This is the 26th 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.
Visit part two of this interview with Tim Wheeler here
The A-Z Series was an undertaking that not many bands could pull off. The ending track should not only bring it all together but also stand on its own and come across as a crown jewel, like a final hurrah. “There Is Hope Again” succeeds on this not so easy task. “There Is Hope Again” is layered with drum patterns and synth tones that will get stuck in your head as Tim Wheeler’s voice takes an affable tonality while the lyrics come across as the most human of the entire series. Words such as “Watching your dream die, no more strength to fight” brings the listener to an area almost everyone’s been where you simply feel as though you can go no longer, but Wheeler’s words in the chorus, “Don’t give up! Your time will come again!” springs the feelings of hope into your heart. This is a track that makes you feel as though you can take on the world and if such a feeling can come from any band it’d certainly be Ash.
If good things come to those who wait then this year will be the proof of that with our interview with Tim Wheeler. What makes this special is not only the amount of information we’ve received from Tim but because the questions are from YOU, the fans.
For those confused here is a small rundown: Throughout late 2009-2010 we here at Randomville interviewed a fan (or two) every week to follow after the release of a single by the band Ash from they’re A-Z Series. The purpose of this series was to explore different avenues of releasing music, as the band released a song every two weeks. Everyone who took part of our coverage throughout the series got to submit a question to Tim and this is what they wanted to know:
Randomville: Good afternoon Tim. These questions are from fans I interviewed for The A-Z Series. Are you ready for the first question?
Tim Wheeler: Yeah let’s do it.
Randomville: The first one comes from Patrizia Villotti from Italy and she asks: “What is the biggest sacrifice you had to make for your career?”
Tim Wheeler: Maybe relationships? A bunch of relationships didn’t work out for the sheer amount of touring we’ve done, so totally that. There have been times we’ve put out records and been away for a year and a half. With things like that it makes it hard to maintain a stable relationship.
Randomville: Man and being in a relationship is hard enough as it is!
Tim Wheeler: Right? (Laughs)
Randomville: This one is from Lee Rooney and he asks: “If you had to put an A to Z single or bonus track in each of the previous Ash albums, which would you? Also, choose an A-Z track for each album.”
Randomville: I think “Carnal Love” could have gone onto Free All Angels.
Tim Wheeler: Yeah definitely, or 1977.
Randomville: It would’ve came nicely after “Lost In You.”
Tim Wheeler: I’d say that’s the most 1977 style of writing from A-Z. Yeah, so that one would go on 1977. And for Twilight…fuck…
Randomville: I always felt that “Spheres” was a sequel or sister to “Twilight of The Innocents.”
Randomville: This is from Karl Darley and he wants to know: “After 15 years in the business, is it harder to write a song now and to still keep it fresh?”
Tim Wheeler: Not really. You learn a lot over the years and with that comes a growth of confidence in what we could do and get away with. So yeah, I’ve never had problems with writing. I always knew writing is something that’s much easier when in practice. It’s still a challenge because of all the material, but it pushes me and put us as a band in the flow of things.
Randomville: I actually interviewed two people for some singles to have a compare and contrast vibe with their opinions. The second fan I interviewed was Sam Dawson and she asks “What do you miss most about N.Y. when you’re away on tour?”
Tim Wheeler: I miss friends and…the smell of food! (Laughs) And the studio. I love having this creative space and it’s my favorite place to hang out really. It’s weird how it all came about. I was looking for a place when I was hanging out with a friend and when we went to another bar we met up with a friend of his and he was trying to shift this studio on to anyone. I felt lucky because in London I was looking also but when I met him it felt like it came off as really easy.
Randomville: Was it a process to acquire the studio?
Tim Wheeler: Yeah, it took a couple months to finalize everything but I saw it the next day and just knew it’s what we wanted. It came together pretty quickly. He had to sell all his gear and we had to ship all our gear over and wire the place ourselves.
Randomville: This one’s from an American fan from Florida named Jenny Walker. She wants to know: “Where was your favorite stop in the tour and why?”
Tim Wheeler: Maybe Japan. I always love going to Japan. We went three times last year and doing Fuji rock was amazing. The festivals were a lot of fun. It was wicked. (Laughs) I’m not being very specific but the whole European festival season was great. Oh, Koko and Electric Ballroom were great shows too as well.
Randomville: The next one is from Richard Heaven and he asks: “In hindsight, do you wish you promoted the A-Z series differently?”
