In the last few years Tim Wheeler‘s scene has somewhat diverged from when he was “a teenager, in a plaid shirt, playing in a three-piece rock band, in the days of Nirvana” to a different path, yet it still harmonises back to the 90s, the music, “where his mind is at”. ASH’s co-founder/guitarist/singer-songwriter states: “I guess it still is, but I’ve got an alternative now. I’ve been doing Muay Thai training/fighting for five years so I’ve got a whole other community that I’m involved with thanks to that. It’s funny actually, I trained in Thailand and met a bunch of Aussies from Brisbane, the Gold Coast actually. Now, whenever I go on tour I bump into people I’ve met training in Thailand. When I was in Glasgow, when I was in LA, I’ll see the guys from Brisbane there as well. I think we might be playing Bangkok later this year so I’ll see a bunch of mates there. I started almost for fitness and then I fell in love with the sport. Quite crazy. I had my first fight a few weeks ago. That’s the secondary scene.”
Wheeler’s foremost scene has been part of his life for over twenty years now, though when ASH first started out, there was “no way” he would have even imagined he’d still be doing it now. He states: “No way would I have dreamed I would be in New York recording and having my own place and also still having a fan base like we do. I’m always amazed that we’ve stood the test of time.” Foreseeable though, if one considers the time, energy and commitment the band dedicate to performing live and making new music, simultaneously satisfying their fanbase and gathering more along the way.
This year ASH released their seventh studio album, Islands which transports the listener back to ’90s, and then adds a twist of the present. The success of this formula is “playing live”. Wheeler explains, “Playing live helps us to connect with our audience. We’re always playing a lot of the old songs. [pullquote]We’re always still connected to that ’90s style in a way. [/pullquote]In the studio I always love to play with different kind of things and develop new … play around with slightly different styles. Yeah, I think we manage to get a good balance on this record of old vibes but fresh stuff too. I’m always playing and trying to find synths and keyboards and trying to find a way to integrate them into a sound and keep things fresh. Yeah. As long as the songwriting is strong, like if the song is a good … that’s my main thing. Our early stuff was I felt built on good strong songwriting. I think that’s always important.”
Islands stays true to the formula, and this time, “a lot of the songs are breakup songs”. In particular, with Did Your Love Burn Out? Wheeler states: “I was really in the zone of being upset when I was writing the song, it came from true feelings but, I guess, in a song you can exaggerate everything. You can really let everything go so some of the stuff is based on real life but it’s not all completely true, it’s exaggerated.” This track is also a different style for Wheeler, incorporating a “slightly bluesy and folksy and funky” style, which he further explains: “they are not really elements that have been in our music much before. It was one of the last ones I finished as well because I was doubtful about it. I just couldn’t tell if it was good or I couldn’t tell if people would like it, but it’s actually turned out to be a lot of people’s favourite. I’m really glad I didn’t chicken out”.
Wheeler seems to thrive with challenges, having engineered most of this new album himself. He states: “We’ve been self-produced since Twilight of the Innocents. Sometimes we go and do various different credits between all of us and our engineer, Claudius [Mittendorfer]. This time I really did a lot of it by myself, even a lot of the engineering as well, so it was quite involved. Yeah, we figured it out. We have our own studio for 12 years so we’re starting to feel more and more comfortable producing stuff.”
Video clips are another major part of each new album release. Wheeler enjoyed making the clip to Confessions in a Pool. He states: “It was one of my favourites for a long time. It’s great. I guess we knew we wanted something fun for the song. We got a bunch of pitches from directors, and some of our ideas were based on pool parties and things like that. This one just grabbed us and it just sounded really fun. For a while we just got hung up on the idea of us dressing as priests doing something. I think it was because we were Father Ted fans. Anyway, we were touring and then we realised that we didn’t have time to be in a video ourselves. So we’ve got a tiny cameo actually, yeah, very tiny. We filmed it in a hotel garden on tour. Yeah, I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.”
Confessions in the Pool has quickly become a crowd favourite. With touring, Wheeler states: “The last five or six months of this year are just full on. It’s nice because I love this flow you get into when you are playing the new stuff. When you’ve been doing it for a few months, or well even a couple of weeks, where it starts to click really well. Yeah, in the old days we used to tour for a year and a half once the album came out but now it’s a lot more broken up and a lot less intense. We’ve been playing seven songs on our recent UK tour from Island, so a real big chunk of the record, and we’ve pleased it’s been going down so well, but still all the old classics really. We’re bringing back a couple of tracks from Nu-Clear Sounds that we haven’t played for a while, they’ve been really fun to rediscover. So there’s a couple of those in there. We try to get a general covering of everything and a bunch of the new stuff and make sure all the big hits that people all want to hear are always in there too.” From the new album, another crowd favourite is Buzzkill. Wheeler states: “Buzzkill’s really fun. I love it when all the people sing that one, sing the backing vocals, back at me always swearing. Yeah, so good.” Australian audiences have that to look forward to.
[pullquote]It was cool seeing Shirley [Manson] again. We’re survivors, we’ve made it this far, it’s pretty amazing.”[/pullquote] Wheeler recalled an incident that occurred on one of his visits down under: “Well actually I just went and saw Garbage play two nights ago in New York and I hadn’t seen them since we toured with them in Australia in ’96. I probably hadn’t seen Shirley Manson since – I think she thought it was the last time we played [on the same bill] which was 1997. It was cool seeing her and I remember one show in Adelaide where everything was technically going wrong for me on stage and I remember smashing my guitar in the middle of the show, it was unusual I guess. I was pissed and I had to go out the next day and buy a replacement in Adelaide. It was cool seeing Shirley again. We’re survivors, we’ve made it this far, it’s pretty amazing.”
Living in New York means Wheeler gets to see “tonnes” of shows. He states: “New York is great for it, everyone comes through. And it’s really good for catching new stuff. I’ve just been reminded that the new Lemon Twigs album came out this year. I loved their first one so much so that’s my next thing I’m going to listen to. I saw ELO playing the summer as well, I’ve been listening to a lot of them. And The The, I was really sad I missed them on their recent tour, but, I’ve been listening to them a lot too.”
Make sure don’t miss ASH on this tour and witness how music can stand the test of time.
ASH November 2018 Australian Tour Dates
Tuesday 13th – Brisbane – The Zoo
Wednesday 14th – Adelaide – Fowlers Live
Thursday 15th – Perth – Rosemount
Saturday 17th – Sydney – Factory Theatre
Sunday 18th – Melbourne – Corner Hotel
Tickets on sale now from Metropolis Touring
“Ash rule. They are geniuses. Gods maybe” (NME)
Northern Ireland’s indie legends ASH finally return down under this November for a headline tour.
Inspired by Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Pixies they are known worldwide for their energetic and incredibly fun live shows that continue to delight fans. Ash are truly a band that no matter how many times you have seen you can never get bored of seeing.
This year ASH released their seventh studio album, ‘Islands’. Pound-for-pound, it’s also the strongest, most exhilarating long player of ASH’s career, an album which reaffirms the trio’s status as one of the most idiosyncratic and singularly thrilling guitar bands.
Ash have remained popular well after the success of their 1996 classic ‘1977’. A testimony both to the loyalty of the fanbase as well as their ability to continually to put on brilliant live shows that never disappoint. Their no-fuss set includes all their classics – Girl From Mars, Burn Baby Burn, Shining Light, Kung Fu, Goldfinger, Oh Yeah, A Life Less Ordinary as well as selections from ‘Islands’.