Interview with Tim Wheeler about the forthcoming recording of the new album. Taken from www.ash-official.com
Hello Tim! So, we hear you're in the earliest stages of making a new album?
Yeah. We haven't actually started recording it yet, but we found a studio in New York after I randomly ran into a friend of a friend on the street who turned out to be selling the lease to his studio. So we bought the lease and we've got it for three years.
Are you expecting the album to take that long?!
No. But we could make three albums here. Or six. It's just a great base to have. It serves as a recording space and a rehearsal space, plus it's got loads of storeage and a good office. I've been looking for this kind of set up in London for years. Plus, having our own space will bring down the cost of our record a lot.
For those who don't know, you and Mark are based in New York now, right?
Yeah, we both relocated here last summer. I'm loving it here. Rick's still in Scotland, but he flies back and forth whenever we need him. I think Rick was a bit concerned about us setting up over here, but there's direct flights straight from Edinburgh and I think his doubts were totally eased as soon as he got here and saw how great the space was.
How far have you got with the new album?
We're working on 27 rough songs at the moment, they're all arranged and sounding good as a band. I've still got to write most of my lyrics, though. I always write the melody and the music to begin with.
Have you always written the tune first? Even with songs like 'Girl From Mars'?
Yeah. With 'Girls From Mars' I thought of the title first and I wrote the song based around that, but then I finished the lyrics a lot later. Most of the time I'll sit down with a guitar and try to get a really good tune, singing any old gibberish while I play. Then we normally get together as a band and play around it, kick it into shape and work out our parts. I'll know right from the start what sort of emotional response I'm getting and the sort of content it'll have, but I often don't spend time on the lyrics until we're about to record it.
Would the songs have titles yet?
A lot of stuff will have nicknames, based on what it sounds like. And sometimes we'll stick with those as titles. 'Goldfinger' was the nickname because I thought the middle eight riff sounded like a John Barry song from a James Bond film. It kind of seemed to suit it so we kept it.
Do you have an idea of where the new album's going sonically?
Well obviously we've gone back to a three-piece and the sound we're getting playing in a room with just the three of us has been really exciting. We'd quite like to capture that three-piece live band sound, but then embellish it with other interesting stuff. We're planning on producing the record ourselves and we've become very proficient with recording techniques and software like Pro Tools, so there might be a more experimental approach too. We're just trying to figure out how that will work.
Does it feel like going back to the early days, when you were a three-piece?
A little bit, yeah. But I think things have changed so much over the years. Musically we're so much more capable. I was scared of it sounding a bit empty without the extra guitar and backing vocals, but I think the space it creates might actually be a good thing. I like this tight 70s guitar band sound that's around quite a lot at the moment. And I've been listening to a lot of older records, stuff like Bo Diddly. Those records were probably just recorded with a couple of microphones in a room, but to me it sounds awesome.
What sort of time frame are you on?
We knew we wanted to give ourselves a lot of time, to experiment and do it right, because we know we need to come back with a really strong statement. We're planning to release it next spring, which gives us to the end of the year to work on stuff.
Even at this early stage with those 27 songs, would you already have a vague idea of what might be a single?
Yeah, I think there's a few that are sticking out. You can kind of tell the ones that are really strong melodically and sound like they might have single potential.
So when will you start recording properly?
Well it took a while to get all our recording equipment shipped over, but that's finally all here now. We're just getting the whole place wired up so that the equipment's working together and we're planning on starting recording properly early in June.
Do you think New York will rub off on the songs?
I don't think so - I'm not gonna go all Lou Reed or anything! But I do feel really far from what's going on in the British music scene, which is quite refreshing. People don't seem to be so obsessed with bands here. I'm probably taking in more normal life and more reality, which is good.
Out of the goldfish bowl of London?
Exactly. It's pretty cool. I'll hear that all these new bands have become massive in the UK and I don't have a clue what's going on. I really like that.
Have you got any shows planned?
No. But once we get more of our songs finished, I think we'd like to play out and about in tiny New York bars, unannounced, just for fun. That would kind of remind me of when we were kids and we'd go up to Belfast to play little shows in bars. We haven't had that kind of thing for like 12 years. And New York's a real good live music city, there's so many bars or backrooms you can play for fun. I'm really looking forward to doing that.
Sounds like it's all shaping up rather well.
Definitely. At this point we've got a blank page and it feels like we can do anything with it. We're all pretty excited about it.