YES!!! We are so looking forward to coming to Europe, and plan to do so as soon as we finish recording the new album. We have been offered a spot in one Festival in Germany, and will be working out many details of other shows in the coming weeks……stay tuned for more….haha!
Can you point the best and the worst moment in Ashbury career so far?
Randy & Rob Davis: The worst was leaving the music business and waiting 20 years to record our 2nd album, the best is yet to come along with being in touch with many long-time fans and the opportunity to create and record more original music!
What will the future bring for Ashbury?
Randy & Rob Davis: The Davis Brothers and Johnny Ray back together—the new album (maybe more than 1) “Live” shows–including performing in Europe–and giving as MUCH back to all our friends and fans who have made sure that our music will forever live on!!
Johnny Ray: More writing and as much live work as we can get. More albums, you know we will be trying to make out fans happy till we can’t do it any more….from there the legacy will carry on.
I would like to thank you very much for your precious time. Close the interview the way you like.
Randy & Rob Davis: We would like to thank everyone for their continued interest in Ashbury, it’s a privelage making music that people enjoy!
Johnny Ray: I’m just very grateful for all the fan support and the opportunity to reunite with my old friends to continue to give what we can to anyone who will listen and feel the love we have for our gift….. Ashbury Lives On….