Northern Ireland: Ash tour hits the ABCs of rock 'n' roll

Northern Ireland’s Ash tours British towns in alphabetical order. And in a nod to the iTunes age, the band is releasing a new song every two weeks.

Neil Gavin Courtesy of Ash
N. Ireland's Ash tours British towns in alphabetical order.

Could Northern Ireland’s Ash be the hardest-working rock band in the music business?

In a novel approach to gigging, the critically acclaimed alternative rockers have been crisscrossing the United Kingdom on an “A-Z tour” in which they are playing a different British town in alphabetical order.

But the tour is making many in the music industry sit up and take notice for more than just its eccentricity: It aims to promote a project in which Ash is releasing 26 individual songs over 12 months – one every two weeks.

At a time when the traditional album is being killed off by the ease with which individual tracks can be digitally downloaded, the venture might just provide a new music business model.

“Rather than making an album that will be our identity for the next three years, we wanted to be free to try something entirely new every couple of weeks,” according to Rick Murray, the drummer with the group, which has sold millions of records over the past two decades.

“A lot of figures in the industry are watching to see how this is going down. Since the appearance of iTunes and so on, people have become used to getting things instantly and constantly.”

The band is also putting its money where its mouth is.

After parting with a major record company, Ash set up an independent label of their own to keep the songs, rather than the albums, coming out.

The A-Z tour – taking in “A” for Aldershot and “Z” for Zennor – has, meanwhile, been a breath of fresh air for the group, long used to playing major cities and supporting the likes of U2 in the past.
Mr. Murray added: “We’re pretty shattered, but it’s great to get back to basic rock-and-roll roots.”

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