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With the dawn of electronica and music journalists howling that ‘rock is dead’ in the late 90’s, by many measures 1996 was the last great year for rock music as a premier force in the world of popular music. To name check a few; Weezer released the stunning, genre creating (emo?!) Pinkerton, Stone Temple Pilots offered Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, Soundgarden released Down on the Upside and Northern Ireland’s Ash released 1977.
1977 is an album containing many cuts that made an impact on both British and Australian charts. The album title alludes to the year of birth of the band’s members, so it’s worth mentioning that Ash have gone on to enjoy a noble 22-year career since the album release.
Ahead of the bands November 2018 Australian tour, foundation vocalist and guitarist Tim Wheeler, discusses the tour, his recollections of Australia back in 1996 and the creation of the album that has been the catalyst for the bands career.
“We definitely do tons of old hits and I think we’ve got really good balance of a lot of old favourites and a chunk from the new album. People aren’t bored or going to the bar when we play the new stuff. That’s really good.”
Wheeler’s comments assure long-time fans that the band will not be shunning their older hits, but he also gives fans a heads up that they can expect cuts from the new album, Islands (’18) which has been well received by critics and the bands fan base.
What are Wheeler’s recollections of the inaugural tour of Australia in 1996? The tour featured an appearance at the long running Livid festival which at that time was held at Davies Park in West End, Brisbane.
“(It was) pretty crazy because it was really young fan base as well. I’m loving doing radio interviews because we could swear on radio and stuff like that because that was a novelty. And uh, yeah, I remember they were just like sweaty, furious shows. I think we did a festival, Livid in Brisbane with Weezer, so they were out at the same time. I always loved it there.
It was just before it got to the point where it was starting to get bit delirious, the success and just how intense things were. We went straight from the Aussie tour to three months in America, actually opening for bands like Weezer. It was great though. We were loving the fans that were getting in Australia. We were getting a real good buzz then.”
The impact that 1977 had on the bands career cannot be understated. From the time of the release to now, many fans have stayed with Wheeler and Ash through the subsequent seven albums. So, what was it like to craft the album in the studio?
“It was kind of hard actually. Part of it was easy… but part of it was hard because we had delayed the recording of it for a year while we were finishing school. It just meant we could just put out singles in 1995. We had a single (released) on average every three months and they were becoming big hits; “The Girl From Mars”, “Angel Interceptor” and “Kung Fu”. So we already knew we had hits on the record so we kind of just had to write a couple more.
I wrote, “Oh yeah” and “Goldfinger” while I was on tour. But then all of a sudden, we had to come up like six or seven other tracks in the studio. The rest of the stuff that made up the album was done under a lot of pressure. We had to come up with stuff that was up to the level of the hits.
We knew that we had hits in the bag already, so we knew there was like a big audience waiting for it. Part of the hard work was done but then we had to live up to the rest of (the album) and we’re starting to get to know how the studio worked from with working with producer Owen Morris, through the year leading up to (the album release) on the singles.”
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