In the first in of a series of interviews that follows local talent, up and coming Indie-punk, blues infused rock band The Ashes, The Chronicles had a chance to sit down and talk to the band members about their music, their influences, favorite songs---and even their least favorite gig...!
[The band: Asher Santa, lead guitar, Serina Del Nero on bass and Joanne Steel on drums]
Chronicles: How did you all meet?
Asher: "I own the record store in town Asher's Music Serina came in a few times and i ended up hiring her as a clerk and Joanne came in a few times as a customer and we all just sort of clicked.."
Serina: "..i was poor and in the need for a job as any Italian backpacker worth the definition. I've been lucky enought to search for a copy of Bloody Kisses from Type O'Negative and stopped to chat with Ash for a long time. We had a lot of music in common and in the end he proposed a job. While i was tending as a clerk i saw them playing together and offered to help having been a 'bad' bass player in Italy. And here we are now!"
CHRON: Are you all natives of Santa Ramona?
Serina: "As you can guess from the accent no. I come from Italy, still my English is not so bad, accent aside."
Joanne: " I'm from New York..I guess we all have our own reasons for coming to Santa Ramona Valley but it's a great place especially to be a musician with the amount of places there are to play.."
Asher: " I am not, I am from the South East originally .. i lived here previously and moved away to New York and now i have been back 6 months or so "
CHRON: What draws you to this city and made you want to stay?
Asher: "Well I had lived here before and after dealing with a New York winter i decided the climate here is more my speed and i like the people and my shop and my band mates."
Serina: "Can i say it was a Visa? I am here with a student visa. Always been a globetrotter and a nice cook, unfortunately missing the proper piece of paper. I came here for the sun, the sea, the vibe and for a boring Cookery School out of town. What made me stay where the wonderful people, my beloved terrible man Joseph and of course the best band mates a girl could ask for."
Joanne: "I was actually working in Louisiana and things weren't good, I was a reporter with the local newspaper there and it was becoming more obvious that the pay wasn't worth the risks involved so packed up with a plan to move to Los Angeles but once I saw Santa Ramona kind of made my mind up that this looked like a much better option, the people and the city keep me here it's just a really nice place to live plus the band is based here now, and I've settled in to living here not sure I would want to move."
CHRON: Who musically influences you?
Asher: "My influences are all over the place.. from classical and early blues jazz hip hop metal just kind of all over the place.. but band wise Black Sabbath, The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, The Ramones, Tom Waits .."
Serina: "..I'm totally curious about a lot of music, so if i listen to a good flow here i am getting the idea to add it to my style. So i could say Battisti influenced me. Pink Floyd too. Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Gogol Bordello.. The list is endless.
Joanne: "Anything really, punk rock, heavy metal, rock, I mean off-hand not sure I can pick a genre of music that at some time I haven't listened to. Just being around different people you pick up their listening habits and get an eclectic range of music that you like. Think I have mentioned before that I'm from the same district of Queens the Ramones came from, Forrest Hills, so they were always one of my favorite bands, then I guess bands bands like Siouxsie And The Banshees, Phantom Blue and other girl orientated bands got me more interested in music in my early teens. As far as my drumming goes well I really like Deep Purple and Ian Paice is one of my favourite drummers, Jon Bonham of led Zeppelin, Budgie of Siouxsie And The Banshees, Glen Evans of Nuclear Assault and Dave Lombardo of Slayer."
CHRON: Do you have any traditions as a band?
Joanne: "I can't speak for Serina or Asher but I always have to check my kit before I start make sure everything is fastened tightly, that my foot pedals are in exactly the right position and that my sticks holder is on the side of my snare with a towel under it just to wipe my hands when I get chance between songs."
Serina: "Not one that i really remember. But we have time to have one or more right?"
CHRON: Which gig that you've performed has so far been your favorite?
Joanne: Probably the first gig because it was the first, getting up on stage and performing I think it was 10 songs? I can't remember to be honest but yeah it was like confirmation that this is what I want to do and it was great being up there with people seemingly into what we were playing
Asher: "We did a gig recently at the damn during the art fair.. there was some confusion and technical difficulties and it was very disjointed but we had fun and just went with the flow and rocked out ..plus we debuted a few new heavier songs."
