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Mixed grill: Ash

Published: May, 2002
Source: Hotpress

You cook them, we serve them up in the Q&A cantina. At the table to answer the questions posed, in our second serving this fortnight, by members of It’s been some year for Ash, with Free All Angels proving all the pre-release hype true, and becoming one of the albums of 2001 in the process, spawning five hit singles along the way. They’ve toured, toured and then toured some more, playing to millions of fans all over the world.

It’s somewhat fitting then that on the day of the Hotpress Awards, where the band are due to perform later this evening, it is the fans who put the questions to their heroes. So here they are, covering everything from Tim’s Flying V guitar to Catcher in the Rye, Westlife to a possible solo album from Charlotte. Don’t blame us: you did ask.

U2 asked you to support them on PopMart and at Slane. In a few years time, when you’re headlining Slane or Lansdowne Road, which up and coming or established acts would you like to support you?
Sender: Paul McCormack

Tim: This is like a dream festival line-up. You could get a really great Irish bill together but I don’t know if anyone would be up for supporting us (laughs). You could also get someone like The Hives and get some real rock action going on. If you could, you’d get the Pixies to reform. You’d get a time machine, get Led Zeppelin from 1974 and try to reincarnate Phil Lynnott and get Lizzy back up there as well.

Rick: I’d love to do another tour with Snow Patrol. We toured with them in England and they are really cool. They have really great tunes.

What music do you listen to, to chill out on tour. And what tunes get you revved up before you go on stage?
Sender: Grainne Toomey

Tim: Before we go on stage, Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR is really good and we always crank up some Weezer. To chill out, maybe some Curtis Mayfield and I’m also really into these great reggae compilations that are kicking around at the minute on Soul Jazz Records - that’s really good to unwind.

Rick: Daft Punk is always great to listen to, going on stage. It’s really anthemic, four-to-the-floor and gets you pumping. Chilling out, I listen to Bob Dylan or The Clash, bizarrely enough.

Tim, did you read Catcher in the Rye and, if so, do you love Holden as much as I do?
Sender: Karo P

Tim: I read it once when I was 13 or 14. I can’t really remember it but it didn’t inspire me to go and murder anyone really famous yet. I’ll give it another read and see if I can develop some more psychopathic tendencies.

Will you be putting together an album which would re-present some of your older stuff, like Trailer or 1977?
Sender: Rowan

Rick: A lot of people think Free All Angels was a return to the stuff of 1977. We found over the years, though, that planning your next record is the worst thing you can do: it just creates extra hassle. I think we’ll just play it by ear and see whatever comes naturally.

Rick, what did you think of David Beckham’s mohican?
Sender: Boy Keane

Rick: That did really piss me off for a good few months. The amount of abuse I got, people shouting ‘Beckham’ at me from their cars. I think mine has lasted longest out of everyone’s, though: I think Fran from Travis has shaved his off now.

What’s it like being in a band with Charlotte and are there any plans for a Charlotte solo album?
Sender: Richard P

Tim: Charlotte is talking about doing a record of her own stuff, so watch this space for that. It is great being in a band with her, of course. She is so down to earth - and although she says she isn’t, she really is one of the lads.

Rick: Charlotte has been working on some solo stuff recently but I dunno when it’s going to come out. We always seem to get people asking us is anyone in the band shagging Charlotte but it’s like: ‘Nah. We ain’t going there’.

Tim, are you single? Sender: Aisling Walsh

Tim: No, I’m not, actually.

What’s your vote for the most influential single of all time?
Sender: Ian McArdle

Tim: Probably something by Buddy Holly because he had the first ever group who wrote their own songs. Without that, you probably wouldn’t have had The Beatles, leading on down to people today. So probably something like “Peggy Sue”.

Rick: The single that changed our lives, as a band, was probably “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. That opened our eyes to the ridiculousness of heavy metal and showed us that there actually was cool guitar music out there.

Has the reception that Free All Angels got made up for the rollicking that Nu-Clear Sounds received? And which do you think is a better album?
Sender: Berny Purcell

Tim: It has definitely made up for it. It is nice to be accepted (laughs). I suppose Free All Angels has better songs, at the end of the day, but I still love Nu-Clear Sounds.

Rick: It has been great the way Free All Angels was received. I think a lot of people were willing to write us off before it was released. That whole side of things got us fired up to come back with a really strong album. I think Free All Angels is a better album but at the same time, a lot of our hardcore fans seem to have a renewed interest in Nu-Clear Sounds, and a lot of them are saying it’s their favourite album. I guess that people who got into it at the time are quite defensive about it.

What about the absolute shit that makes up the charts? On the one hand you have Enrico Muppethead etc. and on the other, bands like Staind and Incubus - who all seem to be Eddie Vedder rip-offs. Meanwhile, bands like The Frames etc, although highly rated, will never get that commercial success. What do you think?
Sender: Cillian Rogers

Rick: It’s a pretty ridiculous situation, but that’s the way things have always been. There have always been cooler underground bands, going back to The Velvet Underground. Hardly anyone bought their records, but those who did went and formed bands. That seems to be the way things go but it would be nice to see things change. Myself and Mark were talking about it the other day, the way that chart music is all these horrible, shit songs that just stick in your head. And some people feel the need to buy it, just because it’s in their head.

