Love and Rockets: Kevin Haskins, David J and Daniel Ash | Photo by Mitch Jenkins
The last time Slicing Up Eyeballs spoke to Daniel Ash, he wasn’t all that keen on getting the band back together. That was on the heels of Love and Rockets’ last reunion, and the singer-guitarist couldn’t see doing that again, playing that material with David J and Kevin Haskins.
“It’s boring for me to do those songs that are so old,” Ash famously told this site in 2009.
Fourteen years later, though, times have changed, attitudes have shifted, and Ash — fresh off a pandemic-interrupted Bauhaus reunion that ultimately fell apart last summer — sounds more reflective about his musical legacy and is appreciative of the fans clamoring to see Love and Rockets in the coming weeks.
At the same time, he’s clearly revved up for the new music he’s making with a new band: Ashes and Diamonds, a 3-years-in-the-making project that’s teamed him up with bassist Paul Denman of Sade’s eponymous band and current Public Image Ltd. drummer Bruce Smith. “It’s time for something new,” he says.
Slicing Up Eyeballs caught up with Ash last week as he was beginning to prepare for the upcoming Love and Rockets reunion, which kicks off May 20 at the Cruel World festival and will be followed by 15 more headlining shows. The trio is gathering this weekend in Los Angeles to begin rehearsals.
Ash spoke about the genesis of the current reunion, the announcement of a new Love and Rockets archival album that’s due out next month, how he spotlighted the underappreciated music of Tones on Tail through Poptone, whether there’s any future for Bauhaus — and much more.
“It’s all systems go,” Ash says of the Love and Rockets reunion — at least through mid-June, after which Ash is turning his full musical attention back to Ashes and Diamonds.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Love and Rockets circa 1989 | Photo by Mitch Jenkins
So are you getting ready yet for the tour, or is this still kind of the calm before the storm?
We’re all rehearsing at home right now, and then we’ll go into a proper rehearsal space in L.A. on the 7th.
You’ve obviously been playing with Kevin and David for a couple of years now with the Bauhaus shows, but what’s it take to switch gears and get into Love and Rockets mode?
Well, I haven’t listened to this stuff for a long, long time. You know, I think the last time we played together was 13 or 15 years ago, I’ve been told. I don’t know exactly, but it’s been a while. So we’re at home, and I’m just going on to YouTube, playing the tracks and playing along to the tracks and re-familiarizing myself, if you like. One thing that was a pleasant surprise, which I’d sort of forgotten all about, is a track called “Deep Deep Down” (off 1998’s Lift), which is a pleasant surprise, and we’re going to be doing that one. I love that track at the moment. And we all do, we all really like that track in particular right now. It’s a bit of a departure from some of the other stuff we’ve been doing.
Do you think that’s going to inform what you play at these shows, this rediscovery process, having been a way from it so long?
No, no, no. Well, not at all. I mean, there’s obvious favorites that we’ll be playing. We will be playing all the favorites, including “So Alive,” I’m hoping, on this one, because that’s not been so great in the past life. But we’re gonna really focus on it, and maybe do an alternative version, let’s call it. Trip it out a bit, because that was very much a studio (creation). It was we never rehearsed, that track, in a rehearsal room, ever. It was something that was written and recorded in one day in the studio. So that’s very different from when you go into a rehearsal space and work a track out that way. That was a very spontaneous magical day, actually, because it all came together in 24 hours. It was weird. Funny, because all our all our most successful songs have been that way. “Bela (Lugosi’s Dead)” was like that. “Go!” was like that, from Tones (On Tail). Sometimes you get those magic moments when everything comes together in a day or two, you know? And that was the case with that one. But to play it live, we’ve got to rework it, I think.
So you found it difficult at the time to play “So Alive”?
Well, we had somebody with us, a female singer, to do the backing vocals, and that helps. We won’t have that this time round. So that’s why we’ve got to rework it in order to make it sound valid. But it’s up in the air, really, on what we’re going to do with that one. We’ve talked about it. We’re going to take an alternative approach to it, I think. But having said that, we might just do it exactly and try and copy the record exactly how it is. But we’ll see. We’ll see. How we approach that one is up in the air right now.
