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Tim Wheeler – vocals, guitar
Mark Hamilton – bass
Rick McMurray – drums
Charlotte Hatherley – guitar

The first time I caught the sugary vocals and infectious pop harmonies of Ash was back in 1996 with their debut release of Trailer. At that time, my other Brit Pop heroes were getting more attention from turid gossip than music related press and were beginning to fall off the charts due to deportation issues relating to drug possession, inflated egos and temperaments, and the typical rock and roll tradition of disappearing into obscurity. But Ash had their own brand of raw tenacity for melodic guitar hooks and a wide-eyed energy for creating a fresh approach to rock.

I hadn’t heard from them much after their second release, 1977, and I would find out why after chatting with them briefly in their AREA:2 tour dressing room and through an interview via email. It was eerie to hear news of their bus crash that happened just a few days from when I met with them and received Mark Hamilton’s reply to my questions, especially after Mark fills us in on their other bus breakdown incidents…

KB: Although I’ve never completely pegged you guys in the Brit Pop category, Trailer and 1977 came at a time when those artists started to wane, and Ash seemed to fulfill the desire for sparkler infused power pop, while retaining an aggressive rock edge.

Following those releases, it seemed you went into a time of personal and professional turbulence. I don’t need to know all the gory details (although a few tidbits would be nice), but what influenced you most from those times –
both good and bad, what realizations did you discover, and how did you come to the decision to add another guitarist?

Mark Hamilton: Well we all had a few problems along the road, after the ‘mental-ness’ of the 18 months of touring 1977, Tim went through a period of writers block and also lost a lot of his drive. I had a lot of problems health wise recovering from a breakdown when I was 17. It took along time, probably 3 1/2 years, to be anywhere near to where I was mentally before. ‘Madness / depression’ Is not the type of illness you can really explain or summarise in a few lines!

Rick beryl fell into a period where drinking was taking a grip on him emotionally, but everyone deals with their issues and either chooses to sink or swim. Luckily we’re not into quitting and are stronger than ever as a band, 10 years since we started. We added Charlotte to the band because we had always recorded multiple guitar parts and vocals and when we played live, and it was always a stripped down version. Tim was tied up playing all the solo’s singing, etc. and when Chaz started, it gave him a lot of freedom on stage and he enjoys himself a lot more now than he used to. We also realised as a band that we couldn’t get complacent and never to take or position for granted. Our ethic at the moment is to work our asses off and enjoy it as much as possible. We’ll leave the crying and whining to other bands, as
there seems to be plenty of them.

KB: Are there any songs, such as “Someday,” that are lyrically reflective of your evolution and transitions, both personally and professionally, from your 1977 days to where you are now?

MH: Someday is about escapism, growing up in the troubles in northern Ireland we have always had a healthy dose of ‘escapism’. Lyrically my favourite song Tim has written is projects on nu-clear. It’s all about being right at breaking point and in a very dark place but it still carries a message of hope.

KB: It’s refreshing to see a female musician getting out of the standard bass player role. Tell us more about her and how she’s impacted your styles, sounds, and songwriting. Does she keep you in line on the road, or is she one of the boys?

MH: Chaz is totally one of the boys who can drink and be as badly behaved as anyone. She’s written quite a few B-sides that she also sings, and is currently working on a solo album which will be something to look forward to. She’s tactically brilliant and can play anything she needs to. When she first joined she learnt 16 songs in 3 days and was straight into playing shows. Not many people could do that.

KB: Before seeing the music video for “Candy” the strings and piano cause me to have an immediate 70’s pop music backflash. Did you invade your parent’s record collection for influence?

MH: Of course, both mine and Tim’s parents loved Abba so we heard a lot of pop music growing up. My dad loved zeppelin and Hendrix and he still listens to lot of contemporary rock which is pretty cool.

KB: “Submission” seems to beckon to those Brit Pop days, a bit of Happy Mondays vocal style blended with your own chunky guitar riffs and rhythms. Is there any correlation and what artists are you pretty impressed with today?

MH: Totally, we love the Madchester era and we are big friends with Tim Burgess from the Charlatans. Owen Morris also spent a lot of time in Manchester working with New Order and we love to mess with different styles in the studio. Now a days we love absolutely anything. At the moment, I’m really impressed with ‘The Blue Man Group’ for an ‘Art Act.’ They have amazing songs and rawk out live. Maybe we’ll start shaving our heads and painting ourselves up for our next album!

