In honor of Ash playing Texas for the first time in seven years, I had a nice long talk with drummer Rick McMurray. The band kicks off their U.S. tour in Dallas at the House of Blues' Cambridge Room tomorrow, March 12th.
First of all, I gotta say that I’m very happy that you guys are coming back to Dallas. It’s been quite a while . . .
Yeah, it’s been a long time since we’ve been there.
Can you remember the last few times that you’ve been through Dallas? Anything pop out about the shows?
I think the last time we were there, it was with the Bravery. That was a pretty Jägermeister-fueled tour. Uh, yeah. [laughs] My memories aren’t really good about that time, so not just Dallas. We’ve always had great shows in Dallas throughout the years. In particular, I remember supporting Weezer back in ’96. We played with them on the Pinkerton tour. It was such a blast. It was a really intense tour. I think Dallas was one of the best nights. It was in a hot/sweaty club. I think it was that night that I ended up freaking out on stage because I drank, like, seven espressos beforehand and one coffee as well. It was one of those things, “Do not operate heavy machinery” and stuff like that.
So you toured here when Weezer was touring off a not-very-popular record.
At the time!
It was a weird experience, but really great shows, actually. I think Weezer was in this weird positions. Things weren’t going so well. Things were quite tense amongst them, but they seemed to enjoy themselves onstage. The audience was there, but it was small clubs. They were kinda packed-out, so it was kinda like punk rock shows.
I remember that time. I was in high school and I remember the day that a friend of mine, who was in the Weezer fan club, got Pinkerton and came up to me and said, “It sucks!” And it was also around the time that you guys were starting take off with 1977 and he was really into the band. Where I’m going with this, for a lot of people my age, a lot of people cite the Angus soundtrack as how they got into Ash. For me, I saw 1977 at the Tower Records in Picadilly Circus on a family holiday. I thought the record looked cool. When I listened to it the first time, I heard the TIE fighter, I knew things were going to go real well.
Long-winded question, but with now, how do you hear about American fans getting into Ash?
Yeah, I think you’re right touching on the Angus soundtrack. We got that show, we were kinda young. It was one of our first releases, “Jack Names the Planets,” on there. And “Kung Fu” is used on there as well. It was kinda weird ’cause that film wasn’t really known over here. I think it had a cult following in the States. A lot of fans come up and cite that soundtrack. But, yeah, it’s different things throughout the years. The first track on 1977 was used on a, oh, I can’t even remember the name of the game. [Editor’s Note: It was Gran Turismo] It was on a computer game and a lot of people got into us as well. I’m not a massive gamer. I think I bought a Nintendo Wii about four years ago and have used it twice.
You guys are playing SXSW to promote the A-Z Series finally being “officially” released in America.
Yeah, we had all these records and put them out on vinyl and the download’s available with that as well. It’s good to be getting back out there. We did an East Coast tour last year. It was great to get back. It’s been seven years since we played, apart from New York, where the other two guys are based. It was nice to see there’s a lot of love there for us. We’re going to try to spread them across before we start recording any new material. This will be our Midwest thing. We’re doing Chicago after we do SXSW and then Minneapolis, Detroit, and working our way back to New York after that. Hopefully later in the year we could spread that over to the West Coast, but no firm plans for that yet.
I think why a lot of people like Ash in Dallas is because of Josh Venable and The Adventure Club. Would you agree?
Yeah, yeah! He’s been one of our biggest supporters through the years, and it would be great to get back and catch up.
You know he’s the lead singer of a Smiths’ cover band now, for fun?
Oh great! We actually played with Johnny Marr last year. Tim [Wheeler, Ash vocalist/guitarist] had a duet project with his sometime girlfriend. They did a Christmas album a couple of years ago and he asked me to drum on some tracks. Just before Christmas, we played in Manchester and we got Johnny Marr to play guitar with us. That was a buzz.
I’m curious: With all the cover songs Ash has done over the years, have you ever heard from the band that you covered? More specifically, I’m curious if Carly Simon ever heard your version of “Coming Around Again.”
I’m not sure. It would be interesting! We’ve not heard if she has. That cover version was kind of weird. We did it back in 1993, just a year after we’d started, for a radio station in Ireland. We thought it was a really great song, but we didn’t do it justice. So we came up with the idea about four or five years ago just to drag it out. It turned out that version was so good. It’s something we should rehearse for a live show. It’s pretty full-on. The production’s really great.
Have two more questions for you and they’re about Star Wars.
Oh, OK! [laughs]
Knowing how much you guys are fans of it, I’m curious what you hope J.J. Abrams can do with the next Star Wars movie.
Um, I dunno. I’m not going to have any expectations of it, but at the same time, after the three prequels, the legacy of Star Wars is a little bit tainted by George [Lucas] himself. I think it’s kinda cool. It’s exciting to see what somebody else can do with it, restore what we loved about it when we first got into it. Let’s see!
What’s interesting to me is with people I’ve known who have children under the age of ten. It’s like A New Hope is still the gateway movie for them. So, knowing that you have a young child, what would be the first Star Wars movie you’d like to show your child?
Oh yeah, A New Hope. Definitely. I guess there’s an argument there to start with the first three [prequels], get the bad ones out of the way. That way, you can be blown away. I can say, “Oh, this gets better!” I remember being 14 years old and seeing A New Hope for the first time and I was consumed by it. I think the whole storyline of A New Hope is so simple, a little kid could understand what’s going on there. I mean, talking about politics and taxation in [the prequels], it’s like, “What? Really?” This is what you’re basing it on? Whatever?
There’s always hope because it’s amazing to me seeing kids get into Star Wars. It’s not just the movies; it’s the action figures, they want to play the video games, they want to watch The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network. I’m hearing you on the prequels, but I don’t think the prequels are that, but I’m totally sounding like Daisy from Spaced just now.
But I can understand why someone like Simon Pegg would be upset about those movies.
Yeah! It’s been so long since I’ve watched any of them. It’s probably been ten years, to be honest.
Yeah! That’s kind of the same situation with me. I watched Empire and Jedi for the first time since college and I still like them, but New Hope is still my favorite.
Yeah! It’s kinda part of your DNA. If you’re of a certain age, you probably watched the movie a hundred times and can recite every line before it’s said.