It’s not often you get to talk to your musical heros. I’ve had the privilege of talking to some of mine a few times now, and nobody I talk to has ever brought out the “fan” in me like Daniel Ash. Rarer still, is talking to someone so absolutely positive and excited about their craft after 30 plus years of creativity, but this is exactly where I found Daniel Ash when we spoke a few days ago.
BT: Freedom I Love, is a very strange compilation of sorts, and really something that I’m personally absolutely excited to finally have in hand, putting a string of songs together reaching back as far as The American Psycho soundtrack with “Trouble.” What was the push to do this now, following your fantastic reimagining of songs that you did with “Stripped”?
DA: It’s something that occurred to me that I had all these tracks and a few of them people hadn’t heard before and it was nice, the idea of being able to put them on one CD, one format, well we’re going to do vinyl as well with this. But, it’s a documentation of stuff I’ve been doing, you know bits and bobs over the years of film and tv stuff that wasn’t necessarily picked up or whatever. I thought I have all this stuff that hasn’t been put in one place, so it was nice the idea of just being able to document it. To be honest I was thinking of it at the time as an advertisement for film and tv so everybody would have one cd, well, obviously nobody listens to cd’s anymore it’s a very rare thing, but something that was all in one little package so anybody who wanted to use those tracks for film or tv would have them all in one package rather than having them just sit there in my computer, or laptop. There was a compilation put out on Cherry Red with a lot of those songs, but I think the thing that clinched it for this, was that track “Freedom I Love” which I had forgotten all about, but when I listened back to it, I thought it was substantial enough to actually put it out there. So I guess that was the motivation to put the whole package together, hence the title. I’m sort of obsessed with motorcycles, so Freedom I Love sort of ties it all up for me.
BT: When we talked back in 2002, you mentioned that your songs, especially ones that have been written at different times, come from different states of mind. But you are one of the rare talents, that no matter what style you choose to do, from the first notes it sounds like a Daniel Ash song. How do you balance the drum and bass, electronic side of you, like “Freedom I Love,” with the guitar oriented “You Unravel Me”?
DA: It’s not a matter of balancing it at all, I just go into the studio with an idea, whether it’s a finished thing or an experiment, I just go in and it sounds pretty corny but I just be myself in the studio and the things I like, I like, and what I don’t like, I don’t like. The things I like come through onto the finished product. I don’t have any concept of what something’s going to sound like at all because it can change 100 percent in the studio and become something completely different. I remember years ago Brian Eno said he would go into the studio and start with finger clicks, literally just clicking his fingers, record three or four minutes of that and then he would go on to something else and that thing would build up with no preconceptions on what that thing was going to be. Sometimes I work like that, sometimes I’ll have just a guitar riff, or a finished lyric. There’s no real rules how it works for me. I don’t have any specific ending in mind, I like it to take it’s own course, most of the time. I mean if it’s a song like “Flame On” that I had a very specific idea of what it should be. I had been listening to Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges for about a week and that song came out, plus what had been going on in my life that particular week and that song came out. As an example, I was using a very old, cheap silvertone electric guitar, and I’m looking at it now this old Hi Watt tiny little amp, it’s probably about 18 inches tall by about 12 inches across, and the combination of the sustain on the amp with the guitar completely inspired me to write that particular song, “Flame On.” In that instance, the whole thing came from that guitar sound and I got the lyric really quick. There’s no rules, that’s the wonderful thing about it. I like to think I keep my mind open to be able to create something at the end of the day.
BT: One of my favorite tracks on “Freedom I Love” is “The Push,” how did that come together?
DA: I remember Astra Heights had come to play a gig here where I live in Ojai, California. The band had come in and they were playing this local bar in town, and when that song came on, and I looked at Christopher and said that’s a hit single, that’s an amazing song. They had already recorded it, but it was what I would call an album version of it. For me it wasn’t fully realized it was an album track that went off into nowhere. So I really loved the idea of condensing it into a 3 or 4-minute single. Basically, the essence of that song was done and then I just tweaked it to put it into a 3 or 4 minute single version and added a verse or two and put my vocals on the end of it and condensed it.
