By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
But with the release of 1989's Love and Rockets and the hit single "So Alive," the band attained enormous commercial success. In fact they were on the verge of launching an arena tour when they realized they were burnt out; rather than forge ahead, they decided to take a break. "The popularity thing in '89 was wonderful, the fact that we had people buying our record was great, but it was a case of needing to get away from each other," Ash remembers. "The plan was to have a year's break, which turned into two years. Everyone seems to think it was five or six years, but it was just 24 months."
During this respite Ash and J produced solo albums (Ash: 1991's Coming Down and 1992's Foolish Thing Desire; J: 1990's Songs from Another Season and 1992's Urban Urbane). Ash says these solo projects were a gratifying experience, but in retrospect they paled in comparison to Love and Rockets' best material. "Once David and I were doing an interview together and we both said the exact same thing, that we are at our most powerful when we use the chemistry of the three of us. We came to the conclusion that if we just let go of our egos and just realize that fact, we could get on with it. What's great about doing a solo project is that there is no compromise, like in a band situation, and at the end of the day the sense of achievement you feel is great. But on reflection it was best when it was the three of us."
In 1994 the band released its first album in five years, Hot Trip to Heaven, a collection of acid house, techno, experimental, and ambient music that was deliberately uncommercial and inaccessible. Love and Rockets recorded Hot Trip for the RCA label, but Ash contends RCA didn't understand what the band was doing with the project and released them from their contract. Rick Rubin's American Records picked up Love and Rockets shortly thereafter. "Hot Trip is something we were really pleased with -- it took two years to finish and it was really crafted," Ash explains. "It's not the sort of record we can take out on the road, but it was quite a departure for us. That's one I think we are going to be proud of in ten years."
Hot Trip was a studio-heavy, carefully constructed record, whereas Sweet F.A. was recorded mostly live, with few effects or overdubs. "What we tend to do is react to the last album in order to keep it fresh for us," Ash explains. "Say we do an electric guitar-oriented album; the next will be an acoustic album. It was a reaction against Hot Trip to Heaven to do this essentially organic album. The writing style hasn't really changed as far as writing a song and then presenting it to the band, but studio technology has helped to evolve the sound of each record. If you listen to a Bauhaus album and then go on to, say, this last album, we hope its sonically superior to the older albums."
Love and Rockets spent more than a year working on Sweet F.A., beginning with rehearsals and demos in San Francisco, then moving on to London and eventually Los Angeles, where all three members have relocated from their native England. One night in April 1995, while the band was recording at an L.A. home studio owned by Rubin, a fire broke out that not only destroyed virtually all of their equipment and some already recorded tracks for Sweet F.A., but also forced David J and his friend, Psychic TV's Genesis P-Orridge (founder of the band Throbbing Gristle and considered by some to be the father of industrial music), to jump from second-story windows in an effort to escape the flames. David J landed safely, avoiding injury, while P-Orridge sustained several cracked ribs. Interestingly, the setback caused by the fire injected the Sweet F.A. project with new life, as the trio proceeded to record four tracks in the garage of a friend's L.A. home.
"It cost about $300 a day and we just got down to it for a couple of weeks, no fucking around," recalls Ash. "We were doing the drums in the living room, the bass in the kitchen, the vocals in the toilet. It was last summer in L.A. and it was baking hot, and it just brought us together as a band. What came out of that was very honest, and we think it's a solid record." (Just before releasing Sweet F.A., Love and Rockets issued an EP in Britain called The Glittering Darkness. It features songs that literally wouldn't fit on Sweet F.A., including "Ritual Radio," an eighteen-minute improvisational demo that narrowly escaped the fire, as well as some older, previously unreleased cuts.)
With Sweet F.A., the members of Love and Rockets seem more determined than ever. "This is a crossroads for the band," says Ash. "This album will decide over the next year or so what we'll be doing next. We're thinking already about the next album and using a name producer, which in the past we haven't done.