Interview with Mark Hamilton - 17th Oct 2006

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Taken from the fantastic Irish fanzine Drop-D Ezine, questions asked by Nicola Marie O Riordan. The Original Article.

Do you think breaking into the music industry at such a young age has changed any of you personally?

Well we did get quite a ride on the 'fame roller-coaster' when we were still teenagers which was quite an experience, and we went through quite a wreck-less few years. Nowadays we're pretty seasoned veterans both in the studio and on the road and can take it in our stride! The whole press sensationalism really died down after the first few albums so we're not under a spotlight, which we were before. I guess the answer to the question is I really donít know if it changed us a people that much cause we were growing up at the time anyway and were 'changing' as people regardless... You quickly find out that if you go around with huge ego's acting the rock-star that you don't stand much of a chance and who wants to be an asshole anyway?

That summer of Ď96 when you were touring like mad and Oh Yeah became a massive summer anthem. How do you feel when you look back on that era now?

It was a crazy, crazy time. I was quite a train-wreck back then so I don't remember absolutely everything. It was extremely fun and chaotic. We actually had a movie made which documented the 18 months around that time. We hope to finally release it next year. 10 years after it was shot! Enough time has passed for us not to get grounded. Had we released it at the time we'd have been in big, big trouble.

Is it true that Girl From Mars was used as NASAís hold music?

Yep apparently it was. That was some time ago though. Maybe we should record a new space theme for them!

Who do you think is "the next big thing" to grace Irish music scene?

We'll I really think the kids from Acidtone are extremely talented musicians and a great live band to watch. I hope they get picked up by a label that'll give them a shot. Their shows are like mini riots! Being over in NY it's hard to keep in touch with what's going on, V Formation and The Chalets have got the potential to go on and have big success and The Answer are starting to make waves in the UK.

The infamous burning of Westlife CDs....a publicity stunt of was it just damn good clean fun?

Both! Of-course it was completely done for a photo op! We had the single Shining Light out that week. HA! It was actually quite satisfying and fun though. We obviously don't have anything against the guys personally, they actually sent us a joint rolled in a 20 pound note at TOTP once. Their manager seems to be one spiteful little man though, he told Tim that he'd see to it that he'd never win another award at the Ivor Norvello's when Tim won for Shining Light. You know what they say about Queens...

How did you gain popularity so quickly in the States?

We're really not that well known in the States. We've definitely got an underground following and have done extensive touring here but most people how don't know too much about the Irish / British music scene know little about us. You really need a big label behind you and get lucky with MTV and radio play to strike it big. Snow Patrol are doing amazingly well here and seem to be on huge network TV show's every night which is amazing.

Throughout your career what has been your most rock star moment?

Tim enjoyed walking out on stage with his flaming Flying V on the Meltdown tour, that was pretty rock star for him. Rick is now appearing as a Rock star DJ at burlesque clubs in Scotland when we're not working and I am quite happy remaining a Star Wars / Transformers geek and reaping the benefits like getting to visit Skywalker ranch and being a talking head in associated TV documentaries. I kind of quit with the self-destruction tendencies because breaking bones and smashing skulls open was getting old and I realized there's lots of great things to do in life and killing oneself can wait until natural causes intervene.

Any more wild stories to tell?

For me extreme sports are pretty wild, stories about getting fucked-up drunk and waking up next to strangers aren't that exciting really... I'm going to go skydiving soon and I had a narrow brush two years ago when I nearly went off a frozen waterfall on a snowboard when a friend and I went into a roped off ravine. I ending up hanging by one hand to a hole in the ice as I dangled over a cliff. I was so scared I was trembling for hours after I eventually got safe! I made a certain producer shoot cocaine up his nose with a CO2 pistol once. His nose exploded, blood everywhere. That's was easily the most stupid and Rock n' Roll thing I've ever witnessed, period.

What to you consider to be your most successful release to date and why?

I think a lot of people completely wrote us off as has-beens after Nu-Clear Sounds (our 2nd album that flopped), so I guess coming back from the brink of bankruptcy with Shining Light as a Top 5 single and then Free All Angels going No.1 was really monumental and a big 'fuck you' to the doubters.

How do you think the new album will be received by both the critics and the public?

We'll we're obviously going to say it's our best album yet... Have you ever read a review when the artist says "actually our new record's not that great... it's ok I suppose?". We've taken the approach that we're essentially starting out again as a new band and have to deliver a stunning debut. The songs are already sounding like they've got a lot of commercial potential and we're still developing them in the studio. We want to storm back and make a huge album. Meltdown was a bit of a personal indulgence because we wanted to go make a big US style rock album, this album will probably please fans of the earlier 'classic Ash' sound. As for the critics who knows? Initial responses can be amazing and then turn sour after an album's been released for a while depending on how it does commercially. At the same time 1977 our biggest success which sold over a million got luke-warm reviews at the time but is now considered one of the top Irish album's of all times in Hot Press polls.

What stage are you at with the album?

We've recorded the basic backing tracks for 14 songs. Tim has a lot of singing to do and then we'll get into overdubs and adding the secret magic production touches that'll make them special. We plan to have the entire recording finished by the end of the year and then mix it in January.

Where has the inspiration for the album come from?

Well moving to New York has been a big factor, you know new environment = new inspiration, and then there's always girls. They usually seem to be the biggest factor! The world is also in a pretty fucked up state which is referenced a few times and we also seem to work well having our backs to the wall and having a point to prove. Going back to a 3-piece has been very positive.

Are there any inputs from established musicians to be found?

None planned of as of this moment. We do have our own studio in Manhattan now, and with New York being a hub of musical activity there's been a lot of our friends from other bands popping in when they're in town. We've had visits from Snow Patrol, Kaiser Chiefs, The Subways, Brand New and The Cooper Temple Clause.

Do you have a release date?

Late May / June 2007. We'll also be releasing 2 singles before the album hits.

Have you had any obstacles to over-come now you are back to being a 3 piece?

Re-working some of the songs for live didn't turn out to be that difficult. We were quite anxious about that initially but we've recently played a couple of party's in NY and they both went great. We don't have the backing vocals sorted out yet but that'll be something we'll work on. As for the studio or song writing that was never an issue we were worried about.

Would you consider taking someone else onboard?

No at the moment, we're enjoying being back to a 3 piece. Got that whole 'band of brothers' thing going on again.

When will we start to hear more about tour dates?

Probably early next year. We'll be back on the promo trail in the Spring and dates will be announced early in the year.

What are your plans for promoting the album, can we expect any surprises?

We're discussing lots of idea's at the moment but as it's still a way off they're still at planning stage. Until then we're really focusing on the online side of things. We'll be launching a brand new official site at: www.ash-official.com in the next few months and we're very active with our studio updates on our myspace page. www.myspace.com/ash.

Check it out and add us to your friend list!

What do you think the future holds for Ash?

Well after the new album goes supernova and sells 20 million copies, the good vibes created will instigate a spiritual awakening which will eventually lead to world peace and a united global push to stamp out 3rd world poverty. After a brief golden age of harmony it'll all end in tears when a giant meteorite levels the entire planet. Shit happens... Really though we just want to continue making our albums and have fun touring them. If it also brings big success then that's awesome and we're 100% ready for it!

Drop-d showcase gigs for Irish bands fancy playing one?

Sure, if you got the cash to fly us and our crew in, cover all costs and put on the party of the century anything can happen! We will be back to play loads in Ireland next year, so we better see you all out when we're in town.

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