Ash are one of those bands that you can really imagine staying around for a long time to come. With an average age of just 27 it's unbelievable that they've had a career spanning over 10 years and still the energy or excitement never diminishes. New album "Meltdown" has seen them leaving long-term producer Owen Morris in order to get a new rockier sound in the states. It's a move which still keeps the sugar-coated pop sensibilities while opening up the soundscape to classic rock and metal riffs. Designer Magazine caught up with Tim and Mark in Manchester.
Q: The new album "Meltdown" is a meatier, big sounding album than we've heard from Ash previously. Was a conscious decision to move away from "Free All Angels", which even by Ash's standards was a very pop album
Tim: It's just come from all the touring we've done. Its beefed us up a bit. I don't think it was about moving away from "Free All Angels", I just think we wanted to capture the live sounds. "Free All Angels" live was always a lot heavier and with this one we just wanted to capture that sound. That's why we worked with an American producers - they brought it out more.
Q: How was it actually going over to the States to record. A different mindset I guess than recording yet another album in the UK in the same studios. It's free's you up immediately.
Tim: We recorded it in the same studio they made "Nevermind". And the producer Nick has worked with Foo Fighters and a lot of heavier stuff. He obviously had a wee bit of an influence as well. We got to stay in this great house in Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills. We were there for like 3 months - it was awesome!!! And there was really weird stuff happening like Dave Grohl hanging around in the studio. It was just really bizarre.
Q: Was recording "Meltdown" your best experience in the studio?
Tim: They've all been great fun for different reasons. This was definitely the easiest to work on. It just came together so easy.
Q: Listening from beginning to end it is your most cohesive album. Would you agree?
Tim: From start to end I don't think there's a duff track on it. That's what we wanted. I stand by every single one of our albums, but this is definitely our best live album. We're playing the best we've ever played.
Mark: We took a big leap when we changed producer as well. We've been working with the same guy for years, so we kind of needed to do it. It was also a bit scary as well cos we've worked with different producers before and it's been a complete disaster. It was a real leap of faith going with Nick.
Q: What was the impetus for changing producers? Was the point where it just felt time to move on?
Tim: We sort of learnt all we could learn with Owen and we'd taken the pop thing really as far as we could go.
Q: When you looked back to "Nu-Clear Sounds" and what happened with that release. Was that at the back of your minds while recording this album?
Tim: Not really. We thought we had a really good batch of songs. We were really confident. With "Nu-Clear Sounds" we were making up a lot of it in the studio and we got there in the end but it was a nightmare to make.
Mark: This time we were totally prepared before we went into the studio. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. "Nu-Clear Sounds" was a really huge departure from what we had done before whereas this is not really. It's just a rocking backtrack but the huge choruses are still there.
Tim: Even though it's got the rockier sounds it's still recognizable Ash and that's why we weren't worried. We've still got the big tunes and the big choruses and stuff
Q: As songwriters and a band Ash have that distinctive sound. Within 10 seconds of hearing a new Ash tune you can immediately tells its your.
Tim: Its not self conscious at all. The sound has just developed by accident. We didn't sit down and say we wanted to sound like this.
Mark: I think a lot of the rock side of it has obviously been helped by the fact that Rick has developed vastly as a drummer. He's a lot more aggressive and playing much more intricate parts which for a lot of rock stuff its so important to have the drums sounding like that.
Q: I noticed before in soundcheck that you (Tim) were bashing away on the drums.
Tim: It's good fun to get behind the kit every so often. Rick used to leave his drum kit in my parents garage and that's where I sort of learned. After school I would just take my frustration out on the drum kit.
Q: Will it ever get to the stage where you have 2 drum kits on stage?
Tim: (Laughs) I couldn't keep up. A drum battle with Rick (laughs)
Q: It's been 10 years since you guys first started. Does it feel strange to think you're one of the few remaining bands of your era?
Tim: I think there's us, Supergrass, Blur, Radiohead and Oasis left now. About 3 or 4 years ago every week you'd hear of another band splitting up or being dropped and it's quite sad really. That's just the way it is though, people don't expect bands to stick around for longer than say 6 years. 10 years is pretty f**king cool.
Mark: We didn't imagine when we started that we'd still be around in 10 years time. We didn't have a clue. We were just young guys having a laugh and we knew being so young we'd have that chance to develop. Were like 27 now so there's life in the old dogs yet.
Tim: It was really good having our first album go number 1 and our first hit single with "Girls From Mars" was amazing, but doing it all again with "Free All Angels" was such a big kick.
Mark: It was good to prove people wrong especially after so many people had written us off.
Q: Can you imagine Ash being around for another 10 years and just going on like the Stones?
Tim: I think 20 years is probably pushing it, but we'll see what happens. I'm sure they didn't expect to be around that long and i'm sure the Cure didn't expect they'd still be around in 20 years.
Mark: Whenever you hit your mid 40s you realize you're too old to be trained to do something different anyway. That's probably why they still do it.
Q: We've got bands like the Pixies reforming now. Do you ever think that in 10 years time we're going to have the Britpop version of the Here & Now Tours?
Tim: And get the Bluetones and Shed 7. I wonder if the interest will generate enough in 10 years time. It will be surreal. Some of the bands were good like Supergrass, Blur and Oasis and they've lasted, but then you had the bands like Menswear.
Q: You've always treaded a thin line between pop and rock music. How did the war of words begin with cheesemeisters Pop!
Tim: I was set up by CD:UK on that one. They saw the video and knew it was shite, so they threw it in anyway cos they wanted me to say something. But Pete Waterman's always had a problem with us anyway and came back with something like "isn't Ash is what's left when the flames gone out". Well, isn't pop what happens when the bubble bursts - f**k off. If Pop or Westlife are around in 10 years time they can come and slag us off then!!!
It's good though that we can still straddle those niche. When we started out we were on the front cover of NME, Smash Hits and Kerrang simultaneously. Not many people can straddle that gap, but we're probably too old for Smash Hits now. It's weird that we still can get 16yr old girls down the front of each gig and then have the old punks who have grown up with us chilling at the back.
Q: Finally you're doing the festival circuit across the UK and Europe, Asia and Australia. How has the reaction been like to "Meltdown" in other territories?
Tim: In Japan they're mad about us over there. It just gets bigger with each album. I mean, even "Nu-Clear Sounds" got bigger over there than "1977". They're very faithful over there which is good.
In America its strange as well. They have these little Anglophile scenes that are really into British music. And it's weird in a way cos bands can get big purely through touring - it's good to see you can go out over there and make it without the media support.
Words: Alex McCann
Photo's by Karen McBride - www.karenmcbride.com
"Meltdown" is out now
"Starcrossed" the single is out July 12th
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