Victoria LeggettWhen Ash announced they would never release another album, rumours were rife they were on the verge of splitting. Yet 14 back-to-back singles later, those predictions could not have been more wrong. VICTORIA LEGGETT reports.Further listening: AshVictoria Leggett
When Ash announced they would never release another album, rumours were rife that the Northern Irish rockers were on the verge of splitting. Yet 14 back-to-back singles and a gruelling tour schedule later, those predictions could not have been more wrong. VICTORIA LEGGETT reports.
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When Ash announced in 2007 they would never release another album, rumours were rife that the Northern Irish rockers were on the verge of splitting.
Yet 14 back-to-back singles and a gruelling tour schedule later, those predictions could not have been more wrong.
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Now, as the three-piece embarks on its latest round of live dates, drummer Rick McMurray says the band's unusual take on music production has brought them closer to their fans than ever before.
The group made the decision three years ago following some frustration with their record company and a realisation that the industry was changing.
'People were consuming music in a really different way - downloading digital tracks,' says Rick. 'The whole concept of the album didn't seem that valid to us anymore.'
So the band opted to take a risk and announced they would never release another album - something they still stand by.
But while realising the decision was a little unorthodox, they never expected the assumption many would jump to - that Ash were splitting.
Rick says: 'I think we were surprised by that reaction. For us it felt like this was the start of a new journey and something we could really experiment with. But people were asking 'are you splitting up?''
They could not have been further from the truth.
Instead the band has released a steady stream of singles, called the A-Z series, since October while touring regularly without the need to worry about promoting an album.
Now more than half-way through the slightly-odd experiment - track N, Dare to Dream, was released last week - the drummer says the decision has brought the band even closer to their fans.
He says: 'We thought we maybe weren't as present as we should have been. We thought by releasing something on a regular basis that's going to make the band more current in their lives and they would have more of an attachment.
'We know there were a few fans that were quite critical of the idea, but now they are absolutely loving it.'
The move from producing albums to a constant string of singles has impacted not only on the way they release the material but also how they perform it live.
No longer does each tour revolve around an album of 12 songs to be interwoven with some old favourites. Now the band has a constant stream of new songs to mix into an ever-growing set list.
But Rick says he and his band mates are conscious that affection for older tunes is still very strong.
He says: 'By the time we finish the project, we could potentially play an A to Z set list - and that would be fun to do. But we are still aware we have this fan base that goes back for a long time and they expect to hear the old songs.
'We're not one of those bands that shies away from that. We like to see the crowd going spare for the songs.'
Helping to whip up the crowd into that frenzy will be a familiar face in the form of Bloc Party guitarist and keyboard player Russell Lissack, who joins the line-up for the tour.
Russell, who has been pursuing solo project Pin Me Down during a break from his usual duties, made his first ever appearance on stage in an Ash tribute band, so should be fairly familiar with the tracks.
'He knows pretty much every note,' says Rick, who was looking forward to getting into rehearsals with him.
But the drummer does not see the addition, which he hopes will 'change things up' for the tour, as a permanent move for the band.
'Once we're back in the studio we will be the three-piece again. We work and write much better that way,' he says.
Instead the band mates will be looking for a new project to delight fans once the A-Z series is completed. 'I think we'll be setting ourselves some more crazy challenges,' says Rick.
That could include touring with an A-Z set list or releasing singles as digital downloads within hours of them being written.
The one thing you can be sure of, there won't be an album in sight.
t Ash play the Waterfront on April 21.
t A-Z Vol. 1 is out now.