Interview with Mark Hamilton - 21st Nov 2006
Hi Mark. Last we heard, Tim was about to start the vocals. How he's doing?
Well, he's done four. It's kind of a slow process because he's been re-writing lyrics at the same time. The plan is that he'll still have all 14 done by the end of the month, but I don't know how realistic that is. There was one song that he didn't have any lyrics to, so he spent a few days getting that written. And he tends to go in really deep on the vocals, like he'll spend a whole day singing a song and then pretty much another day comping it together. So it is kind of slow, but as long as the end product's good, that's fine.
What do you do while he's doing the vocals?
Well, I hear them whenever they're finished and come in just to show my face from time to time.
Is he best left alone?
I think so. If you came in while he was doing the singing, you'd be sitting around for hours doing nothing. I've been busy putting stuff on the MySpace and doing the new Ash Bebo site. But once he's got it finished I'll go in and listen to it.
Do you have any involvement with the lyrics?
Some lines he'll ask your opinion like, 'Do you think that's good or not?' and if I didn't like anything, I'd tell him. He's very open about that kind of stuff. But he's leaving all the backing vocals until the end, cos he just wants to nail the main vocals first. And then we'll do the keyboards.
Have you ever done backing vocals.
Me? Never no, I can't sing.
Have you ever tried singing?
Actually, I tried once on '1977' and everyone just sat around laughing, so that was never gonna happen again. Thing is, I can't sing while I'm playing - I just can't do the two things at once.
Have you ever done karaoke?
Yes, very, very drunkenly at the 'Free All Angels' post-Brixton party. I did it with Rick. I was so drunk I was barely able to talk. I think it was 'Dancing Queen' by Abba. There's a video of it, I believe. I don't know who's got that video, but it was pretty embarrassing.
So who's going to do backing vocals live? Can Rick sing?
Rick tried in the past. I think the last time he did vocals was at Glastonbury in '95. We heard the radio broadcast of it afterwards and Tav [Ash's manager] sacked him from backing vocals immediately after hearing it! But that's one thing we have not even thought about yet. Rick might try again and take some lessons to see if he can do it. He couldn't possibly be any worse than he was.
How are things coming together for the album campaign?
Well, I think we've nailed a photographer that we've worked with before to come over and do some pictures in December when Rick's back.
Will you sit down and decide what you'll wear and what you'll look like?
We don't really overly style ourselves, to be honest. We'll probably get some money and go out and buy some new gear and that'll be that.
So you won't all grow moustaches like The Killers?
No. Although Rick is dressing a bit differently. He wears a hat and he's got velvet suits. He's very dapper now.
Will you have a new logo?
We're working on one, yeah. We've had four or five different designers send us ideas.
You guys seem to change it every album, is that intentional?
We never really intended to, but it seems like for the last few albums we have, yeah. We've got a couple of logos that we like, but we haven't totally decided what to do yet. We have to nail the logo, the name of the album and the artwork by the end of the year.
How did you get the names of the previous albums?
I think '1977' was a general one that we all thought of together. Tim came up with 'Nu-Clear Sounds' from the name of a laundrette in the States that was called Nu-Clear Suds. Then 'Free All Angels' was a T-shirt that a Hells Angels was wearing. And 'Meltdown' was just the title of one of the songs, although I don't think the word 'meltdown' is in the lyrics of it. It's a word that we liked the sound of from years ago, like 'We'll have to write a song called "Meltdown" sometime'. So we eventually called that song 'Meltdown' and we couldn't decide on a title for the album, so we used it for that too. We always leave it to the very last minute. But we've got a couple of possible titles already for this one.
More importantly, have you started thinking about new T-shirt designs yet?
Actually, we're thinking of doing a run of sort of T-shirts that are maybe nothing to do with our artwork, maybe get artists to do an Ash print that's completely unassociated with the music in a way. I think it's more of an American thing where you get these artists that design these brilliant concert posters. We're thinking of trying to do something like that for a range of T-shirts. We're probably going to relaunch the Shop as well as the new website, which we're also working on. That should be up by the new year.
Will it be fancy?
Yeah, we've got some pretty big plans for it. Actually, there's a new fansite up called Ash Files (www.ashfiles.com) that people should check out. It's basically a forum which is split into different Ash eras and people are uploading all their bootlegs and live stuff for others to download. It's got rare demos and other things that you can't find.
Do you have more live dates planned?
No, but we're going to be mixing in January, so we might have time to rehearse and do stuff then. We're looking at coming back and touring in February and March, so we're going to need to do some warm-ups before that. But nothing until the new year.
Any other news?
Well, we're recording a track for a tribute album - but I can't tell you what it is yet. We'll be recording that during the mixing period in January, which is when we'll be recording more B-sides too. And we'll try to record one or two more songs for the album in December.
Are they written?
Tim has a few ideas. There's one song called 'Prypiat', which is the city near Chernobyl which got completely abandoned. I think Tim read about it on the BBC website and got quite fascinated by it, so he's written some lyrics about that. And he told me yesterday he'd written another song. So by the time it gets around to it, we might have a bunch of stuff to record. And even if we only get one more belter out of that, then that'll be great.