Tim Wheeler: I guess yeah. I wish we had more money and resources to spend on advertising. Getting out wider would have been good but it’s really tricky when you’re your own label. I think we would have used less money towards videos and more towards advertising or bribing someone to put us on the radio (Laughs). It’s really hard when you don’t get radio play especially because that’s how we got big in the first place. Throughout one year of releasing that stuff, the internet really changed everything; It’s hard to keep up when everything moves so fast but I think we went around with it quite well.
Randomville: This is a question of Chad Peck from Canada…
Tim Wheeler: I love Chad!
Randomville: Yeah he’s wicked; he asks: ” ‘Fail again. Fail better.’ – Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett
One lyrical theme I picked up on the series—particularly in “Joy Kicks Darkness,” “Dare to Dream,” and “There Is Hope Again”—is the idea that hope exists even in the bleakest situations (“we’re running out of time, you have seen too much too young, you’ve blown your final chance”). Is this a sentiment slipping out of your subconscious? Do you think it is relative to you as a person? To your band? To the human condition?”
Tim Wheeler: I’m quite an optimistic person but with these estranged times of being in a band, like seeing the industry change so much from selling millions of CDs to nobody knowing you’re around brought about a lot of questioning of what we were doing, where we were going, and how were we going to survive in such times. So doing the whole A-Z Series, we were just trying to find a way to survive and adapt; Essentially we needed a new way to work. There were times of doubts but the music always allowed us to believe in ourselves. So yeah it’s not hard to see that, the struggle and how we were trying to deal with it all.
Randomville: The next question comes from Ollie Ship.
Tim Wheeler: I remember him from South Hampton! He’s really young!
Randomville: Yeah! He’s a great guitar player. He asks: “How long have you been a vegetarian and why?” He’s a vegetarian as well, I think.
Tim Wheeler: I’ve been one for about four or five years. My ex girlfriend was one and I started to eat more veggie stuff because I hung around her a lot and one day I was eating a bowl of chicken and I just kept thinking about the chicken parts and I just stopped eating meat. I don’t really want to be a part of the killing of animals and I enjoy being conscious of what I’m eating. It feels really good being able to do that.
Randomville: Would you ever say the sight or smell of meat makes you uncomfortable? I have a friend who can’t even walk around China Town because of the smell of meat.
Tim Wheeler: Wow. Sometimes with the street carts the smell bugs me but not that much. I remember hearing during Coachella a few years ago Morrissey stopped a gig because the smell of meat hit the stage…I think that’s taking it a bit too far.
Randomville: The next question is from Grant McGilberry from Texas.
Tim Wheeler: He did all the bass covers, yeah? Those are wicked!
Randomville: His question is: “Were you pleased with fan reactions to The A-Z Series? I posted videos throughout the series covering the tracks on bass! Did you see them by any chance?”
Tim Wheeler: Yeah we saw them and thought they were amazing! I felt the reaction was brilliant because almost everyone who heard about the series was into it and happy to give us feedback. Seeing someone make videos like that made us feel how interactive the series could be so that was very positive.
Randomville: This is from another Texan named FireSka and he asks: “Which one of the band’s B-sides do you regret became B-sides rather then an A-side?”
Randomville: I think “Gabriel” could’ve been an album track.
Tim Wheeler: I agree with that. I’m also going to say “Sneaker” since I know he’d love to hear that (Laughs). I’d also say “I Shall Not Die.” I got it from a poem and put it into a song. It’s quite different and I like that a lot about it.
Randomville: An interesting theory Ollie and I had about The A-Z bonus tracks is that if A-Z didn’t happen, they (the bonus tracks) probably would’ve made up the album following Twilight of the Innocents. Would you say this is true at all?
Tim Wheeler: Possibly. A lot of the bonus tracks are guitar heavy and with A-Z we were really trying to surprise people and change people’s perception of us. Sometimes some of the guitar tracks were favored over those, so I guess I’d say some of them could have fitted after Twilight. And to add to the previous question I’d also say “Where Is Our Love Going” would have made a great album track. I’ve always loved that track. Rick overdubbed the second drum kit for the bridge for that and the solo is just me and him screaming into these mics.
Randomville: Was there ever a B-side you had to fight over to be on a record?
Tim Wheeler: Yeah, actually “Saskia.” I really wanted that to be on the record. And most recently “Nightfall,” I really wanted that to be the final single before we came up with “There Is Hope Again.” “Spellbound” is also a track I really love. This will be too cheesy for some people but I would’ve put that (“Spellbound”) in, but we’re a committee so those didn’t make it in. The thing that sucks about “Saskia” is that it was mixed and recorded with all the rest so it was a shame for it not being on the album (Twilight of the Innocents). Oh and another song, “Seventh Circle.”
Randomville: That track has a lot of references to Ireland; What do they mean?
