Interview with Mark Hamilton - 28th Aug 2006

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The latest installment of the Ash-in-the-studio- making-an-album epic with Mark Hamilton, taken from

Hey Mark. So you're back in Ireland aren't you?

Yeah, just for a week. And I'm heading over to Reading for the festival this weekend. Then back over to New York to pick up with the recording.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at Reading?

Muse. I saw them two weeks ago in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom and they were unbelievable. So to see them on the main stage should be quite something.

How's it going in New York? Have you achieved much since the summer break?

Yeah. A lot of it's been Tim doing the vocals and writing lyrics. Tim always writes the melody of the song first, then we work out the arrangement and then he'll do the lyrics.

What do you do in the studio while he's doing that?

A lot of it's just being around and giving moral support so that he's not in an empty studio on his own.

Does he write them on paper?

Yeah, he's got this wee book that he writes them into. He'll write out ideas and then piece them together until he gets to the final draft.

Are the lyrics sounding good?

Yeah, he emailed me a couple of songs that he did over the last few days since I've been over here and one of them is one we'd be thinking could be a single. At the minute it's just called 'Piano Song' - but the lyrics and the vocals on it are really good.

Does it have piano on it?

It does, yeah. It's the one that he wrote on Bono's piano when he was having a holiday in France.

Tim plays the piano?

He does, yeah. Ever since we've first started Tim would write a lot of songs on piano, cos his dad has a piano at their home.

Is he a good pianist?

He's not bad. You wouldn't say he's an excellent pianist, but he knows how to work out songs and stuff. I think he did it to a certain grade, but not to the very highest level. I think by the time we get our whole live show worked out for next year, he might be playing it onstage for a few songs.

So, has Tim got to the point where he's recording vocal takes?

Yeah, on the demos you don't want to go too deep, but he'll do four or five takes then put them together on the Pro Tools. Then I'll come in and listen to them and we'll talk about if they're going in the right direction.

Can you be critical?

Oh yeah, definitely. It's very rare that you have to, but he takes it well if you do. We've got to the point where we know not to be too precious with stuff. And the beautiful thing about having our own studio is that you can do multiple takes and take as long as you want. So you can sing a song in completely different styles and not be worried that the clock's ticking. I mean, effectively there is still a clock ticking...

Yes. Presumably the label won't want you still in the studio this time next year.

Exactly. They want it by the end of the year, so we're not under too much pressure yet.

How many songs have you finished?

Well, there's two songs that we've recorded and as they stand they're ready to mix for the album. We've been in talks with a mixer who wants to do it. Plus there's two more that are pretty much recorded, apart from vocals, And then we've been going back through the rest of the 29 songs and trying to finish demos of those.

So you will make fairly finished versions of all of them?

Oh yeah. Then we'll have all those for B-sides or bonus tracks or whatever.

Do you know how many tracks you'd like on the album?

We always think that around 12 or 13 songs is good. But we've already honed in on around 15 or 16 songs that we'll pursue and record properly. And then Tim's still writing as well. He came in a couple of weeks ago with another new song. It's funny, we were sitting around the studio talking about stuff that we'd read off the BBC website, because we kind of read all our news on the BBC website, because you don't want to listen to Fox News. So we were talking about some story about black holes or something and he went away and a song evolved out of the conversation. It's pretty exciting, because I think it's probably the most stand out song out of the bunch. When Rick gets over we'll work it out as a song and demo it.

When is Rick back?

He gets here on September 1. We're going to spend three days rehearsing, then we're due to start recording again on the 4th. Then we'll be pretty solid until we have the album finished.

How long do you think that will take?

I think we'll finish the basic recording in about five or six weeks. Then we'll reassess where we are with those 15 or 16 songs that we've honed in on and we'll decide if we've got the album there or not. And because we've got until the end of the year to deliver the album, if we still feel that we're missing a few singles or we feel that we could do better, then we'll continue on and try and write more.

Is there a working title for the album?

Not really. At the moment we're calling it 5.5, because it's our five and a halfth album - if you count 'Trailer' as half. But I think we can safely say that won't be the final title!

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