It’s incredible to think that it all started out in his parent’s garage. After years of touring, releasing records, and winning over the hearts of music lovers across the globe Northern Irish trio Ash are still at it and still going strong. Their last endeavour was The A-Z Series, a year long project which featured the band releasing a new single every two weeks. The band set out for their first US tour in nearly seven years, beginning with some support dates with Weezer. Prior to heading out across the east coast we got to sit with front-man Tim Wheeler and talk about what goes into preparing for a tour and why the United States has held a place in his heart over the years.
How was the Weezer tour?
It was great! It felt really good to get out there. It was weird at first being on support because you only get thirty minutes and it was a bit hard nailing down the setlist, we’ve been releasing music for about twenty years so it’s quite a task to do setlists but I think we nailed it pretty well for those shows. We’ve got about three more shows with them including tonight and yeah seeing Weezer perform has been awesome.
I noticed that Keith from We Are Scientists is with you guys, what’s he been helping you guys with?
Hollywood, Florida is actually his hometown so he figured he’d kill two birds with one stone and visit and see Weezer since he really likes them. We thought about getting him to play guitar with us but the hurricane fucked up our rehearsal plans.
It’s a good thing you guys got out of the city with all of that going on.
Yeah it was utter madness. We actually booked for four days of rehearsal and only got to do half a day haha.
Really? Half a day?
Yeah. Luckily by now though we can bang the songs out really quick.
Yeah I hope with twenty years you guys would be pros at this haha. There’s been a massive demand for you guys to tour the states before this upcoming tour, what do you think are some things that makes it hard for some acts to tour the states?
Well we’ve been on label support for a while and after Twilight of The Innocents was released and we left our label and built our own it didn’t make sense to take on the states that way, especially financially. It was always a question of where was the money going to come from? We do have a new booking agent and with this new upcoming tour it’ll be a bit like testing the waters.
What was the response like last night? I’d imagine for most of those people it was their first time ever seeing Ash perform.
Yeah it was kind of strange because it was at a casino but I think we got a great response for sure. It’s hard to see what was going on since it was a dark seated venue but it was massive and I think it went well since we roared through it haha.
What was it like the first time you ever toured the states? Was doing that a massive aspiration for the band when you guys got started?
I guess it was just a dream for us when we started out. A lot of our favorite music was made here so in a way it did become a goal to come here and when we did we really did love it.
When you guys came here for the first time was it your first time visiting the states completely or have you been here before on holiday?
I think we might have come over for holiday, I do remember we came before to meet record companies. When we came here to play shows we were still High Schoolers and came during one half-term. We went to LA for a few days and got a taste of America that way. We did our first tour when were 18 but came here for the first time when we were 17 and got wined and dined by labels.
When you went to LA did it feel immensely different from Downpatrick?
Completely. It was a completely different world, even just being at our hotel was a mind blowing experience. I remember I had a lot of homework that year but I kept partying and I was blown away when it came to partying in jacuzzi’s.
I remember we got to see Mudhoney play and that was definitely a dream come true.
During your first trip to the states would you say that anything caught you guys off guard, and did you experience things you didn’t expect to experience?
Yeah in the beginning. The drinking caught us by surprise, I mean in Ireland people tend to go to bars for gigs and such at age fifteen and nobody cares but in LA it was our first time seeing how strict things were. There was a gig we played in San Diego actually and we could only enter the venue for sound check and our set time, the rest of the time we had to go back to the tour bus because we were too young to be at the venue. That was really strange to us.
Back then it didn’t seem normal for people our age to be playing venues so that was something else as well but the major thing was just driving throughout the country in a bus. The country is just so vast that it caught us completely off guard.
I’ve noticed that over the years where in Europe people tend to learn about the coastal cities in the United States but never the towns and areas in between them.
It’s just massive, loads of deserts and plains. Driving through places like Texas just show how the scale of the place is unimaginable.
The Slashed video for Binary showcases footage from when you guys toured here with Coldplay, did any other insane adventures take place?
We did loads of support slots that year and with that came time on our hands just waiting around and such. We supported also David Bowie and Dashboard Confessional that year and I think our antics were mostly just ways for us to stay out of trouble. It was a good way of getting involved with those bands we were touring with and getting to know them, we’d write scenes for them in the film (Slashed) and walk them through it.
Is there a destination here in the United States that you’ve grown a fondness for and why?
It used to be New York actually before we moved here. We used to always look forward to getting to and would always get excited about it. Aside from here we also really love visiting places like Texas, Boston, Chicago, Portland, and LA. We tend to have the best experiences when we’re together and those tend to be the cities we’ve enjoyed the most.
Something I love doing here in the states is going to smaller/lesser known towns and visiting whatever guitar shop is around. Check out the deals that they have going on haha.
