Interview by Mark Bayross
After a two year break, Ash returned triumphantly to the charts this year with the glorious SHINING LIGHT. With the second single from the album, BURN BABY BURN out now and their superb fourth album FREE ALL ANGELS on the brink of release, I had a quick chat with drummer Rick McMurray about their plans.
FREE ALL ANGELS sounds like a strong album and should do well. Are you happy with the final product?
Yes, definitely. We are the happiest we’ve ever been with any album. It was the easiest to record and to write. After NU-CLEAR SOUNDS we wanted to have a break, to go and chill out. So we had a break, then we got together back home in Northern Ireland and started playing again. It was fantastic – we had no deadlines, no pressure – we really enjoyed it. After that, we went to Spain to record the album and that was wonderful. It was such a beautiful place; the weather was great, the studio was great…
Do you think that affected the mood of the album?
Yeah, the record has a very summery feel to it. What was good was that we had an extended summer, really. We went to Spain in September, when the weather was just starting to turn cold here, so we ended up having an even longer summer than usual.
You co-wrote SUBMISSION. Did you want to write a filthy song to contrast with the shininess of the other songs on the album?
Not really. We ended up demoing around 30 songs – and we’d written about 50 – then we just picked out whatever felt right for the album. The songs we picked seemed to go well together – there didn’t seem to be a gap – they balanced out each other well.
Are you going to use any of the songs that didn’t make the album for something else?
Some will end up as B-sides or possibly end up on the next album. I mean, we had a lot of cracking songs that just had to get left off because they didn’t really fit the mood…a fair amount of darker songs…they may well end up on another record.
Besides SUBMISSION, do you have any favourite songs on the album?
I really love CANDY. It’s a bit of a departure for us, sound-wise. We’ve been listening to a lot of Dr. Dre recently, and that song has got a bit of a hip-hop vibe. It’s really rewarding when you experiment with something and pull it off like that. I also think SOMETIMES is a great song; and WORLD DOMINATION, which is full-on Stooges…There’s some of that attitude in us too.
Did you expect SHINING LIGHT to do so well?
Well, we hoped for it. It’s hard to tell in the current climate – it’s either nu-metal that’s going well or manufactured pop crap. It was hard because we had been away for two years and we didn’t really know what to expect. It was great to be able to come back and get into the charts. We knew we had quite a lot of potential singles on the album, but we were still apprehensive after being away for a while.
The video for BURN BABY BURN looks like it was fun to make. Who’s idea was that?
We were really busy with the album release at the time, so we left that up to the director, but of course Mark kept encouraging him to get more cheerleaders…[laughs]
Are you going to release any other songs off the album as singles?
We’ll probably release WALKING BAREFOOT next. It’ll be coming into the summer and that song should suit the mood.
Do you have any plans to release a collection of your videos?
It’s been talked about for a while. Hopefully we could release six singles from the album, and those will all have videos. After that, we were thinking of shooting videos for the other songs really cheaply, then releasing the whole lot – a video for every song. That would be cool.
Last year, you did a tour of venues chosen by your fans on the Internet. How did it go?
It went really well. It was kind of bizarre, playing small venues like we were doing five years ago. We were onstage, looking at each other, wondering what we should be doing…but it was great to be able to play to people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see us – plenty of people can’t get to big shows in London, Manchester or wherever. We also played four or five of the new songs, which gave us the opportunity to road-test them.
I spoke to Mark (Hamilton, Ash bassist) a while ago and asked him this – and I’m going to ask you as well – what was “The Lost Weekend” show like?
It was just that – a lost weekend. In theory it should have been good, but after Nine Inch Nails pulled out, we were faced with the prospect of playing to so many pissed off goths. I think a lot of them had hung around just to vent their spleen…[laughs] We did the best we could, but we were the wrong band for that kind of crowd.
You also released an Internet-only single. Do you see the Internet as a positive thing for music?
Yeah, definitely. The Internet is a great tool for reaching fans – it provides us with a direct link. With the whole Napster thing, a lot of people were ignorant of what it really does. People like Metallica don’t really know what it’s about – rather than stopping people buying CDs, it’s more likely to increase sales. It’s a great way of marketing new music and fans have tended to listen to tracks online, then go out and buy the album.
Are you looking to do anything else crafty with the Internet soon?
We may possibly do something on the Internet near Christmas. We are in negotiations with a couple of companies about that…
How soon after FREE ALL ANGELS do you think you’ll release your next album?
If this album goes well, we plan to tour all the way to the end of this year and maybe a bit into next year. After that, we’ll see how we’re feeling. You never really know until you get there…
And, finally, how long are you planning on keeping the mohican?
Till it all falls out! [much laughter]