R13 talk to Mark from Ash in a week that sees the release of new single, 'You Can't Have It All' through Infectious.

R13: The new tune's sounding great, what initial hopes do you have for the new album?
Mark: We hope that it's massive! We always want the records to do well and the bigger the better. After being away for a while there's always a lot of ground to cover and we're releasing 2 singles before the album to help build things up again. We've had 2 number 1 albums in the past and we'd be over the moon to do a treble!

R13: There's a lot of apocalyptic imagery even just in the song titles, "End Of The World" and "Twilight Of The Innocents", is this a darker, more grandiose side of the band?
M: "In Hell" was the working title for "Twilight Of The Innocents" which is pretty dark lyrically. I think it's true that T.O.T.I. as an album is our darkest work lyrically but the music is also quite pop which is a cool contrast and there's a few pretty epic songs on the album which could certainly be described as grandiose. We thought is was time to embrace our pretentious side!

R13: Will there be a suitably epic stage show to match?
M: We'll we've just recently done a small University tour which was a lot of fun but we'll be doing a bigger production tour later in the year after the festival season. We've got no exact plans as yet but we know we gotta come up with something special.

R13: You've always had an interest in the otherworldy, if you could play a gig on another planet (regardless of its conditions), which would it be and do you think there could be any extra-terrestrial spectators?
M: It'd have to be Tatooine, then we could head into the Star Wars Cantina and play our cover of the cantina band music. Of course we'd be hoping that Han and Chewie would be watching and blasting a few space perps under the table.

R13: You also produced this album, how did that effect the overall sound?
M: Well we just had complete freedom to try out anything we wanted and without time constraints it definitely let us be more experimental in the studio. I think as this is our first real self production it's the best representation yet of who we really are and what we're about.

R13: Each of your albums has a very distinctive feel, are your fans people who have supported you right the way through, or does each new album see a new breed of fan emerge?
M: There's no way to know until the album's actually released! As this album's pretty serious they'll maybe be less people in clown suits in the pit and a few more specs and V necks! You seriously can't think about it too much; when making albums different people will be into different styles of music and we just gotta do what ever floats our boat at the time. Generally we've had a very loyal fanbase which is amazing, it's how the album crosses over to the general public that'll see different 'types' either getting it or not.

R13: How would you imagine the typical, 'Twilight Of The Innocents' fan?
M: There are elements of all our previous albums in the new one so hopefully our old fans will be happy but it's also quite ambitious and we've tried a bunch of new directions too. It's fun to push yourselves to do new things and we really think this is our best, most complete album yet. Lyrically this album is for anyone who's loved and lost, living in a turbulent world in crisis.

R13: This year will be your 7th appearance at Reading, are you nervous about playing to such a massive crowd as a three-piece?
M: We always get a little nervous before Reading for some reason, I think that's because we've had so many great shows there in the past that we create a massive expectation that gets us nervous. Once we hit the stage the butterflies leave and we just get on with it and enjoy it. After the earlier tour we did in Feb / March we've almost forgot that we were ever a 4 piece so that's not much of a fact anymore.

R13: Does it feel strange playing your older tunes with the new line-up, or does it give them a new lease of life?
M: Tim likes to show off on the guitar so he's happy to have all the solos back. We're just generally recharged and energized live so there is a certain freshness to the older stuff and going back to the 3-piece has got that power trio thing going on which is how we made it initially.

R13: Are there any other bands that you're hoping to catch a glimpse of at festivals this Summer?
M: We wanna see Muse, The Rolling Stones and Snow Patrol at the IOW fest and Brand New at Reading and Leeds.

R13: You must have spent some time with U2 while you toured with them, what advice did they have for you?
M: Larry told us to keep plugging away at the college circuit in the States and Bono told Tim that slagging off other bands/artists no matter how shit they are isn't a good tactic. We used to bitch about everyone but it does look kinda stupid and attention seeking. Some people do deserve it though so I wouldn't say we've completely stopped...

R13: Have there been points where you've thought that the constant touring and living up to fans' expectations was too much of a pressure for you, or is it still fun?
M: The most pressure usually comes from ourselves, you can't think too much about what is expected of you, you just gotta make what excites yourselves and hope it will connect. If it wasn't fun we'd have killed each other a long time ago!

R13: Tim especially has commented that New York allowed a certain anonymity, if fame is a double-edge sword, what has driven you to continue, even working long hours and months to create this new album?
M: Fame is fickle so we don't take it seriously. If you let it go to your head you'll turn into an asshole. We're just happy to be still making albums and touring, it's the best job in the world.

R13: You're set to play 4 dates at KoKo, which presumably means you can do with the venue as you wish, what will be new for fans who already heard some of the new tunes on the 'Higher Education' tour?
M: We'll definitely be playing more from the new album, we deliberately held back some of our favourites so that they'd be fresh for when the album hits.

R13: Was the demand for these London shows a shock even to you?
M: Yeah it's fucking great actually. The promoters keep adding more. We did 5 Astoria's back in 1997 which was quite a statement back then so who knows! We have 4 on sale at the moment and if the demand's there we'll play more!

R13: Having so much great material from your back catalogue, how do you decide which tunes to play live?
M: The obvious singles are always live favourites and it's not good to disappoint the fans so we usually play a selection of older hits along with a few new ones. There's always a few album tracks that we mix around to keep the sets changing and our fans are always running polls on the website with requests.

R13: Being predominantly based in New York must be very different to living in the UK, what did you miss when you were out there?
M: Lucozade, trashy tabloids and Irish soda bread. We can actually watch more live football on cable than you can in the UK which is pretty amazing really. We really fell in love with New York so we're enjoying it out there too much to miss the UK that badly. We lived in London for 9 years so the change has been very exciting.

R13: You've already achieved so much success, what's left for Ash to aim for?
M: We wanna headline Reading some day, that's one of our biggest dreams. We also have never felt that we've achieved enough commercial success in places like America which if it ever happened would be amazing. We don't shy away from putting the work in so as long as we're hungry for it we'll be plugging away. We are not lying down and dying yet!