INTERVIEW: Ash (21/11/2016)

Back in 1996, Ash released their No. 1 record ‘1977’ that spawned hit singles ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Girl From Mars’ and ‘Goldfinger’, and led to the Northern Irish band becoming one of the biggest garage rock bands in the UK. 20 years on, the band are celebrating the anniversary by touring the record in full – we caught up with drummer Rick McMurray to chat about the legacy of the album and what fans can expect at the special shows.

DP!: Hey guys! – It’s 20 years since the release of ‘1977’! How important has the record been to Ash since 1996?
Rick: It still feels kind of surreal to hear it’s been 20 years since ‘1977’ was released; about half of the album has belonged in our set ever since then so it kind of feels contemporary when you’ve played this bunch of songs almost every gig we’ve done since 96. The fact that we can’t get away without playing them says a lot about how important this album has been to us. Even deeper cuts resonate with fans as far away as Moscow, which we played for the first time last week. Fans were singing along to every word in a country we’d never played before.

DP!: Would you say that ‘1977’ is the best or most important album you’ve released? Is it the fans’ favourite?
Rick: It’s definitely up there in those terms; it really established our identity as a debut album. I guess all the recognisable ingredients of Ash are in there; melody energy and exuberance. Other albums are up there with it such as ‘Free All Angels’ and ‘Kablammo!’ but it’s definitely top 3 for us.

DP!: You’re touring the record in full at 5 special UK dates this December, what can we expect from the shows? Will there be extra material as well as the album? (Will it include ‘Jack Names The Planets?’….?)
Rick: We’ll be performing the album in sequence start to finish and including a few rarities from around that period so ‘Jack..’ isn’t out of the question. We’ll also play a bunch of hits and newer stuff as the album is only 45 minutes long.

DP!: You’ll be playing at the (once again sold out) Roundhouse in Camden on the tour where you played the record in full back in 2008. What is it about the iconic venue that keeps pulling you back?
Rick: It’s the only place big enough to accommodate the album! 😉 To be serious, ‘1977”s spiritual home was always the late great Astoria but the Roundhouse is filling that place nicely.

DP!: The record was named after the year that Star Wars was released, Mark and Tim were born, and marked when UK punk music kicked off. Ash are going strong, Star Wars is back and the UK punk scene is throwing out some of the best material in years. How did the future look for Ash when you were writing ‘1977’? Could you begin to fathom a 20th anniversary tour in 2016?
Rick: To be honest I don’t think at the release of it we could fathom the amount of touring we had in store, let alone thinking about 20 years down the line. We were a bunch of teenagers learning to be rock stars in public so it was a pretty weird thing to deal with at that age.

DP!: How has the experience of writing and touring changed? What advice would you give your 19 year old selves now if you could?
Rick: Every day was a new surprise back then; these days we kind of know what we’re in for. As for advice I’d say, “Take a break after this; you deserve it!” We felt a lot of pressure to write a follow up when we were still pretty burnt out. We’ve learnt that pressure is a good thing but only when that pressure comes from ourselves.

Ash are touring ‘1977’ in the UK this December:

DECEMBER 10 – LONDON, Roundhouse

You can keep up to date with the band online by following them on Facebook (here) and Twitter (here).

Interview by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef)