Ash Band, Charlotte Hatherley and Tim Wheeler
Charlotte Hatherley and Tim Wheeler

Kick up the fire and let fly the news dog! when word got out that Charlotte Hatherley from Ash was making a solo album, the rumor mill cranked into overdrive. It must be about how much she hates Tim Wheeler! Rock spat! Brilliant! It’s tempting to consider Charlotte Hatherley as a rock’n’roll Baby Jane. A superior talent locked away by a paranoid megalomaniac, finally breaking free. Well, it worked for Melissa Aur Der Maur. Except Charlotte hasn’t actually left the band.

“I think they realized that there was no point really holding someone back if they really wanna do something,” she says “And I thought it would be much cooler to go off and do it on my own rather than say, ‘Hey lads, I’ve got 30 song if you wanna jam it!’ But I wouldn’t have done, would I?” she consider “Because I hate them, don’t I?”

It’s seven year since she parachuted into Ash to beef up the power trio’s guitar weight, and still nobody really knows much about Charlotte Hatherley, even though she’s been a fixture on the bedroom walls of boy fans ever since. During that time she’s also graduated from bolt-on rhythm guitarist to potent songwriting force. When album title crack ‘Grey Will Fade‘, fans wanted her to more. “When I joined Ash I was quite native and shy and young, and I feel like I can actually do it now.”

Setting herself the target of her 25th birthday to get something of her own out, she booked some time in LA before Ash started their rock-alypticMeltdown‘ album, and laid down her solo album in a few weeks with producer Eric Drew Feldman (ex of Captain Beefheart), playing everything herself.

Ask anyone what a Charlotte Hatherley album might sound like and they’d no doubt predict a gruff, atonal, she-rock, Joan Jett badass momma of a thing. But ‘Grey Will Fade‘ is nothing of the sort. On a surface a perky summer collection of perfect pop, its giddiness masks its place in the lineage of fucked-up British songwriting currently being revived by the likes of The Futureheads, but which dates back to The Cardiacs and XTC. It’s really very good. It’s also a self-help opus of Trisha standarts, telling the stories of Charlotte’s mates because, as she puts it, “I guess I’ve been quite lucky in that I’ve never plummeted to the depths of despair to really feel I can write heartfelt love songs”.

Instead, there’s Caroline (on ‘Paragon‘), who hated London so much that she moved to Australia, and has inspired Charlotte Hatherley with her delirious happiness ever since. Or Faye, the old school friend whose rough patch inspired the glowing message of hope that forms the album’s title track. Or Antonio, a dodgy Spaniard bloke she once bedded only to wake up and find him gone, which she wasn’t arsed about, but with her guitar also missing, which she definitely was arsed about.

Charlotte Hatherley“erm… noooo,” she cackles. “I kind of had that experience of having a one-night stand and waking up and realizing that basically you’ve slept with a tourist who’s stolen all your belongings! It’s based on that, and then I took it to another place with the whole guitar-stealing thing. I don’t know about that song, sometimes I think it’s a bit out of place on the album. It’s my pretenders story telling song. They took me looking guitar, the bastards! My beautiful guitar.”

You Could call it a feminist statement that Antonio is the only boy on ‘Grey Will Fade‘, but the truth is that she’s far more interesting that that. And anyway, when her director boyfriend Edgar Wright (Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead) turns up, it’s clear that there’s no danger of her writing break-up songs anytime soon. Oh, and Charlotte Hatherley met the ’25’ deadline. Really, why would she waste her energy hating people?

© NME magazine 31 July 2004

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