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Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Tim Wheeler und Mark Hamilton, am: 05.08.2004 ]

Nach ihrem durchschlagenen Erfolg ihres letzten Album „Free All Angels“ hatten die meisten wahrscheinlich mit einem sehr ähnlich ausgerichteten Ash Album gerechnet. Doch weit gefehlt. Die Band aus Belfast entdeckte die Riffmaschine für sich und legte mit „Meltdown“ ein überaus rockendes Album vor, das wahrscheinlich nicht nur eingeschworene Fans positiv überraschte. Ash zeigen sich auch nach über 12 Jahren im Geschäft immer noch als äußerst wandelfähig und ohne jegliche Starallüren. Wir sprachen mit Tim und Mark über das neue Album, Politik und Nordirland sowie amerikanische Produzenten.


Musicscan: What is the major difference for you when you are playing a huge crowd like this and a normal, regular headlining show?

Ash: Tim: The audience at a smaller show is all your audience. The have all your albums and they know all your songs. At festivals there are people you probably only know one or two songs and want to check you out. So you have to be really good.

Musicscan: Do you play or act differently, though, when you play bigger crowds?

Ash: Tim: Yes, I guess it is harder to connect with the people. People are looking for participation and trying to sing along and that kind of thing. So you have to go out and try to do things like that.

Musicscan: Is intimacy possible on that scale?

Ash: Tim: Yes, sometimes it is. We played with Robbie Williams a few years ago and it was interesting to see his show. Out of a two hour shows at least 40 minutes was him talking. I am not such a big fan of his music, but he is really entertaining. So I guess it can be done.

Musicscan: But don't you miss something from the beginning of the band, when you weren't that successful and popular yet?

Ash: Tim: It is definitely so much easier to do a gig when the audience knows you. Because when you are starting out, you are struggling. But we sort of get the best of both worlds, because we spend a lot of time in the States and we haven't made it there yet, so we go around and do club tours and support tours and the whole thing. It puts the struggle back into it which makes things quite exciting actually, but it is definitely harder to do.

Musicscan: What keeps it all fresh for you after all these years of constant touring and being a part of this band?

Ash: Mark: Trying to win, especially at festivals where you only play to a large percentage of people who don't know you. So you have to try and win them over. I think it worked today, because it definitely went better as it went on. The crowd got bigger, the longer we were on stage. On big stages like this you often don't know what is going on in front, but you could just sense that it was going pretty good today.
Tim: It is good when you have a new album as well. It injects a whole new life into your show, because you have a lot of new songs.

Musicscan: Do you need to time to calm down again after a show like this, after playing to maybe 30.000 people and now having to sit down and talk to me?

Ash: Mark: On a big stage it is not that bad, because you play a shorter set, too. It is not that exhausting, so you recover quite quickly. But when you do a production tour and you are playing theatres and stuff like that where it gets really hot, where you have been playing for over an hour and a half, you are pretty exhausted. It usually takes at least about half an hour to just get your shit together again. And then you have to still go out and party, just the way it's done.

Musicscan: You already mentioned your new album "Meltdown". Let's talk about it for a second. It is definitely much more rock and a lot angrier than any of your previous efforts? How come? Why that change?

Ash: Tim: We spent a lot of time in the States and we listened to a lot of rock music and a lot of our rock influences came back. I guess world events influenced the sound of the record as well. I started writing about that like on the first track on the album "Meltdown". It is about going out to peace marches. There was a lot of frustration about the war and the entire situation and I guess there is a lot of tension in the world these days and that got reflected on the record.

Musicscan: Does that reflect both lyrically and musically?

Ash: Tim: Yes, I would say probably both. I mean music conveys feelings. If we are feeling a certain way that is going to go into the music.

Musicscan: So would you say there is now a direct political dimension to Ash?

Ash: Tim: No, not really. We don't sing about it in our songs that much, but if it is something that we believe in we like to do something about it. We did a show in Belfast in '98 with U2 and it was before a big referendum in the country in order to set up a new parliament that everybody was talking about. All the different parties were actually sitting down and talking together. It was great to do because two politicians from opposite sides came on stage that night and shook hands. I thought that was amazing.

Musicscan: Would you then utter openly political statements on stage or do you not want to connect that with the band?

Ash: Tim: No. We would never do a song like "Sunday Bloody Sunday". Well, in "Meltdown" I wrote…it is probably not really clear. It is more about general paranoia. I don't like songs where you are lecturing people or preaching to them. I don't like that in music. It is sort of crossing a line.

Musicscan: Do you think music in itself can carry political weight?

