Interview with Mark Hamilton - 15th Oct 2006

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Welcome to the latest of the updates on the new Ash album. This time, Mark was spoken to, down the line from the lads' NYC studio. Taken from

Hey Mark. So where are you up to?

Well as of yesterday we've completed all the bass and drums. We started off doing everything live and then we kind of changed it. About halfway through we started laying stuff down separately.

How come?

Well for the song End Of The World we opened up the halls and used the natural acoustics of the corridors and it sounded really good - you got this natural huge drum sound. So we thought we should probably do it on some of the other ones as well. So we ended up going back and re-recording a bunch of stuff.

If Rick's doing the drums alone, does he have some music to hear while he does it?

Yeah, we lay down a guide track and then he plays along with that. And then we go back over everything and lay down all the bass. And then Tim does all the guitars.

So the bass and drums are finished for all the songs?

Yup. And as we speak Tim is setting up to do the guitar overdubs now.

How long would you expect that to take?

I have no idea. Tim, how long do you think guitars will take? He reckons probably about two weeks.

The guitars take a while then?

Yeah, they're a pretty big job. You'll have the rhythm guitars and also the lead parts and then sometimes you'll do layers of sounds and he's got millions of pedals that can make cool noises. So he'll experiment and see what happens.

So there might be four or five guitar parts on the same song on top of each other?

Possibly, yeah. I think we'll try to keep it not too crazy, though.

And you're pleased with your bass parts?

Oh yeah, it all sounds good.

Were any of them particularly difficult?

Yeah, some of them were harder than things I've played before, but that's good y'know. I think I've been thinking about it a bit more rather than just turning up and playing along with what the guitar does.

Which is the best bassline?

Well there's a song called What Does It Mean? which is pretty fast, so it has lots of notes. I don't read music, so I just memorise it by looking at the neck of the guitar, almost photographically. That song was pretty hard, but then once it's memorised, it's usually stuck in there for good.

If you lay down a really difficult bass part in the studio, aren't you only making problems for yourself when you come to playing it live?

Well I think once you've got it, it's not so bad. The problem would be if we decided to change the key - then I'd have to play it on a completely different place on the guitar and I'd be completely lost. I'd have to relearn it all over again.

So now you've finished your work, do you just get to sit and watch Tim play guitar now?

Yeah. And say what I think and make sure he doesn't do anything crazy.

Has Rick gone back to Scotland now?

Yeah, he left two days ago. We had the gig on Thursday and we got pretty trashed on Thursday and Friday night, so that was his send off.

How did the gig go?

It was great. It was good to get another one under our belts. We were nowhere near as anxious as we were for the first one.

So there was a definite progression?

Yeah, we just felt more comfortable. And Tav [Ash's manager] was over as well. So it felt like we were just getting ready for next year.

And the response was good?

Yeah. We played in this wee, small club in the Lower East Side called the Annex. There's a usual party there on a Thursday night and the girls who promote it asked us to do it and Spin magazine sponsored it with Southern Comfort, so it was free to get in and there was free drink.

Good lord.

Exactly. So the place was packed. It was a really good night. Someone said they'd never seen the Annex that packed.

Were there some proper Ash fans there?

Yeah, a lot of people travelled from different parts of the States to come to the show. And then there was one Japanese fan who flew from Japan. She actually quit her job to come.


Unbelievable, I know. We were like, "You're joking!" But this girl has been a hardcore fan for years. She's actually quit her job before to follow us on tour.

That kind of devotion must be quite hard to get your head around.

Yeah, it's pretty weird. I guess some people are into sports or are members of clubs, and I suppose Ash is a club to certain people.

Did you give her a good show?

I certainly hope so! We played for about 45 minutes, it was probably 3 or 4 songs longer than the first show.

Did you get a recording from the sound desk this time?

Um, what happened was that the microphone was plugged into the sound board, but the levels were too high - so it was all distorted. Which is not good. But there was a guy who was there filming it. Of course it won't be perfect sound, but we should have some good footage.

So what happens next, once Tim's done the guitar parts?

That would take us to the third week of October, which is when Tim will get stuck into the vocals. That will probably take until mid-November.

But you're happy with the songs you've got?

Yeah, we've got 14. Actually, we've got one called In Hell that we've spent about five or six days on so far. It's not a very conventional song. It started off as one loop then we recorded lots and lots of stuff with the idea being we'd throw it into the computer and then try and build a song. It's not how we usually do stuff, but we thought we'd do it as an experiment for one track. It's still in its development stage, but it sounds really interesting. There's lots of keyboards, synths and samples on it.

How will Rick keep in touch with everything?

I'm sure as we do stuff we'll do wee, rough mixes and because everyone's got broadband it's really easy to email through songs. Actually, Rick's getting quite good on Pro Tools and keyboard stuff. He's getting into doing his own demos, so he's been writing a bunch of songs.

Was it nice to have him staying at your place in New York?

Yeah, Rick's really easy to stay with. Whenever we were based in London, Rick had a room in my flat as well. So it's just the same set up.

And he's a good house guest?

Absolutely. You wouldn't really know he's there.

Did you manage to follow Northern Ireland's football exploits over the past week?

Yeah, they did well - that's another four points they've got. And there's two Villa players in the team.

Ah yes, you're a Villa fan. They're having a great season so far.

So far, yeah.

Don't you chaps know [Villa manager] Martin O'Neill?

Yeah, we met him at an Irish Post awards ceremony down in London a few years ago. He came up to us and said how his daughters were Ash fans. So he took Tim's number and I think he sorted him out with some FA Cup final tickets a couple of years ago.

Things are shaping up well for Villa.

Well I think Petrov has looked great whenever he's been playing. And the whole team is playing like a different side since O'Neill got there. So, yeah, it's looking like being a good season.

And things are shaping up well for Ash too.

Definitely. I think the line that we're sticking with is that this is our best album yet. And we really mean it.

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