Goth-Rock Icon and Web Recluse Daniel Ash on His New It's a Burn Out EP
Every Goth in Houston knows, or should know, that if you want to know what's up or going down with any major Goth musician from the '80s or '90s, then all you have to do is keep an eye on Lonnie Locascio's MySpace or Facebook. Between being on a first-name basis with Robert Smith and having interviewed pretty much every spooky rock act that's passed through H-town, his black-polished finger is firmly on the pulse of some of the true icons of the genre. And it is only through his offices that Rocks Off had any idea that legendary Bauhaus, Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets guitarist Daniel Ash had quietly released one of the best collections of music in his career. Stylistically, Ash's four-song EP It's a Burn Out resembles the heavier moments of Love and Rockets, but is certainly equal to anything that the group ever put out. Why such an incredible bit of badassery was flying so low under the radar was a mystery, and Rocks Off settled in to try and get ahold of Ash to find out the answer. This was an arduous task, as Ash maintains no official Web site, doesn't run his own MySpace, and refuses to use email. But diligence paid off, and he sat down with us over a two-hour time difference for a nice chat. "I'm really bad at promoting myself online," Ash admits. "I just can't conjure up the enthusiasm for it. I find it really boring. To me, for a long time it was like everyone and their uncle had a MySpace, and the level that people would pump themselves up to was complete bullshit. There were people I actually know on there, and I knew that they were wildly exaggerating."
Still, Ash is aware that the Internet has become the music industry's new frontier, and although bootlegging is doing great harm to artists - he says that seven-eighths of the sales of Bauhaus reunion album Go Away White were lost to illegal downloads - releasing hard medium is now too risky a venture. So It's a Burn Out was uploaded to iTunes, and to MySpace by Ash's longtime friend, former manager and satellite-radio DJ Christopher Minister, where we found it.
The EP starts off with one of the hardest songs of Ash's career, "Flame On", a rockin' track inspired, like much of his music, by his love of motorcycles. Undercut by a somehow sinister cowbell beat, the song eats your ears in the sort of dark glam style that Love and Rockets and The Jesus and Mary Chain were famous for popularizing.
The EP switches gears with its second track, which is more traditional Ash fare, and in our opinion best track on the album. "Indie Boys" is a bitter condemnation of the gossip and bullshit running wild in the world, the lyrics to the song were inspired by snatches of catty comments and sordid stories Ash had picked up around town. Its beat calls to mind Love and Rockets' big hit "So Alive," but its tone is more of a snarl than the sexual purr that makes "So Alive" a must-have get-some-booty club track.
The steady slowdown continues in the doo-wop-meets-Roxy-Music almost-ballad "Someday". The song contains one of the EPs few guitar solos, done with an effect that makes it sound like a kazoo, and was based off a story a friend told Ash about a girlfriend pulling a gun on him.
"She just pulled out this gun, and held it to his head/ He just said, 'Fuck it! Pull the trigger'."
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Rounding off this collection is the "Candy Eye" collaboration between Ash and Angelique Bianca, who was on the same record label with Ash in the '90s. After coming up with a Goldfrapp beat and a heavy-petting chorus, Ash found himself stuck for verses. Minister sent a copy of the half-finished track to Bianca. She fell in love with it, and wrote and recorded her part in an afternoon.
The end product is as sweet as sex in a hammock, and the perfect way to end what is really four songs of pure Goth perfection. It leaves you wanting a whole lot more, but the responsibility for that lies in us.
"I still have a great passion for music, but it's hard on you to put so much effort and money into something that ultimately doesn't pay off," Ash lamented. "I record in a real studio that costs real money, and I put everything into the songs I record. If people like what I'm doing enough to buy it, then I'll keep releasing EPs."
Ash has no plans to record any full-length albums, saying that he can't remember the last time he or anyone else sat down and listened to a whole album, that the whole concept is mostly dead. We're also not likely to see him live and large anytime soon, as he has no plans of getting back on the road with a band.
He lives in a small town some miles outside of Ventura, Calif., these days, where he works on his motorcycles, DJs around the state and contributes to the de-hippification of his community. Our original interview was rescheduled due to a last-minute gig where Ash loaned his state-of-the-art PA system to a community center hosted local punk festival.
"It was just great to watch all these bands come alive in a good sound system," he says. "Most of the had never even heard their own vocals because of the systems the had to make due with. Now I feel like we're bring a good rock shake-up to a community full of hippies, and it's phenomenal."
In addition, Ash is hoping to break into recording soundtracks for film and television. Along with fellow Bauhaus member David J, he laid down guitar sounds for the cult masterpiece Repo: The Genetic Opera last year, and did music for a Fox television show called Keen Eddie in 2003. He's also hoping to be a part of a major motorcycle movie, but declined to comment further until the powers that be cross all the t's and dot all the lowercase j's.
At 52, Ash has lost none of his gusto, ability, or sense of humor, and continues to keep a certain kind of sardonic darkness in the soundtrack of our lives. With a little help from the masses, the music may never stop.
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