BN1 chats with ASH during their UK tour

After releasing the mammoth ‘A – Z’ series in 2009 (26 singles in one year) Ash have returned to the album format for the first time in eight years. ‘Kablammo!’ sees the Northern Irish trio returning to their unmistakeable brand of power-pop-punk which has made them one of the UK’s most loved guitar bands for the last 20 years. The album is a heady blend of ferocious riffs, sugary vocals and euphoric choruses, all the while keeping true to the irresistible tales of love and longing that have kept us hooked since ‘1977’. Ash head out on a UK tour this winter and bring their blistering live show to Brighton’s Concorde 2 on the Sun 13 Dec. We caught up with drummer Rick McMurray to discuss the band’s triumphant return.

Your new album ‘Kablammo!’ really captures your live sound as a three-piece and has a huge amount of energy, was there anything different in your approach to recording this album?
Yeah definitely, there were a couple of things. I guess when we decided to back to the album format after saying we wouldn’t do any more albums back in 2007 we put quite a lot of pressure on ourselves and felt we had to justify that decision by making a really good album. I think we were looking back at our career for the first time and saying we need this to live up to something like ‘1977’ or ‘Free All Angels’, probably two of our best records as well as two of our most loved records by the fan base, so it was very much the case of looking back at those and trying to top them. As a band we’ve always looked forward when doing new material so this was the first time we looked back and really tried to compete with ourselves. Also with the ‘A–Z’ stuff we found we really enjoyed that process but we were getting away from our core sound. We loved what we did but it was hard to get that stuff into the set, but with the new record we were very conscious of making it fit into the live show.

Is there a song on the album that you are particularly proud of from a drumming point of view?
Yeah there are a few. You always try to grow as a musician and get new bits in there as long as they fit the song you know, I’m very much conscious of serving the song and not getting in the way of what Tim’s doing vocally. But yeah, something like ‘Let’s Ride’ is really cool and ‘Dispatch’ as well. There’s some cool stuff going on there, that’s one we haven’t done live yet so we’ll maybe have to drag that one out at rehearsal and get it sorted out because it seems like that’s quite a favourite.

It’s got an incredible guitar solo as well!
Yeah it’s pretty off the wall.

Tim and Mark live in New York and you are based in Edinburgh. When it comes to writing and recording, do you fly over for an extended period or for short stints?
We do it in short bursts. I’ll go over there for ten days, maybe two weeks, and through the writing process we’ll do that maybe three or four times. I think its good to have that sort of burst of energy when you’re coming up with ideas and it’s good for Tim to have a little bit of time to let the songs soak in and really get to know them before finishing them off lyrically and melodically. It balances out and we’ve found it’s a really good way to work. It’s cool being in New York as well but it’s almost like I’m not even there. We’re always straight into the studio first thing in the morning, and I’m always the first in, working on the kit for a few hours before anyone else gets in. We’ll do a day’s work and finish at about midnight, so it’s pretty intense but I kind of like it like that.

You’re embarking on a European tour with We Are Scientists in November, will this feature all six of you playing onstage together like we’ve seen in the past?
Yeah I think it will, what we’ll be doing I’m not really sure [laughs]. There aren’t going to be any rehearsals so it’s definitely going be interesting, especially the first night. I think we are doing a day of rehearsals in London before we head off but the Scientists guys are busy with other stuff so they are flying straight into the shows. Hopefully we’ll figure it out in sound-check, it’s going to be a glorious car crash! And if all else fails we’ll just get the Scientists to talk to the crowd for half an hour because that’s pretty entertaining in itself.

Matt Sharp from The Rentals and ex-Weezer uploaded a picture of himself dressed as Keith Murray of We Are Scientists for Halloween, what’s your best Halloween costume?
I think some of the best Halloween costumes are in the inside cover of ‘1977’. We were on tour in America the year before and there are loads of shots of that Halloween night. I think there’s a picture of me dressed as an emperor on the inside sleeve, some pretty good looks going on in there.

You’re playing Concorde 2 on Sun 13 Dec, how many times have you played Brighton before?
We’ve done it twice, actually I think three times in recent years, but before that it was back in ’95 just before we did Reading Festival. I remember I was super ill as well, my throat had swollen up, that’s when I quit smoking Marlborough Reds after that show as I could barely swallow. I remember we managed to get through the gig; it was pretty nuts – there were more of the audience on the stage than on the floor. It was pretty chaotic, I think I slept for about 20 hours solid afterwards and then we did Reading Festival.

How does your rider differ from those days to now?
Probably slightly healthier on the snacks and there’s no oxygen on the rider any more [laughs]! Back on the ‘1977’ tour we had a canister of oxygen on the rider which I think turned up maybe once or twice. You’ve gotta throw these weird things on there to see if they turn up!

If you had a TARDIS what gig in history would you back to?
I never got to see Nirvana live so I’d love to have seen them, I’m also a massive Led Zeppelin fan as well and never got to see them so a toss up between those two.

Seeing Nirvana at Reading Festival 1992 would have been amazing, right?
Oh yeah, the line up for that was just awesome, every band that we were into in our formative years was there that year. That would have been great.

Finally, is there any chance of a ‘1977’ show or tour next year to celebrate the 20th anniversary?
I’m sure we’ll have something going on, we’ve not really sat down to discuss it. I think in the New Year once we’ve finished touring we’ll get some ideas together. There are a few things that may or may not be happening as well but we need to clear up the legality of those before we can say any more about it. But yeah, we’ll definitely be marking it in some way because it’s a big one!

By Gabriel Mackenzie
press image credit – Alex John Beck

Ash play Brighton’s Concorde 2 on Sun 13 Dec.
Their album ‘Kablammo!’ is out now, via earMUSIC.

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