Ash were allegedly down to their last thousand pounds when they recorded Shining Light, which was one of the band's biggest singles. How much truth is there to this story? Were you really close to packing it in? Was that studio session full of tension with it all laying on the line?
Mark - Looking back Shining Light and the Free All Angels album really were scary make or break points for us. I think we'd been kinda shielded from the reality of it by Tav (Manager) for pressure sake but we knew that we were basically at the crunch. If things didn't go our way and the stars didn't align, the dream was essentially going to be over very soon. Saying that, we still had this blind optimism and belief that we'd pull a rabbit out of the hat and things would somehow work out. After Nu-Clear Sounds tanked, the label had basically backed off and weren't supporting our choice of songs to record from the demo's we'd done. We believed Shining Light was a hit and they weren't convinced. We had blown most of the money we made from 1977 on making the Teenage Wildlife documentary (Finally seeing the light of day with the Best of Ash), so to go into the studio and pay for the recording our selves was a last throw of the dice. Packing it in was never an option we discussed but we knew the perilous financial situation and we weren't gonna quit without giving it our best shot at a come back. Considering what was on the line we had such a fun time during both recording periods at Van Morrison's studio in Bath and then at El Cortijo, Puerto Banus which was off the hook. There were some stressful times I remember locking myself in my room after Owen (Producer) chased me around the villa with a rifle threatening to shot me, Tim's SG got blasted at one point and the studio got somewhat annoyed at some of the collateral damage from our Apocalypse Now reenactments. Good times indeed...
One of the most beloved b-sides of that era was the cover of Weezer's Only in Dreams. How did you settle on that song?
Mark - At the time Weezer had dropped it from their live sets. We'd seen them playing it every night on the Pinkerton tour and thought it was so good that we needed to bring it back. It work so well with the 2 guitars and it became quite a live favourite for us. Since then Weezer have started playing it again after they saw us doing it at a German festival. Maybe we reminded them of how epic it was???
Where did the album title come from?
Mark - It's a Hells Angels slogan. Around Free All Angels we used those guys for security and pit crew supervision. They are really good at looking after crowds and making sure local crew don't get heavy handed which can be a big problem.
The opening of Nicole features a recording of a London subway. What are some other pieces of trivia about the album?
Pacific Palisades featured samples of Beach Boys vocals and harmonies that were cut up and edited to fit the song, Tim then re-sang them and they we mixed in and sounded awesome. We realized that there would be trouble getting clearance and publishing issues so we reluctantly had to ditch them...
Sometimes was a bit more rock and in the vein of Goldfinger production-wise before Owen and Alan Moulder thought it would be a good idea to make it sound a bit more 'jangley' and like The Smiths.
Burn Baby Burn was originally called Slow Suicide but the label freaked out claiming Radio 1 wouldn't play it with that title and we didn't want to change the name. Luckily Strangey (Agent) was round listening at the studio and he just went, "It's obvious it's called Burn Baby Burn you idiots", and we all went, "duh!"
The bass line and drum intro to Cherry Bomb are very much an obvious salute to our friends in Weezer and specifically Tired Of Sex if it isn't obvious enough!
Mark - Ten years on, how was Free All Angels held up for you? Is there anything you'd change if you could?
I wouldn't change a thing. It brought us back from the brink to the top of the charts and solidified our career going forward. The making of it was one of the most fun times I remember and it's so free and optimistic sounding that it makes sense that it went on to became a feel good summer hit.
Burn Baby Burn was originally written for Nu-Clear Sounds and didn't make the cut. Of course, it eventually became one of the biggest singles from Free All Angels. Was it significantly revamped from the original version?
Mark - It was reworked quite a bit. It was demoed with a completely different chorus / lyrics and was originally called Ice Hat... Don't ask... ok, I'll expand. During the demoing of Nu-Clear Sounds I came up with the genius idea of soaking a beanie hat in water, putting it on a football and then freezing it. Then when sufficiently hungover the Ice Hat could be removed and worn to help cool and relieve the effects of the ravaging headache. Ice Hat, patent pending... ;)
Interview by Chad Peck of Kestrels. Further Free All Angels interviews with Tim and Rick.
Free All Angels Tour with Charlotte Hatherley
Charlotte Hatherley will be performing with the band once more for a special series of 'Free All Angels' shows
Ash will be playing some special live shows to mark the release of the Best of Ash album and Charlotte will be performing with the band once more for the UK tour. The shows will include the four piece playing the seminal “Free All Angels” Album in its entirety and a “Best Of” set.