Ahead of their Riverside show on 4th December, Music Editor Dominique Daly chatted with Ash drummer Rick McMurray to talk about getting on the road to tour new album ‘Kablammo’, the trails and tribulations of fatherhood and kicking Westlife off a cliff

Dominique Daly
9th November 2015

Shall we bash straight ahead, as I’m sure you’re pretty tired- It’s rather early in the morning?

Oh don’t worry, I’ve been up since half 5 with my youngest daughter * laughs *

Oh God! You poor thing! The blessing of children eh?

Well, I’ve no one to blame but myself .

I’m sure there’s perks as well?

Yeah there probably is…I mean no! There definitely is, they just come closer to lunchtime…

So, onto the music. Obviously its been a while, how are you guys feeling about getting back on the road to tour the new album?

Em yeah, really good actually! We’re really looking forward to this tour. Because the album came out back in May in the UK and we did something like a week of gigs. It was just a handful of shows and a couple of festivals. And obviously the whole summer when your doing festivals its just on weekends so its quite broken up. So actually looking forward to getting out and doing a proper run of shows, it’ll be really good. Because its something we’d normally do when releasing an album - we’d do a big UK tour - but you know I think with timing and stuff and getting close to festival season it didn’t make sense to do it this time around. So yeah, with the build-up to Christmas it should be party central I reckon.

What festivals did you do?

Oh let’s see if I can remember!? We did the Isle of Wight at the start of the summer and we finished up with Reeding and Leeds.  In between there were a bunch of smaller more boutique festivals as well. We also got out to Fuji Rock in Japan, which was great. That was my first time in Japan for I think, probably five years; the last time Ash actually played there was when my first daughter was born, so we had a friend of ours standing in for me.

you’ve always got a dressing room full of beer- that’s pretty essential I guess. At most times it helps to take the edge off

Its clear that Ash are very used to being on tour, but are there any tour essentials that you 100% need with you to keep you sane?   

I guess your phone kind of helps these days, you’ve pretty much got everything you need there in your pocket to keep you entertained and to keep you numbed from all the travelling. And then you’ve always got a dressing room full of beer- that’s pretty essential I guess. At most times it helps to take the edge off.  Other than that I try to travel as light as possible these days, try not to bring too much stuff.

So new album ‘Kablammo’ as you mentioned came out in May, will the shows on this tour feature it quite heavily or will you be focusing on your back catalogue more?

You know I think there’s a certain bunch of shows that we know we can’t really get away without playing. But its not that we don’t like playing them because we always feed off the audience reaction and it does make for a great show. We’ve never been a band to sort of shy away from playing the hits but I think with the new album, it seems to sit really well amongst those hits. So it’s a good mix of both.  It’s a good feeling for a band like us, who have been around for so long that we can actually play quite a lot of the new album and it’s going down really well…keeps things fresh.

You’ve said there that you don’t shy away from the hits, but being around for so long are there any songs that have become a bit tedious to play? Say the big popular ones like ‘Girl From Mars’ are those songs that you still get a thrill playing or has it lost its spark?

In terms of playing it, it is a bit like, we could probably play those songs in our sleep now, you know? We’ve done them so often. I think probably ‘Girl From Mars’  has been in the set probably every show we’ve done since it was release and it’s like 20 years old – I think it came out in ’95. It is kind of weird because you know, we had that anniversary and people were like ‘Oh what’s it like having this song that’s 20 years old?’ I think because its been with us for such a long time it doesn’t actually feel like an old thing, its been present in our lives at every show since and its just kind of a part of us. I could see why some bands could get bored playing the same songs every night, but for us its just a highlight of the set, people just go nuts for it and we love that energy. Why would you not want to have that every night?

Its well documented that Ash love to party, has any of that changed now that you’ve gotten older, become dads – do you still hit it quite hard when you go on tour?

Well, I think we’ll always have our moments, but I think it’s probably not every single night now. But I think it will be interesting on this tour. We’re heading away in a couple of weeks, going out with We Are Scientists to Europe and we’re sharing a bus with those guys. So that will be interesting, we haven’t done that since like ’95 when we first toured America. We shared a bus with a band and that was definitely a big party tour.  But yeah, we’ll see what shape we’re in, we’ll probably be wrecked by the time we get to the UK.

Do you know the We Are Scientist guys quite well?

Yeah, I think the first time we played together was supporting Snow Patrol in Bangor at their big gig back in 2007 I think.  We sort of bump into them at festivals and we’ve become quite good friends. We share the same management company now. So it should be a fun tour.

if we’re going to go back to this format we have to live up to our most celebrated work like 1977

Well its eight years since the album yeah, in the intervening period we did do ‘A to Z’ series and that was sort of 2009/2010 when that came out. That was 26 singles in one year, so in terms of projects we’ve done that’s probably the biggest. But that finished end of 2010 so we did have a big gap there. But you know Mark and I have had kids, we’ve both got two kids now and Tim also had his solo album in that period as well, which is something that took quite a while for him to find a home for and get released.  So we’ve been busy enough. But we spent the first 15 years of our career on tour, so it was nice to step back from that a little bit. But when you’re away from it you really do miss it and when you get back to it, it feels a lot more exciting.

Coming to do an album again…we definitely felt the pressure. It was like if we’re going to go back to this format we have to live up to our most celebrated work like 1977 and Free All Angels. So that was kind of part of the creative process…we never really sort of looked back and took stock of what we’d done in the past. It was always about looking forward and finding new stuff to do.

There were a lot of great reviews for the album and comparisons to 1977, so you’ve succeeded in that goal. But how did you feel about the fact that ‘Kablammo’ didn’t necessarily receive a lot of success in terms of chart ratings?

Yeah it is pretty disappointing to be honest. At the time we we’re pretty bummed out about it, but like you get the feed back from the hard core fans who have always been there for us – and they’re as gutted as we are – but to hear them say that its up there with some of our best material…I guess from a graded point of view we know we achieved what we set out to do, but from a commercial point of view its been disappointing. All we can do in that situation is get out there are keep playing, and that’s what were doing.

So I was doing some digging and read in an interview from back in 2005 that when you first went to Germany Ash were being marketed as a boy band!?

Yeah, that was back in the very early days of the band, I think it was Germany and particularly in Australia as well. I think in Australia they had these sort of pull out post cards of individual shots of each band member and it did feel like ‘Oh, hold on? This is not what we’re about’. I think like if you look at what we did after that, the ‘Nuclear Sounds’ album was very much a reaction against that, we were being wrongly perceived and people were trying to put up in a particular place and we were uncomfortable with it. So that album cleared up that aspect of things for us so that we could go on and get on with our career.

For revenge’s sake, if you could kick any boy band off a cliff who would get the boot?

Oh there’s so many to choose from...I'd say at that point in time we would have had our eyes set on Westlife.

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