Interview with Mark Hamilton talking about the latest news from the studio... Taken from www.ash-official.com
Hi Mark. How are things going?
Good. We're due to start recording tomorrow. The studio is being built around us and that's just getting finished off.
Would the songs be pretty much finished before you start recording?
Well, things are never really finished, but we have demos of 27 songs as starting points.
Are Tim's lyrics done?
Well he usually does them last thing, but he's got the lyrics for the songs that we're going to start with.
How do you decide which ones to record first?
We wanted to try out a couple of songs with a producer, so we sat down and listened to all the demos and picked two that are different styles.
So you're thinking of having a producer now? Last time we spoke to Tim, he seemed to think not.
Right. But then his guy called Geoff walked into our studio, he's an audio technician guy who's worked with Secret Machines. He helped build the studio and said he wanted to get involved. We decided that sometimes these things happen for a reason, so we're going to try it out.
So tomorrow you'll literally just sit down, press record and go?
Pretty much, yeah. And the recordings that you make on the first day, would you expect them to make it onto the actual record? I think so, because we've starting with a couple of songs that we're all really into.
Are you doing anything differently this time around?
Well usually we'll go to a residential studio somewhere for a couple of months and we'll know roughly what songs we want to do. We'll usually just start to put down backing tracks - usually drum tracks - and then build the songs up around that. So Rick would usually do most of his work in the first two weeks. But we're going to do it completely different this time. We're going to try and record ninety percent of the album live.
As in playing together as a band at the same time?
Yeah, Tim would do his vocals later on, but we pretty much want to get the music live. It's not very often that happens any more. We may add some keyboards or over-dubs later, but we really wanna keep it minimal. With 'Meltdown' we made a really super-slick, ultra-polished, highly-produced album and we wanted to do something different from that. Something maybe not so polished and rougher around the edges.
So Tim'll come to you guys with the basis of a song, right?
Yep. And if you hate it, can you tell him? Pretty much yeah. That does happen, but very rarely.
Can you tell how good it is immediately?
Do you remember hearing, say, 'Shining Light' for the first time? Yeah, I remember we went round to Tim's house and he played that to us on an acoustic guitar in his bedroom. At that time it was just a verse and chorus, but even on first listen we just thought, 'Yeah, that's a single!'.
So then the band will get together and flesh the songs out?
Right. We'll just start playing and work on the arrangements and the overall sound of it. We'll try things out and see what works. One song Tim brought in a few weeks ago, he just had on an acoustic guitar. We took it and made it into this monster. It's probably one of the most... um... well Rick thinks it's as close to prog as we'll ever get!
Are you still just using three strings on your bass?
Well, when we got here and started rehearsing in February, we didn't have any of our own gear over here, so we had to borrow equipment and we started to rehearse with a bass which had four strings on it. That was a bit of a radical departure for me! I'm back to the three string now - you never really use the top string anyway. But I think now because there isn't that extra guitar in there, the bass has got to fill some of the gaps. It's got to be more musical, I suppose.
With Ash going back to a three piece, people are wondering if you'll return to a '1977' sound with this album?
Well it will be more stripped down, but I think we're still trying to hone in on how we're going to make the whole thing work. We've got a lot of songs to choose from and there's a huge wide spectrum of different styles. I think we need to try and find an umbrella we can pull them all under.
Do you have favourites?
Yeah, I've got three or four favourites. I can give you the names of two of them - 'Shattered Glass' and 'Suicide Girls' - but those are just working titles. 'Shattered Glass' is pretty full-on rock drumming with like weird, dark guitar - it's quite different. And then 'Suicide Girls' has got a big pop chorus and is more like classic early Ash.
And tomorrow you'll start getting them on tape. You must be pretty excited about it all.
Well you're always a wee bit nervous at the start, to be honest. An album's a big project and it'll probably take us a good few months to get it finished. But, yeah, it's definitely really exciting the way it's all shaping up so far.