This is the 19th of 26 exclusive reviews of the A-Z Series by Northern Irish band Ash.Type “Ash” or “A to Z series” into our search engine to find our other articles on this topic.
Tracks of The A-Z Series have come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’d be the anthem-drenched sensation of “Dare To Dream” or pure guitar glory of “Joy Kicks Darkness,” each single thus far has gone to prove how incredible the musical range of Ash have at their disposal. The latest single in their ever satisfying A-Z project is a six minute epic titled “Spheres” which doesn’t break this trend of versatile pleasures.
The piano keys are easily hypnotic, whilst the over-laying bassline never feels as though it’d even dream of interrupting it. The track sports an amazing quality: Everything seemingly fits, both musically and lyrically. Especially the fact that Tim Wheeler’s vocals reek of one thing: A man who’s had enough.
But oddly (and thankfully) enough his words have not been dripped in the angsty or misguided way most vocalists express their emotions. How he accomplishes this is that there are lines which are louder than others, not only adding a sense of spontaneous fluidity to the track but intensifying the desire to hear what he has to say. “Spheres” is a track which is daunting yet hopeful, a track that spurs the feelings of reflection while non-accidently condemning the person or thing bringing Wheeler his highly poignant emotions. Amazingly enough this is a track that’s both incredibly raw yet masterfully structured, not a mean feat at all.
Our guest for this single is long time Ash fan and Northern Irish native Judith Millar.
Randomville: Single S is out now! What are your thoughts on it?
Listen to “Spheres” here: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Ash-Spheres.mp3|titles=Ash — Spheres]
Judith Millar: I really, really like it. From the first listen I thought it was good. I’ve had it on repeat nearly all week driving to and from work and I’m loving it more with every listen; it’s fast at becoming a favorite along with “Neon” & “Command.” The piano throughout is a bit haunting, the middle is dark & dramatic and I find the second part of the song strangely uplifting. People have been saying that they can’t relate the two parts of the song but when you listen to the lyrics, Tim repeats that “the storm is imminent” and it is with the last part of the song which I consider the storm to be finally breaking.
Randomville: What do you feel makes “Spheres” a standout in The A-Z Series?
Judith Millar: Well apart from it being the longest song of the series at 6:09 I think it’s one of Tim’s strongest on vocals & gives us yet another direction sound-wise. I could also really imagine it on a film soundtrack of some sort.
Randomville: If you could choose any band to cover this track who would it be?
Judith Millar: That’s a difficult one; I’d like to hear what Pulp could do with it as I’ve been a fan of Pulp for years…that could be interesting!
Randomville: If you could pick an Ash track that felt as though it could be played before or after “Spheres” which would it be?
Judith Millar: To me it’s quite an epic tune so in that sense I would have to say it’s a sequel to “Twilight of the Innocents.” I would love to hear “Spheres” live so here’s hoping they indulge me in Belfast!
Randomville: Would you say living in Northern Ireland, the original home of the band, put an impact on you while growing up?
Judith Millar: I’ve been a fan since I was 15 and coming from Northern Ireland I suppose you feel that you share a certain connection with them, being so familiar with the things they talk about and grew up with. Northern Ireland’s a very small place & when you live here you’ll no doubt know or have many connections to the band. Tim’s sister for example is a good customer in our shop. I also used to see Rick [McMurry] going past on the bus in the city centre when I was at Art College & we played against Tim & Rick in the Katy Dalys Alternative Pub Quiz once or twice back then (I ‘m pretty sure we beat them too).
Randomville: What are some notable things from Ash tracks that you feel are clearly about Northern Ireland?
Judith Millar: They have made references to NI all through their career from as early as “Uncle Pat;” I recall Tim saying years ago in an interview that “Uncle Pat” was based on an old uncle of a friend of theirs who lived around Strangford Lough. “Halloween” which is a favorite of mine, tells a tale of Tim returning home to visit his Mum & Dad and knowing Downpatrick and where they live – it always paints a very vivid image when I listen to it. “Oh Yeah” is again definitely based on memories from Summer whilst they were at school in Downpatrick and I love the line in “Seventh Circle” when Tim sings; “and across the dark Atlantic Belfast lies asleep and the River Quoile still winds its way down to the sea.”
