A year on from the arrival of his first release, Flowers, which picked up the award for Track of the Year at the Worldwide Awards 2013, London based Andrew Ashong returned to perform in the event’s 9thannual show in the wake of his long awaited Special EP. In a busy period for the stand out artist, leading a new soul wave in the capital, the DJ come producerand vocalist took some time out of his day to catch up with STW and talk his new EP, working with Theo Parrish and future plans.
Firstly I just want to say congratulations on the new release. What has the journey been like for you?
Thanks, it’s been great. It feels like a spiritual weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I’ve been making music for a while now and been very much indulging in my own world with it. I’ve challenged myself technically in how and what to record, and it’s nice now to be able to put that out on my own terms.
The next phase will involve others who will influence the music, but I felt like I would’ve been doing myself an injustice if I had put this out through another avenue and simply left it to process in the big cog wheels of the industry.
It sounds like doing this record your way has meant a lot to you?
Definitely. After the first release there was a lot of interest from people wanting to collaborate and send me here or there, but it was nice to keep it all close to home. My friend Alex Fairman and I spent a long time working on the artwork and sleeves; we did everything from the design to the paper used, it was a real labor of love.
We really enjoyed the tracks on the EP, especially Never Dreamed since hearing it on Gilles Peterson’s show. Is there a story behind this track?
(Laughs) I always feel silly when in the process of writing lyrics and can sometimes never take myself seriously. There isn’t a particular event that this is based on, its just a simple idea of the fact that someone can change. We all have relationships and I guess its expressing the errors in judgement we make and the naivety we all have in these relationships. A not-so-classical love song.
…but still something that happens in all relationships.
Exactly, it could be anyone. It also could be both, not just one, who doesn’t see the change coming.
When would you say the music game got serious for you?
Depends what you mean by serious. I think I’m quite a serious person, I’ve always given music the respect it deserves. I’ve produced for a long time and I was very much into it at a technical level, all the way from building the computer, to understanding all the effects and filters on the software.
Only in the last year or two I would say music has become the main thing in my life, it coming before other things. I’ve been expanding myself in my recording and been going out and Djing, and when people come to hear you play you have to bring something serious to the table. You gotta come correct.
Your music radiates influences of soul and RnB. Are influenced at all by your Ghanaian roots?
While I don’t specifically reference it what I do, it’s there in indirect and subtle ways. The simplicity of my lyrics is similar to traditional Ghanaian music; there is definitely a sentiment running through it like there’s a lesson to be learned. It also shares the repetitiveness of West African music, it evades the standard song structures sounding like a kind of mantra, which can sometimes be entrancing.
Another inspiration to do what I do is my parents, they work harder than anyone I know. I’m trying to keep up with them. They inspire me to be able to one day turn around and bless them.
What do you like to listen to when you’re away from your turntables playing to crowds?
The majority of my ‘home’ music is not what I would play in a club but at the same time it’s the minority of my record collection. I listen to all things at home, from highlife and folk to a bit of spiritual jazz; you’d wouldn’t hear me playing an Alice Coultrain record or some Nick Drake out at a club. I definitely go through phases in music that have got me inspired. When things skip through the divisions of genres and have their own unique sound. For example that old Motown group that sounds like jazz but is definitely Motown.
I think my collection is built up with things in this category.
What was it like performing at the Worldwide Awards last weekend weekend?
This was my second time at the awards, last year was CRAZY after picking up the award for the single of the year so this year it was a lot calmer and it was also nice to perform. We’ve been trying a new format, expanding from an all-acoustic set and bringing in different elements and sounds from other places. I enjoyed seeing the other acts too. Last year I don’t think I saw a whole act in its entirety.
The Internet were very enjoyable, it was also great to see Omar do his thing, and I love Terri Walker. Jonwayne I’d never heard of him before but he was nice to see. And the DJs, this guy from Hessle Audio, I’m not good with names [Joe], was just amazing, he played some really good records. But yes there are too many to mention.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this before but we have to know, what was it like working with Theo Parrish?
Theo is brilliantly passionate and inspiring, just pure energy and direction. When he knows where he’s going, he sure as hell is going in that direction completely plugged in an completely absorbed. He’s thoroughly on board and emotionally connected. I feel that’s where we related and its refreshing. To have someone that far in their career and still have the romanticism he does, cos its tiring to see people spreading themselves thinly and doing it just to do it.
Theo and I have stuff on the back-burner and hopefully we’ll do something with them at some point. I definitely look forward to doing more together!
Is this what you have planned for 2014, another release?
I will definitely be doing more of my own material, I haven’t been in the studio on my own for over a year doing my own thing, for me. The next release will be interesting, a bit more gentle and less gentle at the same time.
Finally we’d be interested to know who are your ones to watch for 2014?
The last gig I went to that totally arrested me was a guy called Moses Sumney. What he has got is just incredible, it’s something new, and that makes it more exciting to see what people are going to do. I’m waiting to hear more from Kwabs, and I’m going to keep it to just three. Tawiah – expecting to hear something from her too.