Ash prepares to celebrate a special anniversary


Special To The Japan Times

Pop-punk veterans Ash are in the mood for celebrating. This year the band’s 1996 chart-topping debut album, “1977,” will turn 20 years old, and frontman/guitarist Tim Wheeler says he and his bandmates — drummer Rick McMurray and bassist Mark Hamilton — are looking to plan some festivities.

“It’s a big year. We’re talking about celebrating it, actually … maybe play a few shows in the U.K.,” Wheeler says before adding that he’d like to head to North America, Europe and possibly come back for more Japan gigs.

At the same time, Ash is still reveling over the release of last year’s “Kablammo!,” the trio’s sixth full-length album and first in eight years. After spending a few years experimenting with newfangled ways to release its music, the band decided to return to the traditional album format. “Kablammo!” proved to be just the energizing boost Ash needed.

“I was anxious about how it would be received after changing our minds (about how we released music). But since we’ve been out playing, it’s been brilliant,” Wheeler explains. “The new album has really reinvigorated the live set. We set out to make a record that would sound good to play as a three-piece. And I think it really stands up well to our hits from the past. Nine months on and I’m still really buzzing playing this stuff, which is a really good sign.”

“Kablammo!” was such a creative success for Wheeler that he has already begun working on what will be the band’s seventh album.

“I’ve actually been writing quite a bit recently, so I’ve got a lot of ideas,” he says. “So it’s just a matter of starting to work on them. I’d like to try and have an album finished by the fall, and then hopefully early next year we’ll have a new record out.”

Before any more new music emerges, however, Ash needs to wind down the “Kablammo!” tour. After performing at Fuji Rock last summer, the group now returns for two headline shows in Tokyo and Osaka. This 22nd trip to Japan is coincidentally also the 15th anniversary of Ash’s 2001 concert film, “Tokyo Blitz,” which was made at a very emotional time for the world: around the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

“It was just after 9/11, so I remember that time was a bit crazy,” Wheeler says. “We had just arrived in Tokyo when that went down. But we did two nights at the Akasaka Blitz and they were really cool shows. Any time I’ve revisited it I’m really glad we captured that time. The fans are always amazing (in Japan). We get such a great reception. It’s very special.”

Ash plays Ebisu Liquidroom in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on March 22 (03-3444-6751) and Shangri-La in Kita-ku, Osaka, on March 23 (06-6535-5569). Tickets cost ¥6,500 in advance. Shows start at 8 p.m. For more information, visit