DOWNPATRICK alternative indie rockers Ash are back in business after a short break, and are celebrating 20 years of gigs, jamming, late nights, hit making, song writing and living the rock ‘n’ roll life.
Tonight they play a one-off gig at Belfast’s Oh Yeah Centre and frontman Tim Wheeler is very happy to be playing on homeground.
“I can’t wait to play at home again,” he says excitedly, “It’s going to feel like a big party.”
Way back then in 1992 when three school friends decided to form a band they probably didn’t envisage releasing eight million albums, or having such addictive indie-cool releases as Kung Fu, Girl from Mars, Oh Yeah, Goldfinger and Lose Control, or touring with Weezer, jetting all over the globe and having one of their songs featured in a movie starring Cameron Diaz.
After two decades in the music business, and all the heady highs and lows that come with that, he and his band might be forgiven for feeling a tad jaded, like they’ve been there, done that and worn the T-shirt too many times already. But, no. The music and their love for performing keeps the band’s momentum, and fanbase, strong.
“It really doesn’t feel like 20 years, that’s the strange thing, it’s amazing and it doesn’t make much sense. It’s something worth celebrating for sure.
“The early years were sometimes a struggle, sometimes tricky - but now I feel as we’ve got older and matured as a band we’re in a far better position to enjoy our success.
“We’re more realistic about things but we still get the same massive kick out of it. We’re better able to handle things now and as you evolve you get way more confidence about going on stage.
“We’ve been taking a bit of a break this year after the A to Z single series,” Tim confides.
The latter project was a gargantuan undertaking, and a bold move away from the traditional album format as Ash wrote, recorded and released 26 singles - one for each letter of the alphabet released from May 2009 until the end of that year - on their label Atomic Heart.
“Each song had a very different style to it, from 11 minute instrumentals to synth-pop songs. We went all over the shop and really pushed the whole singles format to the limit.
“I don’t think any other band have ever done anything like this on the same scale.
“It was full-on and the whole thing took after two-and-a-half years, from the writing to the recording and touring. It was mad.”
A break after such an intensive undertaking, and with the death of Tim’s father last year, was natural.
Now, after 20 years of experience, the band are shaping up to head back into the studio later in the year to start recording new material.
How has their sound evolved since the earliest days of Ash mania?
“The basic sounds remain the same - we’ve always been interested in melody - but probably we’ve become a lot more experimental really.
“I’d imagine our next thing will be a straighter guitar record, sort of 90s guitar-rock. I have a feeling that’s where we’ll go next.”
Is being in a rock band the best thing in the whole wide world?
“It’s brilliant, yeah, it’s amazing,” he laughs.
“We’re going to China on Monday and we’ve never been there before so that’s fantastic. It’s amazing getting to play in different places around the world.” Some rockstars have all the fun.
n See #ASH20 at the Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast, tonight (June 15). Visit www.ash-official.com.