The new album, released on September 15 on Fierce Panda, has been five years in the making, and – with classic Ash dynamism – tackles themes of ego, sex, gentrification and dislocation. The band tour across the UK with The Subways from the end of September, culminating at the Kentish Town Forum on October 11, before heading on to Europe.
For another taster of the record, the band have shared ‘Crashed Out Wasted’ – described by frontman Tim Wheeler as “an ode to one of those nights” where “you may be the last one standing, or wobbling, but you aren’t ready to end it just yet”.
“You’re drunk dialing, and shit posting, looking for a partner in Dionysian crime,” said Wheeler. “Before you know it you’re crashing down the stairs, your mind is gone, and that’s when the bad thing happens…”
Wheeler spoke to NME about the album’s lengthy genesis, their unreleased disco album and the ongoing godlike effects of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
NME: Hello Tim. Why tour with The Subways – have you got a strong bond with them?
Wheeler: “Yeah, we’ve known them for a long time. First time we met them, they were talking about what big fans they were and so I think I went to quite a lot of shows early on. A great live band and we feel like it’s a good fit – we’re two three pieces. They’re a good band to get out to Europe with as well. They do really well out there.”
New Ash album ‘Race The Night’ has been five years coming – what’s the story?
“It didn’t go to the initial plan. We started recording it in the gap between finishing [2018’s] ‘Islands’ and ‘Islands’ coming out. We still had about six months and I was writing tonnes of songs still at the time. Maybe half the album was started then, along with like all this synthy kind of stuff as well. Then a pandemic happened and I moved from New York to London, had a baby – everything meant it just took forever.
“A couple of years ago we thought we’d finished it but then we realised it didn’t fit together, this half rock, half synth thing. So we put the synth stuff aside and worked on a few more rock songs we had kicking around. It wasn’t the way we originally envisioned it. We thought if it’s coming out straight after ‘Islands’ it’s OK if it’s all over the place, but it ended up taking so long that we thought we need to make this cohesive. It’s probably one of our longest germinating records, but I’m really happy how it ended up. It’s gonna be great live.”
The Weezer and Killers vibe is strong in places, was that intentional?
“Not really. There was one thing I saw – I went to a Mudhoney show in Brooklyn, quite a small, intimate gig, and they were one of my favourite bands when we were starting Ash. They were doing this really good, grungy rock, like they’ve always done and I started writing a bit more like that again. The song ‘Over & Out’ felt a bit like a Mudhoney thing. It put me in a rock mood.”
You were moving around between America, Ireland and London during the pandemic years – is that reflected in ‘Oslo’, with its lines about “going through a sea change”?
“I guess it was. It’s an in-between song. I was getting to the end of being in New York and I was ready to move after 15 years. I didn’t know quite where life was going to take me at the point where I was writing the song. But I did want to come back to Europe, so that song has that in there.”
Perhaps returning to the UK makes it more of a reflective record. Recent single ‘Usual Places’ is about old haunts that have disappeared for example.
“It was definitely an end of an era feeling when I was leaving New York and it was building up for a while. Towards the end of being in New York, I was noticing a lot of the places where I used to hang out when I first moved to New York had disappeared. And so had the people. New York is an especially transient place. So I starting to get nostalgic before I even left New York and then the pandemic happened and I was like finishing the lyrics and thinking ‘these are extra poignant’ because there’s so much more that didn’t last from the pandemic.
“It’s a little bit about gentrification too, and also facing getting older. As you get older, you get that ‘Usual Places’ feeling more and more. But then there’s some things that still make me feel totally the same, like music. I always feel like I’m young when I’m playing in Ash.”
In a similar vein, ‘Crashed Out Wasted’ has a sense of still chasing the rock’n’roll thrill when you’re past getting anything out of it. Is that a tough thing to shake?
“Some songs were written the last time I was single in New York and in my early 40s – there’s a little bit of ‘what’s going on in my life?’ New York’s a place where you can really still live like you’re in your early twenties no matter how old you are. So I was still partying quite hard but the fall out of it always gets worse as you get older and harder to handle. We couldn’t have kept going the way we were at all. Maybe some people manage to do that, like Lemmy.”
What makes you feel, as the song goes, ‘Like A God’?
“I guess that’s quite a dirty sex song. You mean other than sex? Psychedelics and playing live music have a good way of inducing a deity feeling.”
Is the electro-rap-metal ‘Double Dare’ – sample lyric “right from the beginning I cut myself free because I realised there’s no-one else like me” – your most ego driven tune so far?
“Yeah. It’s a bit tongue in cheek. I was enjoying listening to a bit of hip hop at the time and I love the swagger of all that.”
You’re making a synth album from the songs you took off the early version of the album – what can we expect?
“It’s just totally different. There were five songs we finished that could have been on this record but they were just too different. There’s a disco tangent on a few songs which is quite fun. It’s real pop songs, it’s definitely not a rock record. It’s good tunes, and it’s just us getting to experiment quite a bit and do something really different. I think the songs are really great. When the touring wraps up for this in a few months, we’ll hopefully finish that soon. It’d be nice to get that out soon, get a bit of a flow going. There’s a big contract ahead of us but this one felt like the one to come back with because it really connects with the old fans, and I think it’s really strong.”
You recently produced a single, ‘Surrender’, for multi-national rockers The Gulps, how was it working with those guys?
“It was great, they’re a fantastic band. We played live with them and I just love the Spanish, Italian, Lebanese, French silliness going on there. They’re a bunch of great maniacs and they’re such a great rock’n’roll band. They really believe in it and they play with such conviction and they got great songs.
“They’ve got that great European thing as well, great hospitality. They live together like The Monkees and they make amazing food. I need to go back around their house again.”
‘Race The Night’ is set for release on September 15 via Fierce Panda. Visit here to pre-order the album.
Visit here for tickets and check out the full tour dates below.
30 – Bexhill, UK, De La Warr Pavilion
1 – Bristol, UK, Marble Factory
3 – Nottingham, UK, Rock City
4 – Glasgow, UK, Barrowland
5 – Leeds, UK, Leeds Beckett SU
7 – Newcastle, UK, NX
9 – Dublin, IE, The Academy
10 – Manchester, UK, O2 Ritz
11 – London, UK O2 Forum Kentish Town
19 – Utrecht, NL, De Helling
20 – Frankfurt, DE, Das Bett
21 – Cologne, DE, Bürgerhaus Stollwerck
23 – Hannover, DE, Faust
24 – Malmo, SE, Plan B
25 – Copenhagen, DK, Beta
27 – Oslo, NO, Rockefeller
28 – Stockholm, SE, Debaser
30 – Berlin, DE, Kesselhaus
1 – Dresden, DE, Beatpol
2 – Prague, CZ, Lucerna Music Bar
4 – Graz, AT, PPC
6 – Zurich, CH, Plaza Klub
7 – Munich, DE, Technikum
8 – Stuttgart, DE, Im Wizemann
10 – Brussels, BE, Botanique
11 – Paris, FR, Le Petit Bain