Daniel Ash (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Tones on Tail) prefers not to revisit his band years, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer in love with much of the material he and his bandmates produced. So much so that for his new album, «Stripped,» he reimagines 12 of his favorite classic tracks in a contemporary context. I chatted with Ash about why he prefers disco to goth when DJing, CDs to Serato, and YouTube to Facebook.
How long have you been DJing?
I’ve been doing it for about 20 years. I started off in a Hollywood club called Goldfinger’s. I always said I had wanted to do that, so a friend from England who owned the club just put me on the spot and said, «You’re playing next Thursday or Friday night.» So I had to go out and buy CDs. It’s funny, I just went to this store and bought dozens of CDs. Anyway, it was great. I would do every Friday or Saturday for two years . But as I always say, it’s more of a jukebox, ’cause I don’t do beat-matching and stuff like that.
What is your DJ setup?
I just play what I feel, and I still use CDs. I’d rather use CDs than Serato or anything like that. I find the laptop thing really boring. It’s great to throw CDs around and panic to get to the next track and stuff like that. But yeah, the set is quite eclectic and goes everywhere and anywhere. It’s favorite songs from any given time and a lot of fun.
Will there be a spooky theme to your Halloween set?
No, not at all. Every time it comes around to this time of year, I always put «Monster Mash» into the CD collection, and I’ll throw that in, if it feels right. I think one of the favorite gigs I’ve ever played was in Dallas, but it was Halloween after September 11, and the country was really depressed. I remember thinking, «I’m gonna play ’70s disco all night, and it’s going to be fabulous.» The crowd was goth central, and I thought, «Well, they’re either gonna hate me or love me. I don’t think it’s going to be an in-between reaction.» I started the set with «Car Wash,» and it went great for about four hours. I just played ’70s disco for four hours. They went nuts. People just needed to have fun after September 11, so they got it and started laughing and dancing their a—- off for four hours.
Their faces must have turned even whiter.
I think they wanted me to start off with The Cult or some goth thing. But I’m not a big fan of goth. Coming from England, if someone says, «You’re goth,» it’s a put-down. It’s an insult; it means your music sucks. There were three bands in England that were goth, and that’s Alien Sex Fiend, Specimen, and Sex Gang Children, and they weren’t very good. That’s just the bottom line. They just had big hair and not a lot of talent.
Is death rock OK?
Darling, I like ’70s disco. But I’m not into death rock, that’s for sure. There are some exceptions. I think «Scarecrow» from Ministry is brilliant. I also like «Jesus Built My Hotrod.» I wore that CD out when it came out. But no, not into death rock at all. I like things like Pet Shop Boys, ’70s disco, and obviously I like all the Bowie stuff and glam rock stuff. I still play Bowie, T. Rex, Iggy and the Stooges. But death rock, no, and things like Metallica, I can’t comprehend the appeal of that band or why they’re so huge. People always say, «You’ve gotta hear the first album.» So someone played me something from the first album, and it sounded like the last album. It just sounds like a testosterone-driven mess. But look at their audience. I don’t get it. I don’t know why I’m even mentioning it, but I can’t comprehend their appeal. It’s the way they are on stage — that stupid masculine stance. But you know me — I like a bit of eye shadow.
Speaking of influences like Bowie, T. Rex, and Iggy and the Stooges, your Love and Rockets material always sounded so Eastern to me. Where does that come from?
I’m not sure. It might have something to do with the fact that I used an EBow, which really can sound like a snake charmer or instruments from the East. I’ve always played certain riffs that do sound Eastern, and I don’t know where that comes from. In all honesty, maybe from a previous incarnation — maybe I was living there, last time around. I have no clue.
Love and Rockets showcases Eastern influences on 1986’s «Kundalini Express»:
Why did you transition from a more rock sound to an electronic sound?
First of all, I got really bored of playing guitar. I think drum machines sound fabulous, and I just genuinely love electronic music. I remember when I first got turned on to it. I was living in Brighton, in the ’90s, and the button just clicked for me. I just got it. I’ve always loved Grandmaster Flash and Giorgio Moroder, and things like Donna Summer doing «I Feel Love» — fantastic. It’s just really sexy music to me, much more so than Metallica.
It’s great that you have such broad tastes.
I would imagine and hope that a lot of people have eclectic tastes. Do you find the opposite to be true?