When you put together a setlist for something like this, do you find there’s a balance to strike between what you think Love and Rockets fans are going to want to hear versus maybe what you’ve been really itching to play?
No, no. It’s pretty constant. Because what the public tends to like the best are pretty much the same as what we like playing live best. Because they’re the ones that, when we’re in a live atmosphere, as in just the three of us with a PA system, they sound great live. So they’re the ones that cut it live, as in a rehearsal room. If they sound great, then they’re going to sound great out front in a real gig. So it sort of all works itself out naturally.
Does that then tend to favor the earlier Love and Rockets albums vs. the later records where you got a little more experimental, a little more electronic?
Yeah, basically. The bottom line is, the more popular tracks are the stuff before we got into the electronic side of things, if you’d like. So, you know, we’re not stupid. We’re not going to play a bunch of stuff just because we want to play it. I mean, you got an audience out there that want to hear what they want to hear. And I’m a huge believer in that. Don’t want to start playing an obscure track that nobody sort of has heard before. That’s like — that’s commercial suicide. There’s no point in doing that. You know, we’re hardly in a position to be that, sort of, self-indulgent.
Love and Rockets circa 1998 | Photo by Howard Rosenberg
I suspect a lot of people assume this this Love and Rockets reunion was born out of the abrupt end of the Bauhaus tour last year. But given the vinyl reissues and the Cruel World appearance, was this something you were already working toward?
No, not at all. This totally came out of the blue. It was a coincidence. Beggars were actually — they contacted us, saying that they were going to reissue all the back catalog. So we’re like, “Yes, great. Thumbs up. Go for it, of course.” And then this (Cruel World) offer came in at least six months after that was already in process. So a nice bit of synchronicity going on. And Cruel World, again, that came out of the blue, because Kevin is in contact with a lot of these promoters. And they approached him and just said, “Hey, do you guys, basically, want to play Cruel World this year as Love and Rockets.” And the offer was there and it was an irresistible offer. So, as it always happens with us, we’re not actually a band, then suddenly, somebody comes up, offers something. It’s very weird, though, because it’s so close to us playing last year with with Bauhaus. So I was surprised that so quickly an offer would come in for Love and Rockets, but it did. And the ticket sales are going great. And I’m surprised at the enthusiasm from the public. We’re very flattered that they’re interested. So it’s all systems go.
You rolled out some more shows after Cruel World, like about 15 or 16 now. Especially with the way you were doing the Bauhaus reunion, announcing groups of shows here and there, is this just a matter of seeing how you feel about it, maybe adding some more dates here or there as youg?
When the Cruel World offer came and we confirmed that we were doing it, then the offers started coming in to do more gigs. It’s very simple. It sort of snowballed, just like it did last year (with Bauhaus). And as it has done in the past, when we were offered a gig to do a major festival, and then suddenly the offers start coming in. So, you know, it’s simply a case of more offers came in. we we’ve ended up agreeing to, I think, about 16 gigs. And there you go. So that takes us to, I don’t know, mid-June. And that’s what we’ve got planned for now. I mean, I’ve got this other thing going on with Ashes and Diamonds, another band with the bass player from Sade and the drummer from PiL. Bruce and Paul.
I was going to ask about that. When will we hear something from Ashes and Diamonds?
Well, we’ve been working on it for three years. We started this in 2019. Got into a little rehearsal space, everything started going great, straight off the bat. I know Paul from a while back, because he actually married a girl that I went to art school with, back in the ’70s. (Laughs) Back in the 1870s. And so we’ve known each other through the years a little bit. But anyway, we got together and started working. Then everything got put on hold because of COVID. Because Bruce lives in the New York area. And Paul is 100 miles away from me, and he also lives in the U.K. So anyway, we were working through the COVID thing, doing the old stuff online, but it’s not the same as being in the studio together. So we got back together recently. Been tweaking it. And now we’re 99% done, finished with the record. We’re just putting the final touches on it. So hopefully we’ll start trickling out tracks out in the autumn and do some live gigs before Christmas, is the plan.
How would you describe the general feeling of that new music?
Well I’m using a lot of EBow and sustainer on it, so there’s a there’s a lot that. It’s very eclectic, is how I’d describe it. It goes in two or three different directions. But we’re very excited about it. It is, I’d like to say, it’s a substantial record, not a little side project thing. It’s something that we’re very excited about for the near future.
