The Ash guitarist Charley Hatherley gives Ross McGibbon the low down on world domination, kung-fu and the band's love of the Japanese.

Soundchecking is about to begin at Leeds University and assorted members of the band are being drafted to the stage, dragged from the adoring gazes of the contingent of uber-fans who have somehow got in. Tim has been happily signing things and Rick is lapping up the attention (well, he does spend his working life behind a pile of equipment).

I'm lucky enough to catch a few minutes with Charlotte Hatherley, guitar player extraordinaire. Last time I'd seen them I'd noted that, for all the posing of the men at the front, she seemed to be unobtrusively hacking out pure lines of sound.

In person Charlotte is confident, very relaxed and approachable. Remarkably cool for someone soundchecking against a hall with dodgy acoustics and draconian noise regulations.

Ash are a busy busy band. They'd last been in Leeds just seven months before, have a single out every five minutes and are touring again, with a video / DVD out. Has it been non-stop touring since May?
"Well, we did the internet gigs at the very beginning of the year and we've had, like, five singles really, so we've been promoting the singles then we went on a big Asian tour, going to Australia and Japan and those kinds of places and then we went to Europe and now we're touring the UK."
Sounds like the answer is 'yes'...
It's not really going to be eight singles off the CD is it? I'd read about Tim spouting about 'doing a Thriller'.
"We wanted to do, like, a Michael Jackson. The next one is There's A Star then I think that'll be it."

I was curious about 'World Domination', the last track on the album. It looks like that is Ash's masterplan, having blitzed everywhere, building on success.
"That was kind of our plan I guess. I mean it was quite tongue in cheek that song but there was an underlying message I guess - we really just wanted to go out there and,... we hadn't been on tour for three years and we really wanted to do it and we'd been in the studio for so long. So... that was our attitude at the time."

I asked about deliberate shift in the work. Everyone had loved the pure pop of 1977 and it's obsession with girls, sci-fi and melancholic joy. I'd been waiting for Ash to fulfil their early promise. There'd been a backlash, then, all of a sudden, Ash are riding a wave again. Maybe a touchy point as Charlotte joined the group before the second album, which received very, well, how to put it, 'mixed' reviews. Charlotte has it all figured out though;
"It's kind of strange really", she says, leaping to the defence of their first LP as a foursome, "because even though Nu Clear Sounds didn't do that well commercially, it got great reviews at the time in places like NME and Melody Maker." The NME said 'terrifying, ghoulrawk thrashnik deathcore noiseterrior sultans of satanic verse'. "It was one of those critically acclaimed albums. But then as soon as this album's come out the attitude's been 'what a disappointing album" (Nu Clear Sounds, that is) "how great that he can come back with this kind of thing'." Interesting, the 'he' there - how much do the rest of the band 'own' Ash?
"I don't think that we ever thought that Nu Clear Sounds was disappointing, I think that's really cool but there was a few moments when we thought 'oh shit' and the guys were getting almost close to being bankrupt. I don't opt to head into band politics. That was my first real recording I did and we had a great time touring that album. But I guess... Tim thought he had a lot to prove with this album and he did it."

How much influence does Charlotte get, I asked, with arranging material etc. It looks like Tim's thing.
"Yeaaah..., he writes most of the songs. Sometimes, especially with this album, he wrote a lot of songs acoustically then he brought it to the room and we played around with it together; we all arrange it together and Rick, even though he's not that into the songs, he co-wrote Submission and I wrote songs with Mark. We all kind of write and it's very important, for me anyway, to have that creative input."
Any new ones tonight?
"New new?"
You working on new stuff?
"Sort of, yeah. I mean he's trying to. It's really difficult to write on tour." That 'he' word again. Tim, stand up. Guilty as charged, main creative force in Ash.
"We don't finish touring till March then we're going to take a few months off and hope at the end of that we'll have the beginnings of a new album."

I felt I had to ask about Japan. Is it an obsession? They've been to Japan six times.
"Yeah, I've been there twice and the guys have been there loads. I think it's just a really good market."(There's that World Domination speak again...)
"The fans embrace anything remotely English. So we do really well over there." If you've seen the DVD you'll have seen that yourself.

I asked if Charlotte had been to Shinjuku Park where teenagers dress up in their counter-culture uniforms and sing or mime and dance on Sundays. A very Japanese experience, a million miles from tinkling temple bells.
"I love Japan; it's a completely different culture, it's very interesting and futuristic and the people are really cool. There's something you can learn from spending time in Japan. We just released a DVD of Ash live in Japan, the Akasaka Blitz, it's a really good gig and backstage bits and going on and so on." Is it better backstage food?
"It is for me but Mark has a big fear of fish and he's a vegetarian so ... he's ...he's pretty fucked actually! Eats a lot of McDonalds!"
You've been in the band four years, how's it changed?
"Four... and a half! I guess I joined at a pretty awkward time. The guys were going through Nu Clear Sounds and it did take two years of touring that to feel really comfortable. I feel I proved myself and justified being added to the band 'cos a lot of people were quite cynical about getting a girl into the band. I feel a lot more comfortable and we're all very happy together, 'specially with this album doing so well. we've been through a lot together. It's a nice little family. We're remembering why we wanted to be in the band 'cos I guess we forgot that a bit during Nu Clear Sounds."

And the future?
"We're off to Ireland then 'There's A Star' comes out. I'm off to New York which I'm really fucking excited about. Then a European tour in March." It sounds like hard work.
"Well, I guess it is if we do too much touring. It's like being in the studio. If we're in the studio too long it gets boring or you're kind of itching to get back out. When you're touring it's hard to write and it's hard to be creative. I guess we're at the point where we really want to crack on with new songs but we've just got to finish this tour really. But we're not one of those bands who moan about stuff; we really enjoy it. I'm still young!"
The amazing thing is the age of the band, everyone's under twenty-five.
"It's weird. All my friend have just finished university courses (Charlotte is twenty two) so they're out there looking for jobs and I just think it's a privilege to be able to make a career out of music."
Charlotte's Dad lives in Australia.
"He's really supportive and he's always on the internet, talking to all the fans. I do, like, fanzine interviews and they say 'I got an e-mail off your Dad the other day and he sent some photographs of you' and it's embarrassing." There's an obvious affection in the embarrassment.
"My Mum's always despairing that I'm never home. I'm looking forward to Christmas, to seeing my sisters and my Mum."
I can hear the sound of someone who's been on the road for a loooong time.
And, with that, Charlotte heads off to soundcheck and I look forward to the gig. On my way out I spot Rick but I can't bring myself to tear him away from his gaggle of besotted proto-groupies. It WAS a good gig and you'll find a review elsewhere on the site, as you will the new video and the new single. Ladies and Gentlemen (drum roll); Ash: the hardest working group in showbusiness...