Interview with Tim Wheeler - 6th Nov 2006

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The guitars are almost done, the vocals are next. Tim gives us the latest update on Ash's new album direct from the studio in NYC. Taken from

Hey Tim. So what have you been up to since we spoke to Mark?

I've been doing loads of guitar parts. In fact, I've done pretty much all of them. I think I've just got 4 guitar solos to do and probably a couple of days of messing about with keyboards.

So it's taken a little while?

Yeah. We took weekends off, but we probably spent ten days on it. It takes a long time because we try out different sounds. I had like 11 different amps.

Would you be playing guitar that whole time?

Well, quite a lot.

Do your hands not get tired?

Yeah, they do sometimes. One of my fingers was hurting one day, but apart from that I'm a pro!

Which finger?

I think it was my left index finger. I think I'd cut my finger nails the day before, which was the problem.

But your picking and strumming hand is fine?

Yeah, that's the one that tends to get damaged when I'm playing live. In the heat of the craziness of the gig sometimes you don't realise when you've managed to almost chop your fingers off with guitar strings. Like I think Pete Townsend used to lose thumbnails all the time doing his windmills.

That's not good.

No, but I've never managed to do that.

How do you decide what order to record the guitar parts in?

I guess we're just kind of whimsical - just whatever we feel like doing on that day. It's been a bit of a blur really. Half of the tracks had live guitar parts on them that I'd played while we were recording, so sometimes I'd just add things to augment them. But on a few songs I had to do all the guitars. But there was no real rhyme or reason to it.

Does it ever feel like a chore, doing the same sort of thing repeatedly?

No, not at all. Doing guitars is the most fun bit, cos I can really relax and enjoy it. And I've got so many fun guitar effects, to play with. So I can just use all my toys and all my favourite guitars. You sort of arrive in the studio going, 'I can't actually believe that this is a job'.

So even after weeks of recording, you can still enjoy it?

Absolutely. I really love doing the guitars actually.

Do you save the hardest parts 'tll last?

There's nothing really that hard, to be honest. On one of the songs we were overdubbing my Rickenbacker 12-string guitar over the top, but it just wouldn't stay in tune. So we ended up having to tune each individual chord. That was quite a tortuous day.

How do you know when to stop and accept that it's good enough?

I dunno, I guess once it's finished! I just tend to get really focused and plough through them.

How obsessive are you about perfection?

It depends on the guitar part really. Like if you're just strumming guitar chords, that doesn't have to be really super-tight - it can be quite loose. But say there's an arpeggio'd guitar piece that you want to be really metronomic, then I'll spend quite a long time getting it right.

And do you worry about being able to recreate it live?

I don't care too much really. It'll be fine. I remember when were recording 1977, we had loads of guitar overdubs and it ended up being no problem playing the whole thing live. You just make sure you pick all the main melodies.

Do you throw guitar hero shapes while you're recording?

Not really. Only if you're hitting like a big rock chord! But most of the time I'm just sitting down concentrating. It's when you're on your knees that you make mistakes - I bet even Angus Young sits down and plays guitar parts in the studio.

So you've still got the vocals to do?


By the time you get to that point, is essentially like karaoke?

Yeah, pretty much. Maybe I should approach it as karaoke. It could make things a lot easier.

Invite some people over, have a few beers...

Yeah, couple of bottles of saki. Problem is, I'm re-writing the lyrics as I go along. And you don't normally do that in karaoke. Unless you're really drunk.

How will you approach the recording of the vocals?

I'm going to try to do a song every day. I've got the first draft of lyrics from when we did the demos, but there's verses I wanna change and lines that I wasn't totally happy with. So I'll go through and edit everything, y'know, spend an afternoon just working on a particular song's lyrics and then sing that song that night.

Do you memorise the lyrics before you sing it?

Yeah, I've normally got them in my head. But I'll stand there in the control room with a music stand with lyrics on there, just in case. I do all my vocals by myself. I just press Apple + spacebar, which gets the Pro Tools recording, then stand there and record.



Because you're bashful singing them in front of people?

It just makes things easier. I know exactly what I want to do and it doesn't help me to have someone else. I've learnt how to record and edit everything myself. So it's just kind of quicker and easier.

Does it feel odd knowing this is the version people will hear in years to come?

Yeah, it's a lot of pressure in a weird way. But I guess you just have to get into the song. And it's a great feeling singing, it makes you feel good.

Is there a lyrical theme to the album?

I'd say it seems like a very personal and emotional record.

More personal than other records you've made?

Well, they all have been really, except 'Meltdown' where I tried not to. I think I've got more of a mature viewpoint on this one. But I find it very hard to describe lyrics. I guess each song is like a little story.

How long will the vocals take?

The next few weeks. There's one song, 'Shattered Glass', which we recorded already in the summer, but I want to redo two of the verses for that, just to get them better. And then there's 13 others to do. Then hopefully in December we'll record a few more songs, that I'm hopefully going to write over the next few weeks as well.

Because you think there's some gaps on the album?

Not really. Musically everything has stepped up a long way from the demos and I'm hoping with the vocals it'll go even further. But it's good to write some more just in case. You never know what might come out of it.

And when will you be fully done?

Well, by the end of January it should be completely mixed. Then the record company needs four months to do all the preparation for release. But we're aiming to get a single out in March.

Do you know which track it will be?

I was looking at the list and I think there's nine potential singles on there.

Wow. All killer no filler!

Yeah. But until they've got the vocals on them it'll be hard to really tell. But I guess you wanna come back with something that has a lot of impact, so that narrows it down to maybe three or four contenders. But it's early days, it's hard to say for sure now.

Are you starting to make plans for the campaign?

Well we're talking about doing photos for the album cover in December and if we want to get a single out in March we have to do a video in January. That means deciding what the single is in the next few weeks. So, yeah, the machine is very much starting to get into motion

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