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) What do you remember about writing "Jack Names the Planets"? What were your inspirations? Was Stephen King a big hit at the Wheeler household in 1992?

It was a heady time for me. I was 15 and had started seeing my first girlfriend Frances. I went with Mark and a load of friends to see Nirvana in Belfast and round then we had also just started Ash with Rick and recorded our first demo. That all happened round April to June 92. Then I went off to France for the summer holidays, I stayed with a French family for a couple of weeks, spending a lot of time wandering around by myself being a daydreaming space cadet. Then I joined up with my family for a caravan trip. I was really inspired and writing a bunch of songs. I was reading the book "The Talisman”. I think I’d bought in a school jumble sale and I was into any Stephen King book I could get at the time. There’s a chapter called “Jack names the planets” and it leapt out as a song title to me and I wrote the song. It’s a bit of a hybrid of what was going on in my life (romance and love for the first time) and the story of the book. I think I identified with the kid in the book, wandering around by himself in the world of adults for the first time.

2) The 7" version was recorded at Nova Tech studios in Belfast. Was this facility a huge jump in professionalism compared to Cosmic Ray's place? Any specific memories from that session?

Yeah, I’d done a week of my school work experience there so I wanted us to try recording there. Technically it was definitely a step up from Cosmic Ray’s. Though Cosmic Ray’s had a very special vibe even if it was basic.

3) The Trailer version of the song features a memorable intro from Patrick the Brewer and Oscar Wilde. Tell us about them and their bizarre message.

During the family caravan trip I was talking about earlier, we ended up in Alsace for a while and me and my brother Pat became friends with a cool Dutch kid Menno who was also really into Nirvana. His older brother had his mates along with him on holiday and I think they found us younger kids entertaining. I would play them my new songs and they were really encouraging. Then on our last night they got me the drunkest I’ve probably ever been when they introduced me to a Dutch cocktail called the “Free Hand” which is basically any alcohol you can find liberally poured and mixed together. I gave them all new names, Oscar Wilde, Patrick the Brewer and Toilet Lights. I went back to the tent I was staying in with my bro and puked everywhere. My poor brother. I don’t know how I explained it in the morning, maybe our clean up attempt was successful. Anyway, I stayed in touch with the Dutch guys writing letters to each other and one time they sent me this great tape of them chilling at home, chatting like they were having a conversation with me. I guess International calls were too expensive, and sending tapes was like our version of Skype.

I had sent them our demo with Jack Names The Planets on it which they had heard me play an early version of. They always liked to talk about how great their little town of Nieuw-Vennep is, that it is the center of the universe. It was funny that they thought it should be renamed "Jack Names The Planets Nieuw-Vennep”. Shame those new lyrics didn’t quite fit with the music but it was cool to include their chat on Trailer.

There we some good little skits on records round that time like the start of Nirvana’s Territorial Pissings. Therapy? always had good samples too. So we enjoyed it when found a good one.

4) You just finished the third in a series of US tours. What are you memories of going to the US for the first time in 1995? Were the American fans wild for "Jack Names the Planets”?

It went down well because it was on the Angus soundtrack. A lot of people still come up to us when we tour the States and say the Angus soundtrack is how they discovered us.

5) It's been mentioned over the years that you guys weren't super thrilled with the officially released versions of this song. Were you referencing pre-Trailer versions of the song for the vibe? What were you looking to improve upon with this updated version? Did you succeed?

Yeah, I think the “Shed” demo version had the best energy but is a bit rough sounding, then the La La Land single version is a bit too clean. Then the Trailer one lacks a little energy and sounds murky. So we tried to redo this version with the zip the track has when we play it live. I hope we succeeded, it was fun to revisit.


Added on 05/03/2014 by Chad