Ash @ Kendal Calling 2009

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Gemma Fraser | 14 August 2009

After a festival-packed summer, Ash are now focussing all their energies on their A-Z series, which will see them - rather ambitiously - release 26 singles over the next 12 months. This year, Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray have been touring the country's most intimate festivals as a “warm-up” for the likes of Reading and T in the Park next year, as they brace themselves for another successful chapter in their 17-year-history.

Virtual Festivals: Do you enjoy playing festivals more than gigs and what's been your favourite this summer?
Tim Wheeler: “It's great getting to play outdoors but there's so much that can go wrong. It's a lottery. The weather is so unpredictable and you don't get the same choices.”

[Mark Hamilton excitedly interrupts to highlight the point]: “At the last festival we were at, Gary Numan's guitar amp exploded because of rain coming through.”

TW: “This [Kendal Calling} is our last one. Truck was really good. The weather was great and it was a good mix. We've been doing a lot of small ones this year, and they can have better atmospheres because they're very different. Glastonbury is hard work. Although we hope to play the bigger festivals next year.”

VF: Do you get a chance to take in the atmosphere of a festival, have a wander round to see the sights and catch some bands?

Rick McMurray: “I would rather play a festival than go to a festival.”

MH: “I did today. I saw some people getting married in an inflatable church and some sort of bizarre Olympics. If we walk about together we get recognised, but we're usually fine on our own."

VF: Which of your songs go down best at festivals and do you ever get tired of playing your old hits?

RM: “We will never be one of those bands that shy away from their early hits. The whole point is to see how well your early hits go down.”

TW: “Luckily we've had a pretty consistent career so there's plenty to choose from. We did two shows of ‘1977’ in September because we were putting out a reissue. That was fun, but we're moving forward. We are going to put out 26 singles in a year starting in October with ‘True Love 1980’. You get a completely different crowd at a festival than you do at gigs because those are people who have paid specifically to see you. The songs that go down best at festivals are ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Girl From Mars’.”

VF: What are your essential festival items?
RM: “Biker boots.”

TW: “Tour bus. It's like having your own dressing room and an escape route all in one.”

VF: You've been together such a long time now, but you must still have things that irritate you about each other. Who is the messiest when you're on tour?
RM: “It used to be Charlotte.”

TW: “To begin with, Rick used to leave his underwear hanging about everywhere. Now he leaves his contact lenses everywhere.”

MH: “It's now getting to a point where we have been in a band longer than we haven't. I don't think any of us are that bad.”

VF: You mentioned Charlotte there – are there any plans to replace her in the future?

TW: “Nah, we don't need anyone else.”

MH: “I have a seven-month-old baby so it'll not be long before we have a new band member...”

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