“I woke up at 7pm wondering how I got there”Published: October, 2007
As Ash’s tour rocks its way around the UK, we caught up with Mark to find out how it’s going…
Hello Mark. So you’re three dates into the UK tour. How’s it going?
Really well. It’s the first time we’ve made it around the country since the album came out, so it’s nice to get out there and play. Plus me and Rick have been DJing at parties afterwards. It’s been great.
You started in Liverpool. Is that a good city for Ash?
Yeah, it is. It didn’t actually used to be one of our strongest cities, but we did a great show there earlier this year on the Higher Education tour and this one was even better. You always worry that things will go wrong or be a bit sloppy on your first night, but it was brilliant.
How long did you guys rehearse?
We did two full days of rehearsals. We’ve actually rehearsed a lot of songs that we haven’t played in a long time. We’re playing different songs every night, so it’s good for the fans that are coming to a few shows.
Then you went overnight from Liverpool to Bristol. That’s quite a long way.
Yeah, but we were asleep on the bus, so we didn’t really notice.
What’s your tourbus like?
It’s fine. It’s a full house, though. There are 14 of us on there, with all the production crew. We’re one big happy family.
Is it cramped?
It’s surprisingly spacious actually. There’s two good-sized lounges on there. I think the last time we toured on a full bus was in America with China Drum years ago. There were two bands and two sets of crew all on the one bus. I remember one time Tav [Ash’s manager] came over and he forced the merchandise seller to sleep in the bathroom because there weren’t enough bunks!
Talking of merchandise sellers, is there any new merch for this tour?
Yeah, there’s a whole new range.
What are the highlights?
There’s a nice embroidered sweater, which is handy as we’re coming into winter and it’s starting to get cold. And we’ve got some nice hoodies, with this skeleton blending into a tree. It’ll all be going up on the website after the tour is over.
Are the band involved in the merch?
Absolutely. We oversee everything and we wouldn’t have merch that we don’t like. We also have these new canvas eco bags which are meant to be an alternative to plastic bags. Actually, we’ve got “Friends of the Earth” out on the tour with us as well.
Yes, what’s that about?
It’s for the Big Ask campaign. There’s a bill in the Commons at the moment about climate change, but it’s not strong enough. So they’re campaigning to make it a stronger, tougher bill. You can read all about it at thebigask.com. And they’ve got a stand at each of the shows, telling people about it.
Obviously rock stars have a bigger carbon footprint than most. What do Ash do to combat that?
Well we offset our flights. And the trees we’ve got around the stage are all from renewable forests - in fact they actually planted 20 trees for the four that we have. And on a personal level, I’ve signed up to green electricity and that sort of thing.
So then it was the Bristol gig on Sunday night. Are Sunday gigs harder than others?
Sometimes they are, but this one was great. It was rammed. After the show me and Rick went and DJ’d on a boat and got quite drunk. Then we got on the bus and got even more drunk. I don’t think we went to bed until it was daylight the next day. I can’t actually remember going into the hotel in Nottingham that morning. I woke up at 7pm wondering how I got there.
That was how you spent your day off?
Exactly. I managed to get up and have a bath and then go to Nando’s for dinner at 10pm. But then I just went back to bed. A complete waste of a day!
How was the Nottingham gig?
It was at Rock City, the legendary rock club and scene of some previous crimes. But, yeah, it was another good one. We’re playing really long sets actually, like an hour and 50 minutes. In fact, I think we went slightly beyond the curfew, but they didn’t seem to mind.
So what were you guys doing before the tour?
We just had a couple of weeks at home to chill out. Me and Tim went to see the Klaxons in New York and they were really good. But I didn’t do much apart from that. It takes you a while get over the jetlag and get your head back into a normal routine.
Did the rest of the German dates supporting Sportfreunde go well?
Yeah, really well. The last show was in Munich Arena, which holds about 12,000 people and it was great. Sportfreunde fans have always been really good to us. We’ve been doing less of the big support shows, because you don’t have your own production there and you can just look like little ants on someone else’s stage. But these guys’ fans have always blown us away.
And you’re back in Europe after the UK tour?
That’s right, yeah. We’re going out to Germany to do a Jagermeister tour with the Donnas and Sparta. I think they alternate the running order of the bands every night and then the fans vote online to say who they liked most. It sounds quite interesting.
Then you’ve got a bunch of Norwegian and Dutch dates.
Yep, which takes us into December. And we’re firming up some Irish dates before the end of the year too. It looks like we’ll be doing Dublin, Belfast and a couple of other shows. Then we’ll be taking some time off for Christmas. And after that we’ll be getting back into the studio and starting work on some new stuff.
Is there a plan for when we’ll get new material?
Well, there’s talk of us trying to record a 5 or 6 track EP and putting it out in the spring. We’d put it out online and maybe on vinyl too. Then we’re going back to Japan and possibly Australia and if we put this EP out we’ll more than likely do some more UK shows and probably some festivals too. Then we’d look to release another EP in the second half of the year.
So how soon after recording the tracks could you release these EPs?
Once we get the logistics set up with people like iTunes, it’d probably just be a few weeks between recording and release.
Have you guys started writing?
We’ve got some ideas. We were listening back to some old ideas today, actually. We’re just trying to think of things that we can elaborate on.
Will you release things on a label?
Well, we’re off Warners. We’ve fulfilled our six album deal with them and to be honest we didn’t want to re-sign. So we’re weighing up our options at the moment. But we’re definitely going to try and launch a new website before the new year, to make that more of a focus for things.
Are spirits high in the band then?
Yeah, definitely. Obviously the album was a bit of a disappointment, but we’re just charging forward and the tour’s going really well, so we’re all in really good spirits. Owen Morris the producer came down to the Bristol show and he was saying how surprised he was by the sheer love that we get from our fans. He said he doesn’t see that with very many bands. It’s brilliant that we still have that.