Interview with Rick McMurray - 13th Sept 2006

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On Sunday night, Ash were back on stage for the first time in a long time with a show at Arthur Baker's Return To New York party in NYC. Rick is called upon to tell us out how it went and to tell us more details about the recording of the new album, taken from www.ash-official.com.

Hey Rick. So, how did the gig go?

Very well. We were quite apprehensive, but once we got on stage, I just felt so comfortable. I had a huge grin across my face the whole time like, "We're back, this is where we belong!"

When was the last gig?

I think it was about 14 months ago, in Rome supporting U2 to about 80,000 people. And this was to about 150 people in this tiny little club in New York.

Is that the longest you've gone without playing a gig?

Yeah, probably since we started in 1992. It was great to catch up with our crew, who we kind of lived with at very close quarters on a bus for years. This was the first we'd seen them in ages. It was like catching up with old friends, which took the pressure of the show away a bit.

How long did you rehearse?

We intended to do two hours a day, but it turned out to be running through the set every other day. We did a couple of new songs as well, one of which we had the foresight to start recording, just so that we'd be able to play it live. So we recorded that a couple of nights before the gig. And the other one, we'd already recorded back in June.

Which were the two that you did?

Roulette and What Is The Meaning?

And what sort of response did they get?

Yeah, they seemed to go down really well. It's always a weird one the first time you play songs that people haven't heard, but they seemed to have a positive response. There was also a really positive response on it being our first gig as a three-piece for - and I worked this out - 110 months.

Wow. That's a long time.

Yeah, nine years.

Is the extra pressure on Tim because you've lost a guitar now Charlotte's left?

Yeah, that's right. I think Tim out of all of us was the most anxious. But we worked it out in rehearsal that a couple of little bits of guitar stuff can be done on the bass, so Mark's picked up a few little pieces. Easy for me, though, I just get to sit back and do the same old shit! But we had a conversation with a close friend a couple of nights before the show who was like, "Are you sure it's gonna work as a three-piece, there's a very big hole you need to fill". And we were saying, "Well don't judge it on Sunday night because that's our first gig". But even on the strength of Sunday night, I saw him in the crowd holding his thumbs aloft!

So did you get an emotional feeling of, here we are, just the three of us again?

Yeah, kind of. I think after a couple of songs it was feeling good. During the new songs we were really concentrating and making sure there were no mistakes and stuff, but then we did Burn Baby Burn and Kung Fu and out of the corner of my eye I saw Mark lunging across the stage and there was this warm glow of, yes, we're back! Tim and Mark had swapped sides too - Tim had set up on the side Mark's usually on. I think last time that happened was probably in Australia in 1995.

It all sounds great.

Yeah, a bizarre sort of mixture of nostalgia and excitement for the future.

It would've been awful if you'd got up there and realised it didn't work as a three-piece.

Yeah. It was a big step. I think Tim felt quite a lot of the pressure and yesterday it all really sunk in and he was like, 'Yeah, that was fucking great actually".

So you had a good night afterwards?

Yeah, we ended up coming back to the studio afterwards with all the gear. Then Mark came round with a few beers and we sat down with the crew and had a drink and started talking and next thing we knew it was after 7am on Monday morning! So we scraped ourselves off the seats and tried to go home, which was a long story in itself, as it was September 11 by then and the Williamsburg Bridge was closed, so we couldn't get a taxi back to Mark's. So we had to go on a train, really drunk, which is never good.

Sounds like a fun night.

Yeah. It was nice just hanging out afterwards having a few quiet drinks and taking it all in, rather than getting absolutely shit-faced.

So how long have you been back in New York?

About a week and a half.

Have you made much recording progress since then?

We've just been finishing off the last of the demos. I think Tim's got one vocal left to edit and then that''s the demos over. And we've recorded the proper backing track to one more song, although with the gig it's been sort of stop and start with the recording. But we're set up with Claudius, our engineer, who's great. Actually, we had a meeting yesterday now that all the demos are pretty much finished. We sat down and listened to them all and everyone picked their favourites, the ones that definitely are going on the album, the ones that definitely aren't and a bunch of maybes. So over the last 24 hours we've really formulated a plan. Now we're going to try and get all the backing tracks recorded in the next month.

It's all coming together.

Yeah, it's exciting. There's a real buzz around the studio as of yesterday. I think when you've finished all the demos you need to take some time to sit back and go, "Ok, what's good about the songs and what's not?" Cos when you're working on them, you get quite close to them.

Was there a fairly clear consensus between you of the songs you like?

Yeah. I think we've got a list of about 5 or 6 maybes and 8 or 9 definites. So there's an album's worth there. We're going to try to get them all done and dusted by early October, which will give us time to decide if there's any more songs we need to write.

Have you booked a plane ticket home?

Yeah, I'm going back to Edinburgh on the 10th of October. So our goal is to get all these backing tracks done by then. We've got five from the previous session, plus the one we did last week, so we've got about 10 more to do. But, after Sunday night, we're all really buzzing about getting on with it.

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