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Ash’s Mark Hamilton and Tim Wheeler met in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, when they were 11. “I moved into town, and I was ‘the new kid.’ Tim was the first person I met, and he was very short and small — not physically very strong — so he was never a very good soccer player,” explains Hamilton.

“Everybody wants to be a professional soccer player in Ireland, to escape the boredom of normal life. Either that, or to become a rock star” he says. “And I had two left feet, so we might as well try to become metal rock gods. So, right from the age of 11, we had our plan.”

Ash The duo got guitars when they were 12, and taught themselves how to play. “Because we didn’t get any lessons, we didn’t know how to do covers. So we just started writing our own songs straight away.

“When we were 13 we got fed up with band members who weren’t taking things seriously, so we fired everybody. We’d decided they weren’t dedicated enough. But by the age of 15, we got drummer Rick McMurray in, were a three-piece for about five or six years, then Charlotte Hatherley joined.”

Playing the Local Circuit
Ash played the punk circuit in Belfast for about three years. “We were stuck in kind of a rut because you’re playing to the same people in the same three-to-four clubs every weekend and we were thinking, ‘Nothing’s gonna happen here,’” recalls Hamilton.

“Everyone was saying, ‘Hey, you’re gonna have to go off to college’ and we were thinking ‘God, if we go off to college, that means were all gonna split up,’” he says.

Top of the Pops
The band had recorded demos and had sold about 500 copies in its local town of 15,000. “We sent our demos to London, and a guy who used to work as Nirvana’s press agent listened to our tape. There were a couple songs he loved and he said, ‘I want to find out who these guys are,’” says Hamilton. “He didn’t realize how young we were.”

“Within two years, we were on the Top of the Pops and having hits, so that was good,” he adds. “Just kind of a lucky break.”

“Free All Angels,” which came out in the U.S. in June, was released in Europe a year and half ago, so Ash has already toured the world in support of the album.

Kinetic’s Rock Baby
The rock band is signed to a US dance label. “ Kinetic decided that they wanted to break a rock band, and they wanted us, ” says Hamilton. “It’s great. We’ve got their complete attention.”

Some of Ash’s biggest influences were Nirvana, the Pixies and Iggy Pop. “A lot of bands over here seem to have a lot of anger and frustration, but America is probably one of the wealthiest countries in the world… with one of the highest standards of living. You don’t have to be so angry,” he jokes.

“We’re pretty happy with ourselves and with what we’re doing, so there’s a lot of melody and tunes going on,” says Hamilton. “And we try to keep the energy there as well.”

Wheeler Drives Songwriting
Wheeler is the main songwriter in the band. And when it comes to cranking out new tunes, he plays acoustic guitar. “I’ll come in with riffs and stuff but not really lyrics,” explains Hamilton. “Tim does all the words. And then we just jam it out. Because we’ve been together for like 10 years, we kind of just know where to go with this thing. It’s really quite simple.”

Ash just finished recording a new record in Los Angeles with Foo Fighters’ producer Nick Raskulinecz. The record should be out by Spring 2004.

— Stephanie Jorgl

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Free All Angels
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Free All Angels

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