Owen Morris - responsible for 1977 and the salvaging of NCS - produced FAA in Spain. What was the vibe like this time? Dresses and drugs?
Rick - We actually did a lot of the album near Bath in the west country at Van Morrison's studio. It was there that we did Shining Light which we actually paid for ourselves, as the record company didn't think it was a strong enough comeback single. The things you have to do for creative control... Bath was also where Owen brought about one of my more interesting haircuts. I think we had a few more ales than usual that night. Owen has always taken an (un?)healthy interest in my appearance.
I can't remember how long we were in Bath but the majority of it was done in Spain at el Cortijo studios in the mountains above Puerto Banus. It was a great setting with views down to the Costa del crime and on clear days you could see Africa. I think I had about half the drum tracks done by that point so Spain was like an extended party for me. Within a couple of days we had located the perfect watering hole in one of the shadier streets behind the front. Lets just say those driving their ferraris to their luxury yacht didn't have too far to walk to locate their party resources. The devil's bar had an unexpectedly long tourist season that year. We kept them open for an extra six weeks. The hangovers weren't too bad as we had Anita our amazing cook who kept us fueled with the finest Spanish food and if it got too much a quick plunge in the pool would have my head cleared in no time. It was the perfect place for our personal and musical redemption. The mood was so uplifting throughout those sessions; you can hear it on the record. As for cross dressing. that was kept to a minimum; apart from the final track of the album, World Domination, which was also the final song to be recorded, as far as basic tracking was concerned. Oh yeah, there were guns and ponchos involved at various points too but that would stretch this out to essay length. Don't get me started on the mixing... boop boop boop.
"Walking Barefoot" is arguably one of the strongest songs on the record and was destined to be a classic even back when it was first previewed on a live BBC broadcast in 2000. However, it was only released as a limited single in Australia! What happened there?
Rick - Yeah I agree; its a standout track and a great opener and a potential missed single in the rest of the world. Should it have been? Possibly but we were conscious of not putting out too many singles from the album. As it is, we released five. Any more and we felt we were straying into michael Jackson territory; not a place anybody would want to be, on many levels. I don't know which we would have dropped in favour of Barefoot? (cue the facebook comments) I guess you have to draw the line somewhere.
How did the idea for the voted-by-the-fans tour come up? What were the gigs like?
Rick - During the writing period for Free All Angels, we were becoming conscious of how big a tool the internet was becoming for bands and knew we had to use it in really creative ways. I think we wanted to do something really democratic that would help stimulate the fanbase and raise awareness before we started releasing material. Thanks to Steve Ludwin from Little Hell we got to use Warmer Than Fire a song he'd written for his previous band Carrie as a free download too. We knew we had an amazing record and we wanted to give it the best possible chance. The gigs themselves were amazing. The tour took us to some bizarre places, the ones that come most readily to mind being Whitley Bay, Whitehaven, Salisbury(?) and of course Ullapool, which we are returning to at the end of this week. The votes we had for the latter seemed to outweigh the venue's capacity as I remember! Oh yeah; just remembered the 3am xmas carolling somewhere in Leeds. Very mushy.
You had a hand in the album's filthiest track - Submission. What was the inspiration for that song?
Rick - The music for Submission came to me after a night out with Owen Morris and Mark at this little Austrian bar on Westbourne Grove. I think it started before then in an Indian restaurant which bizarrely sold saki which owen was very keen on at the time. I think we'd had five bottles by the time the starter arrived. At which point Owen started quizzing us on what we'd written so far. For me this was pretty much nothing which led to a lot of "encouragement" from Owen. We went to the austrian bar next door and drank some enormous steins of lager, just enough for owen to get involved in the live karaoke which I really wish I had a recording of. The hangover the next day was epic but I struggeled out of bed and bearing in mind Owen's comments the night before started messing around on Mark's bass while waiting for him to finish his lengthy shower. by the time he was done I had the music done. I think Tim came up with the title and the lyrics flowed from there, written by two straight men in a room with no windows. Songwriting doesn't get gayer than this.
Ten years on, how was FAA held up for you? Is there anything you'd change if you could?
Rick - You can probably tell from the answer above that this album means a hell of a lot to me. From the beginning of the writing process to its completion it was a very special time for the band. That we had our backs to the wall during this time yet managed to come up with something so positive, full of joy and amazing uplifting tunes says a lot about this band. Other albums have felt like amazing achievements for different reasons but Free All Angels had a truly special energy to the whole thing. Everything seemed to come together and create something bigger than the sum of its parts. I wouldn't change a note.
Interview by Chad Peck of Kestrels. Further Free All Angels interviews with Tim and Mark.
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.