THERE are plenty of aspects of modern life to make some of us feel our age.
Technology is one, most pop music another. And then there is the notion that Ash are celebrating 20 years in the business of dispensing rock ‘n’ roll mischief.
Anyone else remember Tim Wheeler and chums being rudely awakened on their tour bus by the Big Breakfast brandishing their A level results?
Frontman Tim does and cringes. But he swiftly recalls plenty of other moments that have sustained one of the UK’s most reliably entertaining bands, last on manouevres promoting 26 consecutive single releases with an alphabetical UK tour of towns.
“It’s scary how quickly time has gone,” says Tim. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been 20 years, at all.
“And I have mixed feelings; part of me is I don’t want to accept it’s been 20 years but also part is ‘that’s a really great achievement and I should really own it’.”
Rightly so. During that time same some acts have come, gone, reformed – and then gone again. Tim says the reason the Ash story continues is simple.
“It’s our passion, we get a massive kick out of it. We also started very young. We went to school together and we’re really tight like brothers. It’s been constantly rewarding and fun.
“We always seem to find something new that excites us to proceed, whether it’s taking on the massive challenge of releasing 26 singles in a year or doing an alphabetical tour, it’s always managed to stay really interesting for us and worth working really hard for. And it’s definitely been a lot of hard work to sustain ourselves, but it’s been work we’ve relished.”
While Tim denies being an 18-year-old stuck in a 34-year-old body, it is clear – even with a lack of chart action in recent times – he wouldn’t swap his life, what with its constant sonic reminders of younger days.
He bagged a coveted Ivor Novello Award for Ash classic Shining Light and anthems like Girl From Mars, Oh Yeah and Kung-Fu remain part of many people’s psyche.
“That’s one of music’s secret powers, you can lock memories like with smell. Sound and music can take you right back to when you were younger.
“When our first album was out all our fans were the same age as us or a little bit younger so people have really grown up with us and it reminds a lot of really young, good, carefree times in their life, so it’s something really powerful.”
While a new compilation from their heyday former label will recount 18 top 40 hits and other magic moments, there’s no immediate plan for new material.
“We’re just chilling creatively this year, taking a break. I felt quite exhausted after doing the 26 singles and A to Z tour. I was thinking ‘I’ve got to take a breather here’.
“Warners wanted to do the new best of and it’s the perfect year to do it, when we’re chilling. It’s another chance to look back at what we’ve done and then move forward, again.”
Away from the band Tim has been co-working a project close to his heart, a soundtrack for a film called Ashes in which Ray Winstone plays a veteran crook suffering with Alzheimer’s.
It came about when Tim met director Mat Whitecross who went to university with Coldplay and directed several of their videos before handling Ian Drury bio pic Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll and documenaties Moving To Mars and The Road To Guantanamo.
“My dad had died of Alzheimer’s at the start of the year and his dad had died of Alzheimer’s,” recalls Tim.
“Mat was explaining the film to me and I had really wanted to do a soundtrack for a long time. I told him it would mean a lot so he got me on board.
“I have a lot of ideas recorded over the years and was going to dig through but I’m actually getting inspiration just looking at the film and finding something that suits the mood, coming up with fresh stuff. The character in the film is very different to my dad but I can relate to parts of it so I’m trying to get some catharsis out of it.”
Before that hits cinemas, however, Ash have got the sizeable task of animating thousands from the Devonshire Green main stage at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival a week on Sunday.
Certainly it’ll be a stark contrast to the last time the trio played South Yorkshire, at tiny Rotherham basement venue The Vault.
In some geographical respects their ambitious A To Z Tour was a return to the toilet circuit of their earliest days.
“Some places weren’t on any circuit,” quips Tim. “Sometimes you’d roll in and they weren’t quite equipped for a proper gig, but we’d just have to make it happen.
“There were a couple places we played on our first ever UK dates in 1994 and hadn’t been back to since, so it was cool to get back to those.
“The Rotherham one was interesting. They had the tiniest PA and the most basic desk possible. Our sound engineer had to walk in and try to make it happen the best way possible. The room was almost split in two, it was weird.”
n See our Tramlines pull-out on Thursday for more.