Northern Irish alternative rockers Ash first made with their debut record 1977, back in 1996. An album that is still considered by many to be one of the finest of the decade. “Goldfinger”, the LP’s fourth single, was the first to become a Top 10 hit in the U.K.
After the success of 1977, Ash recruited Charlotte Hatherley and released a string of Top 10 albums in the U.K. Their ability to blend punk rock with beautiful chord changes, and continued evolution have made them industry torchbearers.
Most recently, Ash released Kablammo! in 2015. The band is set to head back out on the road in early November, so it seemed like the perfect time for ARTISTdirect to catch up with bassist Mark Hamilton to find out what inspired him and the band’s decades of success.
1. First single I bought…
Damn… I think it might have been an Iron Maiden 7” single. Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter. Now as a father to the most amazing 7-year-old girl I shouldn’t be admitting that!
2. First live show I attended…
It was Tim’s 12 birthday ‘party’ and we went to the King’s Hall in Belfast to see Bon Jovi. It was the New Jersey tour (OMG! I now live in Jersey City!) and Bad Medicine was probably the single in the charts at the time. I think we were all amazed by the production, the lights, the volume and spectacle of it all as it was literally the first big show we’d experienced. I remember Tim’s younger brother got up on someone’s shoulders and Jon Bon Jovi pointed at him. Funny stuff!
3. First song I learned to play…
Tim and I got our first guitars on Christmas Day when we were 12. I think we had our first band practice the next afternoon. I vaguely remember him trying to teach me how to play The Joker by the Steve Miller Band, which he’d somehow managed to work out. I think after 20-30 frustrating minutes he gave up and we started writing our first original song, ‘Heart Attack’… or maybe it was ‘Wolfscream’… oh well it was one of those. We still have home recordings, which only us will ever hear! Lmao.
4. The song that encouraged me to learn my instrument of choice…
When I first heard Gigantic by Pixies, Tim and I had already started playing together but I think it was the first time I really focused in on the bass and how something very simple could be so musically hypnotizing, catchy, melodic and the backbone to the entire song. I think then I felt a real calling to the bass as weapon of choice, and not just because we needed to have one in the band.
5. The song that reminds me of home…
Dirty Old Town by The Pogues. I think anyone from a small town in Ireland can relate to this perfectly!
6. My guilty secret track…
I Want It That Way by Back Street Boys. Get me drunk and if this drops I’ll be on the dance floor… period. Kill me now…
7. The song I wish I wrote…
Smells Like Teen Spirit… that song changed the entire musical landscape for a generation and I don’t think there’s been a song since that has had such an impact.
8. The finest song from my all-time hero:
See above… but that’s a bit of a cop out so I’ll pick Pink Triangle from Weezer’s Pinkerton. We had a wonderful time touring with them on that album and I sneakily joined their crew and ran the lights every night, it was a fanboy dream come true.
9. The song I’ve written of which I’m most proud:
Projects, co-written with Charlotte, and lead track on Nu-Clear Sounds. It was a song that never got finished for 1977 and turned out so good when we resurrected it and gave it fresh wheels. I think it was a difficult song to record and there was much mashing of teeth during its production and mixing. We eventually got it to its full potential and Tim really nailed the lyrics on it perfectly, so that when he’s screaming ‘ecstasy’ at the end of the track it’s literally a crescendo to one of the most perfectly crafted rock songs ever.
10. The song that should be played at my funeral:
I really loved that Sia song at the end of final episode of Six Feet Under… Breathe Me. …either that or Chandelier, but if it’s Chandelier everyone there has to re-enact the video and stick it up on YouTube. They totally have permission to knock into the coffin so my body rolls out for a cameo.
11. My favorite track from my most recent project:
Let’s Ride from the latest ASH album Kablammo! It was never released as a single but it should’ve been and it’s become a solid live favorite. Also on The A-Z Series, there are 2 totally overlooked tracks; Dare To Dream and There Is Hope Again. Both those songs are well worth seeking out if you’re looking for an entry point to the lush and bountiful world of lesser-known ASH gems.
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