So was this created in very much of a band situation rather than you putting together songs and then asking them to play certain parts?
Yeah, absolutely. As I said, the three of us in a room. Very, very much the same as with all the bands I’ve been. You know, three or four. It’s either three people or four people, it seems. So with this one, it’s three again is another trio.
So this is, I guess, fortuitous that we’re talking today, because you’ve just announced, hours ago, this My Dark Twin album coming out this summer as a companion to Love and Rockets’ Sweet F.A.
Yeah, lots of outtakes that never made it to vinyl or record or CD or whatever. Basically, you can only put so many tracks on an album and these were tracks that have never seen the light of day. So to fans, we’re hoping, that it’s of interest, obviously.
Is this something you’ve been trying to get out there for a while?
No, we’d forgotten all about it. But then the record company was saying, “Hey, what about adding this, this, and this.” And then we listened to the tracks. We OK’d most of them. There were a couple where we definitely said, “No, they’re not good enough.” And then what you’re left with is what’s going to be released.
This collection, as I understand it, reflects the long journey toward creating Sweet F.A., where you worked with multiple producers and then there was the fire.
Yeah, just all this mess that went on, there was a lot of drama. Obviously, that fire was huge. We lost all of our gear. I lost a really nice 1957 Selmer Mark VI saxophone, which was a fantastic instrument. It was just so easy to play. I’ve never been able to replace it with anything close to how easy that thing was to play. That literally melted through the floorboards. There was nothing left. Nothing. It just it just melted. You know it was gone, gone, gone.
Did you lose a lot of what you’d recorded as well?
No. Luckily, Kevin had taken them home. He was recording stuff on a DAT machine — demos and ideas. And luckily, he had taken them out of the studio and they were at his house a couple of miles away. So they they survived, but all our gear — everything — went up in smoke.
Did going back and listening to those outtakes give you a different perspective on what ended up on Sweet F.A.? Are you happy with the ultimate form that record took?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Yes. I mean, when Sweet F.A. was finally finished, it was much more substantial than what we had initially. For sure. That was the one good thing that happened, with that, in that we had a little bit of time to actually come up with some new songs and better songs, if you like.
Love and Rockets circa 1996
When Beggars first announced this reissue campaign, the put out the release schedule for the six albums and then said there would be two additional titles announced later. I assume My Dark Twin is the first one. Can you say what the other one is?
Well, whatever’s out there right now, as far as press releases, is all I can really talk about. I can’t really talk about anything else. But as far as I know, I think pretty much everything that we ever recorded, that never made it out there in the past, is now going to be out there. Put it that way.
And Sweet F.A. has never been released on vinyl before, am I correct?
I don’t know. You tell me. I mean, I don’t really keep up on all this. It was a while ago, and vinyl has made a huge resurge now. So I think it’s, well, CDs hardly exist anymore. I think vinyl has actually taken over, which is mind blowing to me.
As a record collector, the ’90s were the nadir, there were things that were just not ever relased on vinyl.
Well most things weren’t, really, it was a very, very specialized thing back then. I think most things weren’t released on vinyl, I think at that stage. It was pretty much a very, very small, little indie market. But now it’s fascinating that it’s taken over. But the sound quality is definitely better. It’s a real signal. It’s not a synthetic signal. I remember — who was it that went on and on about this at first, when CDs first came out? It was, what’s his name? Married to Daryl Hannah now>
Neil Young! He was going on about how the CD sucks. Oh, and it really did suck, I think, when it first came out, in comparison with vinyl, because it’s synthetic, it’s an artificial sound. Whereas vinyl is a real sound. It’s a difference between a needle on a record and a digital signal. If you look at it, I don’t want to get technical, but if you look at a digital signal, it’s like a bunch of little steps, like a stairway, whereas an analog signal, it swoops up and down like a waveform. It’s a different thing. Apparently, if you listen to CDs for a long time, you get tired real quick, whereas with vinyl, you don’t. It actually wears you out, wears the brain out, to listen to a digital signal. There’s a fact that nobody really needs to know. But apparently that’s the case.
