Daniel Ash: “Human creativity is out of the equation at a certain point because AI has taken over, so then we are obsolete and all we would be is an audience.”

In our latest Cover Story feature, Daniel Ash dishes on Love and Rockets, Artificial Intelligence, motorcycles, tinny ’80s music, and so much more.



This past year has seen a resurgence in activity for the long-defunct Love And Rockets; Reissues of the majority of their catalogue in vinyl, an expanded compilation of material accompanying Sweet F.A. called My Dark Twin, and an assortment of live performance dates. Nobody could be more surprised than the members of Love And Rockets; all three members said they were likely all but over years ago.

This past week, the Beggars Arkive reissue series released expanded vinyl editions of Hot Trip To Heaven plus an expanded edition of Sweet F.A. There was also a brand new cd/digital collection titled My Dark Twin, a companion to the band’s 1996 album Sweet F.A. The 22-track double CD/Digital release contains eight previously unreleased versions and six unreleased songs from the now legendary Sweet F.A. sessions.

The band began recording Sweet F.A. at San Francisco’s Coast Recorders with Andy Taub at the helm. These initial sessions proved fruitful and produced many quality recordings. Despite these very promising tracks, it was determined by all that the essential spark wasn’t quite there. Rick Rubin suggested a new studio and a new producer. John Fryer came on board and took Andy Taub’s recordings to Chipping Norton studios and deconstructed them, adding an “English” edge to the Coast recordings. The band also recorded some additional (but ultimately unused) tracks at Chipping Norton, including a spontaneously improvised cover of the beloved Mink DeVille’s classic ’77 hit “Spanish Stroll.” The band brought these tracks back to California when they were offered full use of Rick Rubin’s haunted 1919 Laurel Canyon mansion as a base to stay and rehearse to ideally come up with more material that American Recordings felt was needed to complete the record.

A couple of inspired new tracks were recorded on Kevin’s portable DAT machine, and acting on instinct, he thankfully took them home with him on the night a massive fire broke out. They lost all of their gear and nearly lost their lives as well. After the fire, the band checked into Jive in Silver Lake with producer Paul Wallfisch – Jive was basically Paul’s black-widow-infested garage! My Dark Twin features some of these unearthed recordings, many previously unheard.

In the weeks leading up to Cruel World Festival, the impetus for Love and Rockets’ current short run of live dates, Daniel Ash took a half hour away from band rehearsals to chat with V13. We thank Daniel for taking a piece of his morning a few weeks ago to field these questions for V13. The audio is available here via SoundCloud if you’d prefer to hear Ash’s answers in real time.

What’s going on in Los Angeles? Are you rehearsing, or are you just hanging out?

Daniel Ash: “We just set the gear up last night, and we’re rehearsing until the 18th. And then we do Cruel World on the 20th, so we just started rehearsing. Yesterday.”

I think it’s wonderful to be talking about Love And Rockets as an active band, like in the present tense. That’s just so amazing.

“Yeah, well, this offer just came out of the blue, like it always does with us, much like we had last year with Cruel World (Bauhaus). We’re not a working band, as such. This is what happened last time as well with Bauhaus. Kevin got a call because he’s in contact often with a lot of promoters in LA, and he got a call out of the blue several months ago asking if we wanted to do Cruel World. And so we weighed it out and looked at the offer and said, “Okay, all systems go,” and then suddenly, after you say okay to a festival, then all of these other gigs get added on. We’d get other offers as such coming in, and here we are now. So we’ve got, I don’t know, I think 15 to 18 gigs, which takes us up to something like the twentieth of June. Eighteen gigs, I think all-in-all.”


“Yeah, so lovely, lovely. Who would have thought after all this time – and before you say it, because people will say, “You said 14 years ago you would never do this again. Never, never, never.” What it is, is I suppose having a 13-14 years break is long enough to reconsider. So yeah, that’s what’s going on. This is (here we go again, but) this is a one-off thing. It’s something that we can do, and we’re doing it. I don’t know what else to say. I am surprised; I’m surprised that there’s interest from the public as well, to be honest. I’m pleasantly surprised as well, we all are, about that. Just how it’s all going; tickets are selling and all that stuff. So there you go; all systems are go again.”