Let’s just say that I can’t imagine Metallica liking Donna Summer.
I wish they did. It would definitely make an improvement on what they’re doing. I just don’t comprehend their appeal. They’re so boring and bland. They just turn their amps up and make as much noise as they can. They have no delicacy. I just don’t get it. But let’s change the subject.
OK, you’ve gone back and forth about this over the last decade and a half, but are there any plans to reunite Love and Rockets?
Oh, no, no, no, not at all, no, no, no, no, no. It really is done. It’s like if you were married — and we were together for 17 years — and got a divorce, you really don’t want to go back and revisit that. So no, no interest whatsoever.
Do you keep in touch with former band members David J or Kevin Haskins?
To be honest, out of all the band members, the only guy I ever talk to occasionally is Kevin. He lives in Hollywood. Sometimes we get these phone calls when people want to use our tracks for film or TV, and we have a discussion for what we want for the track. But it’s another lifetime away, all that stuff.
Love and Rockets’ «So Alive» reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1989:
Getting current, you have a new album that you’re working on?
I’ve been working on it for six months with my co-producer, Dustin, and am just finishing up now. It’s ultramodern takes on 12 Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, and Tones on Tail tracks. In fact the album is called «Stripped,» because we’ve stripped the songs down and rebuilt them as 21st-century space-age pop, using electronics and real bass and guitars. On Facebook it’s gotten nothing but rave reviews. I’ll be playing tracks from it at the gig.
With a name like «Stripped,» I was expecting it to be acoustic.
Yeah, it’s funny. Initially they wanted me to do an acoustic album, and I said, «Me?» Because I really don’t like that folky stuff, and if you expect to see me on a stool with a beard strumming my acoustic guitar, it’s not gonna happen. But I tried to do this acoustic thing and felt ridiculous, and they sounded boring, so I scrapped that after two-and-a-half minutes and said, «We’re just gonna go electronic,» ’cause it felt right, and it was much more fun.
When you make music, are you fiddling with software?
I don’t press the buttons. Dustin is engineering and co-producing this stuff with me, and we use Logic off a laptop. In the old days, the record companies would have done all this, but now it’s all on me. It’s a really great record, and I really hope it’s gonna do something. Even though people don’t buy records anymore, I hope people will buy it on iTunes.
Would you ever join another band?
I’m not really into the live thing anymore. I’m much more into doing this stuff in the studio. The only way it would work is if I did a Pet Shop Boys thing with me and just one other guy on stage, doing the backing tracks. But I just don’t think the demand is there, to be honest. What I want to do is get these songs placed in films or on TV, ’cause it’s the only way to make money these days, unless you play live. I’m just not into it anymore. I’ve done it too long.
Does it surprise you that your music is still so listened to after all these years?
You know what? I’m not really aware of that. I’m a bit of a loner. I don’t really go out a lot. My whole trip is riding bikes. I have 12 bikes — Harleys and Triumphs — and they’re always on the road. That’s my thing. I like to get out of cities and into the middle of nowhere, like to the desert. I’m really into that. I don’t get feedback from all these people that supposedly like my stuff. It’s great to know, but I don’t meet those people. I’m not aware and not a big Facebook guy. It’s not my thing. I’m pretty solitary. I like to get away from everyone. Then when I come back into town, I like to focus on getting the songs perfect. I’m a real perfectionist. So I like to spend time working on that. I really hate underproduced music. It depresses me when something isn’t fully realized. I can’t stand it.
What are your top apps?
I didn’t even do email until six months ago, so when we started doing this record, my friend Christopher the Minister got me an iPhone. Up until six months ago, I just had a $35 phone from a gas station. Suddenly I’m addicted to texting people. I finally woke up to this. I used to think it was so rude that people didn’t just call others, and suddenly I woke up one day, and I thought, «Texting is actually perfect for me, because then I don’t have to talk to people on the phone.» I can say what I need to and send it off and done. Now it’s a huge switch, where I’m waking up, checking messages, and texting people all day long. It’s the weirdest thing, because I hated this stuff for so many years, and now I just text. That’s my thing. I get all my info from texting. I’m also pretty hooked on YouTube.
What do you watch on YouTube?
Anything and everything. I can go back and punch in the first episode of «Doctor Who,» and I’ll find this episode I watched at age 12 — and everything about motorcycles.