Ash: Tim: I mean there are a lot of artists that are political, such as Billy Brag for example. But his love songs are always better than his political songs, even though he is always going on about his message. For us, especially considering where we grew up, we really wanted to avoid that in music. Music for us was a real escape. We didn't really like to hear songs like Simple Minds' "Belfast Child" or Cranberries' "Zombie". These songs were written by people that we felt, didn't understand the situation.
Mark: It was pretty patronizing as well. They aren't from there and they just didn't have a clue.
Tim: We saw it backfiring, you know. A lot of bands came to Belfast to play and Megadeth for example came on and they said something about the cause, they were talking about IRA. This instantly caused a riot, because half their audience was Protestant and half of it was Catholic. It is just a very ill informed thing to say and basically pretty stupid. All these kids were probably into Megadeth and they just wanted to go out and have a good time and not worry about the political situation. Rage Against The Machine did the same thing unfortunately. We just never pushed our political views onto people or shove it down their throats.

Musicscan: So what do you think about bands like that The (International) Noise Conspiracy for example who define their music through their politics?

Ash: Tim: They are good. I think there is a place for it. Sometimes it can be good as long as you know what you are talking about and they definitely know what they are talking about. I like their image, they are like rioters (laughs).

Musicscan: Coming back to the way you perceive yourselves. Do you consider yourselves artists or rather entertainers?

Ash: Tim: That is a hard question. I guess whenever you are writing a song you are just thinking about making some good music, but because we have been playing so much live over the years we learned that you should try to entertain your audience. So live we try to put on a show and entertain.

Musicscan: Would you say that writing the record is the selfish part of the band so to speak and the live performance is for the audience?

Ash: Tim: Yes, it is almost like having schizophrenia.

Musicscan: Is that hard to do sometimes, especially live when you attempt to portray a certain picture to the audience?

Ash: Mark: Sometimes it takes you about an hour before you go on stage and you go through your routines and work yourself into the mainframe for it. So I suppose you are a bit different on stage.

Musicscan: How has the chemistry within the band changed over the years? I mean you have been together for over twelve years now.

Ash: Tim: We are still really tight. We are like brothers.

Musicscan: What do you do together besides music?

Ash: Tim: We live together for 90% of the year, so when we do get time off, we chill out. It is nice, though, when we start to write a new record after having had a break. We still love coming together and playing each other our ideas. That is always a very nice time.

Musicscan: Ok, but what does an average day in your lives look like when you are not involved with Ash?

Ash: Mark: When we first get off a tour we need a couple of days to recover and get your energy level back up again. You just need to do nothing. But then after a few days you start doing other things again.
Tim: I love to just chill or just normal things like eating at home, because we eat out every single day usually. So just staying home and simple things like that.

Musicscan: Can you imagine a life after the band? What would you like to do?

Ash: Tim: There are so many possibilities. I mean we have never done anything else. Oh what is that film…"Shawshank Redemption" where the guy has been in prison all his life and he finally gets out and he is really old and he can't handle reality so he hangs himself. I don't know (laughs). I am scared I won't be able to readjust, because we have done this since we left school.

Musicscan: So no Ash when you are fifty?

Ash: Tim: Oh, I hope we have the grace not to do something like that (laughs). But I am still inspired by bands like The Flaming Lips that had their artistic peak in their forties. And forty is not that old really, when you look at the Rolling Stones. They are pretty much rocking skeletons.

Musicscan: What are some other passions in your life besides music?

Ash: Tim: I like trying to surf. He is really into snowboarding. Reading or playing computer games is right up there, too. I like travelling, too, when I had a little break I like to go out and see the world.

Musicscan: What is your relationship to the media?

Ash: Tim: It was a bit hard in for us to adjust to that in the beginning. The thing is when you have been around for a while you start seeing media friends that you didn't have to begin with, which is kind of nice, because it is hard when you are under so much scrutiny.
Mark: You also learn to accept the fact that everything that is written about you can't be correct, because you get misquoted about 70% of the time anyway. So you just read it and go "whatever." If it is roughly the same, it is ok. But in the beginning it definitely used to upset us.

Musicscan: What can we expect from you guys in the near future?

Ash: Tim: I don't know where we are going to go for our next record yet. I haven't written any songs. I think we will just keep getting better.
Mark: I think we will end up working with the same production team that worked on the last album, because it was really great. They are more professional in the States and there are some very meticulous engineers. We used to record with one guy that was practically all about the vibe, which is good in certain ways. You get inspired at six o'clock in the morning. But in the end it is just unprofessional and it takes at least 4-5 times longer. The American guys were just very focused and had a work ethic going on. It was like we are going to be in at 12 AM and we will finish at 12 PM. It is good to be a bit disciplined when you are spending thousands of pounds in a studio.

Musicscan: Was there any pressure from the label when you recorded the last album?

Ash: Tim: No, everything was pretty easy, because the last album was pretty successful. So they were like "do whatever you want." You only get pressured after a record flopped. When you flop than you are in trouble (laughs).

  Warner Music
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