V13 Cover Story 027 – Daniel Ash – June 12, 2023

Let me ask you this, as tactfully as I can then: Do I need to get on a plane to go and see one of these shows? Or is there a chance you’re going to come up to Canada?

“I really don’t see it right now. If you look at the size of places that we’re doing, we’re not doing a stadium tour or anything, so the demand for that is not there, and this is us doing the size of gigs that we’re doing. I don’t think so, no. I mean, the way things are, unless we get some irresistible offers, you never really know what’s around the corner as far as what’s going to be offered, but I think the way it feels, at first, this was supposed to be just two festival gigs for Cruel World.

“Last year, that was two whole days. This year, it’s only one day. So because of that, for financial reasons also, you have to do other gigs in order to finance the whole thing because it takes us X amount of money to get all our lights and everything in place and our crew. That is not cheap. So in order to make that financially viable, because we’re not doing just the two nights at Cruel World, we’re only doing one, you have to put other gigs around it to make it financially viable. And then that snowballed into what we’ve got now.

“But again, this whole thing came out of the blue, so there were no plans to do more records and do a world tour and all that; it’s just a one-off that snowballed into 16 gigs instead of one. So that’s where we are right now. I’m not writing anything off, but that’s what it looks like at the moment. It’s just going to be this one thing this summer, and that’s it because I’ve got this other thing called Ashes And Diamonds in the works that I started three years ago, but that was all put on hold because of Covid. We’ve got an album finished now; it’s like 12 tracks, all original tracks – no covers or anything. And that’s with Paul Denman from Sade on bass and Bruce Smith. Do you know about this, by the way, the Ashes And Diamonds?”

It’s one of the questions in front of me right now. Did it actually get a release? I’ve been watching for it, and I haven’t seen it.

“Yeah, as I said, that’s something that we’ve been working on for three years. We actually started it in 2019, and then Covid got in the way. So we’re just finishing it off now, so after this tour, I will be focusing on that in the mid-summer/autumn time. Looking for a distribution deal and all that stuff and releasing tracks. It’s all changed now. How you deal with that stuff with a record, but that’s the plan right now. So I have got commitments to that project anyway, so I couldn’t actually go out indefinitely with Love And Rockets.”

That’s fair. And you had mentioned having no plans to do another album, and yet we’re kind of getting a new album on June the 9th. We’re getting a whole bunch of studio material, right?

“Yeah, they were outtakes. From my point of view, there was the definitive album, if you like; that was the cream. These unheard ones have not made it to the record. And then these outtakes, there’s songs that didn’t make it, for whatever reason, some of it is just because of the case you can only fit so much on a record. But yeah, I would think it’s going to be of interest to people that are real fans of the band. This is stuff that’s never seen the light of day. So that’s the idea of putting it out that is something extra. And it fell in line really nicely because Beggars Banquet we’re going to put this out before there was any talk about doing the Cruel World show anyway. So this was a bit of synchronicity right there, as this all fell into place. It was going to be released anyway, then suddenly we get this Cruel World thing. So they’re coinciding really nicely. That’s a good thing. It’s great how that’s happened.”

Love and Rockets, photo by Chris Jensen

That’s awesome. Was it a regular thing for Love And Rockets to have so much additional material after leaving a recording session? Because there’s a lot on My Dark Twin.

“Well, it looks like it, but no; usually, no. I was talking to Paul about this (Paul Denman from Sade), And he was saying what you hear (with Sade) is what we got. Because they’d take a long time really crafting their stuff, and it shows. Me, I’m a real believer in that, you know? Don’t have 40 half-baked songs. Have six that are really good; it’s much better. But with us, obviously, in this particular instance, there was stuff that I know I’d forgotten all about. Various tracks until the record company sent them to us to check them out, so maybe we’re being a bit prolific or something there? I don’t know, but we were obviously on a bit of a role as far as writing goes. In answer to your question, no, there’s usually, over the years in the past, not been any tracks that have not made it into the album. Whatever we were working on would have made it to the album. But in this particular instance, that wasn’t the case. It was spread over a two-year period, if I remember right. It was two years of working together with various things in different studios with different producers and all that stuff. So it’s not over a six-week period of writing or whatever – it’s over a two-year period.”

