Charlotte Hatherley

Unbelievably it was over 2 years ago that Designer Magazine first heard about Charlotte's intentions of recording a solo album. It wasn't until Ash got a two month break that she had time to squeeze in the recording in LA with legendary producer Eric Drew Feldman, up till that point she'd grabbed the odd week here and there to write and record demos in her home studio. "Grey Will Fade", named after the Ash B-side she wrote, is an album which takes a different approach to Ash's "Meltdown". While Ash were turning up the amps, Charlotte was making an altogether more pop record despite her attempts to make a strange experimental leftfield album.

Q: It's been a long time coming for this album. I seem to remember you talking about writing a lot of songs around the time of "Free All Angels"?
A: Yeah, I kind of got sick of hearing myself saying i'm going to do an album. I've been thinking and talking about doing it for about 5 years and it wasn't really until I got that bit of time off to actually go out and make it in LA. I'm very proud of the fact that it's finally come out

Some of the songs are about 5 years old and some of the songs are very new. "Kim Wilde" and "Summer" are the most recent songs I've written. It was just grabbing time here and there. In the middle of things I would grab a week off and sit and do lots of writing. It was just a case of fitting stuff in between Ash stuff and after we did the big American tour, which was 8 months, the guys said 'right we're gonna take 2 months off' because we'd been touring for 3 years basically.

Q: Did you ever get the chance to write on those 3 years on the road at all?
A: Sometimes i'd take my acoustic out and a cassette tape and just tape whatever ideas you come up with. You can't really properly write, but you can get bits of ideas and take it home and do some really intensive songwriting. I feel that I need to go through a lot of shite before I get through to the good stuff. I need a lot of time to actually write.

Q: So how many shite songs did you get through until you got to the good stuff?
A: It was not too bad actually. I had about 5 songs that I didn't include on the album and that's not even including B-sides, i've got some pretty good B-sides. I'm just about to start writing again now so i'm going through the old process of having thousands of ideas and not really liking any of them.

Q: In the past you've done a few Ash B-sides previously. How was it initially presenting the songs to Tim, knowing that Ash is seen as his baby
A: It was quite difficult. I still felt like the new girl for a good few years, but they were always very willing to accept ideas and they were up for me doing B-sides. I think I got to the point where I did "Grey Will Fade" that I felt I didn't really want to do that anymore. I thought "Grey Will Fade" was a pretty good song for a B-side and it got a really good reaction from the Ash fans and even now it's up there in their Top 10 Favourite Ash songs. I gained confidence from that and thought well why shouldn't I do my own album.

Q: That was the real turning point for you then?
A: Pretty much. That's why I decided to use it for this album. I re-recorded and named the album after it because I thought it was quite an important moment. I joined Ash at an odd stage. When "Nuclear Sounds" was the tail end "1977", after the party basically, and the guys were all bummed out and on this burnout trip. I think it took everyone a good couple of years of touring and then writing "Free All Angels" to settle into being a four piece.

Q: You had this idea of the album for so long. How important was it getting Eric Drew Feldman in on production duties?
A: Pretty crucial to actually getting it done. I met Eric through a friend, actually his wife who lives in San Francisco. I sent her over some demos that i'd made of the album and she played them to Eric. So I got this email from him saying "I'm Colleen's husband and this is my CV". It had this amazing list - he'd played with Frank Black and The Catholics, PJ Harvey's band, he'd recorded Deus albums that I absolutely love and he used to be in Captain Beefhearts magic band. He had this irresistible CV and he wanted to do it and miraculously he had the same time off as me. If he wasn't available I don't think I would have been able to get it done really. He was the only person I wanted to work with.

Q: Approaching this album knowing it was "your" album as opposed to 3 other members album with Ash. How was that different in the approach for you?
A: Its a great thing coming from a democracy and then going to you on your own. I basically wrote every part before I even got into the studio so I knew exactly what I was playing. I was very much in charge...and that was great (laughs). It's a great change. I've always been a guitarist in a band and i've got no aspirations to be a solo star. I just wanted to get this out of my system. I'll always be in love with being the guitarist in the band.

Q: The strange thing with this album is that as Ash were getting heavier, "Grey Will Fade" takes a much more poppier direction
A: I probably had more poppier songs that I deliberately didn't include. I like to do a lot more experimental stuff. I don't know why, but for some reason the songs I ended up writing were quite poppy songs. It was quite unexpected for me as well.

Q: You're not going to be able to play this album life for the foreseeable future. It must be quite frustrating that you have this burst of promotion for it now and then you're back to Ash?
A: Not at all. I'm off to Australia on Sunday and then off to Japan and we're doing all these amazing tours. Ash is what is my priority and what I do more than anything else. It would suck if I didn't enjoy it.

"Grey Will Fade" is out now on Double Dragon
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