Jeremy Williams-Chalmers, Arts Correspondent

Interview With Ash

Back in 2001, Tim Wheeler and his bandmates Mark Hamilton, Rick McMurray and Charlotte Hatherley returned from the brink of financial ruin with the release of their third studio album, Free All Angels.

The album became their second chart topper in the UK, while reaching #1 on the US Heatseekers chart. With Platinum sales and a string of Top 20 charting singles lifted from the record, the Northern Irish group used their innovative songwriting and lyrical prowess to save
them from the brink. While Hatherley would leave the group following the release of their fourth studio album, Meltdown, UK fans are now on an excited countdown to the Free All Angels 21st Anniversary Tour, which not only sees the group play the album in full, but marks the return of Hatherley to the fold for the tour. We caught up with frontman Tim to learn a little more about the upcoming tour.

Hi Tim, how are you?

I am good thanks, busy from all the festivals and rehearsals, but I am doing well.

The Free All Angels anniversary tour is now just around the corner, are you excited to return to the record?

We are very excited about it, and of course Charlotte is back with us. She has done the occasional London show over the years, but she is with us for all the dates for this tour. We have spent a lot of our recent shows focussing on the Greatest Hits, following on from the
release of our latest collection back in 2020, so it will be good to go back to the album. It’s the first time we’ve done it in a long time and there are some strong deep cuts in there for the fans.

It’s been four years since your last studio record, Islands, can fans expect to hear any new material on the tour?

Over the last three years we have been working on some new material, and there is new music on the way. However, the focus of the tour is on the album, Free All Angels. It has been really nice getting to play with Charlotte again and to explore those songs again. As a result there probably won’t be anything new on the tour.

Over the last 30 years you have achieved a phenomenal amount. Is there anything left on your ambition list?

We’ve always wanted to headline Reading. The closest we’ve come to it is the second from top act on the main stage. We’ve also have two #1 albums, but no #1 singles. However, that is much harder these days,
but I’d say that is still one of our goals.

The industry has changed massively since you arrived on the scene. Would you say the charts are still a focus for you?

We tend to just do our own thing. There is no desperate need for it. We wouldn’t just release something to compete for the charts. We’ve never really done that. We just try to please ourselves first of all.
Even back in the days of ‘Britpop’ we were known for our more American rock influences. Really Ash has always been a hybrid of a lot of things. There was a lot more complexity style wise to many of our contemporaries.

You’ve already mentioned that there is new material on the way. Have you got a timeline worked out for the release?

I’d love to get a new album out next year – maybe some time around May. There is a long lead time for vinyl, so you need to know at least six months before release. Hopefully it will be towards summer time
and not too long after. We are busy working on it, but it’s going to be a good one.

Would you say the new album is typical Ash?

We actually finished the album last year, but when we listened back to it all together, we realised there were two very different styles going on. As a result we’d split it into two different projects and we are extending them. I would say one is typical Ash, while the other
has a little bit more of a synth lead sound. I am not sure which one we will finish first, but we are working on it though.

It has been nearly a decade since you released your debut solo album, Lost Domain. Can we expect a sophomore solo release?

I’d love time for another solo album as it was very freeing to do it. However, at the moment I am really channelling all my best songs towards Ash. I take them straight to Mark and Rick, so I’ll have to start squirrelling away some of the good stuff. I found it very
creatively freeing to do such a different style. I did have a very personal reason for the my debut album, as it was all about my Dad’s dementia. I wrote most of the album on the piano, so that immediately took it in a different direction. If I were to record another, it
would have to be something that could stand apart from Ash. I’ll do another one at some point.

Ash’s Free All Angels 21st Anniversary Tour:

September 15th – o2 Ritz, Manchester
September 17th – o2 Institute, Birmingham
September 18th – o2 Forum Kentish Town, London