BT: You’re starting to put some teasers out there for Poptone, with Kevin and Diva, what exactly is it, and how did this come together?
DA: Well I do have a strange story about this. Probably about six weeks, two months ago, I fell asleep at my computer listening to music, and I woke up with my headphones on at 4 in the morning and it was so completely obvious that what I should do was go out and play live. It came out of nowhere, it was like a complete revelation. It was so obvious, I had been talking about not wanting to go on the road again in the past, not feeling it at all, and suddenly about six weeks ago it hit me like a bolt of lighting and it was so obvious that it’s what I should do next. Then the following day I thought, what a stupid idea, what was I thinking. Then over the following week the voice in my head kept nagging at me, it’s so obvious that’s what I should do, you’re ready to do this again. Can’t explain anything else, I was actually getting excited about playing guitar live, and the whole thing. I thought before I say anything to anyone else I’d live with this for a couple of weeks and the feeling only got stronger, so here I am standing in the rehearsal room right now. I’m standing here fixing all my pedals and I feel like I’m twenty-one again fixing all my stuff, looking at all my old pedals I used years ago. Getting them all working again, it’s a bit like a kid in a candy shop basically. It’s all exciting and fun again. Never thought I’d be doing this again, but it all feels completely right.
BT: How did Kevin and Diva come into the picture?
DA: Christopher, my guy, suggested since I was looking for drummers, Kevin. We happen to have been doing a few DJ gigs together and me and Kevin get along really well, like a house on fire, we’re really different personalities, which is why it probably works. He’s an obvious choice, he’s played in all three bands, Bauhaus, Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets. We’ve been searching for a bass player, and to make a long story short, Diva his daughter plays bass, and we auditioned her and she plays great, she looks great and the chemistry is great, and we’re on our fourth or fifth rehearsal and it’s going very well.
BT: You know there’s going to be a ton of excitement for this project, obviously with you both working together again, people may look at this as a modern Tones situation, are you leaning that way sonically?
DA: I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing a Tones on Tail tour, because Glen Campling is not involved as he was the original bass player, so I wouldn’t feel right calling it a Tones tour. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights over the last week thinking of a name for this because we were under pressure to decide a name so we can start rehearsing for some gigs. This is really weird, because this came to me at 4 in the morning again, about four days ago and I was thinking of Poptones from Public Image Limited, the name of that song, and I thought that’s really us, as in the chemistry between Kevin, his daughter and me. It’s felt right because we all love Tones on Tail, for sure that’s my favorite band of the three and I know Diva loves the band, and Kevin does obviously. I love PIL, and Poptones sort of connects all the dots, and I have the image that goes with it, which is a painting I had done, which is probably a year old. So there’s a real juxtaposition between that image which is very dark and the Poptone image which is the opposite, which is a bit quirky the sound of that name, so I thought the two of those together sort of covers sort of what we’re going to be doing, because we’re going to be doing Bauhaus, Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail, so it covers that image with the hands with the modern font, or type face of Poptone. We’re going to be doing a compilation of the songs that I wrote in those bands with a few little extra’s thrown in.
BT: I know you’ve said you enjoy throwing a cover in, to sort of relax with.
DA: Yeah, there’s a couple of covers we’ve already worked out, but what we are going to be doing is that we’re going to put the set list out before we do the gigs. We’re not going to be obscure with this.
BT: With the tour list coming out on Monday, Feb 20th, are you comfortable telling me where the first show might be?
DA: The big thing at the moment, is that we’re going to be doing a small show at Swing House in Los Angeles, which is like a rehearsal studio and it’s just going to be like 250 tickets which is something Chris is putting together right now, and I think that’s going to be the 5th or 6th of May. It’s like a one-off, almost a showcase if you like. Then the tour will be starting within a week or so after that.