INTERVIEW – ASH

James

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Known for the catchy guitar hooks and singalong choruses, Ash are back with their first album since 2007, the wonderfully titled KABLAMMO! We caught up with Tim, Mark and Rick before their sold out Whelan’s show to find out what made them change their mind about the album format and their secret to staying together for over two decades.

You’ve been together now near 23 years now, starting off did you ever imagine lasting this long?

Tim: No, no way

Mark: I don’t think we thought too far ahead at any point, we had aspirations of big things but it was always just what was in front of us at the time.

Rick: Early days it was all about getting the record deal, the first single and the next logical step after that. I don’t think there was any point when we thought what are we going to be doing in 23 years. It’s kinda a random number to choose anyway!

Tim: I think our first deal was maybe a three album deal and then became a five album deal and that seemed like long enough. It would be a great achievement to reach the end of that.

Rick: Once we signed the first deal I remember us having a conversation about not wanting to be a flash in the pan one album band as well so we always had thoughts of this being a longer thing but never are we going to be doing this by the time we’re pushing 40.

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You all seem to still get on quite well so what advice would you have for other bands on how to not kill each other on tour?

Tim: Maybe starting as friends. We all went to the same school.

Mark: We all had common ambitions and stuff.

Tim: We were all very dedicated too, I think you need a real passion for it to survive the ups and downs.

Rick: I guess there’s a point when you’re not thinking about yourself, you’re thinking what’s good for the band. I think we all think what’s the right thing to do for the band rather than how can I better myself in this process.

Mark: A lot of bands form as maybe they’re accomplished musicians to start with and then that means that a lot of people are walking in with a bad environment of egos already established whereas we came from school.

Rick: We learnt on the job.

Tim: I think all our tough times, and coming out of it together bonded us a lot.

You’ve just released Kablammo! after previously saying you were done with albums. At what point between the A-Z Series and Kablammo! did you decide an album was the way to go?

Rick: I think when we did the A-Z stuff we thought that would be the norm 5 years later, we thought we were pioneering a new way of releasing music because in 2007 it seemed like albums really were done.  Sales were falling off the edge of a cliff really.

Tim: And they still have!

Rick: They’ve stabilised, people still are releasing music that way so it felt kind of the right thing to do and what the fans were looking for. Not that we didn’t enjoy the A-Z but it was a massive undertaking to do that way, it was a real challenge but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It just made sense to go back to albums as they still existed.

Tim: Yeah we needed to do it. We’ve seen vinyls come back, people listen to whole albums now again rather than just downloading individual tracks. We convened to start writing again a couple of years ago and when we were a little bit into it we thought oh yeah we should make an album once we had a few good songs.

Mark: When we released 26 singles quite quickly we realised getting a certain amount of media attention for a number of them but it tapers off, you’re not going to get that much spotlight for 26 songs. But it was a good experiment.

Tim: We needed to do it creatively as well.

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You’ve said in previous interviews that you know fans like Ash to be fun and catchy so that’s what you wanted to give them with Kablammo! Is that something you yourselves wanted to do yourselves or would you have liked to continue down more experimental path like the A-Z series?

Tim: I think we did what we want. I guess every time we take on a new project, if it’s an album or single series we’re looking for a challenge in it and that can stimulate your creativity. So it was a challenge coming back to an album after saying we’d never do one again so it had to be as good as our best ones. I think that’s what put us into a looking back frame of mind.

Rick: Which is something we’ve never really done before. We’ve always looked forward to a new sound or direction or new way of releasing stuff but this was casting our eye back over the last 20 odd years and going right it’s gotta match up to our best stuff.

Tim: There was some other factors as well, we’ve been touring quite a lot over the last 5 years even though we weren’t really releasing stuff since 2007. So we were aware it is hard to replace the number of classics in the set. We’ve got a body of work now so the new stuff had to stand up and fit in with. We really wanted to freshen up our live set.

You have said that most of your live seems set comes from “1977”, is that something you’re still proud of or at this stage do feel oh no this again?

Tim: No we love it. They always get a good reaction.

Rick: We never really shied away from playing those songs, we see how much that means to our audience they always go nuts for them. Showcase new material, that’s always important but we thrive on seeing the audience go nuts whatever we do.

Tim: A few interspersed among the setlist is a great way to keep things flowing.

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Do you think it’s strange that these songs you wrote when you were teenagers are still getting such a reaction, if not even more now?

Tim: I suppose you don’t normally expect what you do so young to actually stand the test of time.

Rick: Especially over the last 5 years, a thing we’re seeing is fans bringing their kids along to the show. The kids who maybe weren’t born when “Girl From Mars” came out are suddenly singing along passionately with their parents to every single word.

After “Lost Domain”, was it difficult to get in the right frame of mind to write that type of fun catchy album?

