Remember Ash, the ‘90s rockers behind the hits “Goldfinger” “Kung Fu,” “Girl From Mars” and “Oh Yeah?” Of course you do. Their smart take on grunge-era tunes made them MTV darlings and road warriors, and their live shows were epic.
Get ready, because Ash is back. Actually, technically, the Irish trio never went away, they just quietly released solid CD after solid CD. But their latest, “KABLAMMO!” is something to shout about. And for those of you who have never seen Ash in concert, you are in luck. The band is touring, with a stop at the Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, Friday night.
In advance of the show, lead singer and guitarist Tim Wheeler checked in to discuss the band’s 20-plus-year run.
Question: Is it true you picked the band’s name because it was the first very short word in the dictionary?
Answer: Yeah. It was. Well I liked bands like Blur and Ride, Suede — all these sort of one-syllable bands. Even one word bands like Nirvana. I started at “A” and said, “The best place to find a one-word name has got to be the dictionary.” I got really bored by the time I got to “Ash” and I thought, “This is perfect.”
Q: Why was it important for the name to be short?
A: Because all the bands I was into at the time had that. I thought, “There must be a great short name out there that’s not grabbed yet.” I think short names are sort of memorable. Also short names are open to interpretation.
Q: You guys broke wide in the time of “Grunge.” Did you consider yourselves a grunge band?
A: At the very sort of beginning of Ash we were trying to be a grunge band — in 1992. Our demos from that time were really grungy. I think the pop side of things started coming out a bit more and more as we went along. I think our album “Trailer,” which we put out in 94, has some hints of the grunge stuff going on.
Q: The band has never stopped playing and recording?
A: Yeah. It always makes me a bit angry when people say, “Oh, great to see you guys have reformed.” No, we didn’t. We’ve never been quitters. [laughs] I am very proud of the fact that we’ve been doing this for 23 years continuously. We’ve really been doing it.
Q: How have you been able to keep the same three guys together all these years?
A: I think it’s because we started out as friends. We all went to the same high school. We had a lot of ups and downs early on. I think we became quite strong from any failures we had. We don’t get freaked out. Also, we are all equally committed to the band. Having the same commitment is the most important thing. We found three people that were as obsessed about it as each other.
Q: Who are some of you favorite rock trios?
A: Nirvana. Jimi Hendrix. Early Thin Lizzy. There are other great ones like Motorhead. Cream. The trio is a bit of an underrated format these days. Even Green Day is a really good three-piece.
Q: What was the recording process like behind you new CD, “KABLAMMO!”?
A: We have our own studio, so we spent a long time writing and demoing. The songs we decided to work on were the ones that sounded good with the three of us playing live in the room. We really wanted to create songs that when we got out and played them live would stand up with the old stuff. We really wanted stuff that would stand next to the Ash classics people wanted to hear. We added strings on a few songs as well. I’ve got a friend who is a film composer who added that. So there is a great variety to it as well.
Q: There is a song on the CD called “Evel Knievel.” Was he a childhood hero of yours growing up in Ireland?
A: Oh yeah! He was such a cool dude. He was a massive cultural hero at the time. You would see his image everywhere. His jumps were legendary. And wearing a cape as well. That’s badass.
Q: Why is it an instrumental?
A: That’s what our manager said. [laughs] I just wrote it as an instrumental. I couldn’t imagine any vocals on it. I just wanted it to be a surf guitar song, but it ended up very [Ennio] Morricone. When we were recording it, our manager came down and was loving the track. He assumed there was going to be vocals on it. Later that night we played it live, and he was waiting for the singing to come in. It never came in. A few people have said I should turn it into a 6-minute song and add vocals, but I don’t know. I can’t see it.
Q: How has the touring changed for you over the years?
A: I guess it used to be a lot more hedonistic. We would party a lot more. Nowadays it’s more professional. You try to do the show better. Not quite as crazy as it used to be.
Q: What can people expect when they see Ash live?
A: It’s really uptempo and high-energy. Really tight and fast. We do play a lot of the old hits. We still love doing it. We love the reaction it gets.
Ash will play Jumpin Java, located at 227 Maple Ave E, Vienna, Virginia, 22180 Friday at 10 p.m. Go to JamminJava.com or call 703/255-1566 for tickets.