Ash man recalls some tour stories…
Tim Wheeler

After 20 years of top-notch rock-pop tomfoolery with Ash, Tim Wheeler has taken a more reflective approach on his first solo album, ‘Lost Domain’. Here we’ve asked him to reflect on his travel experiences, some of which, unsurprisingly, are Star Wars-related.

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Tim Wheeler, ‘Vigil’, from ‘Lost Domain’

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Best Trip…

“We did the touring festival The Big Day Out in 1999 in Australia and New Zealand, with bands like Hole, Marilyn Manson, Fatboy Slim and Fun Lovin’ Criminals. It was nicknamed the Big Day Off, because there were only about eight shows over the course of three weeks. We had a few days in each city which is unheard of on a regular tour. Most of the bands would be staying in the same hotels and on the same flights, so it was a non-stop three-week party. It was also in January, the height of summer there, so that added to the smugness factor.”

Worst Trip…

“A few years ago we had a hellish drive from Fuji Rock Festival in Japan to Narita airport, outside Tokyo. The traffic was so bad it took about eight hours in a tiny van. The worst part was that Rick (McMurray, Ash drummer), his brother and our tech Jimmy had been up all night and had another bottle of whisky to drink on the drive. We were stuck in a close, confined space with rabid animals; they were getting naked and screaming and (tour guitarist/Bloc Party dude) Russell Lissack almost had a nervous breakdown. Then once we got to the airport we flew overnight to Australia, landing at 7am and had to get another flight to Brisbane to drive to the Splendour in the Grass festival and play that same day. I’ve seen some very haggard photos of us from that show.”

My favourite foreign venue…

“I love a Norwegian venue called Hulen, in Bergen. It’s an old bomb shelter in a cave hollowed into the mountain. A sweaty, primitive place in a great student town where they love to rock out.”

I’m surprisingly popular in…

“We played in Jakarta in 2001 and discovered we had a massive amount of fans there. They had a really over-the-top amount of security guards for us. We had a whole floor of the Hilton hotel set aside solely for ourselves, and I couldn’t go to the pool without a security guard following me. Our tour manager had to meet the minister of culture to promise we wouldn’t start a riot and wouldn’t sing any songs mentioning deities.”

Best/worst exotic foodstuff…

“I’m remembering many backstage riders in Europe with large, unrefrigerated platters of sweating cheeses and meats. You have to fight the flies to get to them.”

The most interesting item I've brought home…

“One time in Phoenix we were playing a show and the power went down, a maniac in the audience starting shouting in the darkness that he had the entire Star Wars figurine collection in his ass. We hung out after the show and it turned out he collected cactus skeletons from the desert. He gave me a branch from one which I’ve still got, and which could be about 700 years old.”

The most intriguing human I've met on the road…

“On a flight to Japan I was sitting beside Darth Vader, aka David Prowse. He needed a lot of leg room and he’s got a lot of interesting stories. Recently he’s been managing a metal band.”

My essential travel item…

“In the States I normally try to bring a kettle, because it’s not right trying to make a cup of tea using a coffee machine.”

My essential travel tip…

“Always make certain of your flight time. Last summer I f*cked up and mistimed a flight by an hour, arriving at the airport thinking all was fine as my plane took off. I was booked to fly from Belfast to Manchester on my way to the Kendal Calling festival. After several frantic calls with our tour manager and the brief consideration of hiring a helicopter, I was re-booked on a new flight from Belfast to London and then had to get into central London to get a train to Kendal. Then, of course, the train was delayed en route so I arrived at the festival 15 minutes after our set was scheduled and walked straight on stage. It was a great show in the end, but I wouldn’t like to inflict that amount of stress on myself, the band, our management, crew and promoters again.”

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As told to Si Hawkins

‘Lost Domain’ is released on November 10th. Find Tim online here

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