Tim: I sort of finished “Lost Domain” about a year before it got released so there was like a little bit of still waiting for the closure of releasing it. So it did take a second to switch mind-sets to Ash stuff but then I’d really said everything I needed to say. I guess the only song that sort of relates to it is “Cocoon” in that it’s about re-emerging from that time period. Then it was really fun for me, a nice breath of fresh air to move on.

Have Rick and Mark every considering doing something solo?

Rick: (shakes head)

Tim: (Looks at Mark) Well there was your goat vocal death metal project…

Mark: We had a joke once. We thought it would be funny to have a death metal band with goat vocals.

Tim: Like on that Taylor Swift song.

Rick: I know one person that might buy it…

Mark: It would be international; there would be no language barrier.

Rick: The international language of goat.

Tim, do you might release a follow up to “This Is Christmas”? Maybe Halloween themed?

Tim: That would be good actually!

There is a criminal lack of Halloween themed songs…

Mark: It’s big business in the States too!

Tim: I think The Misfits kinda cornered the market…  That would be nice actually. We had “Zombie Christmas” so that straddled the gap. We might need to go the full direction now.

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You’ve collaborated and performed with We Are Scientists, have we seen the end of that partnership?

Tim: We’re talking about doing a tour with them later on this year in Europe I think. They’re very good friends of ours, we see them a lot I wouldn’t be surprised if we do something else. That was really cool that project [“Washington Parks”], because were each in one speaker playing the same track in sync so it sounded cool.

Is there anyone else you would like to collaborate with?

Tim: It could be quite fun to have some guest guitarists to appear on some stuff in studio from people we know like Graham Coxon, Johnny Marr…that could be quite fun.

Would you ever consider having another guitarist for touring again?

Tim: Maybe at some point.

Rick: I think at the moment a big part of Kablammo! was about making it sound really good as a three piece. I think as well we were touring with Russell from Bloc Party and he was sick so we went back to a three piece and it just felt really natural going back, obviously it’s more work for Tim but we’re really comfortable with it.

Tim: I think more than half our career now has been as a three piece between the Charlotte and Russell years we’ve still been a three piece longer.

Rick: It’s always fun getting someone in but I think we’ve made our peace with being a three piece.

Tim: I think this is the first album since “Trailer” where it’s very easy to translate it to live straight away and I quite like the challenge of handling all the guitar duties, its good fun.

Mark: There was a time during A-Z when one week we’d be a three piece, one week we’d be a four piece. That was kinda fun switching between the two.

Tim: Also Rick was ducking in and out because he’d just had his daughter. I think we had four different line ups that summer it was really weird. We did a show in Japan with a guitarist from a massive Japanese band, Asian Kung- fu Generation.

Mark: And then we had Alan from LaFaro. People were like who the hell are these guys!

Do you think for Ash 25 you might get Charlotte back for one or two shows like you did for Ash 20?

Tim: Maybe, it depends what she’s doing!

Mark: A quarter century…

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When it comes to covers, you’re clearly not afraid to have some fun with the likes of Cantina Band, Dusty Springfield, ABBA, The Temptations has anyone in the band ever suggested a cover and you just thought no, we can’t do that, that’s too far?

Tim: Ooh…I think there was one but I can’t remember what it was… We do like to go quite extreme with the covers.

Mark: We did a cover of Carly Simon “Coming Around Again” really early on in our career for BBC Radio Ulster and we slaughtered it so we revisited it about 15 years later and then made it one of our best covers ever.

Tim: We were on BBC 6 Music a few weeks ago, they were doing an Ash related show and people were Tweeting in suggesting songs connected to us so they suggested “Does Your Mother Know”. They played the ABBA version and someone then wrote in saying “This is a national disgrace!” because they were playing ABBA!

Although none of you are still based in Ireland you’re still very much thought of as an Irish band. Is that something that important to you?

Tim: Definitely, we’re very proud of it and we have a big connection to our Irish audience. It’s one of the best places to play and we all travel on our Irish passports.

You’ve played some great shows in Dublin throughout the years, in places like The Point, SFX, Whelans, do you have any shows in Dublin that particularly stand out?

Rick: I think the last time we played here [Whelan’s] was great.

Tim: The Point is one of my biggest Ash memories. I was just about to turn 20, so to play there still as a teenager… It was amazing because it was just full of teenagers, people our age. Buses and had come from all over the country for it so that was cool. We’ve had some great shows at the Olympia too.

Rick: That’s a great venue.

Tim: I remember we used to open for a lot of bands at the Tivoli. There was about a year, year and a half where we supported a lot of people here like Elastica, Ride, Smashing Pumpkins.

Rick: We supported Therapy? in the Point as well in 1995 and then a year later we were headliners.

Tim: And then you can’t beat the buzz of Whelan’s.

Mark: And the (Temple Bar) Music Centre as well. We played there a lot.

Tim: And the “Free All Angels” show at The Academy… Basically you can’t go wrong with a Dublin show!

KABLAMMO! is out now 

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