KB: You’re getting set to release a singles compilation, ‘Intergalactic Cosmic Sevens’, coming September 9. Will that be available in the US at the same time, or do we have to wait like we did with Free All Angels?

MH: We’re not sure yet if Kinetic plans to release it. Hopefully things will go really well with Free All Angels and there might well be demand for it. But until then, get down to the import section or order it on the net!

KB: When is Cosmic Debris set to be released, and can you give us an idea of what to expect?

MH: It’ll be out in the UK next month. We’re attaching it to the Sonic 7’s album so fans will get value for money. Basically is a ‘best of the B-sides’ with the tracks voted for by the fans on-line. Over the years we’ve recorded like 60+ B-sides so it’s great way for newer fans to get hold of the tracks. We’re also even more experimental with B-sides as there is no real pressure or expectation for them so we usually come up with some whacked up shit.

KB: It looks like you took something off of the Lucas
movie set for “There’s a Star” music video. Is this a coincidence?

MH: No, we went to shoot the video in Iceland and it was supposed to be like the Hoth Planet in ‘Empire Strikes Back.’ Unfortunately when we arrived [Iceland] was having a heat wave. There was no snow. Just our luck, but we made do with the black volcanic sand and it still looks from ‘ along time ago in a galaxy far far away….’

KB: You’ve got quite an array of interesting and creative effects on a number of your videos, from urban graffiti artist to kaleidoscope festival – how do you decide the vision of your videos and who has created and directed them for you?

MH: We’re totally involved in every aspect of the band, I do/direct all the art work for the albums/singles/ merchandise. We choose our video directors and expand out the treatments til were psyched and get involved in the edit if our schedules allow it. We kinda love just having a laugh making videos. We get to go to some great places all over the world like Cuba and Iceland. Later this year we’re gonna release a video/DVD with all 20+ video we’ve made plus loads of bonus material and a special short horror movie called ‘Slashed’. Jeff Thomas, a Welsh friend of ours, made the ‘Burn Baby Burn’,’Sometimes’ and ‘Candy’ videos which were a lot of fun.

KB: How did you end up getting on the AREA:2 bill, and how have has the tour been for you guys? I missed the SXSW gig (very bummed about that). How did that go
for you?

MH: Moby is a big fan and asked us on. We said we’d love to and that was that! SXSW was great. We got a lot of great reviews after that show and it was our first US show in like 3 years. So when the crowd were so in to it , it was a great buzz.

KB: David Bowie is an idol to both music fans and musicians alike. During the tour, have you had a chance to shoot the shit, and if so, has he given you any words of wisdom? Do you even care?

MH: Yes, he’s talked to Tim and Charlotte briefly. Chaz is obsessed with him and is freaked to be on the road with him. We introduced him to Andy Dick who is also a massive Bowie fan, and he almost came on the spot. That was hilarious.

KB: Last but not least, any good touring stories? Will you be coming back through here but on your own bill?

MH: Yes. Our bus broke down in ‘Death Valley’ outside Vegas. We where stranded for about 5 hours with no air conditioning. It got so hot inside we were outside the bus in our shorts in direct sun, dehydrating. I started to freak and ran down the road with my ax threatening to hack Rick. Then a bus drove past and a bald head stuck out the window. It was Moby. He stopped his bus to see what was going on with the mad ax person and then realized it was Ash. We all got on his bus and he gave us a lift to LA. If he didn’t arrive then we might never have been heard from again.


Unfortunately, they had another tour story to tell. Last Thursday, August 16, they were on their way for another AREA:2 date in Detroit when their bus crashed. Drummer, Rick McMurry has some broken ribs, Charlotte’s injuries were less than ordinal thought, Mark had sever whiplash, and Tim escaped injury. They endured, but the probability of them being able to play their upcoming gig for the Reading Festival this weekend is still in question. Since they don’t want to back out unless they have to, they may plan to decide until the actual day of the show.

As Mark said, until their new releases are available her in the US, you can get them from their site,, where you can also post messages and get the latest news. Those releases include a new singer, “Envy,” which is available on August 26.


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