A Conversation with Daniel Ash

in conjunction with
The Developing Arts And Music Foundation
Minneapolis, MN
February 2002

Exploring the creative process that connects performing artists with writers and readers alike.

This is pretty much just the pre-edited, raw interview / conversation.

[ NOTE: [ . . . ] appears wherever some part of the conversation was lost (indiscernible on the tape, or what have you). ]

Q Can you tell us a bit about how your approach to making music is different these days?

A I think it’s got a lot to with the fact that the last thing I did on my own was nine years ago – times have changed a lot, musically it is certainly more complicated. Before – that other stuff I was using – drum machines – but I probably just used one drum machine now, and I’m using three or four loops in the same song, all mixed in together, to get a richer sound.

In essence, I suppose the answer to that would be that in nine years …the fact that the gear that’s out there now is much better than it was nine years ago, things are progressing so much quicker. [ . . . ] and also get into drum loops, rather than just have the engineer put something up, and have to work along those lines.
Also, I would say that I come from a point of view where I worked from the bass first, rather than the guitars, on this one. The bass lines come first, usually as a loop, and then bass lines, and then vocals or guitar come later.

Q That seems a bit of a departure from your earlier work, which is pretty guitar-driven.

A Yeah, but when I think back, that’s exactly how I did the last couple of Love and Rockets albums, and some of the solo stuff. I was working with drums first then, I’ve been doing that for quite some time. Years ago, I would work with – always put the acoustic guitar first, then vocals, but now I think for about ten years, I’ve been working with the bass line being the inspiration, rather than the guitar.

Q How much of this work is conceptualized at the point you start laying down tracks?

A None of it! [laughs] I would just start with mixing some loops, choose them, put them down either with Patina, who I was working with or Reb, the two people that co-produced the stuff with me. And then choose three or four loops, get them mixed together so they sound great, let everybody hear it, and then I could get a bass line, and then the whole thing would be like an ongoing process. So I didn’t really have anything, just scraps of paper with lyrics, bits and [ . . . ], put together, and the track evolved through. It’s a very sort of organic process in a way, there was no concept at all, it just an ongoing [ . . . ] . I think that things would grow, the tracks would just become what they are. [ . . . ] finished thing was just the process of recording different instruments over the weeks of recording, and then [ . . . ] . It’s a lot like how I wrote work – or used to, I don’t know if you still do it that way, but rather than have a finished song, it would grow as the track evolved.

Q So what kinds of music are you listening to these days?

A Well, not dance music, and no rock music.

Q How did you end up working with DJ Keoki?

A The record company wanted [ . . . ] there was an idea for him to do a remix of [ . . . the album . . . ] the album title track, so that’s when I first met him. He just moved to L.A. into a place, and we just connected [ . . . ]. Had a lot fun, we became friends, and that’s basically it. That’s how we first met. And then we all lived in the same [ . . . ] in the same place. So I recorded half of the album, in his place, and the other half in my own studio, which I got made up about six, seven months ago.

Q What [or whom] will your touring band consist of?

A Patina Creme on bass, who worked with me on the album. John DeSalvo (who worked with KMFDM live, and I know he’s worked with ChemLab) on drums, and an entity called Rachel on keyboards.

Q Do you see yourself as being more of a conceptual artist then a guitar player?

A I would hope so, yeah. I don’t really see myself as a guitar player, as such, but most people do [laughing]. You know, I don’t really think about all that. My concern is to finish a product, and that’s what I’m into. I don’t care if there’s guitars in it or not. That really is not important. I just found that with this album, I guess there really wasn’t very much guitar on it at all, but then, I found that they do give it a little energy boost, so I sort of worked a little guitar in it at the last moment, on a lot of the tracks.

Q How did being drained as it were, enhance the process of creating this new album?

A Well it was a long process, over two and a half years. There were a lot of problems, actually, in getting a deal. I had four or five tracks, shopping them around to get a deal, and [ . . . ] waiting to tell everybody about everything until it actually comes down to signing on the dotted line. In other words, a lot of bullshit. I’ve had a lot of that to deal with – that’s what delayed the whole work in process, if you like. But then at the end, Psychobaby Records came through and signed me up on their label, and we finished the album. Also, I’ve gone through a lot of different things as usual, in my personal life, [ . . . ] a lot of turmoil [ . . . ] as well.

Q What is the most significant change in how you go about creating music these days, as compared to what you’ve done in the past?

