This Wednesday, September 23rd, the Heavyweight World Champions of power pop, and just plain ingeniously infectious heroes of ‘90s alt rock, Ash, return to the relatively intimate stage of our very own Johnny Brenda’s. The Northern Irish trio released their sixth studio album, Kablammo!, earlier this year, their first LP since 2007’s Twilight of the Innocents, which they claimed would be their last (They did, however, in a very postmodern fashion, release nearly 30 brand new singles between 2009 and 2010 under the moniker of the A-Z Series.) And I recently got a chance to chat with Tim Wheeler, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for Ash.
My most recent prior encounter with Ash was actually not in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, which I rarely leave, but in NYC for their spot supporting Ride (who I’m hoping most of our readers saw this past Saturday for a pretty amazing show at the TLA) at one of their first headlining shows in the US in nearly twenty years, at Terminal 5. Both the lineup and the gig itself were as legendary as anything I’ve seen in the past five years, although I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Ash’s rendition of “Shining Light” during their 30-minute opening set may have been the high point of the evening.
And while their Terminal 5 set did boast a new song or two, they primarily focused on their “classic” singles like “Girl From Mars” and “Burn Baby Burn.” However, to be honest, their latest full-length, doesn’t stray too far from the part-punk, part-post-Britpop aesthetic of almost exclusively anthems that they became known for in the ‘90s… And Kablammo! doesn’t really sound that different from 1977 and Nu-Clear Sounds. When I ask Tim about their latest album he confirms that not only is it a return to their most comfortable sounds, but that the return to the medium of making an album itself was quite influential to the sounds that wound up on it.
“We saw music was changing a lot in 2006/2007 and we were trying to find new ways to put out music, like with the 26 singles in 2010, and we saw the other way of doing things, but then, in the end, ‘the album’ kind of didn’t die and that was nice. When we approached this album we were looking back at what our fans liked most about our old stuff. We wanted to get the best stuff from our past and also songs that we could play live. With the singles, sometimes they didn’t always work so well live, so when this album came together we chose the songs that sounded best in rehearsal. And also, since it had been a while since our last album, we had the pressure to really give them something good.”
When I ask about the actual musical influences behind Kablammo! Tim tells me that it’s mostly stuff that has been a fixture in their listening habits for quite some time now: “It’s going back to old stuff: Nirvana, Ramones, Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr., Beach Boys… us [laughs]… Oh, Thin Lizzy – I love guitar solos.” And while Ash have been on the road for a decent part of the year, Tim tells me that this upcoming tour is going to be a little different: “We haven’t had a chance to play a lot of headlining shows. We’ve been playing a lot of festivals and then like the show with Ride and it was a bit of a challenge — it’s hard to get it down to 30 minutes – so we’re happy to be playing headlining shows again.”
However, Tim does confirm that their upcoming headlining dates will contain a mix of their latest sounds with the hits that the audience likely most wants to hear… and that they’re totally fine with that: “We’re touring as a trio and it’ll be a really high energy show. I love playing stuff like ‘Kung Fu,’ ‘Girl From Mars,’ and ‘Shining Light.’ Usually the fans’ favorites are our favorites as well.” And when I ask Tim what the future holds for Ash he tells me that both more playing and writing are definitely in the works: “Next year hopefully we’ll go on tour in Europe and Asia and hopefully we’ll be able to get to work on a new album.”