What do you think of the Hotpress staff’s shameful plagiarising of Q Magazine’s ‘Cash for questions’ section? Note the stinginess of their scam: they have cunningly left out the cash incentive.
Sender: Anna Kavanagh

Tim: Absolute genius, and they’re getting away with it as well.

Rick: I guess Hotpress are more socialist really.

Tim, do you find your Flying V uncomfortable, cos I find mine very uncomfortable? Sender: Stuart_from_mars

Tim: Only if you’re sitting down. It is not a guitar to be played sitting down. It is one for full-on rock action posing: that is the only way to play it. It’s not the kind of guitar you sit down at home practising on.

Is it true you are planning to release a Greatest Hits or B-sides album?
Sender: Sarah Woodward

Tim: We’re planning on releasing a compilation of all our singles. It will be a two CD set: one with all the singles, the other one with selected highlights from our 56 B-sides, because there are some tragic moments there! I think we have had 17 singles so far, plus it’s been 10 years since we started Ash, so it seems a good time to commemorate it. We’re gonna do a new single too. If anyone has any good ideas for titles for the compilation, send them in.

Do you have plans to re-record any of the older songs such as you did with “Coasting” or “Waterfall”? Songs like “The Little Pond” or even earlier demo songs such as “American Devil” are great, and it would be nice to hear them again!
Sender: Stephen Buxton

Tim:The Little Pond” I think is the B-side on “Petrol” and it is a bad recording which never did the song justice, so we would definitely like to re-record that. “American Devil” is a pretty nifty song. I don’t know how people have heard all these because they are on our old demos. It’s pretty obscure stuff but there are little gems there and we sometimes dig them up for B-sides.

If you had the chance to start your life again, would you change anything or would you do it all the same way?
Sender: Karo

Tim: Oh my god, that’s very philosophical. I’m not the sort of person who looks back and regrets things, so I wouldn’t change anything. But then again, it would be incredibly boring to do it all again, so I would probably do everything completely different and become a monk.

Rick: I’d stick with it the way it is, I think. I’m pretty happy, apart from a few fashion disasters. I would have got the mohican a lot earlier, definitely.

If you had the choice of three people to sit around for an entire evening drinking with, who would it be? And who would bore the pants of you?
Sender: Tony Dillon

Tim: Alan Ginsberg, if he was alive. Likewise Atilla the Hun and Elvis. That would be interesting. And Osama Bin Laden would bore the pants off me ’cos I wouldn’t be able to understand him.

Rick: I’d have to go for a drink with Shane MacGowan, Ronan Keating and Joe Strummer. I’d like to sit down for a drink with Ronan, that would be highly amusing.

What do you think of Oasis?
Sender: Declan Campbell

Tim: I think Oasis are great. They’re a really good group, and they’re still cool live, but I probably won’t buy the new album. Noel Gallagher loved “Shining Light” though, so he’s still got some taste.

What’s your best groupie moment?
Sender: Iano McArdle

Tim: I guess it would be the “Numbskull” video, which is there for everybody to see. That’s definitely the most rock’n’roll debauchery I’ve been up to.

Rick: My girlfriend is sitting opposite me so if I mention groupies, I’ll probably get strangled.

Would you appear in a song/video with Westlife if it was for a good cause?
Sender: Tom Frost

Rick: Definitely, yeah. Our opinion kinda changed on the Westlife boys a couple of months back when they revealed themselves to have a sense of humour, when they were in the dressing room beside us at Top of the Pops.

Have you encountered any psycho fans?
Sender: Potential Stalker

Tim: Yeah, we had a few, really early on. A lot of them seemed to be Italians and they used to follow us to the middle of nowhere in Wales where we were recording and they used to try to follow me home in London. Then we had two Japanese fans who quit their jobs to follow us on tour last year. The crazy Japanese fans were actually nice people - but the crazy Italians were psychos.

Rick: There was also the crazy Spanish pole-vaulter girl who we met at a festival a couple of years ago, and she spent about 18 months showing up at loads of gigs everywhere.

Hey Rick, it’s Helen’s brother Aidan. I’m bored and sitting in school. I bet it isn’t actually you or Tim that answer these questions. If it is you: Rick who is Laura’s ex-boyfriend and the ‘family’ friend?
Sender: Aidan Donnelly

Rick: That would be Nathan, who I often refer to as Aidan when I get drunk at parties. If you’re reading this Aidan, I hope that jacket fits you.

Do your parents/relatives come to the gigs/listen to the albums?
Sender: Michelle Kelleher

Tim: Every time we play in Ireland they come, they love it. It’s really embarrassing, though: my dad drives around with an Ash sticker on his car and I’m always trying to take it off, but he gets annoyed.

Rick: I dunno if they listen to the albums much. When it’s on radio, they probably give it one or two listens, but I don’t think it’s something they pull out at parties. But they always come to the gigs. They’re bigger liggers than us.