Interview: Paddy Cummins of Ashen Reach

I last interviewed Ashen Reach six months ago after a two-day stint supporting Bullet for my Valentine in Russia which for the band was great exposure to a brand new audience. Since then, Ashen Reach have new members, new focus and a new vision in the direction of where they want to go and where they want to be. Releasing a brand new single on November 18th entitled “Tear it Down” as a teaser to their debut album to be released early next year, Ashen Reach working with Enso Music Management are surely one to watch and reach the next level. I caught up with guitarist and backing vocalist Paddy Cummins about these exciting times and what lies ahead for the band. Thank you for the really interesting interview and best of luck to you and Ashen Reach.

We last had a catch up with yourselves in May of this year where you had recently returned from your two gig stint in Russia with Bullet for my Valentine. How have you guys been since then and do you still remember this time fondly?

Very, very busy to say the least! Working on getting ourselves firing on all cylinders again, working on getting a multitude of different things organised for coming back. Photoshoots, recordings, music video, ideas and planning, goals moving forward. If you can think of it, we’ve been doing it!

I (Paddy) can only speak on behalf of Jess, Mike and myself, but of course! We remember the time extremely fondly, as it was an amazing adventure in a beautiful part of the world and the biggest gig of our lives. Biggest in every sense of the word. Biggest country in the world, biggest band we’ve ever supported (by a long way), biggest venues we’ve ever played in, biggest crowds we’ve ever played to. It was incredible. We only hope that we can do it again someday in the not-too-distant future.

I understand there to be a couple of changes in the line up from when we last spoke. What can you tell us about new members Kyle (vocalist) and Joe (rhythm guitarist).

Indeed! Kyle and Joe are amazing. Together with us 3, I feel we’ve been lifted to a whole new level. They have two differing musical backgrounds to ourselves, and each other for a start. That adds another dimension in itself. More external influences to draw from, therefore more ideas we probably wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. All of this combined with the fact they’re both very talented individuals. We couldn’t be happier with them and in the few months they have been with us, we’ve become a family, truly realised our dream and share a vision.

Being in the band for a number of months now, what are they contributing to new material and how does it differ from previous material?

The new material has differences to the older material for sure. The core elements remain within, punch, impact, guitar driven rock / metal music. We have merely evolved, obviously in part due to our changes and it is something we did expect. When you replace a vocalist in particular, a band’s sound can change a lot. We feel like our sound overall has improved, at least to our ears. One thing we are forever pleased with is the constant level of accessibility our songs seem to maintain, regardless of how heavy we take them. We get feedback regularly from people who aren’t necessarily through-and-through rock or metal fans, that enjoy our music, which is an amazing feeling for us.

You have a new single coming out on November 18th entitled “Tear it Down”. What is the song about and how would you say it compares to your earlier material.

Tear It Down” is the song that stands out from all the new material we’ve written so far, as the most accessible, and almost ‘commercial’ I suppose. It definitely stood out as the strongest contender for a single. Of course, like all of our music it still has the punch, the hard-hitting guitars, the powerful vocals. But it has a softer side to it as well, it builds throughout in an aurally pleasing way. Compared to our older material, not just “Tear It Down” but all of our new stuff, it has a level of maturity to it which we’ve previously not experienced / achieved. Joe and Kyle are both a little older than the 3 of us, so maybe that has something to do with it, but it’s not just that alone by any means if at all. They, like us, have been musicians for years. Both of their induvial sounds have integrated into ours and have elevated it in a way we’re really happy with. Maturity I think is the right word to describe it. It’s very bold and full and obviously in the studio, Loïc has managed to capture and elevate that even further.

Tear it Down” is a taster of what is to come with your debut album which will be released early spring next year. How many songs will be on the album and at what stage in the process are they?

We’re not 100% decided on how many songs we want to include on the album, however we’re aiming for around 10, give or take. It really depends on how the songs fit together and flow with each other, and what the overall length ends up coming to. The priority is to make it a good album, irrespective of the number of tracks or playtime.

We’ve written quite a lot up to now, and we’re gradually working our way through more ideas and watching things taking shape. This is currently going on in between preparing for a music video, and of course our first gig back since May.

Although the title “Tear it Down” is pretty self-explanatory, what are the lyrical themes behind the song?

