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Ash circa 2015, l-r: Rick, Mark, Tim
DreamWorks Records (1998)
Atomic Heart (2009-2015)
Ash is a three-piece rock band from Downpatrick, Ireland, and has been an active recording and touring unit since the early 1990s.
Ash formed in 1992 when its members were still in high school. The band chose their name by opening a dictionary, and perusing the words until something jumped out at them; obviously, they didn't get far.
Singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter Tim Wheeler and bassist Mark Hamilton had been in at least one band prior, called Vietnam, which was a very Iron Maiden-influenced metal band. The pair later formed Ash, and were just seventeen, and drummer Rick 'Rock' McMurray nineteen when they released their first single, "Jack Names The Planets", in 1994. Although their initial sound (having been heavily influenced by classic punk as well as post-punk, metal, and grunge) was very much raucous pop-punk, the band has evolved into a well-oiled power-pop machine. Wheeler's songs are guitar-oriented rock jams based on classic pop song structures and traditional rock values, including vocal harmonies and guitar solos.
Signed to the UK label Infectious Records in 1994, the band proceeded to put out multiple singles, and an EP called Trailer, by the end of the year. 1995 saw the US release of Trailer (filled out to album's length with some early B-sides) as the band rocketed up the UK charts with several more singles.
The band released their first true album in 1996, the apt-named 1977 - the year two members were born, but perhaps more importantly, the year their favorite film Star Wars was released. The UK went wild over the album, and the band became instant stars. The US proved to be a tougher nut to crack, however, as the shifting 1990s music industry - particularly in terms of rock - left the landscape quite infertile for Ash's brand of straight-up rock. Despite a minor hit in 'Goldfinger', having songs placed on soundtracks, and venturing on tours with more visible bands like Weezer, Ash could never quite gain a foothold on the valuable US market.
At the urging of their management, they added a fourth member, Charlotte Hatherley on guitar, and contributed the title track to the soundtrack of the 1997 film A Life Less Ordinary. Subsequent albums such as 1998's Nu-Clear Sounds and 2001's UK smash hit Free All Angels were released in the States much later than in England, and each time on a different label, as no US imprint seemed to know how to market the band.
2004 saw Ash make another concerted attempt to crack the US market. The band aimed to make Meltdown a straight-ahead, American-style hard rock album - while never sacrificing their pop sensibilities. Recorded at the legendary Sound City studios in Los Angeles (where such alt rock classics as Nirvana's Nevermind and Weezer's Pinkerton were recorded) with producer Nick Raskulinecz, whose previous works with Foo Fighters and System Of A Down suggested an effort to capture a certain aesthetic, the album was a realization of that very goal. However, the gambit failed to pay off, which left the band considering changes.
The first change Ash made was to part ways with Hatherley in a reportedly amicable manner, which left her to further pursue a solo career begun in 2003. Back to a trio, the unit began recording Twilight Of The Innocents in New York City in 2006, and released the album the following spring. Many in the press hailed it as their masterpiece, expressing disbelief that rock albums of its quality were still being released.
Upon its 2007 release, Ash announced that Twilight was to be their last album - yet they were not splitting up. Citing the fickle and ever-changing music industry, particularly in terms of the internet's impact, the band intends to release all future music digitally, possibly days or even hours after being recorded.
In mid-2009, Ash released a free digital single, the Hamilton-penned "Return Of White Rabbit", and issued a press release announcing their plans for the A-Z Series singles project. Beginning in September, the band would issue a new single every two weeks for a year, both digitally, and on 7" limited vinyl.
After touring the globe extensively to promote the A-Z project, and compiling the many singles from the project into two companion albums (subtitled Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, respectively), Ash returned to the conventional album format with 2015's Kablammo!, yet another solid disc of classicist power pop. This was followed up by "Islands" in 2018, which was also their return to their original label, Infectious. The band shows no sign of slowing down.
Although technically contemporaries of Weezer, having also formed in 1992 and released their first recordings in 1994, the band are fans and supporters of their American counterparts. Tim Wheeler named-dropped Weezer in interviews as far back as 1995, and the band made their first significant trip Stateside supporting Weezer in late 1996. During this leg of the Pinkerton tour, there were apparently friendships formed, as evidenced by later activities. It was around this time that Brian Bell left a message for Tim at his Los Angeles hotel room, advising him on where to get a haircut in Hollywood, which was released in 1997 as an Ash B-side called "Devil's Haircut".
Wheeler has professed to being profoundly influenced by the album Pinkerton, and somewhat molded his own band's 1998 album Nu-Clear Sounds in its image. Further Pinkerton influence is found on the Free All Angels track "Cherry Bomb", which, fairly obviously, employs the main riff from "Tired of Sex".
In a 2001 BBC session, Ash covered "Only in Dreams", and released the recording as a B-side to the single "Burn Baby Burn". During the 2001-2002 world tour supporting Free All Angels, the band would perform the song almost nightly, and a live version is found on the DVD Tokyo Blitz.
Bell's project The Space Twins opened for Ash in 2003.
Tim Wheeler was also known to post on the RCB between 2001 and 2003.
In 2003, Ash produced their own independent horror film, called Slashed. Among other famous friends of theirs, the band cast former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp in one of the film's roles.
Sharp mentioned the band and shared several photographs he had taken of them in a letter he wrote to fans in 2004.
Sharp attended a February 2014 Ash gig in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles.
Ash opened for Weezer in London at their last show on the 2017 Feels Like Summer Tour.
- Tim Wheeler - guitars, vocals
- Mark Hamilton - bass
- Rick McMurray - drums
- Charlotte Hatherley - guitars, vocals (1997-2006)
|1997||Live At The Wireless||Death Star|
|2001||Free All Angels||Infectious|
|2007||Twilight Of The Innocents||Infectious|
|2009||A-Z Vol. 1||Atomic Heart|
|2010||A-Z Vol. 2||Atomic Heart|