Finally the quartet who originated out of Downpatrick, Northern Ireland had arrived at the tour that was currently promoting their 3rd album (4th if you include the mini opus, Trailer). Ash though are not merely a four piece, more a collective of 4 musicians and a huge fan base, who were given the opportunity to vote for favoured venues when the group were in preparation for their 'comeback' earlier this year. So when I had the opportunity to speak with two of the founding members from the group, Mark Hamilton and 'weird ie bloke', the bands drummer Rick Murray. I put them the question, "Why so long since Nu-Clear Sounds?"
MH: "We needed to take a bit of a break really. Since Tim finished his A-levels in '95, we've basically been working all the way through, 4 1/2 years non stop. Also there wasn't as much pressure from the Record Company to do a follow-up, because the last album hadn't been as successful as 1977. We had to take it easy , slowly get it together, write a few songs."
AD: "Time to recharge your batteries."
MH: "Yeah we did quite a lot of it back in London, where it tends to normally happen, but the writing was done back in Tim's shed at his parents house. We did a lot of rehearsal there, it was good getting back and chillin' with it, not having so much pressure."
AD: "Ok, so you have written some new material and now you're at the stage to start recording, I understand that this process was performed in Southern Spain. Was the reason for this that the record company were paying? And besides the album, what else did you get from this experience?"
RM: "Well yeah, the record company were paying, but it was actually cheaper to record in Spain than it was to record over here. And I think we got the 'summer vibe' on the record."
MH: "Yeah totally, it was sunny, it was brilliant, we had a massive villa, our own pool. You'd get up in the morning, you might have this sinking hang-over, but it didn't matter. You'd just jump into the pooland the sun would be beating down "
RM: "Then you could do a bit of recording."
MH: "A couple of hours recording and then have an evening banquet."
AD: "So what was your average day like?"
MH: "I'd get up later and later every day."
RM: "Twelve, two something like that. When we got there we were all getting up at ten, eleven "
MH: "I ended up getting up at seven or eight."
RM: " to do the drums, but then it big descended. You'd do the recording and then about 7 or 8 at night you'd have a banquet, out on the balcony over looking the mountains, when we'd eat like kings. Then you'd do a bit of recording till 2 or whatever, then you'd go down to the bar."
AD: "What time would you turn in?"
MH: "Usually about six."
AD: "Ok, so with the 'fun' of recording over and the album finally released, you're back to work on the road. I saw you back on the 'Nu-clear Sounds' tour, when you treated the audience to well over an hour of performance. Why are you so aware of rewarding your paying public and is this something you've continued on this tour?"
MH: "We've been playing for an hour and a half, but it's fun for us as well. It's not like you've slogging through a set thinking, **** this, let's get it over with, it's fun. Tonight we actually extended the set at sound check."
RM: "It doesn't feel that long doe's it? When we're on stage, we'll come off after the main set and the encore's 3 or 4 songs, and we've been up there for well over an hour."
MH: " let's do a few more "
RM: "The time's just flowed by, it's been 15 minutes or so."
AD: "So can you share with me any of the 'rock'n'Roll' excesses you get up to when you're on the road, or is it a fairly well mannered affair?"
Mark looks across at Rick "Talk about your doll you got the other night."
RM: "No." A sheepish grin spreading across his face.
Mark continues making reference to the previously unnoticed stocks of alcohol stowed at the back of the dressing room.
MH: "We get through that booze every night. Two bottles of vodka, 60 beers."
RM: "60 beers,, but 15 Guinness, 15 cider, us and the crew, about 12 of us."
AD: "Any consideration for your liver?"
MH: "That's why we drink cranberry juice." Making a point of the few red cartons sat almost swamped by the crates of liquor.
But in amongst stories of 'home movies' and the video camera that Mark is'nt allowed to use in quite the way he would wish, when with his girlfriend. I press Rick for his story, side-stepped earlier.
RM: "Well it wasn't a doll, it was a vibrating pussy." He recalls in a hushed tone, not before heard.
MH: "I thought it was the entire thing."
RM: "No, no, my girlfriend wouldn't let me get an entire doll, she said it was verging on cheating. I had to settle for the pussy. Oh and by the way if you think I'm bull******* (as rick goes to his bag and pull something quite unexpected from it, I thought he said it was a pussy?!!
I think well leave it there, but it's good to see that depravity and excess still has a place in today's 'Rock'n'Roll' lifestyle. Nick James.