From left: Diva, Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash. Photography by Paul Rae, Projections by Cloaking.US

Goth-Rock Icon Daniel Ash Returns to the Road With Poptone

The British guitarist on getting back on the road, his songwriting inspirations and how Weetabix nearly stopped it all.

Even if you don’t know Daniel Ash, you know his style. The British guitarist started out as a member of Bauhaus, the band often credited with creating goth as a genre; Ash’s skittering, distorted guitar has influenced players from Radiohead to Soundgarden. From the dark glam of Bauhaus to the avant-pop of Tones on Tail to the jacked-up rock of Love and Rockets, Ash has created a catalog of memorable songs—some of which have been heard in films from the ’80s high-style vampire flick The Hunger to this year’s Power Rangers reboot. He and bandmate Kevin Haskins have now reunited and returned with Poptone, playing songs from the duo’s three previous bands—and maybe a surprise or two.

Ash spoke to Vegas Seven about getting back on the road, his songwriting inspirations and how Weetabix nearly stopped it all.

What inspired you to tour again?

I really didn’t think I’d ever do this again. I was very jaded with the whole idea of playing live. But I woke up at four in the morning with my computer headphones around my neck and I had this revelation—suddenly, it was extremely appealing to me and the obvious thing to do. I can’t explain it any more than that. I just had a complete turnaround.

You and Kevin Haskins have played together since you were teenagers. Now his daughter is in the band.

I [thought] about getting the band together and Kevin was the obvious choice. And then finding out that his daughter plays bass. … To cut a long story short, she got the job. Diva is playing the bass lines exactly like what’s on the record. That’s what people want to hear; they don’t want to hear self-indulgent versions of songs. There are times when we’ll go off—we’ll trip out and go somewhere else with a track—there are tracks that lend themselves to that. Essentially, I like to get it to sound as close to the record as possible.

Did you imagine all those years ago that playing guitar would be your ticket out of the ordinary world?

Well, I fell in love with [being] what I call a guitar gypsy—getting out of doing a boring 9-to-5 job and just going into a world of complete escapism … from the mundane. The electric guitar was to get me that freedom—just like motorcycles.

I fantasized and thought about it all the time. I could never really get my head around the idea of having a 9-to-5 job. I went to art school for four years and I went to one interview, for [cereal company] Weetabix. I was getting really nervous because there were 200 applicants and I made it into the last 10. I was really freaking out because I thought that I might get the job. My dad was all excited, thinking, “He’s going to get a job! He’s going to get a job!” Anyway, I didn’t get the job, and I remember driving away from the Weetabix factory, looking in the rearview mirror of the car, seeing the word Weetabix and thinking, “I’m never going to have to look at that again.” Then I went back to playing around with the guitar.

You’re a big motorcycle aficionado—you’ve written songs about them and featured them in videos. When did you fall in love with bikes?

Falling in love with bikes—that’s in your DNA. My dad and my older brother were scooter guys, but I always thought Lambrettas and Vespas were like hair dryers. My older brother, he was a Mod in England, way back, but his best friend was a rocker—which you weren’t supposed to have if you were a Mod. But [his friend] had a 650 BSA Thunderbolt, and that was the first motorcycle I ever went on the back of. I was about 12. It went from naught to 65 in about half a second and I was hooked and terrified at the same time from that moment.

As far back as I can remember, the look of the Harley-Davidson engine was always completely fascinating … also, English bikes like Triumph, BSA, Nortons. It’s the same with electric guitars from when I was about 10—aesthetically, I just love staring at them. Then, getting on the bike, the main thrill is the sense of freedom and power. Some people like climbing mountains, some like going for a walk, some people like doing 95 miles an hour on a motorcycle, whatever.

You recently came out with an album, Stripped, where you sort of reimagined some of your old songs. Is it tough to come up with a new take?

Some of those tracks were difficult to cover because they were fully realized to begin with. So, trying to do modern interpretations was a bit of a challenge—[for] some of those tracks, I was taking four or five weeks to come up with a new version that I thought was valid. “An American Dream” was an example. It took like five weeks to finally realize that I should do a reggae version.

Do you get ideas for songs while riding?

I do get a lot of ideas while riding. I always used to have a little Victor [recorder] in my pocket. And if I got an idea for a vocal melody or a lyric, I would pull over on the side of the road on the bike and then record into the little Victor [recorder] … I should start doing that again now, because I’m in a band again … I better get some ideas together. 

Poptone

May 12, 8 p.m., $27–$30, Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade, brooklynbowl.com/las-vegas

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