Ash performing at the O2 ABC in Glasgow in 2010
|Origin||Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland|
|Labels||Infectious, Edel, Deathstar|
Ash is a Northern Irish alternative rock band, formed in Downpatrick in 1992 by vocalist and guitarist Tim Wheeler, bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray. As a three-piece, they released mini-album Trailer in 1994 and full-length album 1977 in 1996. This 1996 release was named by NME as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time. After the success of their full debut the band recruited Charlotte Hatherley as a guitarist and vocalist, releasing their second record Nu-Clear Sounds in 1998. After narrowly avoiding bankruptcy the band released Free All Angels in 2001 and a string of successful singles.
Their fourth record Meltdown, released in 2004, was the band's final record with Hatherley before returning to their original three-piece lineup for their fifth studio album Twilight of the Innocents in 2007. After five conventional albums the band released 26 singles in The A-Z Series in 2009, one every two weeks. The band have had one silver, two gold and two platinum-selling (and chart-topping) records in the United Kingdom, as well as 18 songs in the top 40 of the UK Singles Chart. In 2015, they released a sixth studio album, entitled Kablammo!. They were associated with Britpop, though as that musical movement emphasised Britishness which is a controversial state in Northern Ireland, they were not comfortable with the association.
Ash officially formed in 1992, reportedly having taken the name from the first word they liked in the dictionary. Prior to this, Wheeler and Hamilton were in an Iron Maiden cover band called Vietnam, which had formed in 1989. The new band created three demo tapes that year - Solar Happy in June, Shed in September, and the Home Demo in November. These tapes featured their earliest material and the first recordings of some songs that were later on the 1994 release, Trailer, including "Intense Thing", "Get Out", "Obscure Thing," and the future single, "Jack Names the Planets".
In 1993 the band recorded the Garage Girl demo tape, which featured "Jack Names the Planets" and "Intense Thing", taken from Shed, and new tracks, including "Petrol". Following Garage Girl, Ash released a compilation demo tape, Pipe Smokin' Brick later that year, which featured an assortment of songs from the other tapes. Downpatrick musician Ray Valentine recorded Ash's demos at his studio, Cosmic Rays. At that time, the band were known as "Genuine Real Teenagers," because they were so young when recording their early material. The demo tapes did not gain much attention at that time and the band was still playing small shows at local clubs but, in early 1994, Stephen Taverner came across the Garage Girl demo tape. Taverner put up the money to press 1,000 7? copies of "Jack Names the Planets" on his own LaLaLand record label. Taverner subsequently became the band's full-time manager.
Ash released the mini album, Trailer, in October 1994, comprising seven songs. Airplay by Steve Lamacq followed on BBC Radio 1 and the debut single was followed by "Petrol" and "Uncle Pat", on their new label Infectious Records. In 1995, Ash left school and released the breakthrough singles "Kung Fu" (featured over the end credits of Jackie Chan's North American breakthrough film, Rumble in the Bronx), "Girl From Mars" and "Angel Interceptor". The movie Angus was released, which featured two Ash songs, "Jack Names the Planets" and "Kung Fu," and served to introduce Ash to American audiences. The band had offered two other tracks that were not used, as well as "Pansy Division's Deep Water", which made the soundtrack but was cut from the movie due to time constraints. Ash marked the end of their breakthrough year by releasing a cover of The Temptations' Get Ready, as a limited edition red vinyl 7" single on Fantastic Plastic.
In 1996 the singles "Goldfinger" and "Oh Yeah" were released, with the successful album 1977 being released between these. The track "Lose Control" from that album was featured in the video game Gran Turismo. On 17 February 1997, Ash released Live at the Wireless, a live album, recorded at the Triple J Studios in Australia. A limited edition version of the album was released in the UK on the band's own Deathstar label.
While touring with the American band Weezer, Ash felt the limitations of a three-piece format. This led to the recruitment of a second guitarist and vocalist, Charlotte Hatherley, who had previously been with the band Nightnurse. She was introduced at a few small gigs a week before the band's appearance at the V Festival in 1997. The first recording to be released with Hatherley was the single "A Life Less Ordinary", which featured on the soundtrack to the Ewan McGregor / Cameron Diaz film of the same name.
