Written by Laura Hamlett Friday, 31 July 2009 04:04
It's like getting divorced and remarried again; it's just not going to work.
After a long and illustrious career as a pioneer in dark wave/alternative music, Daniel Ash wants to get into writing music for film and television. I know this because he told me seven times over the course of our 15-minute interview. Former member of the seminal '70s/'80s group Bauhaus (fronted by Peter Murphy) and frontman of Tones on Tail (brought back into the spotlight by a current Mercury Mariner commercial which goes so far as to mention the band by name) and the highly successful Love and Rockets, Ash has quite a catalog upon which to rest on his laurels. Still, after reuniting both Bauhaus and Love and Rockets (each of whom played Coachella in different years (2004 and 2008, respectively), with Bauhaus even releasing a new album in 2008), Ash maintains that the past is dead. No more reunions, no more looking back. This time it's full speed ahead, Daniel Ash-style. And that, my friends, includes music placements.
This summer, Love and Rockets is back in the spotlight thanks to a well-received tribute album, New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love and Rockets (read our review here). That, coupled with some new music Ash is working on—singles, he clarifies, citing the death of albums—found Ash open to interviews.
How did the tribute album come about, and how involved were you guys in that?
A guy called Christopher the Minister—he's been a DJ on Sirius Radio for a long time—well, it's his brainchild. It's his idea. Eight, nine months ago he first started the idea of doing this. Initially, he wanted us to get involved and I really didn't want to; I think it's really egocentric to get involved in your own tribute album. That's really embarrassing to me, the idea of that, so I just said to Chris, "No, no, you just do whatever you want to do. It's totally fine; we're very placid. He's very, very good at getting people together. He knows a lot of people in the industry.
Did you guys get a preview of it to approve of anything or were you just completely out of the loop?
You don't do that with tribute albums. It's not a matter or having permission from the band or the artist; anybody can cover anybody's songs.
What is your opinion? I'm sure you've heard it by now.
Yeah, I think I've heard most of it. I think my favorite, as I've said before, is the Dubfire, "I Feel Speed." I like that style of music anyway, so, for me, that's top of the list. I like the Frank Black [Black Francis] track ["All In My Mind"]; I like the approach of that. I love [Chantal Claret Vs Adrian Young's] version of "Lazy." There's three or four on there that I think are really valid versions. It's very weird, because some of them... I mean, I think the Flaming Lips' version of "Kundalini Express" is so out there. I love it, though; it really is like a mix of two bands getting together to do that song, and I love the naivety of the way it's recorded.
I really like glossy, expensive-sounding mixes, and some of these have been taken to the other extreme. I also like...like Devo I always thought was great because it was so crude and naïve and didn't sound like boring old farts that were too good on their instruments. I love that when you've sort of got a naivety to it and it makes it fresh.
Love and Rockets reunited briefly last year. Was that an easy thing to do, to get everybody on board?
No, well, not really. It seems like a million years ago; it was just last summer we played those two shows. It's over, all that stuff now, because I do have a problem with still playing those songs. Some of those things are like 30-odd years old. I've really had enough of all the Love and Rockets and Bauhaus stuff. It's just sort of another time for me. Seems like a million years ago. Anyway, I'm not really answering your question. No, it wasn't really hard. Basically when we get off at these festival gigs, we just go into the studio for a couple of weeks and rehearse, and do the gig. So in California, [with all of us living] in the L.A. area, it's not really an issue.
I didn't realize you all lived in the U.S.
Yeah, we're three Brits living in California
Do you guys spend any time together now?
Oh no [laughs]; we've known each other too long. If you think about it, in one way or another, we've been working together on various things since 1978; that's a long time. I don't think we miss each other's company. I mean that in the best possible way, but it's like we don't live in the same towns anyway. We're pretty much 100 or 200 miles away from each other.
Did you feel the same chemistry when you reunited?
It is the same chemistry, but that's why I don't want to do it anymore, because it's very boring to me, re-churning out those old songs. It's the same with Bauhaus. It's OK for awhile, then it's that memory that you have from 20 or 30 years ago. It's like getting divorced and remarried again; it's just not going to work. So everything has its time; those bands to me are from another lifetime. At the moment, I'm wanting to get into film and TV music. I really want to focus on that, so if you give me a good old plug that would be great. I'm up for film and TV and scoring and writing songs for films; that's really what I want to do now. Not go on the road anymore; I've done that for too long.
Bauhaus actually recorded a new album while reunited. What was behind the decision to do that as opposed to maybe a Love and Rockets one?
It was just what feels right at the time. It's like, over the years, dependant on the atmosphere out there. Sometimes in the past it's felt right to do a Love and Rockets thing, and then it feels right to do a Bauhaus thing; it's as simple as that. We just go on a hunch on what it feels like we're in the mood to do and what seems to be the right thing at the right time. With us, it's always been very organic about how we feel about something. As I said, when we get back together in whatever format, the chemistry is always the same as it always was.
Are you doing things other than music now?
No, not really. I'm obsessed with motorcycles so, I love it if all my spare time goes into riding bikes. I've done that since I was a kid. It's like a type of yoga for me. That's my thing. As I said, I really want to get into film and TV. That's what I want to do in the future.
Are you working on a new album?
No, I'm not doing an album, because I think it's not worth it. I've said this three or four times in different interviews, "When was the last time you knew anybody who could sit down and listen to a whole album?" and they couldn't answer me.
I do all the time.
You're the rare exception, I think, because most people don't do that. They just want to hear one of the tracks and that's the way it is these days, I think because of all that instant information. I keep saying this, but people that have the attention span of a mosquito. And financially it's just better to do just individual tracks and hopefully get them placed in film and TV, because unless you go on the road, it's the only way to make a living to carry on doing this, to get your stuff played. These days, as you know, it's turned the other way around. You make the album, people get the album for nothing, but hopefully it entices you to go and see them live. Before it used to be the other way around, but that format doesn't exist anymore. It's completely turned upside down, but I don't want to tour anymore, so I've got to go another route, which is getting into the film and TV stuff. That's what I would like to do.
Do you feel like your personal songwriting style and process have changed over the years?
The difference is now I either write with a guitar or a drumbeat. So if it's more of a dance song, I'll start with a drumbeat and a really good bass line. The other route is with an acoustic guitar. They're the two ways that I work.
What are your feelings about the very prominent use of "Go" in that Ford Mercury commercial?
I'm extremely pleased that they are using it, because it keeps me alive. It's amazing over the years how much that song has been used, in beer ads and this and that. I actually haven't seen this new commercial.
Are you a lyrics-first person or a music-first person?
It can be just one sentence that inspires me, or a half a bottle of red wine to go with that sentence; that always helps. I really love strings, in every music like dance music where there's a lot of strings. Things like that keyboard line on the beginning of "Vogue" by Madonna. At the very beginning, there's these two notes on the violin; sounds like that really inspire me, and really good bass lines.
What do you feel your strengths are at songwriting?
I have no idea. [Laughs] I can't answer that. I don't know if I have any strengths. | Laura Hamlett
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