When I listen to the song, I feel the theme of unison and togetherness. Being forcibly put behind a wall, or beneath a glass ceiling, by people who deem themselves to be above everyone else. We’re living in times where almost every aspect of our lives is specifically designed to divide everyone. Whether it’s petty arguments about nothing, financially crippling yourself in a bid to keep up with the Jones’, or simply getting more likes and followers than somebody else on Facebook or Instagram etc. It’s about breaking down these invisible walls and showing that together, we are unstoppable. The belief that in the long term, the power of people with a collective energy and spirit, will eventually prevail.

On the other hand, Joe sees it as something more targeted at an individual, as a song about overcoming adversity and being put down in different areas of your life. Within social circles or where you work perhaps. But not letting other people or your own mind get the better of you, and finding a way to rise above the negativity.

Kyle sees it simply as ‘working together, we can beat anything!’ Everyone is usually going through some rubbish at any given time, we need to unite and tear down the barriers that society has placed, to make our world the best it can possibly be.

You may listen to it and find your own meaning within it. It’s not always a good idea, in my opinion, to put the meaning of a song in black and white, because the tendency is that people stop searching and discovering their own feelings and meanings behind it. Once you know something for sure, that’s pretty much it. There’s no longer any reason to carry on thinking about it, which is quite sad in a way. It depends on the song, of course, often they’re written with a message in mind, but it’s still a nice thing to have some mystery. The ‘unknown’ and the curiosity within us as people is what keeps us searching and discovering by our very nature.

You recorded the single “Tear it Down” in the Motor Museum Recording Studios with producer Loïc Gaillard. How was it to work with him and how did he push you to the limit in the studio?

Loïc is fantastic. He’s an absolute gem, in his personality and in his ability as a producer. He’s forever improving, drawing out the best in everyone. In that regard he doesn’t have to work as hard, to be honest. Joe and I in particular, are total perfectionists beyond words. We know ourselves that once we’ve done a take, when we could’ve done it better 90% of the time. Sometimes Loïc will advise or let us know, maybe throw in an idea or two and we’ll try that. He has a gentle nature and a way of naturally getting the best out of you, through encouragement and overall vibes. He won’t always be overly explicit about wanting to have another go at something, or try something, you’ll just know, but that’s fine! We have great chemistry with him. He draws the best out of us, he provides inspiration, we have a laugh with him. He creates a working environment in which we all seem to flourish.

Personally, I’ve had to learn over many years, when to just be happy with something and know that it does the job. You can go on and on with anything really, tweaking to the nth degree until you’ve lost your mind. Eventually, you’ve got to move on and push forward with things. Usually, those times are more personal to the individual, when everyone else will be saying ‘’that’s amazing, honestly’’, but deep down you’re going ‘’I know I can get that even more perfect’’. At the end of the day you just need to listen back and if you’re happy with it, go with it.

How frequent have the band been able to get together and record in the studio?

As it stands, we’ve only done two days of recording in the studio. As any band knows who’ve gone out their way to do things properly and professionally, it is not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination. We’re working on a few things at the moment that will hopefully, make the next group of recordings quite a bit more manageable for us all. In turn, hopefully, the rest of the album will be recorded in one bulk session through the course of a week or two.

How are the songs constructed in the studio? Are there the main songwriters of songs that take care of everything or is Ashen Reach a band where all members contribute to the songs?

Usually, the songs stem from one individual’s initial idea. Whether it be a good lyric, a vocal melody, a chord progression or a riff. Sometimes there might be more than that, such a basic framework for a song. The idea will be presented to the group and we’ll give some feedback, and then try to get it to take shape some more.

It’s a far more collaborative process than it’s ever been, in particular with lyrics. Everyone has ideas that are played around with and evolve. It’s a great writing environment, to be honest. Working this collaboratively greatly increases the chances of everyone being as happy as possible with the end result, as everybody is there and involved throughout the entire process for the most part.

Being a five-piece and having different musical influences within the band, is there sometimes a lot of negotiating in the studio or do you feel you are writing the music you want to for the band?

