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Ash Interview

Anh Nguyen caught up with Tim Wheeler and Mark Hamilton at Ben & Jerry’s Sundae in the Park

Written by . Published on July 27th 2011.

Ash Interview

BEFORE they took to the stage at Ben & Jerry’s Sundae in the Park in Heaton Park, Tim Wheeler and Mark Hamilton from Ash talked to Confidential’s Anh Nguyen about their latest music projects, predictions for the Mercury Prize and their love for cookie dough ice cream...

We’ve always managed to find ways of changing things and keeping things interesting for ourselves.  I suppose that’s why we’re around when some of our contemporaries who started with us, aren’t.

AN:  How have you found playing Ben & Jerry’s Sundae in the Park?

TW:  We’ve done it before, three years ago when it was just in London.  It’s different from a lot of festivals, a real family day out.  It’s always got a really nice atmosphere.  It’s the first time they’ve done it in Manchester but I’m expecting more of a similar vibe to London, very chilled out. 

MH: There are lots of kids and lots of people with strollers.

TW: Good chance to get some new fans for in 20 or fifteen years’ time when they’re really getting into music. The free ice-cream is enticing for people.

AN: How different is it playing live now to when you started in 1992?

TW: It felt like there were only two or three music festivals back then, nowadays there’s thousands. It’s good because we’ve got a really good, big catalogue that we can draw on for sets now. It’s also a lot easier playing big shows these days. At festivals you’re not necessarily playing to hardcore fans. You’re playing to a much broader audience. We’ve got enough songs that people know that go down really well.    

Rocking outRocking outAN: What’s your favourite festival to play?

TW: Reading and Leeds are really some of the best – that’s our kind of crowd, then there’s T in the Park in Scotland, it’s always really good.

AN: Is it difficult is it to keep fresh and innovative after 20 years in the business? 

TW: We’ve always managed to find ways of changing things and keeping things interesting for ourselves.  I suppose that’s why we’re around when some of our contemporaries who started with us aren’t.  Just seeing the way the album has gone over the last few years, we wanted to experiment and try different things.  We wanted to experiment with the format of download and really like the idea of people getting a new tune every two weeks and the excitement that can create. People get so much information on a regular basis on the internet, we thought we would try it with music. 

AN:  More interactive that way…

TW: Definitely, we’d be putting out stuff and working on what was coming up next. It’s really nice having the audience there responding to what you’ve just put out. It gives you confidence and excitement on what you’re working on. The cool thing about today is that you can experiment a lot and try different things. There are no real rules on how you have to do things.

AN:  The alphabetical tour - who came up with that idea? 

TW: It came from our manager, he was trying to think of ideas to launch the A to Z Series and we thought it was an amazing idea. We ended up in Oldham just outside Manchester on that tour. There are a lot of places that bigger bands don’t normally go to. The whole point was that we weren’t going to play cities that bands usually play, but try and play off the beaten path, off the touring circuit.

AN:  I’m sure that you’ve got a new fan base from that?

TW: Definitely, people get excited when you go to somewhere bands don’t usually play. 

AN:  Will you be releasing new material? 

TW: Probably next year. Just because it (A to Z Series) was such a big project that we feel like we need a break.  We are releasing a ‘Best of’ with Warner Brothers so that’ll go back through our catalogue. It’s coming out in October and it’s going to be a cool collection.

AN:  In terms of current music who do you rate at the moment?

TW: I was listening to Battles today which was really bonkers and brilliant. I enjoy the new Black Lips album. Lykke Li - I always like everything she has done.

AN:  Who are your influences?

TW: It goes back to Nirvana, who were a big influence when we were starting the group. That’s why we were a three piece in the first place. 

AN:  When did Charlotte join? 

TW: We formed in 1992, Charlotte joined 5 years later in 1997.

AN:  Did you lose a fan base when Charlotte left – because girls in bands are cool?

TW: Yeah they are very cool. A lot of the bands wanted to hang out with us. Things were changing anyway at that time and it did change a bit of perception but we enjoyed going back to the original line-up. We too weren’t worried because we had a load of success before she joined. 

AN:  Half of you are living in the US, how does it work?

