Ash drummer Rick McMurray speaks ahead of gig at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds
In nearly 30 years as a band, Ash have headlined Glastonbury, recorded two number one albums and soundtracked a Danny Boyle film. But the Northern Irish alternative rock trio have never played in Bury St Edmunds. . . until now. William Mata catches up with drummer Rick McMurray ahead of their gig at The Apex
You’re playing in The Apex on July 27. This must be one of the smaller venues you have played recently. What’s the plan?
We are playing smaller venues in the gaps between festival shows. It’s something we have been doing for a few years, it is quite special to get up close. It has a different feel but we give every show the same enthusiasm.
Have you played in Bury St Edmunds before?
We have not played there, as far as I know (laughs). At smaller venues it is a similar setlist to what we would do in a larger venue – although we get a lot of requests shouted out! Sometimes we play what they are asking for, it depends on what we have rehearsed. We have had a few disasters when it is a song we have not done for five years, and we’re trying to remember what key it’s in! Maybe that is less of a problem for me as the drummer.
Ash are releasing a vinyl box set of singles originally released 1994 to 2004. Why have you decided to do this?
It is great there has been a resurgence in vinyl over the past ten years, but we had not been able to re-release anything from our back catalogue until recently when we signed with (record label) BMG.
Last year the band released seventh album Islands. How has it been received?
It has been amazing how fans have loved this record. It was a weird one because it was finished a long time before it was released. We wanted to get it out there but it was a nervous wait. . . but we could not be happier as the fans are saying it is one of our best records. You can’t ask for much more than that as a band for it to be compared with your best work when you have been going for more than 20 years.
The band stated 2007’s Twilight of the Innocents was to be your last album. In 2009-10 you put out the A-Z Series of 26 singles. Was this idea ahead of its time?
We announced Twilight would be the last record after seeing a decline in album sales, and we came up with the idea of releasing in a different way. We wanted to get the idea out there before anyone else did, to reflect how people are consuming music and have some creative fun. But the music industry was still revolving around a model where a band go away for a while and come back with a big release, rather than a steady drop of content. The album death everyone was talking about has not happened, and if anything we are seeing a resurgence.
Ash: A brief history
1992 Tim Wheeler, Rick McMurray and Mark Hamilton become friends while at school in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland. They officially form Ash in 1992 and release their debut EP Trailer two years later.
1995 Early anthems Kung Fu and Girl From Mars are released in the lead up to debut album 1977, named after the year Tim and Mark where born - the same year their beloved Star Wars is released. The album is met with critical acclaim, and later named by NME as one of the 500 greatest of all time.
1997 Ash headline Glastonbury Festival the same year their song A Life Less Ordinary is used in the Danny Boyle film of the same name. Guitarist Charlotte Hatherley joins as Ash become a four-piece. This paves the way for their second album Nu-Clear Sounds, released in 1998, which marked a difficult time for the band who struggled with writing block and burnout.
2001 Third album Free All Angels is released after Ash recoup. It is their second number one, and features hits Burn Baby Burn and Shining Light. Their success continues into next album Meltdown, released in 2004.
2007 Hatherley leaves Ash, who release their fifth album Twilight of the Innocents, declared at the time to be their last. This leads to the A-Z Series of singles and The Best of Ash.
2015 After Tim Wheeler releases a solo record, Ash return to making albums, releasing Kablammo! in 2015 and Islands in 2018.
2019 After Islands is well received by fans, Ash continue touring, playing festivals and their first ever show in Bury St Edmunds.
How does it feel that crowds still so warmly receive tracks from your debut album 1977 – released in 1996?
It is surreal when you think about how long it has been. It is only in interviews that it gets brought up how songs like Girl From Mars are going to be 25 years old next year. We have grown up with these songs and it has constantly been with us. We have never shied away from the hits and we love them as much as the fans.
What might be next for Ash?
I am not sure. We are having a meeting soon to discuss it. We have a lot of new material in the bag, about 20 songs. There is a lot to come, you don’t need to worry about that!
Ash play The Apex on July 27. For tickets call the box office on 01284 758000, or visit www.theapex.co.uk ‘94-’04 The Single Box Set is available from May 31 from www.ash-official.com