ASH are out to make it a November to remember for Rotherham music fans when they stop off in the town as part of their nationwide A to Z tour. Bass player Mark Hamilton spoke to Michael Upton about the band's new direction, the death of the album and how fatherhood has forced him to grow up.
THERE'S one sentence sure to strike fear into the hearts of any band's fans: "We're going a bit more experimental."
The horrifying prospect looms into view of the band in question casting adrift the sound which has brought them fame and fortune and plumping for navel-gazing knob-twiddling instead.
For Ash, who made their name in the mid-1990s with the album 1997, which spawned the anthems Oh Yeah, Goldfinger and Kung Fu, messing with the formula could be a recipe for disaster.
But their fans need not worry—they promise to keep rocking out as usual.
Speaking to The Scene from his New York apartment this week, bassist Mark Hamilton (pictured right) confirms that he and bandmates Tim Wheeler and Rick McMurray have been flirting with different sounds for their upcoming singles but moved to reassure fans that they had not given up on the music their fans love them for.
He says: "After our last album we thought 'We don't need to be restricted in any way, we can go for wherever the music takes us and get really experimental.'
"A lot of the electronic stuff takes quiet a lot of time to put together so we've taken the time now to explore that area.
"But I guess you'll see across all the singles there's a whole broad range so the fans that just like us rocking out don't have anything to worry about."
Ash are releasing 26 singles, one a fortnight from October 12, across a range of formats after announcing two years ago that they were giving up on recording conventional albums.
And speaking of rocking out, the band will be hitting the road again next month for their A to Z tour, taking in 26 dates at some of the country's smaller venues, with The Vault in Rotherham representing the R.
Hamilton is relishing the prospect of playing in the club's relatively confined space: "It should be rockin', you know.
"People should be falling all over the stage so it should be good.
"We're obviously not going to play too many of the 26 that haven't been released up to that point—I think it's cruel for bands to go out on tour and play songs that people don't know—but we'll be playing the new single True Love 1980 and the last single, Return of the White Rabbit, which has gone down well.
"We've always done small venues tours before a big tour and this should be a great way of winding things up a bit before the larger academy dates.
"These kinds of shows create a really good vibe and people go away from them and talk about it, saying 'You should've been there', which gets everyone into the big gigs.
"A lot of these places I've never even heard of or they're new places so it's different from turning up in the same academy places in the same cities we've played maybe six times over."
It's more than 12 years since I first saw Ash live, back when we were all teenagers, and we have all had to grow up a bit since then, not least Hamilton, who now has an eight-month-old daughter, Scarlett.
"I've only really had to grow up in the last year, since becoming a dad," he says.
"Your life's not your own any more—she's even crawling all over me right now."
Hamilton admits that it will be a shock to the system to leave family life to go back on the road—but the prospect has its upside: "I'll be able to catch up on sleep a bit," he laughs. "I'll probably get more on tour than I do at home."
With all three of the band now in their 30s, are their touring days numbered, or could they be still going, Rolling Stones-style, in their 60s?
"I can't actually imagine that happening, but you never know," Hamilton says.
"I mean never say never because we love touring and we love playing, I just don't know if we'll still like it at that age."
For the foreseeable future, Ash are quite happy to hit the road again and looking forward to visiting the likes of Aldershot, Zennor and, of course, Rotherham.
"We will be playing stuff from all the albums," promises Hamilton. "There'll be some of the new stuff and the rest will be all the hits and more.
"Whenever we've done small venues tours, it's been great. A lot of them say: 'No-one really ever comes here' so they are really enthusiastic and we get people that won't go to the gigs in the big cities.
"We're really looking forward to it."
q Ash play The Vault on November 11. Tickets, priced £16.50, are now on sale from www.gigantic.com, www.ticketmaster.co.uk, www.ticketline.co.uk, www.seetickets.com and www.lastminute.com.