Serina: "The most unexpected one at the talent show contest. It risked to be a fiasco cause they hadn't enough entries, so we had the ungrateful duty to have a full gig to save the day. Jokes aside, I have to thank Eve Stone for the great opportunity. It has been hard but a lot of fun, and the air was magic there."
CHRON: What has been your least favorite gig that you've performed?
Joanne: "Probably the music festival one simply because the Mayor put so much effort in booking acts and getting everything set up but we never got the numbers we were expecting and there were a few technical issues mostly because it's so damn high up on top of the dam the atmospherics are different and there were a few technical issues with the speakers cutting out.
Asher: "I really don't have one "
Serina: "The one at the dam. I mean it felt more like a suicidal spot and we had so many technical issue in the end we were just laughing and having fun. Good energy and great people to listen, but has been quite a stress to go through till the end."
CHRON.: Are you self taught musicians or did any of you learn/study music?
Serina: "I could say self taught but would it really make sense? Nowadays with Youtube you just learn so much online that I feel like I followed a proper study. That's nice for the kids, since you can literally buy a guitar and have heap of things to follow on the Internet. I just hope they don't lose the touch with the scene, cause a video is great and helpful, but meeting people you learn a lot of cool stuff you didn't even think about. So, Thank you Asher's customers. Feel like they whip me constantly when i practice but in the end i had so much good random advices from them that helped me to be a better musician.
Asher: "I started with piano lessons when i was like 5 and by the time i was 10 i was playing guitar .. i was in marching band in high school and learned to play wind instruments so i can play a bit of everything.. i did study music in college but it was more on the production side."
Joanne: "Partially self taught, in the Ashes there are two other people there willing to help me out, that want to help me get better and so they help a lot too, like Asher will write a drum part but he knows his way around a drum kit so he will write it in a way that it is easy for me to learn but it sounds more complicated than it really is to make up for my lack of experience, and Serina is moral support, and a bit of a slave driver too *laughs* but her bass line work helps greatly because it gives me so much to work with."
CHRON: Name your favorite song, do you have any particular memory attached to it?
Joanne: "Probably Rockaway beach by the Ramones as I said because of my connections with that area and I used to go down Rockaway as a teen, honestly it wasn't as great as they made it sound but it was a cool place to hang out with your friends and that song always reminds me of those times and especially of home."
Serina: "I have many, so it's really an hard question to answer and many of them linked with happy or sad memories too."
Asher: "..In general thats another hard one.. but probably A Forest by The Cure.. i had older siblings who listened to them and i would steal their cds when they weren't around and listen to them .. and that song has such a melancholy feel to it that I could relate to when I was a teenager plus the sonic landscape that they were able to create it was just perfect to me.."
CHRON: How would you describe your own musical style?
Asher: "it is very hodgepodge there are some classical jazz and blues elements but i also would say indie rock and shoegaze with some doom/stoner metal thrown in for good measure."
Serina: "Cool. (Chuckles) I mean, i just try to keep some groove and still sound fresh. I'm not a fan of easy and catchy things. I mean i like them but i just want that who listens to me feel something, and that means i try to touch something a bit above the instant satisfaction tune."
Joanne: "Amateur, I haven't been playing the drums all that long so am under no illusion that I have a ot still to learn so yeah I guess i consider myself as a over achieving amateur at this point, I mean I got a place in a great band, we've got our first album out and between us, have written some great songs though to be fair most of the b est songs have been Asher's."
CHRON: And finally, which famous musician would you love to play with or would have [if deceased.]
Joanne: "I am a big fan of Deep Purple as i said, so would love to have played with Jon Lord their Keyboard player who died a few years ago, though there's no way in hell I could ever replace Ian Paice, so maybe just for one song while he has a pee or something, actually would have loved to have played with the Gillan/Glover/Blackmore/Lord/Paice mark II Deep Purple"
Asher: "There are two .. i would love to play with Black Sabbath because well they were the first heavy metal band and all of them are amazing musicians and lastly Johnny Cash just because he was the essence of cool and just a really a bad ass."
Serina: "Johan Sebastian Bach. Kidding. I would love to play with Jonnhy Cash. I mean, every usable sound i could make for him would be nice, since i feel like i could just be happy to watch him close while we play together. It's a pity we lost him."
The band are currently working on their latest album after Rise, their debut album released in May this year and available for purchase in Asher's Music and Records located on Shady Street.