ASH INTERVIEW | noize makes | online music magazine


From the outside it seems a little like it's all gone a bit quiet on the Ash front of late. Since their seemingly ground braking (at the time) announcement that they will no longer make albums, only singles, the goal posts have shifted somewhat (mostly thanks to Radiohead) in that department and the ever fluctuating music industry continues to evolve. In such changing times, indie veterans Ash are one of those bands you can always rely on to be around somewhere crafting perfect riffs, and it's only ever a matter of time until their next master stroke. So, for those of us who have just been starting to wonder, what are Ash up to at the moment? Let's ask Bassist Mark Hamilton for an update.
noize: First things first – the news about Twilight of the Innocents being your final album caused a stir last year, especially with a announcement that you would only release singles from that point. Will we hear more of the experimental side of Twilight of the Innocents in this format?

Mark Hamilton: Oh yeah you will. We’ve been working all year on new stuff and it goes in many completely different directions. By not thinking in the album format we’re just taking track at a time and seeing what happens, no limits to where or what it’ll sound like. A few of the songs are barely recognisable as Ash which is pretty exciting to see how people react when they hear them.

n: It seems that there’s a lot of big-name acts such as yourselves, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails turning away from the limitations of relying on record companies. Do you feel this is a time of mass change in the industry?

MH: Anything goes at the moment. I don’t think the industry really knows what it’s going to do in the long term. The majors are trying to tie bands into 360 deals which takes a cut of their touring and merchandise income because they know they’re losing out on sales. The big money days of labels throwing money around for fun, like they did in 90’s, are well and truly over, and for the foreseeable future. It makes so much more sense for bands to distribute themselves digitally. There really is no business model which has come to the forefront yet as the dust is still settling but we’re gonna have some fun next year and try out a bunch of ideas and experiment. It’s like the wild west again as far as how bands will survive, we’re gonna have to get creative and try to capture people’s imaginations.

n: Do you think that young bands can follow in your footsteps in terms of distribution?

MH: Yes, obviously we’re lucky in that we already have a fan-base to work with, but as for reaching new fans everyone, old and new, is in the same boat and it’s all about innovation and how to use the internet to your advantage and getting yourself noticed. Both the media and the music industry has completely changed in the past 5 years, the old rule book for promoting and distributing albums / recordings has been ripped up and anything goes.

n: Speaking of young bands, are there any that have caught your eye recently?

MH: N. Ireland is producing some great rock bands at the moment. Both In Case Of Fire and Fighting With Wire are 2 bands to look out for and they’re amazing live. We had both of them over to London for the 1977 shows and hopefully they’ll be able to make it big.

n: You’re about to perform the entirety of 1977 in one show. Is it fun to look back on that time, and are you proud of what you achieved then?

MH: Definitely, 1977 really put us on the map and created a huge splash around the globe when it was released. We’ve actually just played the 2 shows a few weeks ago (sorry about the delay with this!) and we couldn’t have wished for them to have went more perfectly. They were so much fun we didn’t want to leave the stage. The crowd were really into the whole nostalgia of the night and they’ve been the total highlight of the year for us, as we’ve been lying low in the studio.

n: Is there anything you would have done differently with the album now, with the experiences you’ve had since?

MH: 1977 was the only album we recorded completely on tape, we’ve used pro-tools on every album since. That meant that any edits were cut the old-skool way splicing the tape. Everything is so much easier now in the computer. We could’ve saved ourselves a load of studio time but back then pro-tools was still in it’s infancy. I guess we had to rehearse the songs more back then, now we got the luxury of digital editing almost anything can be fixed up! As for changing anything, 1977 really captured where we were perfectly at the time, I don’t think any of us would want to go back and change it. It’s part of our history.

n: Any chance of hearing any other of your albums as part of a live set in the future?

MH: Who knows, the two 1977 shows were so good that it’s definitely a possibility. When you do those kind of special shows there’s a real atmosphere of an event, more so than a regular show. Maybe in a few years we’ll do a Free All Angels ‘look-back’ gig. It was such a big album it could definitely work well.

n: You’re playing the Roundhouse one day and the Astoria the next. So, which do you prefer – playing a smaller, more intimate venue or rocking out on the big stage?

MH: We really do love playing on any stage. Festivals are great because you’re on big stages in front of 10,000’s of people but we equally love the small hot and sweaty club shows too. Our favourite is probably the mid sized venues the 2000 / 3000 sized halls, which includes the Astoria and Roundhouse. We’re most comfortable with a crowd that size, it still feel intimate but also big, it’s a nice balance and it’s easy to connect with a crowd that size.

n: You recorded an awesome version of Please Let That Be You by The Rentals for a recent tribute album. Are there any more covers in the works?

MH: Thanks, we really loved that song and Matt Sharp asked us to do one so we were glad it hadn’t been taken by anyone else. We actually do have another cover which we recorded earlier this year Coming Around again by Carly Simon. We recorded it years ago for a radio session but it wasn’t very good, this new version is pretty spectacular and epic, we’re very pleased with it and we’ll probably release it next year.

n: Finally, what can we expect from you guys for the rest of 2008 and 2009? Any plans in the pipeline?

MH: We’re pretty much finished with touring for the year. We have a show in Singapore at the start of October and possibly another trip to Asia to play in Thailand / Hong Kong but details on those haven’t been finalized. Apart from those 3 gigs we’re gonna be back in the studio for the rest of the year. We have loads of ideas to record and are eager to get working on them. We reckon we’ll be ready to start releasing new material by March 2009. The plan is to release more new material in one year than ever before, how we’re gonna do that is still a secret so keep update with all our news on

Interview by Rob Gordon

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