Music Interviews

Charlotte Hatherley: “I didn’t write for years. I got sidetracked by being a pisshead in a rock band” – Interview



Charlotte Hatherley

Charlotte Hatherley

Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley surprised many fans by releasing her debut solo album last summer, just three months after Ash’s Meltdown had hit the streets. Since then she has been juggling solo and Ash duties and in a few weeks will be releasing her third single Bastardo, with an already acclaimed video featuring Shaun Of The Dead star Simon Pegg, The Office‘s Lucy Davies and David Walliams, co-creator of the currently in vogue Little Britain.

musicOMH caught up with the busy lady to find out how she’s more “indie” and less “metal” than the Ash boys, and that all she really wants is to be like Kate Bush

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Last year we interviewed Charlotte, Mark and Tim from Ash. Tim was friendly, Mark as chatty as a bassist ever seems to get (ie. not very), and Charlotte… Well, she just seemed bored, moody and wishing like she was anywhere else.

It’s a genuinely nice surprise, therefore, when an altogether sunnier Ms Hatherley greets me this time round. Perhaps it’s the relief of releasing solo material and finding that people actually like it. Charlotte admits that she had a crisis of confidence prior to the release of the album taster, the download-only Kim Wilde: “I liked the idea of doing a download thing – there was no pressure… I was like, ‘Who’s going to f**king want to see the video, who’s going to want to buy a single?’… But then it got 8,000 downloads in the first week and I thought, ‘Oh okay!'”

This diffidence is even more surprising given that part of the reason for her recording Grey Will Fade was the reaction she got to the title track being a B-side on Ash’s 2002 single, There’s A Star. “It turned out really well and we got a great reaction from the fans and website. Just seeing it on fans’ top 10 favourite Ash songs and stuff like that – that kind of set the tone for the way I recorded my album… I just kind of thought, ‘Maybe I should do my own thing and not have songs as B-sides.'”

“I was like, ‘Who’s going to f**king want to see the video, who’s going to want to buy a single?’… But then it got 8,000 downloads in the first week and I thought, ‘Oh okay!'” – Charlotte Hatherley on her lack of self-confidence prior to releasing her first single.

While part of the reason for Charlotte not contributing her songs to Ash is simply because “they’ve been together 10 years, they know how to write together – it’s very much a system that’s there,” she reveals that she’s coming from a very different place musically too: “It [Grey Will Fade] is definitely more indie… The guys came from a real heavy metal scene and, you know, I never had that… I never really had that desire to rock out. They also come from a Nirvana, Sonic Youth kind of grunge place, which I can identify with, but the last album [Meltdown] is definitely more heavy metal (laughs)… So it was nice to do something which was more the kind of music I love, which is XTC, David Bowie and Kate Bush.”

Kate Bush? It turns out that the reclusive ’70s and ’80s star is Charlotte’s musical heroine: “Well, my ambition at the moment is to write a really amazing album that is as good as Hounds Of Love. I think of Kate Bush and the way her career went. She was really successful, really young and had complete control of everything – she produced all her own songs and wrote everything. She doesn’t tour any more and does things the way she wants to do it, which is a pretty great thing for a young girl to aspire to. I would really love to do that – you know, just kind of do my own thing.”

“My ambition at the moment is to write a really amazing album that is as good as Hounds Of Love.” – Charlotte Hatherley on how Kate Bush is her musical heroine.

At this point, Ash fans may be getting concerned that we have a band line-up change on our hands. Charlotte insists that, although her solo material has led to difficult moments (“it’s slightly awkward when people are slagging off Ash but then they are saying this [Charlotte’s music] is great”), Tim, Mark and Rick are right behind her: “I’ve been with the guys for seven years now, so there was a certain amount of trust that we had where they could say, ‘Oh yeah, go for it!’ Tim really liked it, which was really cool, and I think he feels quite proud of the fact that I’ve done it because he knows how much I wanted to do it. They’ve all been very cool with me spending time doing it. They’re established and confident enough to get on with it. I think if it was a new band it would be different – it would be different if it was a bunch of guys who weren’t so solid. Besides, I don’t want to be in a kind of Kim Deal, Breeders / Pixies situation, because that would be f**king horrible!”

Indeed it would. For now, though, it seems that Charlotte is very content leading ‘a double life’, because doing Ash and going solo fulfil different needs: “I get one credit on each Ash album… On Meltdown, I had Meltdown itself, where I wrote the middle eight riff… That’s great – I’m really happy that I’m involved with Ash in that way. With Ash, it’s much more about being part of a band, which is my first love really, and working as a musician rather than a songwriter, whereas my stuff’s about being a songwriter.”

“I don’t want to be in a kind of Kim Deal, Breeders / Pixies situation, because that would be f**king horrible!” – Charlotte Hatherley tries to allay fans’ concerns about her leaving Ash

Of course, Charlotte Hatherley fans will know that songwriting isn’t actually a new thing for her. She used to write songs for her first band, Night Nurse, whose recordings may soon see the light of day on the back of her solo success: “Yeah, I was writing songs for Night Nurse when I was 16 and that was kind of my education for how to be a guitarist in a band. So yes, it’s funny because I wrote loads of songs up to when I was 20 and then I didn’t write for years – I just got sidetracked by being a pisshead in a rock band (laughs) and then I finally got my act together.”

And, it turns out that in getting her “act together”, she’s discovered a few things about herself: “I think it’s something that I find interesting – when you write lyrics it just kind of comes out and you have a bit of perspective on the way you feel about things that you wouldn’t otherwise have. I’ve kind of realised that I’m a pretty optimistic person. I always thought I was quite a moody, depressive person but no, there are very optimistic sentiments on the album.”

I resist the temptation to tell her that I used to think that she was “moody” too. Besides, with a new single in tow, stars like Graham Coxon lining up to tell her how much they like her music, and the US-friendly Meltdown soon to get a proper release State-side, those “optimistic sentiments” are probably very well-placed…


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Charlotte Hatherley: “I didn’t write for years. I got sidetracked by being a pisshead in a rock band” – Interview
Charlotte Hatherley – Grey Will Fade