ASH‘s Tim Wheeler has a scene that is a 90s rock kid’s dream. The Northern Irish guitarist singer-songwriter, states: “My scene is being a teenager in a plaid shirt playing in a three-piece rock band in the days of Nirvana. In my mind that’s probably where I still am.”
Wheeler, now living in New York, is excited about New York, the new album, the tour, and life in general. He states: “I love living there. It’s like it so little island. It’s got a lot of stuff that I love about America but it’s also quite a European city. There are a lot of creative people, it definitely attracts a lot of characters. There is an energy that never stops there, there is so much to be found. If you get bored here, there is something wrong with you.”
Wheeler’s sense of humour and unassuming nature flow through the interview. Of ASH’s latest release, Kablammo, Wheeler explains the title and the process: “Kablommo sounds like an explosion, the word, onomatopoeia. That’s the kind of record we were wanting to make. We wanted to tap into the energy of our early records and have a lot of fast songs, a lot of punkish energy but also poppy and so yeah it conveys the energy of the record and conveys a sense of fun. Hopefully it’s fun to listen to. It’s a great live record as well; it’s been wicked playing it live.
Ash’s sound in food form is like a half a dozen oysters washed down with a pint of Guinness.
Kablammo might be an explosion but it was also the beginning of the emergence from sorrow for Wheeler. He explains about the most challenging yet rewarding song from the new album: “I guess the first song cocoon, for me, it’s a simple song but lyrically… You know, I’d made a solo album, called Lost Domain, about losing my dad to Alzheimer. It was like a very heavy time you know and cocoon was one of the first songs I wrote for this record and it was like the emerging from the cocoon of grief and the start of a new record and it was like Ash reemerging as well. Lyrically, I guess when I was grieving a lot, I was just in my apartment in New York, within four walls and I guess I needed the gestation time to process everything. So that was starting a new record and it kicks off with a bang.”
ASH always produces fun music videos to accompany their songs. This album is no different. Wheeler explains the development of a few of the clips. “Free is one of my favourites. I worked with the director Mat Whitecross, I did the soundtracks to a few of his films actually. We’d just finished the album and one day he was like ‘Oh if you ever need a video’. We’re like definitely. It was simple. He filled in a lot of stuff to make it look good. We had a lot of good ideas if we had more money. Nowadays the video budgets are not how they used to be. We kept it quite simple.”
Wheeler continues: “We did Machinery in Tokyo. That was a very last minute thing. We’d been talking to a director in New York and all of a sudden he ended up working on a movie so he had to pull out. We discovered this while we were in Japan at the Fuji Rock Festival so it was like unless we do something really soon we’re going completely miss the deadline for getting it done. So luckily I was hanging out with the guy who did all the art direction for the album and he knew a whole bunch of people in Tokyo. I was the only one who was left there; the others had flown home already so the next day we made this crazy Karaoke style video, definitely a nod to Lost in Translation. That was a special night for me. I really had a good time. I love Japan. I love Tokyo. (laughs) I was quite surprised at how well I sang Lady In Red by Chris De Burgh last time I was at Karaoke. I don’t know what made me choose that one but I was actually not bad. I’m pretty open to things. Though Living on a Prayer, it’s a bit high. If I get quite ambitious I could do Bohemian Rhapsody. I found I’m the best at a nice guitar power ballads, though Lady in Red is not power, it’s just a ballad. I think I might have been singing it a bit in that video actually.”
Wheeler still loves being in a band and touring. He advises new bands: “Don’t have too many members, the fact that we’re a three piece makes it sustainable especially as there’s so much less money being in a band. So yeah I think starting a band with your actual friends is important for longevity and beware of massive egos, try to find some down to earth people. Yeah and live shows are more important than ever these days. I think that’s another reason we have lasted so long – we’ve always love to play live; we love touring.”
Though in Wheeler’s mind he is in the 90s, he keeps current with new music and sounds. He states: “When I was making this album I was listening to Canadian band Alvvays. I loved their album – melodic, great tortured lyrics. I thought that was a sweet record. I listen to that. And I like this guy, Ty Segall. He’s from San Francisco, from the same scene as Thee Oh Sees. He put out an album, Emotional Mugger, I think he’s putting a new album out now, I’m going to see him for the first time next month. He’s got a great early 70s sound, a lot of fuzz guitar. He’s a really great guitar player. He doesn’t spend a lot of time in his lyrics but it doesn’t really matter.”
Lyrics for Wheeler are important and poignant, whether with the band or solo. “I’ve been writing quite a bit recently. I’ve just been getting back into it. Just before we come to Australia, Rick’s coming to New York and we’re going to work through some of my ideas. Hopefully he’ll have some ideas too and we can do some demos. Yeah, hopefully we’ll do a couple of days of demoing before we come your way. I don’t think anything will be in the state to play unless a miracle happens. Definitely would like to make a new album soon.”
As for their tour in Australia, Wheeler states: “We’ll definitely be playing the classics, and probably about five or six from Kablammo. They’re quite snappy so they fit in really well with the classics. Loads of old hits for everybody. We’ve got a lot of live favourites that we know really connect with the crowd and I always love those moments when I see people getting into it.”
Get into it with ASH.
Australian Tour Dates: