IT’S more than 20 years since Belfast’s music machine produced teenage rockers Ash.
Inspired by the burgeoning grunge movement, the trio of 15-year-olds stormed the Northern Irish rock scene in 1993 while still studying for their GCSEs.
A year later their debut single was played by Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq and the rest, as they say, is history.
They were signed to Infectious Records aged just 17 and went on to score more than a dozen Top 40 hits, famously appearing on Top of the Pops while still waiting for their A Level results.
Fast forward to 2013 and the band’s profile has dropped somewhat – at least in the old fashioned analogue world.
While they haven’t released an album since 2007’s Twilight of the Innocents, a phase of releasing a single online every other week was popular with fans, if not the media.
Now as they plot their next move Huddersfield fans are set to get a rare chance to see them live in their own backyard when they play at Holmfirth’s Picturedrome next month.
WoW got the chance to speak to Edinburgh-based drummer Rick McMurray shortly before he packed his bags to head to New York for a writing session with fellow band members Tim Wheeler and Mark Hamilton, who both live in the Big Apple.
WoW: How do you feel about coming to play in the heart of the Pennines?
Rick: We've got a few festivals coming up over the summer so instead of sitting around over four days between the weekends we like to fill in the gaps with a few lower key gigs.
Our agent was looking for somewhere we haven’t been before and suggested Holmfirth.
WoW: Is it your first time in the area?
Rick: I think myself and Mark DJ’d in Huddersfield in 2007 but we were just there for a few hours, so it's our first time playing in the area for the full band.
WoW: How do you feel about going back to playing smaller clubs?
Rick: It’s always good to play the small venues. I always look forward to the summer as there's a different mix of shows, outdoors where you're looking at what the weather's going to be like, and then indoors at the tiny little clubs, which are the complete opposite of being in a field with 200 or 300 people in front of you.
Hopefully it's going to be a hot sweaty gig.
WoW: Is there an album on the way?
Rick: There'll be something on the way but I don't know whether it'll be an album or whether we'll stick to doing different kinds of releases.
It kind of depends on how the music turns out as to how we'll release it. We're getting the ball rolling and getting into the studio but we've got no idea what direction it's going to take, it's quite an exciting time.
WoW: Has it been a deliberate decision to not release albums?
Rick: The last album we did was the last one on our contract with Warners.
We were disillusioned with how that album was treated. The music industry was on its knees, that was the lowest point for album sales and record companies were freaking out and dropping bands left, right and centre.
We felt they didn't put in as much effort as they had done in the past in terms of promotion.
Radio 1 weren't going to play the single and budgets got closed.
At that point we were like, what's the point in doing an album. People were buying singles so we thought we'd give them what they want and do something a bit different (The A-Z singles).
This time we're going to let the music dictate what we do and we've got a blank canvas after doing that massive project.
Anything goes really. People expect us to do something strange but we could go back to doing an album.
WoW: How would you rate the A-Z series as a concept?
Rick: We released 26 singles in one year on our own so we're really proud of what we did.
But when it comes to the business model I don't think people really got their heads round the idea that this was the way it was going to work, even our fans were like, this is a bit weird that there's not going to be any albums. People were freaking out thinking we were going to split up.
Once the fans realised they were getting the same Ash and they just had to go download it every two weeks it was okay, they were into it, but in the media circles it never really translated. We spent a hell of a lot of money on recording and didn't raise enough for promotion so we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a bit.
WoW: So what’s the plan this time?
Rick: We are free agents at the minute. It's a bit exciting and a bit worrying.
We've been through the whole thing doing it by ourselves and it was a bit of a financial strain.
But I don't think we could have done that project on a label.
So in terms of creative freedom it's been cool to do it that way. But our label in the past was always pretty cool with us, they weren't in the studio looking over our shoulder or anything.
The early albums with Infectious were more independent. That was probably when we had our most success.
It was when we went to the majors, when Infectious got sold to Warners, it was almost as if we got lost in the machine a bit and we weren't working as closely with people. So we'd probably be more interested in working with indie labels.
But we're not sure if we'll do it ourselves or shop it around a bit.
Ash play the Picturedrome on Sunday, July 28, with support from Violet Bones and Mother Black Caps.