Ashbury

Ashbury Interview

«Our goal was to have a very unique and original sound»

Well I guess that no special introduction is needed for Ashbury. This band from Tucson, Arizona USA has released one of the best Crossover LPs ever made! You would better take a listen to "Endless Skies" and you would understand my point. I tracked down Randy Davis (electric guitar and vocals), Rob Davis (acoustic guitar and vocals) and Johnny Ray (drums) who were kind enough to answer all the questions about Ashbury. Enjoy.

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.