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Ash ready to “Free All Angels”

Published: March, 2001
Source: dotmusic

Ash have gone from young upstarts to the elders of indie rock and they still haven’t hit 25. Now they’re about to release Free All Angels, another album of punky pop melodic winners. dotmusic caught up with Tim, Rick and the Fonz to find out why they are not ashamed to brand themselves “pop”.

Ash returned from a “time-out” to storm into the Top 10 with “Shining Light” earlier this month proving their loyal fanbase had, well, remained loyal!

“I think “Shining Light’s” a breath of fresh air,” explained Tim. “It’s quite different from all the stuff going on at the minute. We thought it would do well and hoped for a Top 10. We’re really pleased it got a good reception.”

Rick: It’s a very melodic song, it sticks in your head, so we thought it’d have a pretty good chance of getting in the Top 10. It was good being back there ’cos it’s been a long time, over two years since we had a single out.

What about the new single “Burn Burn Baby” (out next week)?

Tim: It’s more rocky, more upbeat than “Shining Light”, it’s pretty fast.

Rick: Despite the title it’s definitely not a disco inferno.

Tim: It’s a bit more hard hitting.

“Burn Burn Baby” is also accompanied by a lavish MTV-style video complete with a troupe of dancing girls.

Tim: It was good seeing all those cheerleaders doing back flips.

Rick: Mark was there from start to finish making sure they were doing all their moves right…

Tim: …making sure there were plenty of gussets in shot!

With a stunning debut (1977) under their belt, Ash returned in late ’98 to deliver a shock or two to critics and fans alike. Nu-Clear Sounds definitely rocked but the overall reaction was ‘muted’. What do Ash think of it now?

Tim: It was inaccessible and that’s what we were trying to do. Make something harder to listen to, a bit different.

Rick: We wanted a challenge for our fans, not to conform to anyone’s expectations of the band and prove we can do what ever we want really.

Tim: It was very contrived but that’s us. People expected more of the same but we weren’t interested in doing that at the time.

So this obviously begs the question ‘what changed’ for the band to prompt a return to the more pop sound?

Tim: We got away from everything and took a good break. We chilled out and got our heads together. We started rehearsing in the garage where we started the band and kinda got back to our roots. We weren’t concerned with trying to be anything else as a band, we were just writing songs and whatever way they turned out, they turned out. We didn’t force ourselves into any style.

Rick: There were no preconceived ideas about what direction we should go. That’s the way things turned out – a really positive, natural album.

Was there anything in particular that was influencing the band?

Tim: It didn’t really have that many influences apart from ourselves. Just writing good tunes.

Rick: There were no conscious influences, if anything they were subconscious so you’ll have to put us in a psychiatrist’s chair to find out.

Free All Angels certainly won’t disappoint. As Tim succinctly puts it there are 13 class tunes and reassuringly he states it’s not a waste of money.

Rick: There’s quite a mixture, quite an eclectic bunch. Quite a lot of big tunes in there, pretty hard rocking ones, a few punky ones and some mellow ones.

One thing that stands out from first listen is the use of the famous Walker Brothers melody from the 60s classic “Make It Easy On Yourself”

Tim: It’s on a song called “Candy” that we re-wrote about four times ’cos we could get it right. We tried some samples and that fitted perfectly. It lifted the song up and we danced around the studio for two days seriously drunk. I know Burt Bacharach and Hal David have heard and they’ve taken fifty percent of the songwriting. It’s a fact of life if you use samples these days. At least it wasn’t a hundred percent like The Verve.

In the current climate when bands quiver at the mere thought of being called ‘pop’, Ash take a very different (and refreshing) stance on the matter.

Tim: I think pop’s got a bad name at the minute because people associate it with manufactured groups but pop music is everything - strong melodies, music that sticks in your head. Marilyn Manson says he’s a pop act, Nirvana were a pop act. That’s pop music the way Ash sees it.

With another tour approaching, what can we expect?

Tim: It kicks off in April after the album comes out so it’s going to be badass ’cos everyone’s going to know all the songs.

Rick: We’re really looking forward to it ’cos we’ve got such a bunch of songs now, three albums worth of material to pick from… so I think it’ll be quite tough to get a set list together. I reckon the gigs are gonna last about two hours…

Tim: …that’s boring. We’ll probably do an hour and 15.

And what about the rest of the year?

Tim: We’re just touring all year. We’re doing the UK in April, Europe in May, festivals through the summer - Reading and Leeds and T in the Park - then America, Japan, Australia and then another UK tour in the autumn.

By Chris Heath