TW: Yeah, me and Mark live in New York and Rick is in Edinburgh. It’s easy. We’ve got that relationship, like brothers, the minute we get back together we fall back into the way we have always been. Whenever we are on tour we go away for big blocks of time. It’s not like we’re home all the time. We tend to do things in chunks of time, say, if we’re recording Rick would come to New York and stay for three weeks, or if we do a tour we’ll rehearse a few days then be off for a few weeks. As soon as you’re all together it doesn’t matter.

AN:  What’s the difference between the music scene in the US and the UK?

TW: There’s some good stuff in America. It’s less ageist, for example, TV On The Radio are in their 40s and just started to have success in their late 30s.  It’s a lot harder to do that as a British band. Labels think bands need to be really young.  There’s a really good indie scene in the States and things are given a bit more time to develop. Here they get really excited about pop music. It’s an exciting scene but with different dynamics. There are benefits to both.

AN: Who do you think should win the Mercury Music Prize?

TW: I’d like PJ Harvey to win. She is the stand out one for me album wise. What do you think?

AN:  I really like the Metronomy album, it’s brilliant, of the moment, but you never know, someone who you wouldn’t expect will probably win the prize.

TW: Yeah, you never know. Often they’ll go for a real surprise. PJ Harvey has won it before so they may not want to give her it again.

Img_1203AN: Who are your favourite Manchester bands?

TW: There’s so many, New Order, Joy Division, The Smiths and Stone Roses…

MH:  Aren’t Dutch Uncles from Manchester?  They’re really good. 

TW:  Oh yeah, there’s Buzzcocks of course, and Magazine. The history of music in Manchester is amazing.

AN: What’s your favourite Manchester venue to play?

TW: We really like the big Academy. We’ve had some amazing shows there.

MH: We always go to Big Hands afterwards.

TW: It should be called Small Hands…


AN: Right, here comes the quick fire round...

Would you prefer mash, a tache or Slash from Guns & Roses?

TW:  I’ll take Slash

MH:  Yeah, Slash all the way.


AN:  Sooty or Sweep?

MH:  Sweep


AN: Ben or Jerry?

TW:  One of them is dead so…

MH: …the guy who is still alive. 

TW:  I’ll just say Ben.


AN: Stone Roses or Happy Mondays?

Both: Roses


AN: Blur or Oasis

Both: Blur


AN: Spaghetti hoops or baked beans?

Both: Baked Beans


AN: Coca Cola or Pepsi

MH: Coke Zero, that’s my drink.


AN:  Brown sauce or red sauce

MH:  Gross

TW:  Red sauce.


AN:  Manchester or London

TW:  Oh, I’m going to sound terrible, I’m going to go for London, just because I used to live there. I’ve never lived in Manchester.

MH:  I lived in London for nine years. I kind of don’t like it. It really frustrates me.  I like to visit now but I got to the point where I hated living there so I would say Manchester. I got jaded with it.


AN:  Volcanic Ash or the band Ash?

Both:  The band Ash.

TW:  We’re a force for good.  We won’t cost airlines millions in insurance.


AN: Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey

MH:  I’d say Jamie Oliver. Everyone goes on about hating Jamie Oliver but Gordon Ramsey comes across as a dick. 

TW:  Jamie does good stuff for school meals.


AN:  There are some here that I can’t ask you…

Both:  Really?  We can take it?


AN:  I might offend… Indian or Chinese food?

TW: Indian.

MH:  (Laughs.)  Tell us the offensive ones.


AN:  Spit or swallow

MH:  Swallow of course.


AN:  See, I can’t ask any more of those ones.

MH:  That’s a good one.


AN:  Les Dennis or Bobby Davro

TW:  No, they’re both really annoying. Bobby Davro.


AN:  North or South

Both:  North


AN:  Bruce Forsythe or Jeremy Kyle

TW:  Bruce. Brucey Bonus.


AN:  White or brown (as in toast)?

TW:  Brown toast.


AN:  Finally, the ultimate question, what’s your favourite Ben & Jerry’s flavour?

MH:  I’d say, ‘Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream’, is probably my favourite. You don’t have it over here.  It’s really good. 

TW: He’s a big Stephen Colbert fan. 

MH:  He’s a talk show host.

TW: Political satire. I’d have to say Cookie Dough.   

MH:  I would probably go for Cookie Dough as well.

TW:  It’s amazing. 





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