"I never really go with trends at all," insists
On Stripped, his first album in more than a decade, the reclusive Brit breathes new life into highlights from his years as the guitar craftsman behind the signature sound of doomy postpunk band Bauhaus and as frontman of the unclassifiable Tones on Tail and the more alt-flavored Love and Rockets. As the title suggests, each track has been stripped of its sonic fingerprints and rebuilt from the ground up. The results traverse genres from dubstep to reggae, with a predilection toward the synthetic harshness of '90s industrial serving as a unifying thread.
"I listen to anything and everything," Ash explains. "I look at YouTube a lot. Dubstep was an influence. If I hear something and I like it, I'll use it, whether it's banging on a tin drum or using a synthesizer." That inclusive, experimental-minded approach is a far cry from Stripped's initial premise: reimagining Ash's classic songs acoustically. "I tried. I think after about seven minutes, I put down the guitar. An acoustic guitar and a guy singing, I find that so boring. I really did not want it to sound like an old fart doing some acoustic record."
Instead, Ash threw himself headlong into the world of production, learning to manipulate sounds in Logic and setting up shop in his office in Ojai, California. "It was pretty intense," he recalls. "Some of the tracks took four or five weeks to finish because I'm a perfectionist. I was competing against myself, because I had to make them sound as good as or better than the original versions."
The process was mentally and physically demanding. "Six months slaving away in the office, having to turn the swamp cooler off to do vocal takes, and then switching it back on again, drenched in sweat because the room would get really hot. And then the dogs would start barking, and you'd have to do it again."
Created with the help of a crowdfunding campaign, Stripped hit stores in physical form March 31. And though Ash is clearly proud of his new effort, he dithers when asked whether that material — or any of his material — will pop up in his DJ set Saturday at Gramps. Ash will also be doing an in-store signing at Fort Lauderdale's Radio-Active Records at 6 p.m. before he hits Gramps.
"In the past, I've found it a bit embarrassing to play my own stuff. It's sort of a bit strange."
As for reuniting with any of his previous outfits — something Ash has toyed with in the past — that prospect seems more definitively off the table. "It's a bit like getting married and divorced," he relates. "We did our job, and now it's time to move on and do something fresh."