Ash Then

Ash Wednesday 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Ash’s debut single Jack Names the Planets. To celebrate the band are the offering a special re-recorded version of the song as a free download for one day only.


1) It's well-known that the first musical adventure for you and Tim was the Maiden-worshipping band Vietnam. As legend goes, hearing certain bands from the American Pacific Northwest helped you realize that technical proficiency should take a backseat to passion and energy, and so Ash was born. At what point did "Jack Names the Planets" show up in the Ash repertoire? Did you know it was a hit straight away?

Hmmm... I think it came along that first summer that we officially ‘became’ ASH after Rick joined. It was after the first bunch of songs we demoed in the spring which became the Solar Happy [The 1st self-released demo tape] and was probably one of the first we recorded for Shed [The 2nd self-released demo tape] which I think we got together some point during the summer. So it was probably still in the first 6 months of our existence as ASH. Amazing, that we still play it live so much 20 years later! I think we all thought it was really catchy and fast and had good energy to it. It was pretty exciting to be writing these new style songs, because before then we were trying to do more complex metal stuff which we really couldn’t do. It pretty quickly became a live favourite and we knew we wanted to eventually record it as a single.
2) The first 50 000 copies of 1977 had "Jack Names the Planets" and B-side "Don't Know" as hidden tracks. What was the reasoning for their inclusion? Was it widely publicised at the time of release, or was it more of a nod to your early years?
Yes, we also loved the culture of hidden / bonus tracks at the time. Everybody was doing them on their albums, notably Nirvana’s Endless, Nameless. The infamous Sick party was already chosen to be the ‘regular’ hidden track at the end of 1977 and I think someone at Infectious came up wight the idea of putting hidden tracks at the front of the CD which we never knew was possible, so you’d have to rewind from track 1 to hear them. We had the physical space left to put the JNTP 7” on there it seemed like a no brainer to just stick it on.
3) Ash have been dedicated to vinyl even back in high school, with the Raptor 12" being funded through a school initiative to showcase bands from Downpatrick. Did the vinyl pressing of "Jack Names the Planets" create major waves in the scene to which you belonged? Was Ash the first band to take the major leap from demo tape to 7"? Were the local bands excited for you?
I guess in the small micro-chasm that was that scene back then it was, it definitely got us some attention and probably also some jealously which was expected. Everybody had demo tapes they were pushing, and CD’s weren’t big by then, vinyl was really making a statement cause it usually meant you had a label involved. The Raptor 12” was essentially a self-release but the La La Land JNTP was kind of like, 'look a label from London is releasing us’, even if it was a small indie’s first release. The best / most ridiculous story of local spite was a rumour going round Belfast bars that it was a Masonic conspiracy that got us signed / the vinyl release... lulz. The guy who started it is now dead, bless him.
4) You've been heavily involved with the design of the band's sleeves over the past 20 years. Did you have much input into the design of this highly sought after piece of Ash history?
I think the JNTP cover was Tim’s call. For some reason I think I was away or on vacation and Bill (our then manager) and Tim put it together... It’s a classic image, up until then everything we’d ‘released’ were demo tapes and the Raptor 12” which had the hand scribbled artwork so it was also step forward from that. Hilariously, someone at the time tried to buy the Raptor 12” in our local music store thinking it was a coloring book for their kid. We knew we then we need to change it up! Here’s an actual early draft for the cover that got scrapped because of that very reason!
Jack Names the Planets original sleeve
5) This re-recording took place almost 20 years after the song was written. Why did you choose to re-record it? Was it relatively easy to approach the song in a recording studio after so much time had passed?
I think we never thought the 7” recording was that good. The original SHED demo recording sounded better, it had more of a vibe even if it the sound quality wasn’t as high, and the Trailer version sounded not quite right either. It felt like it was something that we could nail pretty easily in the studio and try to get it closer to how we play it live, bring it up to scratch with the rest of our catalogue. We can play that song in our sleep on auto-pilot so it was probably one of the fastest things we’ve recorded in the studio. We also recorded it in Coldplay’s place in London which was a cool spot.

Shed cover

Added on 05/03/2014 by Chad