A Well I’d like to think I’m not so uptight about – not so precious about things. Always trying to be as spontaneous as possible. That can be difficult when working with computers, but [ . . . ] there’s stuff that you can get in the studio that make things a lot easier, a lot quicker, to get great sound, etc. But I would say, not so precious about anything.

Q Are you satisfied that the whole era of Bauhaus has finally been put to rest?

A Yeah, that’s finished now. It was supposed to be one or two gigs in L.A., and it turned into 45 gigs; and, it was a lot of fun, but it’s time to move on and do something different, for sure. It always is Who knows what I’m gonna do on the next album, I don’t know who I’ll be working with, whatever. It’s an open page, god knows what’s gonna happen. The wonderful thing about being able to create music, inasmuch as I’m not in a record company that wants hit singles – I mean, I’m not adverse to that. I love hit singles, I wish I could write them [laughs], but I’m not under that sort of commercial pressure. So, it does give you the freedom to really do what the hell you want.

Q Like Spooky? I have this impression that the song was recorded on a whim.

A Yeah, it was a fun thing to do. It took a couple of days, to record and mix and produce all that, just with Patina on that track. I heard it in a store somewhere, another version – it was the Dusty Springfield version – and I loved it. I think it’s very camp, that song. Sort of laid back vocals, and stuff. That’s pretty much it, actually, I really related to it as a track, and the way she approached it was really my area of things. Basically, it really appealed to me, on a real sort of superficial pop level. It was interesting when we recorded it. I recorded it on a fifteen dollar mic as well.

Q It’s fun to play around with things like that in a studio.

A Absolutely, yeah.

Q While we’re talking about commercial acceptance, have you gotten any flak about doing the Starbursts ad?

A I really don’t give a damn. I’m glad that anybody wants to use it – within reason. I’m completely on to that. To me, it’s just a way of getting your music out there. It depends what you’re advertising obviously. I heard something about, somebody couldn’t believe when they saw it on the TV, some tacky advert selling candy, and they felt they had been violated, and I though, god you’re taking this much too seriously. That was, after all, a really up tempo pop song, you know, an optimistic little pop song, so why can’t it be used to sell candy, what’s up with that? I’ve got no problem with that at all. [ …after a moment, reflecting …] That’s another thing – twenty years ago, I probably would have had a big problem with it. But that’s just called growing up.

Q Well, there are the bills to pay …

A Yeah, I haven’t been paid for it though. I don’t know when that’s gonna happen.

Q Has the album’s release assuaged your concerns as to how it would fit in with current electronica and such?

A I’m curious – I don’t know where it’s gonna fit in, because I’m aware that it’s not strictly dance music, as such, but it is influenced by that. Dance music, strictly speaking, I love it, but I don’t like making it, ’cause it’s boring to make. I’m more sort of organic – just get the real bass guitar out and play it, or play guitar, whatever, you know. So, it’s influenced by that, but I don’t know where it’s gonna fit in, again, it’s exciting, because I’ve been getting a real good response so far, from the album, from reviews and stuff.

Q Where was that?

A I got a really good one in Billboard, yesterday, and they reviewed it in the dance section of the magazine. I was surprised they wouldn’t put it in the alternative rock as usual. But, it was the guy who reviewed the dance albums that reviewed it, gave it a really good review. I haven’t read it, but somebody read it to me over the phone, and it sounded great! A really positive review! So who knows? I don’t know where it’s gonna go.

Q Well, we’re about out of time, but it was great talking to you, and we’re looking forward to seeing you here in Minneapolis.

A Ah, right – where are we playing in Mpls?

Q First Avenue

A Is that Prince’s old club?

Q Not really, but a lot of people did think that because of the movie, Purple Rain.

A Well okay, is that the one where they’ve got the tiny place downstairs, and then the main club?

Q Yes it is.

A Well, I love that club.

Q I remember seeing you play here in Tones on Tail, shortly after Bauhaus broke up.

A I remember that – we played in the tiny room, right? I remember being really bummed out about it, because I wanted to play in the big room. I was up in this room with the promoter, or the guy who ran the place, and said, I want to play in the big room! He said, you can’t play in the big room, you’re not big enough yet! You can play in the big room next time around! I said No, I want to play in the big room! I’m not playing in that little room!

Q But you did get to play the big room eventually.

A Yeah, on that solo thing, yeah, years later. I hope I’m playing in the big one this time! [excitedly]

Q Yes, you are.

A Oh good! ‘Cause that’s always a fun gig, that place! I’m glad it’s still up and running, then!

© J.Free / D.A.M.F.; 2002; 2022

To read the completed article that appeared in the DAMF Magazine GO HERE