How do you feel about streaming?
Streaming is great, in as much as everybody gets to hear so much stuff. But we don’t get paid much for that. Got to be honest, you have to earn a living, and the amount of streams that are out there compared with what us as musicians get paid is outrageous. We’re hoping that’s going to change. I’m sure all musicians are. I don’t know, it sort of like a million hits and all you get is 20 bucks or something. It’s ridiculous.
Probably not even that.
You’re right. Yeah, it’s not even that. That’s right. It’s probably 10 bucks for a million hits. I don’t know. But I don’t like to think about it. Because it’s a total ripoff.
Which is why it certainly benefits bands with the back catalog to have these kinds of vinyl reissues.
Well, no only that — I mean, the vinyl thing is not exactly big sellers — but the one thing that we still have as musicians in order to make a living is playing live. Thank God that we do still have that. Nothing will take the place of that. So we’ve got that on our side, while we’re still young enough to actually play live, if you know what I mean.
As long as there’s not a pandemic getting in the way.
It’s not just that, it’s everything. We’re not 21 anymore.
Bauhaus live in 2019 | Photo by Gary Bandfield
The way the Bauhaus reunion ended, is it fair to say that was the final nail in that particular coffin?
Oh, yeah. Yeah. That’s signed, sealed and delivered. All done. Time to move on.
Similar to that, though, I interviewed you back in 2009, not long after the last Love and Rockets reunion, when you played Lollapalooza and Coachella. You were pretty emphatic, then, about Love and Rockets —
Yeah, I know, don’t remind me. I know. I’m gonna keep my mouth shut on that one, because it’s a bit embarrassing. But the thing is, it’s been about, I don’t know, 13 or 15 years now. So that’s a nice, long enough break to be able to come back and listen to this stuff again. You know, the thing is also, lyrically and everything, it’s still valid, what we were going on about back then, just the subject matter and everything. It doesn’t become like cringey to actually go back to that stuff. It’s still — it feels right again, right now to do. But I don’t want to do it forever, obviously. But it’s certainly worth doing up until the middle of June of this year, that’s for sure.
I would assume, you know, feelings change, times change.
Oh yeah, they say time heals everything, you know what I mean? When you’re on tour for, like, three months and — you know, Love the Rockets went on for, I thought it was about 18 years, but I’ve been told it was about 14 that we were actually working together as a band. But that’s a long time to work with the same, the same three people working together. It’s a long time for one band. Unless you’re the Rolling Stones, of course. Cause that’s something else. They’re still going. It’s incredible.
I will say, too, I appreciate as a fan, I was grateful for the whole Poptone experience, and the way you were able to really highlight the Tones On Tail material.
Yeah, that was the idea of that, yes.
Do you feel that Tones On Tail has been part of your musical legacy that maybe doesn’t get as much attention as it should?
Absolutely. Yeah. That one album we made and all those singles. I’m very, very proud of that stuff. It’s a shame people don’t mention that band more often. But you know, we did only make the one album. But I’m very proud of that record.
Do you ever see doing that again, with Kevin and —
No, no, no, that’s it. I mean, you know, time to move on now. I know I’ve said this before as well. Time to move on. Always say that. But yeah, you know, I’m doing this Ashes and Diamonds thing now. I’m really, really focused on that after this (Love and Rockets) tour. I was checking out mixes last night. It’s something that we’re excited about. It’s something new. It’s something new. It’s time for something new.
Will we see a full tour for Ashes and Diamonds?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I know Paul, in particular, Paul and Bruce, they can’t wait to play live. When we’re in rehearal rooms, it’s like, when Bruce starts playing drums, he’ll start playing something and he’ll say, “I can play this for three hours, if you want, to get something worked out. I’m just like a machine. I can keep going.” They love playing live.
When you go on tour, do you ride your motorcycle? Or do you take a tour bus?
No, I don’t take a tour bus, I can’t sleep on a tour bus. I can’t, I just can’t do it. I had a really bad accident on the 405 years ago, and ever since then, no way can I sleep on a tour bus. It was a solo thing I was doing, on the way to the first gig, Santa Ana I think it was, and we had this major accident on the 405 and Patina, the bass player, she nearly died. The bus actually fell on her. We had to pull her out from under the wreckage. It was a complete fucking nightmare. Excuse my French. Not good. Not good. She’s OK now though. Thank God.
