Feature: Jack Foley
NOT content with her work on new Ash album, Meltdown,
guitarist, Charlotte Hatherley, is now set to release her first
solo material, in the form of single, Kim Wilde, on June
The track, which is available for download via her website, marks
the realisation of a childhood ambition, for the talented singer-musician
has been coveting her place in the musical spotlight ever since
she was a teenager.
Indeed, Charlotte was a working rock guitarist even before she
left her west London high school - working towards her A-levels
during the day, and playing loud gigs around the London club scene
with her group, Nightnurse, after dark.
Two tough years of gigging, and a growing fanbase later, and
Nightnurses first record deal followed.
But the A-levels (English and music) were still not in the bag
when an established young Northern Irish rock trio, and their
manager, slipped unnoticed into one of the bands gig, at
the Halfmoon, in Putney.
Ash were looking for a fourth member, a guitarist to add beef
to their heavy schedule of live performances, and even though
they had auditioned extensively, nobody had seemed right.
Yet, when they eventually caught Charlotte live, their choice
was immediate, prompting the NME to declare, It's a girl!,
in its headline, once the improbable news was announced.
Needless to say, Ash fans were divided at first, with many presuming
that she must be Tim Wheeler's girlfriend. But then they heard
Charlotte had two weeks in a rehearsal studio before making her
Ash debut at the V97 Festival in front of a highly critical audience
"Nightnurse had been happy when 100 fans caught us Upstairs
at the Garage," says Charlotte. "I was shit scared but
the boys were great. They saw me through the first year when everything
was new and terrifying."
The plucky teenager subsequently got her A-level results while
playing a gig in Germany - but, by now, realised they were meaningless.
Her first studio recording with Ash was on the 1997 single, A
Life Less Ordinary, and then on the 1998 album, Nu-Clear
Just as touring the world became normal for her, so did Charlotte's
cool persona and driving talent, which quickly established itself
as a solid feature of the 'new Ash'.
By the time they were criss-crossing America with their 2001
No. 1 album Free All Angels,
new fans presumed Ash had always been a four-piece.
Meanwhile, under the inspirational influence of Wheeler, Charlotte
began to compose her own material.
"Tim was brilliant, always interested and encouraging,"
Her first song, Taken Out, appeared as a B-side on the
1998 Ash single, Jesus Says, and Gonna Do It Soon,
appeared on the Wild Surf single of the same year.
But fans really started to take notice when her song Grey
Will Fade appeared on the 2001 single, There's A Star,
as this optimistic message to a troubled school friend came complete
with haunting multi-layered harmonies.
Indeed, when online Ash fans vote for their favourite B-sides,
Grey Will Fade regularly appears among the top five.
Reaction to the song, and to her highly original voice, came
as a surprise and a challenge to Charlotte, which she felt more
than ready to accept, viewing it as an excellent opportunity to
write a whole album full of songs.
Tim agreed, and told her to go for it!
But writing, recording demos and organising the album had to
be done while Ash continued their punishing non-stop schedule,
and it wasn't until the group settled in Los Angeles, for a few
months in 2003, to record Meltdown,
that Charlotte was able to get together with her chosen producer,
Eric Drew Feldman (once part of legendary Captain Beefheart's
Magic Band and Frank Black's solo producer), drummer, Rob Ellis
(PJ Harvey, Marianne Faithful), and top recording engineer, Rob
Laufer, to put down the ten tracks that would form her first solo
"It was an amazing experience," she recalls. "Time
was always short, and some days I would be laying down a track
for Ash in the morning, before crossing LA to work on my own stuff
in the afternoon."
But the punishing schedule was worth it, and through the album,
Charlotte has been able to catalogue some of her major influences,
including The Pixies, XTC, and Talking Heads.
There are even elements of The Beatles in some of the choral
sections, while her major hero, David Bowie, is said to come through
in her unexpected lyrical poetry.
But Ash fans need not worry, for the emergence of Charlotte as
a solo star, does not signal the end of her Ash days.
"Not at all!" she promises. "It's amazing to be
a member of such a great rock band; plus, to be able to see my
own solo project through to the finished album. How lucky am I!"