INTERVIEW BY J.O.
Manchester Music caught up with Ash members Charlotte Hatherley (Guitar and Backing Vocals) and Rick McMurray (Drums) at their Manchester date of their ‘Meltdown’ tour. With the band absent from the mainstream for over two years I felt a few questions were suitable for firing at the longstanding heroes of British punk pop.
MM: Are you glad to be back on tour?
RM: Yes, it’s been a weird year. We’ve put out the best record we have ever made and have managed to secure some pretty great things for the year ahead like some key festival dates.
CH: To be honest were really refreshed and ready to go, but we’ve been touring on and off since February so we don’t feel like were back. We all seem to have that ‘mid-tour’ feeling.
MM: I heard Manchester is one of your favourite places to play. Is this right?
CH: (her eyes light up) Definitely! Manchester has always been a great place for Ash. I’m not sure what it is but the chemistry is there. We have always been overwhelmed with the response in Manchester. I think it’s more to do with the mancunian people, as we’ve spoke to dozens of bands who find Manchester a highlight of our tour.
MM: How was sound check today? Are we expecting a blinding performance?
RM: The sound check went bad. Tim (Wheeler, lead singer of Ash) was moaning about the sound, and his guitar just randomly stopped working. We haven’t had much luck today, but I think it’s all sorted now.
CH: Yes, it’s all sorted. It was nothing really, but it got Tim stressed out. He’s okay now though and were ready to rock! (She puts her fist up and does the rock sign).
The band played Thin Lizzy’s ‘Boys are back in Town, during their soundcheck.
MM: Are there going to be any revivals tonight?
CH: Yes, well you just saw us play ‘The Boys are Back in Town’, that’s some revival. It’s as old as me. But to be honest we're not actually playing that. We just like to sound check it, as it’s a great song.
MM: I think you should play it tonight.
CH: Thanks. We're playing a huge set tonight and are playing most of the new album and are bringing loads of songs back, from the early days of Ash, so that should be cool. We're doing all the classics like ‘Shining Light’ and ‘The Girl from Mars’, but we felt it’s our duty to play the stuff people don’t usually get to hear at our Ash gigs.
MM: So Rick, your playing the Pop Beach Festival tomorrow in Great Yarmouth. Any thoughts?
RM: Well to be honest we can’t wait to get it over and done with. Have you seen the line up? (Shakes his head in disgust).
MM: Yes it’s a bit of a mixture.
RM: I’ll say. We’re classed as heavy metal on the adverts. ‘Big Bruvvas’, Peter Andre .....oh and Ash (he smiles).
CH: We’re miming it (she laughs)
MM: Really!?! I’m actually stunned. So is that by choice or not?
RM: No no, we hate miming as we’re all about making big songs to play live. Tim will be singing live but that’s all. It’s stupid really. We’re also only playing two songs, so we're not really looking forward to it, but it’s just one of those things. It’s a waste of time, but we’ll still enjoy it when we walk out there.
MM: So Ash are on at Leeds and Reading Festival. Are you looking forward to that?
RM: We love the Carling festivals. They're always a great thing and we love festival dates. Well, real festivals that is!
MM: Meltdown is a real step up into the heavier sound. Have you considered the Download Festival?
RM: I’d love to play Download as it’s a great place. We go every year.
CH: We’re actually rumoured to be playing on the Sunday but we’re not doing.
MM: Ah right, just speculation then or is there any truth in that?
CH: Nothing. We did say in a press interview we were going to watch Metallica, which we are. But they just put 2 and 2 together and claimed we were playing.
RM: The Pop Beach Festival is right near Download so we're heading over after the date, to see Metallica.
MM: So are you all into really heavy bands? Or is it just Metallica your after seeing?
RM: I love anything with a great drum sound, which is generally a heavy band. I love some heavy music but I don’t go down the Slipknot path.
CH: I don’t like anything too heavy. There are a number of bands you wish to see during your life and Metallica are one of them. I don’t like anything too heavy. I’m more of a pop girl. (She smiles).
MM: Meltdown! New album, New sound. Are you happy with it?
RM: It’s our best work to date, and we all agree. On the other stuff (previous albums) we had some pop, some rock and the gap was just too distant. If you love or hate Meltdown, at least it’s all in the same vein. We tried to make the most focused album to date and we feel we have done it.
CH: I agree. We went for the big sound in this album and we think we got it. It’s definitely our best album to date. We have captured that live sound on the CD which is something we have always looked for.
MM: You decided not to work with Owen Morris (Who produced the bands ‘Free All Angels’ album and has worked with bands such as U2 and Oasis). Why was that?
CH: Owen is one of the finest producers in the country but he could only take us so far. We wanted to break away from the sound we had so we chose ‘Nick Raskuliniz’ (Producer of bands such as Foo Fighters).
MM: You claim you ‘lost the plot’ during ‘Nu-Clear Sounds’. Do you still agree to this?
CH: We all feel the band should have taken a break before working on that album. We just didn’t stop touring and recording. We were so tired, and we really feel it came across in the album. We were young and weren’t used to the long tours and late nights. ‘Nu-Clear Sounds’ is something we don’t regret as it’s a piece of Ash history, but given the chance we would have looked at other options.
RM: We were far too young. We were signed at seventeen, and were playing big gigs whilst still in education. It was hard but those days were awesome.
CH: Aside from the odd pub gig, my first real Ash gig was in front of 40,000 people, so things for me were pretty hectic, but as Rick says, ‘those were the days’. You never forget the days when you’re hungry for your goals.
MM: ‘Free All Angels’ is your most successful work to date, but do you think it’s your best work?
CH: Far from it to be honest. Everybody knows ‘Shining Light’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’, but we feel everything on ‘Meltdown’ is the best work we have ever done. The true Ash sound has always been quite scattered about. We have never really found our niche, but with this record we feel we have our feet firmly on the ground.
RM: I totally agree. I mean the last two singles we have put out (Clones and Orpheus) are the best two singles we have had out. Were following it up with a love ballad called ‘Starcrossed’. This again captures the true Ash sound we have always aimed at. ‘Free All Angels’ may have its awards but ‘Meltdown’ has been the kick up the arse we have needed.
MM: So you’re obviously very happy with it. Do you feel the song writing is getting better?
CH: To be honest that’s the reason we feel so much happier with this record. We have all been adding our ideas and coming with one huge sound. This is what we have always looked for. We try to get the ‘big chorus’ into the records, and we believe we have done this with ‘Meltdown’.
RM: People claim we have become ‘EMO’, but we don’t agree. We haven’t altered as a band. We have simply found the sound we have always wanted.
The Ash live review can be found on the Manchester Music live page.
pictures: (c) Ash / Ash Website
(c)(p) june04 - musicdash / manchestermusic.co.uk 2004