Randomville: What is an accomplishment the band has made with the series that made you proud to be an Ash fan?
Judith Millar: The fact that they are so forward thinking is inspiring, they have had a rough time with their former record label and it’s good to see them being able to regain control and find a format that suits them and keeps them so accessible to fans old & new. One downside however has been the labeling of the series on iTunes & the like, the decision to keep song names a secret until before release has meant that many songs are listed by their letter only & it worries me that many people who hear one of the series on the radio will have difficulty locating it, thus potential loss of downloads.
Randomville: How has Ash influenced the progress of the Northern Irish music scene?
Judith Millar: Well in 1998 Ash played a concert in support of The Good Friday Agreement with U2 in the Waterfront Hall Belfast so this obviously helped contribute to a better environment in NI as a whole. Then in 2008 Tim worked with presenter & journalist Stuart Bailie & Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, to create Oh Yeah, a rehearsal and performance centre in Belfast. They have also always been great at giving NI bands support slots on tour, with Panama Kings, In Case Of Fire & Fighting With Wire all having supported them in the last few years & without Ash, Snow Patrol would have struggled to shoot to fame – they have a lot to thank Ash for – giving them the support slot that helped them onto their feet after they had been struggling to break through for ten years.
Randomville: Were you excited upon the announcement of the benefit gig at the Oh Yeah Music Centre? (which for those who don’t know is named after the band’s 1996 single “Oh Yeah”)
Judith Millar: Indeed I am; the fact that most of the time I get to see them live they are playing home gigs is great. It’s always nice to see all their families & friends out in force to support them. Ash are so good live, I never tire of it since the atmosphere is so electric & having seen them play all sizes of venues over the years from 200 people in Downpatrick’s Art Centre in 2004 for their 10th Anniversary Gig to 30,000 people at Ward Park in 2007, I can honestly say I love the smaller venues the best and with the 300 capacity size I can tell this one will be pretty cosy! I actually only walked into it the other week for the first time and had a wee look at the Ash section they had in the entrance hall so it’s great to now be getting the chance to see them play live there while at the same time raising funds for future all=ages gigs in the venue!
Randomville: Previous guests of ours have stated that Ash will play an important part in their future wedding. Being recently wed yourself, did the band (or its members) play an important part in your wedding at all?
Judith Millar: Well besides having “Solace “& “Shining Light” played as our first two songs and a few more throughout the night, I was really inspired by Mark [Hamilton]& Andrea’s wedding photo’s taken on the streets & subways in Brooklyn. I had wanted something different so Alan (my husband) & I had our photos taken in Belfast on the streets around The Limelight, Katy Dalys & Spring & Airbrake so I have to thank Mark & Andrea for the idea – cheers guys!
Randomville: How would you describe the band’s fan base? And what sets it a part from other fan bases?
Judith Millar: Ash have a really strong/loyal fan base all over the globe. I myself have met so many brilliant people at various gigs, especially most in these most recent years. It really enhances the experience of seeing them live knowing you are amongst friends! Another highlight is the amount of access we have to the band as part of this fan base, which to me is what definitely sets it apart from the rest.
Randomville: For those unfamiliar with the relationship between Ash and their fans, can you describe the special access that is available for fans of the band?
Judith Millar: The interaction between the band and the fans starts online with the band’s Forum, Facebook, Twitter etc.; they are great at keeping everyone up to date with what is going on with both Mark & Webmaster Steve in particular being great ambassadors for the band. Being part of the fan network gives you great access to the guys after gigs as there is always someone who knows what is happening afterwards. I never like to hassle them too much though (which some of my friends may find difficult to believe) so when Mark came over to speak to Alan & I after the Dublin Bring Them Back For The Craic gig that we won tickets to in March this year I was well chuffed. Also a nice touch at that gig was Rick handing Patrizia and Cat a drumstick each immediately after the set; its wee things like that that puts them miles ahead of other bands.
Randomville: If you had to guess at what inspired Tim to write “Spheres” what do you think it would be?
Judith Millar: I could be totally wrong with this but I actually think it could be about Warner’s holding them back for so long: “the sense of something watching over you,” “I’m ready to break the hold of oppression keeping down my soul” and also “fall down on my knees for years under siege.” It’s as if with his lyrics he can’t wait to escape & be released from the contract.