Do you remember the time when they were stars? I don’t know if you know that; Ash played at a place with a capacity of only one hundred and fifty, in the same town as DiS HQ - Weymouth. Well now you do. The gig was part of a national tour of intimate venues around the Uk and Ireland. So why would a band who’ve known the good times, suddenly go Pete Tong?
“We’ve always been really into small venues before festivals as warm-ups and stuff. We always seem to have a good time at small gigs,” * begins DiS interview victim, drummer of Ash, Rick McMurray. *“Cus we’ve been away for a while we didn’t want to do bigger shows straight off and have almost nobody turn up. So we decided to do some rammed small shows which are always really vibey.” So what they infact did, was asked their fans to vote on the Radio 1 website and low and behold, a twenty-date tour was assembled. *“There’s some pretty weird places on this tour. I think this is the smallest venue on the tour.” * This being Verdis, where an Irish fish’n’chip muncher, sporting a rawk mowhawk, is sat in the alcohol filled dressing room. *“It’s gonna be pretty crazy getting to the stage, let alone playing,” * Rick explains. Well, it sure was, people were either star-stunned or screaming, whilst making way for Tim, Charlotte, Mark and Rick making their way to producing some of their I-want-to-hear-these-again noisy’ish sounding new songs and a bunch of ‘golden oldies’ to keep the kidz sweating.
But things really haven’t taken a turn for the worse, promise. I think it’d be quite impossible for the band who did indie club classic ‘Girl from Mars’/’Oh Yeah’/”that one from a life less ordinary”/’Kung Fu’ [delete as appropriate to your neck of the woods] , to slide out of the public eye quite so quickly. After 1996’s Platinum and Gold selling ‘1977’ did the business, for Infectious Records boss Korda Marshall, so much so that his label was sold for around ten million to Rupert Murdoch. Not bad considering Mr.Marshall his debuting signing was Ash for a seemingly nominal fee back in ‘93.
What have Ash been up to since the last album ‘Nu-clear Sounds’? “I guess we’ve been away for quite a while now really. We spent the first six months of this year writing the new album. That was a bit different for us, because usually we spend just a couple of months writing and then we get half of the songs written and then finish the album in the studio. Since August we’ve been in the studio recording and we just finished last night (being Saturday November 25th 2000). It’s been pretty crazy the last couple of weeks but it’s been worth it.”
The albums due in Spring 2001, and if you’ve not managed to get into one of the 20sold out mini tour dates, what can you expect from the new stuff? Rick said: *“A return to the 1977 sorta sound. The melodies are a lot more focused and it’s a lot more up! The last record was kinda downbeat. It’s in yer face guitar pop really. Some of the stuffs quite rock. The closest description we’ve got is a cross between Nevermind and the Beach Boys, or something weird like that.” *. I think that’s quite a rough idea of what you can expect, for me the new stuff quite simply a paradox. The classic pop sound, but with loud guitars – so it’s probably best to stick with Rick’s similar description.
So what music has influenced this new stuff? “Collectively we’ve not really being listening to anything. Primal Scream, I guess, that’s quite out there. So we’ve tried to push our sounds in that kinda direction of sounds. Urm,” Rick falters and begins to grin. “We’ve been listening to a lot of Dr.Dre actually but the new stuff don’t sound nothing like that.” And Tim hasn’t turned into a wigga talkin’ bout bitches and muvva fukahs! Rick interjects to get back on topic, “our new stuff is all about love and sex really [laughs] as usual.”
Are there any important issues addressed in the new material? “No, nothing really. We try not to get involved too much in politics. We did do the Northern Ireland referendum gig a couple of years ago, which wasn’t something we’ve involved our music with. We just write songs, which are quite personal and instead of making political statements. I guess it’s from growing up in Northern Ireland where you get all the political issues shoved in your face and we’re doing this as escapism.”
“I guess it’s just good stuff to listen to when you’re getting ready to go out. When you’re getting vibed up. We tend to write songs on a personal level so the themes are usually quite universal, so people can connect to them.” You can stop holding your breath if you thought Ash had dramatically reinvented themselves then please return to filling your lungs with toxins. I guess, if it ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it
A question for the Ash anorak wearers: what are the new song titles? * “Walking barefoot, Shine a light, Someday, Submission, There’s a star, Candy, Slow Suicide”* And the album title? *”Nope. That’s one thing we’ve always had trouble getting our head round. We always come up with one at the last minute.” *
Ash’s recent single which is not on the untitled album “but might be a b-side, cus there are lots of dodgy bootlegs going around,” was released on the internet. Ooooh that taboo buzz word. Is it important to Ash? “Yeah it’s definitely important to us a band, but I’m computer illiterate and I couldn’t surf the web even if I tried. I think it’s gonna be quite an important part of the music business, it’s only just around the corner. I think it’s a really positive thing, you can get to all your fans around the world and they can get a direct link to the band without going through press, radio or whatever. I guess it’s kinda like fanzines in a way, creating a direct link with the band. There’s all these arguments that it’s gonna kill music, like home taping, but it’s just made things stronger. Mark's been really involved with the site, he keeps coming up with new ideas.”
This closeness with their fans does have however have its downside. “Most of the people are really cool. Especially in Europe, it’s great. But there are some fans who get a bit obsessive. Like there’s one fan, when we were doing Nu-clear sounds and she turned up outside the studios and we were like ‘what the fuck are you doing here?’ and she was like ‘oh I’ve come to see Tim, I’m his stalker’. She actually said ‘I am his stalker’. I think she moved from Milan to London. Tim spotted her on the tube a few times, which was kinda strange. But most of our fans are quite cool.”
Lots of ‘cool’ fans, has meant the media are very interested in every aspect of Ash, how have they treated you? “It was the worst around 1977(the album, not the year!). We don’t get the same sort things now. The tabloids were saying shit like Mark was on heroine or stuff like that. We’ve been out of the public eye too long for much to happen right now. Maybe it’ll change if things go like we hope when this album comes out, if it goes as well as we think it’s gonna do.”
How do you think the album would go? *“If it does what it deserves to do, it’ll be really big, hopefully. The German and European record companies love what they’ve heard. We have got a few songs that might go down well on the American radio. America’s kinda stalled for us, cus we’ve got a quite small but loyal following over there. We spent 12 weeks out there with 1977 and it didn’t really pay off. We moved to Dreamworks over there but it became a logistical nightmare and the album ended up coming out a year later than it did here. We’re not holding our breath. So who knows…” * Indeed.