In September 1998, Ash released "Jesus Says" followed in October by the band's second album proper, Nu-Clear Sounds, and in November by "Wildsurf". The pressures of near non-stop touring of 1977 and Nu-Clear Sounds began to affect the band. In 1999, Tim Wheeler disappeared for a short while following the commercial and critical failure of Nu-Clear Sounds. He eventually emerged in New York making the self-deprecating, blood, drug and sex fuelled video for Numbskull. A note for Stephen Taverner attached to the video said, "I've killed Bambi".
Ash became almost bankrupt as the band prepared to release what could have been its last album. The members retreated to Wheeler's parents' house, to play and write songs in the same garage where the band began. The single "Shining Light" was released in January 2001, followed by the number one album Free All Angels in April. Subsequent singles released from Free All Angels were "Burn Baby Burn", "Sometimes", "Candy", and "There's a Star" . The single "Shining Light" won the "Best Contemporary Song" award at the 2002 Ivor Novello awards.
A new single "Envy" was released, followed shortly afterwards by the singles collection Intergalactic Sonic 7?s with the bonus disk entitled Cosmic Debris. Q magazine named Ash as No. 2 of its "50 Bands To See Before You Die".
In 2003, it was leaked to the music and tabloid press that Ash were working on a horror film described as a 'teen slasher'. The film, called Slashed, was shot while the band were on tour in America but some scenes were also shot in the UK. The screenplay, written by Jed Shepherd and directed by Alexander Marks, included star roles by Chris Martin (Sherbet Bones) and Jonny Buckland (Agent Ford) of Coldplay as a pair of FBI agents hired to track down a supernatural serial killer. Other star performances include that of Moby, James Nesbitt, Dave Grohl and Ash themselves. The film was not put on general release.
On 29 June 2004, Ash released Meltdown, which reached number five in the UK. At the same time Hatherley also wrote and recorded her solo side project album Grey Will Fade. The band teamed up with LucasArts for a new Star Wars game entitled Republic Commando. "Clones", taken from the album Meltdown is the first licensed music to be used in anything Star Wars-related. "Meltdown" and "Orpheus" are featured on the popular British movie, Shaun of the Dead as well as appearing on the in-game soundtracks for the video games NHL 2005, Burnout 3: Takedown and Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition. Also featured is their cover of the Buzzcocks song "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" featuring Chris Martin on backing vocals. The song "Vampire Love" was featured in American Pie Presents: Band Camp. "Starcrossed" and "Renegade Cavalcade" were later released as singles from the album. Meltdown was released in the US on 8 March 2005, through Warner Bros. Records imprint Record Collection. Also in 2005, Tim Wheeler received a companionship (an honorary degree) from LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts).
On 20 January 2006, Hatherley left the band after nine years leaving only the original members remaining. An official statement reads: "After 9 years Ash and Charlotte Hatherley have mutually agreed to part company. The decision is completely amicable and they wish each other the very best for the future". In an interview in July 2007, the other band members suggested they asked Hatherley to leave as they "wanted to be a three-piece."
On 6 June 2006, NME reported that Ash were in a New York recording studio and had twenty seven "rough" songs. Wheeler hinted that the eventual album was likely to be more retro sounding than any of their previous material. No shows were planned for the remainder of 2006, but Wheeler stated that they were hoping to test out their new songs "in tiny New York bars" once the album was complete. In early 2007, Ash announced a full-length UK tour for February and March. The tour was a warm-up for their album release in June and their summer festival appearances, including the Isle of Wight Festival on 9 June 2007.
On 19 February 2007 Ash released the first song from their new album, titled Twilight of the Innocents. This new material was a download-only sneak preview track called "I Started A Fire". The first physical single "You Can't Have It All" was released on 16 April 2007. The release of "You Can't Have It All" coincided with an in-store gig and signing session at Virgin Megastore in Belfast. The music video for the song debuted on MTV2 on 11 March 2007. Two further songs from the album, "Polaris" and "End of the World", were issued as singles in June and September, respectively.
On 12 June 2007 Ash revealed that Twilight of the Innocents would be their last album. They also denied that they were splitting and instead stated that they would only release singles from now on as "(t)he way people listen to music has changed, with the advent of the download the emphasis has reverted to single tracks".
With the return to their original three-piece line-up, the band had been mainly performing material from albums 1977 and Twilight of the Innocents, this led to the band performing at London Roundhouse on Friday 5 September and Saturday 6 September 2008, which saw the band perform 1977 in its entirety. Both shows sold out and the band went on to release a 3-disc special edition version of the album, featuring remastered and re-edited versions of the tracks, as well as tracks from Trailer and live performances from the time of its release.
