In 2007 the pop-gem filled Twilight Of Innocents was set to be Ash’s final epochal album. Yet surprisingly Ash have rekindled their 90s punk enthused creativity and titanic guitar vigor for a series of live shows and festivals in accompany to their new album Kablammo! We speak to the band’s drummer Rick McMurray in the run up to the records release, as he tinkers with his drum-kit in preparation for tour…
Ash previously vowed never to make another album, so the release of Kablammo! came as a surprise. What made Ash decide to release a new record?
I think it was case of, back in 2007 when we released our last album; we were kind of predicting the death of the album. If you’d asked us what would be happening musically in 2015, I think we kind of figured that everyone would be releasing singles and not big hit albums. Albums just didn’t seem to be selling, people where buying tracks on a track-by-track basis and I think things have changed a lot, sort of over the last eight years I guess.
We did the A-Z singles thing as sort of a reaction to that. We were trying to find a new creative way to get our music to fans. And it was cool I think. And I think from a financial point of view it was kind of tough getting 26 singles out in one year. There was a lot of stuff to be marketed and I guess record labels just seemed to want to stick with the album format, so that was basically it.
So this is your first full-length studio album since 2007’s fantastic Twilight Of Innocents, which was thought to be the album you were using to go out with a bang. What have the band been up to for the past eight years and what made you want to rekindle creativity together?
Yeah that’s interesting, because I mean for us, saying we weren’t going to do albums didn’t mean that it was to be the end of the band. It meant we were going to find a new way of doing things. I guess since then we’ve had the the A-Z series, releasing a single every two weeks and that was real fun, in a creative sense of doing stuff, as we’d done six albums up to that point. It just kind of totally flipped the idea on its head. As in an album you want to try and make everything sound cohesive and for it to sit together, where as the single thing, the fun in that was trying to make everything sound as different, every two weeks, as possible. But yet still in the format of still being Ash. So yeah, we did that; I guess that took us up till, the end of 2010.
After that, Mark and myself have both been having families. It keeps you busy in a very different way. But yeah, it’s been great.
Tim’s also done a solo record, which came out last year. That was a very personal record for him because it was all based around the death of his Dad and the Alzheimer’s he had for a few years previous to that. So you know that’s something that Tim had to do on his own, me and Mark didn’t mind because of course that totally makes sense as a solo record, so that took a lot of his time as well. And we’ve been doing festivals the last three summers. I think it was like 2014 when we first started working on this record. So yeah, it’s great to finally have an album and something new.
How would you say Kablammo! shows your progression as a band? How does it top Twilight Of Innocents, which was thought to be your immense album to end all albums?
What we wanted to do with this record is make something which stood up with the biggest part of our fan base. I guess 1997 and Free All Angels are probably the two that get mentioned most and its those kind of songs that people want to hear in a live context as well. So we felt we really needed, we felt if we were going to do another album, that’d it should stand up to the material on those, that was our kind of our whole feel behind the record, a really in your face sound but still sort of great melodies and great songs.
The fun-spirited and adrenaline filled ‘Cocoon’ is the first single release from the forthcoming album. What made you select this single, from the record, as your first?
It just felt right for us. It was one of the earliest songs written for the record and it was just one of those songs that comes together really easily. I think it’s got all the elements in there that people expect from an Ash release, it’s really energetic, fun, up-tempo, in-your-face but the kind of melodic that just sticks in your head, it was kind of a no-brainer really.
You’ve described how ‘excited the three of you are to be back in the same room’. Has it been all fun and excitement in making records together again or has there been any difficulty and disputes in rekindling your fire?
No it’s been really easy, I think it’s been a really easy record to make. I think we’ve all, been going in the same direction with this, you know? I guess we sat down and talked about where we wanted to go, about how we think we need to make a real guitar record, which is something quite different from Twilight. With Twilight we were experimenting a lot and I think we just wanted to make something this time that would really translate live and that we could play as a three-piece.
I guess since we’ve parted company with Charlotte, there’s been always been a certain consciousness of like filling that gap. Where as with this material, we didn’t want to feel we had material where we had to drill a hole, that it was just stuff that would just sound great and as a three-piece. We all just started pooling in the same direction, I think. But it was kind of weird being in the studio the first week of doing stuff, I think we all felt quite nervous… But then once we got into talking about it and had the first few ideas come out, it was like, okay this is going to be really fun.
The band seemed to have stripped back on experimentation with electronics on the new album and retorted back to an exploration of guitar energy. What was it that made Ash move in this direction on Kablammo!?
I think it was when we were touring the A-Z stuff and we had Lissack from Bloc Party playing with us. It was great having him in the band, it was real fun playing with him, he’s an amazing guitarist but there was few gigs where he couldn’t make it and we were like, okay we’re going to have to do this as a three-piece and we were like, oh this kind of sounds really good, you know? It was probably around that time we sort of accepted that, okay, its cool to be a three piece.
It was probably something we struggled with ever since the early days. Like on record we can go back to 1977 and there we were really conscious of that record having loads of over dubs, you know there’s lots of guitar on there, I guess we shyed away from having to much space in the music. I think we’ve finally found we’re really comfortable with it. I guess this is the first album we’ve nailed as a three piece.
Would you say that with Kablammo!? you wanted to capture the live essence of the band again?
Yeah, very much so. We’ve always seen ourselves really as a real live band, especially doing festivals over the last few summers as well. If we always get a great reaction to songs live, we love that; we’re kind of making a record with that in mind. So hopefully once we start getting new songs in the set it’ll all fit together nicely.
Ash are set for a string of live shows this May and June, including sold out nights in Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Dublin. Are the band looking forward to being back on tour and what can we expect from your live sets?
Yeah really looking forward to getting out there. From the reaction we’ve had to ‘Coccoon’ and a couple of other songs that we’ve played live over the last couple of months, they seem to be going down as good as the old stuff. We just want to play as much of the new album as possible. The tour will be just two weeks after the album release, so it’ll give people time to digests the new stuff. So yeah it’ll be really exciting.
Will we hear some early Ash classics as well as new music?
Yeah, there are certain songs in the set we have as I think people would go home disappointed if we didn’t play them. But yeah, its definitely getting harder and harder to fit them all in. That’s for sure.
How much are the band looking forward to Isle Of Wight Festival and Reading & Leeds?
Yeah we’re really looking forward to the summer and getting all the festivals in. We’ve done Isle Of Wight three times since it came back and its always a lot of fun.
I think with Reading this is going to be our ninth appearance there… Which is crazy! I think the last time we played there, when we were hanging out with the organisers afterwards, they were like: you know when you get to your tenth time I think we’re going to have to put up a statue! So yeah we’re getting closer to that and we will hold them to it.
What has been the bands favourite festival moment up to now?
It’s a tough to pick, talking about Reading, I think when we released Free All Angels that was great. We headlined the NME stage and it was just amazing the tent was so full it was crazy and I think there was like 3 or 4 thousand people outside the tent trying to get in. It was pretty special.
What does the future behold for Ash? Could this be the first of many more albums to come?
Yeah I think so. We had so much fun making this record, we’ve got such a big result, I mean there’s a lot of material left over, so we have to figure out what we’re going to do with that. I’m sure that’ll be coming out sometime in the next year, I don’t weather we’ll release them as singles or maybe do an EP. I guess we could add to them and make a new album as well but even if that stuff is just released next year as singles or whatever, I think we’ll probably try and get back in the studio as soon as possible and make a new record because we’re having a lot of fun.
Kablammo! sees release on May 25th