Was living in New York something you’ve always wanted to do and would you say it’s affected your song writing at all?
I think so. As soon as I went to New York I knew I loved it and whenever we’d visit I’d think more about it. There was a time when I actually thought the moment to move there was gone but luckily we had a bit of free time after finishing the Meltdown record and we were able to move over to New York since we got a bit tired of London.
I’ve always found New York to be a really inspiring place. Before moving here I’d always do my best to take vacations here by myself to get inspired. I think the people here are just brilliant and that it’s amazing how you’re surrounded by creative people. I think it’s impossible not to get inspired by its energy.
What made you guys want to release a special edition vinyl collection of The A-Z Series?
Well there were a few reasons. When we originally ran the series we released the first volume (A-M) on vinyl but we never got around to putting the second volume and then also it never really felt like it made sense to just release a volume two set, the timing was off and everything. We considered doing it as a double vinyl and we were looking at how we could spread out the tracks because we wanted to include Return of White Rabbit. So we figured it’d make more sense to do a triple set to compact the whole thing. We got in touch with Chad from Noyes Records and made it happen.
It felt like it’d be a great time to get the set out, especially with the tour coming out.
It’s great that it comes with the twenty seven bonus songs and the documentary. Quite a good deal.
Yeah! We wanted our fans to feel as though they were getting as much as possible for their money for sure. I really wanted the complete A-Z on vinyl. There’s something about vinyl that feels more personal and more involved when it comes to listening to the music.
Do you think now that the series is finished and that some time has passed that the next Ash project should be as extensive or is it a bit of a “whatever happens, happens” type of perspective?
I don’t think we have to do something as ambitious as that next. I think next time we’ll be a more simple concept and something easier to grasp. It was great to do A-Z but we always think it’s important to try new things. Next year we’ll be getting back into the studio and creating new music, we don’t have plans as to how we’ll release stuff but we think the music will help us figure that out once it’s created.
I remember the key thing you would talk about prior to The A-Z Series was how it’d be great for you guys to create a song and release it seconds after its completion.
yeah! We were really energized by our new studio and wanted to create a bit of a music factory in a way.
Some people who will be attending these shows probably have never seen you guys perform before, what would you like fans and newcomers to take from your live shows?
I think we’ve refined our live show really well over the past couple years, especially the last seven. We have a lot of energy and have played relentlessly everywhere else in the world. It’ll be interesting because of that people will definitely want to hear old stuff but I’m sure some of the tunes on the setlist will be stuff they’re not familiar with, particularly songs from A-Z since it’s just being released here in the states via the vinyl package.
What can you tell me about the bands that will be supporting you on the upcoming tour?
One of the acts at the New York show will be a visual kind of artist named ANML, it’s really cool stuff. And the other group will be James Levy’s new project, Reputante. About a year ago I made a record with James and produced it. I’m really proud of the record and I can’t wait to hear those songs live. James in fact also had another project called James Levy And The Blood Red Rose, and the vibe from that project definitely echoes some of Reputantes work, a really natural and somewhat dark vibe.
Guy from Coldplay produced The Blood Red Rose album actually. In DC we have a band called Dot Dash supporting us and in Toronto we have Kestrels supporting us, which will be really great because their front-man Chad is a great friend of ours.
That’ll be a great show for Chad. Wow you guys haven’t been to Toronto since like 05 right?
Has it been that long? Wow it has! Yeah the last time we were there was with The Bravery! That was a great fucking tour. That was our last full blown North American tour. Come to think of it The Bravery have been quiet for a while.
I know that Mike has a new project here in the city called The Danvilles and that Anthony is the tour drummer for Morrissey actually haha.
Holy fuck that’s amazing! He’s an amazing drummer. Talk about a dream come true, they were one of the best bands we toured with for sure. We partied every night with them pretty hard.
What’s a destination on this coming tour that you’re really excited for?
Mmm I’d say DC and Boston; we used to go to those places a lot. Toronto was wild last time we went; people were getting naked on stage hahaha. Maybe someone will try to recreate those memories.
Last question, what track are you most excited about playing live on this upcoming tour and why?
I really enjoy playing Return of White Rabbit, especially because we extend it longer then the recorded version. It has this bit of a freak out at the end and to me that’s a powerful highlight.
You know that tune is like a perfect introduction to where you guys are now and what you’ve been doing to a new fan or a fan that hasn’t been keeping up with what you guys have been doing. Smart move making it available for free on the website, it’s like a way of saying “this is who we are now.”
Yeah we were really excited about it especially because it felt like we were tackling a new sound almost. We loved that song and it works alongside great to the old stuff too, it just has a great fucking sound