In late 2008, the band stated they had been writing and recording new tracks, bassist Mark Hamilton stated, "we're just taking track at a time and seeing what happens, no limits to where or what it'll sound like. A few of the songs are barely recognisable as Ash which is pretty exciting to see how people react when they hear them." A number of track titles were also revealed including "Neon, part 2".
On 16 April 2009, Ash announced they were to play a one-off gig at Bloomsbury Ballroom, London, to preview new tracks and start promoting their new material. An additional date was also added at the same venue a few days later, along with a handful of warm-up shows. The first single to be released was announced on 30 April titled "Return of White Rabbit". The three band members hand created 178 sleeves each for the physical singles, each of which will be available to win in different competitions being run through the band's website. On 18 May it was announced that the band would be releasing 26 singles, one every fortnight for the rest of 2009, known as the A to Z singles series. In August 2009 they played at the Hevy Music Festival in Folkestone, and in June 2010 they headlined the John Peel Stage on the last night of Glastonbury Festival.
In September 2010, Ash made their first appearance in South Africa to support local rock group the Parlotones on the South African leg of their world tour. Ash made an appearance on the South African Idols and have also appeared on various South African radio and television stations, including locally popular MK.
In August 2011 Ash collaborated with We Are Scientists to release a cover of the song "Washington Parks" by British songwriter Robert Manning, raising money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis and The MS Society. The song was recorded between London and New York by the two bands and join a project already boasting releases from Ed Hardcourt and Emmy the Great. Chris Cain from We Are Scientists said in an interview "We actually recorded a single [with Ash] which is going to come out soon. It won't be too long until it's out and it's for a charity in England called the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It's a cover of a song called "Washington Parks" by I think Happy Monster but it's pretty sweet. The concept of the song is that if you listen to it on headphones or stereo the musicians of Ash are on the left channel and all the We Are Scientists guys are playing it in the right channel. We're playing the same song essentially but in different ways. I'm not playing the same bass line as Mark and Rick isn't playing the same drum pattern as Andy. I think Keith and Tim sing the same thing but in a different sort of harmony. What's interesting especially is that not only do we have a unison feel going on but you can also take off one headphone and hear one band and vice versa."
In November 2012 the band played some U.S. dates with Weezer and went on to headline their own shows on the East Coast. In March 2013 announced that they would play the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas for the first time in 7 years as well as playing in Dallas (TX), Chicago (IL), Minneapolis (MN), Detroit (MI), Newport (KY), Indianapolis (IN) & Pittsburgh (PA) On 15 February 2013 it was announced that Ash would be performing at Y Not Festival in Derbyshire on Saturday 3 August 2013. The band also opened for Smashing Pumpkins at Wembley Arena on 22 July 2013. On 5 December 2014 Tim Wheeler and Mark Hamilton announced in a video via PledgeMusic that the band's new album would be released in 2015. On 18 February 2015 the band announced that the album would be titled "Kablammo!" and that the first single released would be called "Cocoon". Ash then went on to release 'Free' and 'Machinery' as the second and third singles to be taken from the album. In December 2016 the live album Live on Mars: London Astoria 1997 was released, and supported by a tour.
The band originated as a three-piece, later recruiting Hatherley as a second guitarist. After nine years in the band, Hatherley was asked to leave so that the band could once again return to the three-piece format. Without a second guitarist, some of the material from Meltdown, Free All Angels and Nu-Clear Sounds has not since been played. Various singles and material from the albums Twilight of the Innocents and 1977 made up the majority of material performed after Hatherley's departure. McMurray took over a lot of Hatherley's former backing vocal role, with Hamilton providing occasional backing vocals in studio, but not live. The band members stated that, whilst there were no immediate plans to tour with the material written and recorded with Hatherley still in the band, "never say never", and that there was a possibility that they might at some point tour with Hatherley again. In NME in June 2009 Hatherley also commented on the split, stating that she and Wheeler were regularly talking, and that playing together again was a possibility in the future.
In June 2011 LaFaro drummer Alan Lynn stood in for Rick McMurray (whose partner was having a baby), for a short European tour.
In September 2011, it was confirmed that Charlotte Hatherley would return for a set of special shows, celebrating the release of the 'Best of Ash' album. The shows were to include the four-piece playing the Free All Angels album in its entirety, and a "Best of" set.