But do you ever take your motorcycles out when you’re on tour?
No, no, it’s not practical to do that. I mean, occasionally, there’s been times in the past where somebody has offered me a bike and I’m like, “Yes, please.” And I’ll borrow that bike to get to the next gig. Which that’s worked out great. I mean, some of those gigs were 500 miles apart. So I remember once renting a bike, and I loved it so much that I got onto this road, it was somewhere in the Midwest in this forest area. And I got on this fantastic road. And I overstepped the next gig by 500 miles. I’m not kidding. The gig was 500 miles away, and I rode 1,000 miles in a day. Because I was just in seventh heaven. I was just, like, rocketing. And I stopped at this gas station to ask somebody where I was, and I said, “Where are you so-and-so”? Where the gig was. And they said, “Are you kidding? You’re 500 miles out of your way.” I’m not kidding you. That’s how much I love riding. I just went into my own headspace there, just kept riding and overstepped the town I was supposed to go to by 500 miles. It was insane. But I’d rented this big old Harley, and I was having so much fun. I just forgot to get off the highway, you know, at the right place.
Got to have your priorities, I guess.
Love and Rockets circa 1987 | Photo by Mitch Jenkins
PREVIOUSLY ON SLICING UP EYEBALLS
- Love and Rockets announces “My Dark Twin” — new 2-disc companion to “Sweet F.A.”
- Love and Rockets expands reunion tour with 10 additional concerts across U.S.
- Love and Rockets to play 4 more U.S. concerts following reunion at Cruel World
- Siouxsie, Love and Rockets, Iggy Pop, Adam Ant, Billy Idol playing Cruel World 2023
- Love and Rockets vinyl reissues, “The Albums 1985-1996” box set announced
- Daniel Ash reveals new band and album, says Bauhaus reunion likely to resume in 2022
- Q&A: Daniel Ash closes door on Love and Rockets: ‘It’s boring for me to do those songs’
This interview was such a delight to read! Can’t wait for the tour! Very exciting!
My very Favorite Guitarist of ALL TIME … anything Danny does is absolutely Brilliant!
Was a very Nice Read and gives me a little insight … for the Future … my biggest mistake in Life was NOT paying attention about POPTONE … and for that I got to pay the price of NOT SEEING some of Danny’s very Best music in Tones On Tail … and of course missed them in ‘83-‘84 as I had my head up my ass in hardcore Punk Rock
A great read. I’ll be seeing the lads this summer in Atlanta. Last time was way back in ’87 in S.F.
No matter the setlist, I’ll be happy.
Will be interesting to hear what Ashes and Diamonds sounds like. Daniel sounds very creatively motivated right now. First saw L&R in Sag Harbor in Nov ‘86 with Lucy Show opening. It was a great gig and my buddy, Ken, and I had to drive fr Bklyn through awful fog to get there. Could barely see 30 ft in front of the car! Then saw them at Beacon Theater with Jane’s Addiction opening. Again a great gig. Last time I saw them was at a small club in Palo Alto, CA, after Lift came out. I have followed them all of these years because of Daniel’s work with Tones on Tail. The ToT output seemed so inspired at the time and is still my “go to” soundtrack in my life (that and some Joy Division/early New Order, The Glitterhouse by Medium Medium and Killing Joke’s What’s THIS for…!) Also saw Poptone in Santa Cruz and it was amazing to hear the ToT songs be brought back to life. I hope he earns some well-deserved coin for this tour…
Did anyone see Love and Rockets at the Block in Orange when they were promoting Lift? It was a free show! Got to see them really up close. Needless to say, I’ll never forget that.
I saw them in Santa Cruz at a really small venue on that tour, and couldn’t believe how lucky I was then. Saw them the other night in Oakland at a much bigger venue, still only steps away, right in front. They sounded great. So glad to see fans still so wild about them, getting all the kudos they deserve.
Why Daniel is not considered a Guitar God will always baffle me. Just look at the bands he was in and the albums he played on. The armchair Youtube shredders can’t even come close to him. Much love and respect.