Occasionally there are times where a couple of us feel something doesn’t quite work. Maybe a part is too abrasive or harsh, or just not quite right. Whether it be a certain lyric, or perhaps the way in which something is played/sung or possibly screamed. As mentioned before though, we very much have a shared vision and none of us are overly precious about things. Everything revolves around what is best for the song, and the band. We all share a common goal and vision of where we want to be, musically. This helps a lot in the writing process and when crafting an arrangement, structure or even specific parts within a song.

You are to have a single launch show on November 23rd in the Alchemy Live Music Bar in Runcorn. Will we get to hear any other new material and are you excited to play the show?

There will indeed be new material making its debut at the show. We’re beyond excited to hear what people think and to see how everything goes down on the night. We’ve obviously evolved and developed our sound into something slightly different and we’re again, excited to see how people react to the change as we are really proud of what we’ve achieved in a matter of months!

What can we expect from an Ashen Reach live show? Are there plans to go out on longer tours in 2020 to coincide with the album release?

Heavy-hitting, high impact, blow the roof off stuff. We are going out to every single gig doing our absolute utmost to be the band the that people remember after the show. When there multiple bands on a gig, especially if they all live in a similar genre, it’s difficult to stand out sometimes. The worst thing that can happen to you as a band is that you get lost amongst the noise, at that point, there’s no reason to be playing the gig. You have to have both sides covered as well, especially in this day and age. An extravagant live show with lots of bells and whistles is all well and good, but if the songs don’t have the quality, to make people excited, to give them goosebumps, it’s only going to get you so far. On the other side, if you have truly amazing songs, but the whole band just sways or stands still and stares at the floor, people aren’t going to be as invested in a live context. Your job as a live, performing band, is to do exactly that. You have to perform and entertain, whilst making it feel natural. People are spending money to come and not only listen to you, but to watch you. And people see right through you if you’re unnatural. You have to still be yourself, but an excited and adrenaline-fuelled version!

You are now on the Enso Music Management roster. How has it been to work with them and what are they doing to help push Ashen Reach to the next level?

ENSO are a great company to work with. Every step of the way Rachael is full of encouragement and praise. She always tries her best for us and you can tell her heart is in it as much as ours, she clearly shares a vision with us and feels she has the capabilities to help us forge a reality out of it. She has tons of ideas and plans going forward, things even we probably aren’t aware of yet! We’ve been given lots of advice on ways of going about different things. Sometimes we have an idea of something we want to do that can accelerate things or make us stand out more, but aren’t quite sure how to execute it in the best way, which is where Rachael comes in. Social media overhauls, image changes, branding etc. All the things you have to consider when trying to run a successful business. This is, after all, a business. You have to give yourself every chance if you have any hope of succeeding. Investment whether it be time or money, personal or group sacrifice. It’s a long term goal for sure, but one that we are all invested in and believe in.

Before the internet, magazines and fanzines were the places to find out about new bands and trends. Now publications are replaced with thousands of websites catering for all genres. Do you think that some of the passion has been lost or do you think that the internet has been a good thing for music and Inert?

It’s a double-edged sword really. On the one hand, it is monumentally easier to get yourself out there. A lot of websites and services are free to use and with the age of social media upon us, there is potential beyond belief. However, this has also created an environment which is extremely oversaturated, in many different fields, bands being just one of them. There are so many bands out there all doing what they can to spread their name, and with that, almost all of them are just grains of salt in the ocean. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out with so much being out there, so you have to be as unique as possible. Find a market, try to provide something that other people aren’t. Not only that, but there are certain people you need to be reaching and putting yourself on the radars of. People who’ve seen hundreds and thousands of bands. They are the hardest of all to leave a lasting impression on. It’s by no means easy, but if you have the talent, good advice and ideas from people who support you, it’s worth pursuing.

I wouldn’t say the passion has been lost as such, maybe just suppressed by things like oversaturation. It’s the same with almost anything. If there is an excessive amount of something, its value is decreased. There has to be something more to it, if it is to rise above and stand the test of time.

Any last message for our Moshville Times readers and Ashen Reach fans out there?

Do whatever you can to support up and coming bands. Like anyone pursuing anything, they need support from people who believe in them and people who enjoy what they’re doing. Buy their merch, go to their gigs and help provide the means to push onward! To anyone and everyone who has supported or followed us during any point of our journey, thank you. We look forward to showing you what we’ll become and seeing what the future holds!

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