Tim Wheeler: It’s really just about being in New York and thinking across the Atlantic about Ireland. Its original name is Singapore Song. I wrote a lot of music when we were in Singapore and it was written during Free All Angels and I worked really hard on it. I really wanted it to be on the record but it didn’t fit and we did the same for Meltdown but it didn’t fit as well.
Randomville: It always warped my mind that here in America a lot of bands don’t make it a task to record B-sides to accompany their singles.
Tim Wheeler: Yeah, It used to be a very popular thing to do in the UK because of the singles culture due to charts where in the UK the singles charts are done by sales and in the U.S. by radio play.
Randomville: The next question is by Cat Greenaway from Ireland and she asks: “Do you still keep a close ear to the Northern Irish music scene? If so are there any bands you have a lot of hope for?”
Tim Wheeler: Rick (McMurray) is always great about what’s going on in Ireland because he lived there much longer after we left. He pinned us onto Lafaro and I’m actually doing this Pixies gig with another Irish band called And So I Watch You From Afar and they’re incredible. I didn’t know much about the music until I met them and they’re brilliant. There’s so much going on like General Fiasco and also I caught Two Door Cinema Club at a couple of the summer’s festivals and they were really fun. One band I really want to check out that I haven’t heard yet are Not Squares.
Randomville: Oh they’re good! They’re very synthy and dancy.
Tim Wheeler: Yeah I really want to check them out.
Randomville: I’d also recommend Adebisi Shank and A Plastic Rose. I think you’d enjoy them a lot. Adebisi are a highly energetic electro punk band and A Plastic Rose feel like a modern day Nirvana in some ways.
Tim Wheeler: Wicked! I’ll have to hear them. Oh I got another! They’re my favorite at the minute, they’re called Ma.Mentor. They’re doing the Pixies gig with me; They’re based in London but they’re all Northern Irish.
Randomville: This one is from another Italian fan named Elisa Della Tor and she did the tour T-shirts for you guys also. Her question is: “Who do you think can still give a hope to the world? (People, Ash, God, Super heroes or Love…) And if it’s not exactly a person, what exactly in the world gives you hope?”
Tim Wheeler: For me music is always there; Also friends and family. I think when people loved Obama I would’ve said that (laughs), but everyone is giving a hard time at the minute though. Poor dude, he inherited a lot of shit. So yeah I’ll stick to friends, family, and music.
Tim Wheeler: Definitely a girl from mars! I haven’t eaten a mars bar since I was 12! (Laughs)
Randomville: This one if from Susie Gale from Canada: “Carnal Love is one of my favorite songs off the A-Z. The video looks like it was fun to shoot but did you get sick eating all that cake and does custard make for a good facial?”
Tim Wheeler: I really suffered my heart that day. The cake was good but there was so much and it was tough getting covered with so much cream. It was pretty unpleasant. I love the video though; Iits so surreal and funny.
Randomville: The next one is from Nico Jones and he wants to know: “Can you pinpoint how you felt at the exact moment that you finished all the work on the recorded output for A-Z? How did it feel to come to the end of such a massive undertaking, and did it live up to the expectations you had back when the idea was hatched?”
Tim Wheeler: It was very…satisfying. The real moment was seeing the final vinyls. There was a time when Sally (the person who runs Atomic Heart) was screaming at me to get the song titles and colors so we can get all the vinyls pressed. It took two months to get all the vinyls and artwork pressed up. There was a relief of the pressure when it was all done, especially because she told us once that if we don’t think about what song is coming out than this song is going to come out late, and we couldn’t let that happen because we were on a very strict schedule.
Randomville: Who came up with the A-Z artwork and how?
Tim Wheeler: Well displaying the letter for a single was key to tie the whole series together. At first we wanted to make something that together all the vinyls would create one big image but in the end we decided to keep it simple. We were getting really into pantone color books at the time and wanted to incorporate those colors into the series because they’re really unique and gorgeous. It was easy to come up with and we just really wanted something simple that’d tie the series together.
Randomville: Something a lot of people don’t know is that pantone specifically is very expensive to print.
Tim Wheeler: Yeah, it really is. I think if I could go back I’d not do the vinyl. I think for whatever series or thing we do next we’ll concentrate more on downloads and CDs at the end because I’ll tell you what it was such hard work doing all those vinyls and it pretty much didn’t…well I’d say we kind of lost money doing it. It is a beautiful thing to collect but it was the hardest work out of the whole thing. We were big on having the best colors and quality of vinyls so we kind of made things hard on ourselves (Laughs).
And that’s just part 1. Part 2 will be up shortly.