Record Overplayed
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Ash interview | Middlesbrough Crypt | 29/02/04

Cryptic Conversations with
Charlotte Hatherley

Interview and Photos by Dawn

'Middlesbrough might be the end of us!' Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley declares, slightly worryingly, as we chat in the vast Town Hall dressing room - one of the few places in the town centre not overflowing with jubilant Teessiders celebrating their football team's Carling Cup Final victory earlier in the day.

Thankfully it's all tongue-in-cheek, and when a band have already survived more than a decade in the fickle music business and come through such testing times as their Nu-Clear Sounds period relatively unscathed, you can't help but think that a Crypt full of slightly inebriated Boro fans will, by Ash's standards at least, prove to be a walk (barefoot) in the park. Indeed, Charlotte's smile would seem to confirm this and, as she discusses forthcoming new album Meltdown with an infectious enthusiasm usually the reserve of up-and-coming new bands, it would be churlish to argue with her statement that 'there's no end in sight just yet' for Ash.

 

 

'We've only done about four gigs so far,' says Charlotte of the latest tour, 'but they've gone really well. We're playing all eleven songs from the new album and a few choice old ones. The new stuff was written in the rehearsal room so it's perfect for the live gigs. It's quite full-on and I think it works really well.' And far from the hostile reaction sometimes given to any band's setlist which is dominated by unfamiliar new material, the Ash fans have been as enthusiastic as Charlotte herself: 'People don't really know it, so they listen to it and check it out. On the whole, it's been going really well.'

The first example of the new material was download-only single Clones, cleverly made available on Ash Wednesday. 'That's probably the most extreme song we've recorded,' says Charlotte. 'It's not all like that. A lot of it's like Burn Baby Burn but maybe a bit heavier. We went to LA and recorded it there, so it's got a much more heavy kind of American rock band sound to it. So it's not all like Clones.'

Spending the majority of 2003 in the States has impacted upon the new album, both consciously and subconsciously, as Charlotte explains: 'We played with lots of different American bands and supported them. I think it's the combination of that and listening to K-ROQ for hours on end in the van. Tim got influenced by that and he was writing on the road, so the whole American culture is definitely there in the music. We had 30 songs written and we deliberately chose the eleven rock songs, so in that sense it was quite a conscious decision to make a harder album.'

With their Free All Angels album having topped the chart and Tim Wheeler winning a prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting award for Shining Light, it seems that the days of Tim's well-documented writer's block around the time of Nu-Clear Sounds are, thankfully, well and truly behind them. 'Free All Angels was quite a breakthrough for us,' says Charlotte, 'and Tim's confidence came back a lot because it did so well, so he's been constantly writing.' Hence the band enjoyed making the new album: 'It was really good fun actually; there was no pressure and it was really easy making it.'

So before we head downstairs into the Crypt ready to experience the new material for ourselves, what's left for Ash still to achieve? 'We haven't had a number one single yet, so probably that would be nice,' muses Charlotte. 'And maybe we'll see how things go in the States as we've done well everywhere else, so America's sort of the final frontier.'

Many thanks to the lovely Charlotte and Tim, to Ian and to Robert. Visit www.Ash-official.com for more info.

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