Where were these recordings stored for this long? Were they stored at the studio? We’re they in someone’s basement?

“Good question. Well, they definitely weren’t stored with me; I’m really scatty about that. Don’t ask me to keep anything. Let me think. Beggars Banquet. Yeah, they’re the ones that had them. Oh, we’ve also got a guy called Andy Brooksbank, who is crazy about the bands we’ve been in. He keeps everything. He knows more about what we do than we do. It’s insane. Anything you want to know about the band, ask Andy. And that’s including us; we ask him about what we’ve been up to (laughs). He knows everything; it’s really weird. Yeah, Andy Brooksbank. Between him and Beggars Banquet, that’s where the tapes would have all been.”

Do you have any idea how much work needed to be done on these tracks prior to putting them out to the public as My Dark Twin?

“Oh, no, no. They’re all done. That’s how they are. They were all finished. Yeah, yeah. There’s one, which is the one that’s out there as a single; I went into the studio and did some tricks with it and added a few different things to “My Dark Twin.” It wasn’t 100% for me, so I went in and reworked it a little bit in the studio with a friend of mine and then just sent it back out to Vegas, and then they released that.”

So by the time June the ninth hits, the first six Love and Rockets albums will have all been reissued on vinyl. Do you have any way of knowing if you’ve got a younger audience buying these reissues up, or is it all legacy fans?

“I’ve heard that it’s a real cross-section, but I couldn’t tell you for sure; I really don’t know, but I’ve heard it is. I’m hoping that it is young kids as well, but I don’t know. Maybe their moms and dads got to playing it to them, and they’re getting into it that way. I have no idea, to be honest. No idea what the audience is out there. Who knows?”

I think you are going to find out in a few weeks.

“There you go. Yeah, probably. Yeah, I remember doing some things with Kevin – we were doing Pop-Tone; Love and Rockets, Tones On Tail, Bauhaus, and some solo things, and there was a cross-section in the audiences there. There were some kids coming out to see us with their moms and dads and stuff. It was odd. But as you say, we’ll know soon enough.”

Do you think there will be a re-release of Lift down the road? Did Beggars get the rights to pop that out?

“Yeah, that is the plan; we just don’t know who owns it right now. It’s up in the air on how we get our hands on it, but that would be ideal. Yeah, if we could get our hands on it, that would be good to re-release Lift. The only saving grace on that is you can still hear that stuff on YouTube. It is technically out there. It would be nice to re-release Lift.”

Are you at all surprised that vinyl has resurged the way that it has over the past few years?

“I am completely surprised. I never would have seen that coming in a million years. Unbelievable that people would want to go back to something so bulky compared with a CD or streaming. It’s fascinating. It’s good to see that people notice that there is a sonic difference in the quality. I mean, definitely, an analog signal is better than a digital one. Vinyl does sound better; there are no two ways about it. Yeah, but I’m stumped. I have no idea why that’s made a comeback, really. Particularly with young people – why they would be bothered to carry around such large things, because I think they’re the majority. Isn’t it the case where it’s a majority of younger people that have made this resurgence happen? Or is it older people?”

I think it’s younger. Based on what I’m seeing in the stores, it’s young.

“Yeah, vinyl is in Urban Outfitters and places like that. Right? And they’re selling these little rinky-dinky sound systems (chuckles). It’s so weird. It’s really funny to me, I don’t know how old you are, but the cool thing was to have a really good sounding stereo in my day. But the stuff they sell in the shops are like these little record players, you know? That’s hilarious. I keep thinking, “If only they could hear it on a good system.” Maybe some of these systems are good? I don’t know. I’m not really up on it. Are they decent systems that they sell with the vinyl? When you get to a store section of vinyl, then you’ll see these record players. Are they any good, or are they really garbage?”

Some of them are. I mean, you’ll see some of them where the main attraction is that you can extract them as MP3s off of your records using a hub that’s on the side of the unit. It’s ridiculous.

“Yeah. Okay. Well that’s crazy because if that’s the case, why don’t you just go and buy a CD? You’d think they’d just go by a CD? Get a good compilation of the songs.”

But find something to play a CD on now? No laptops have them. No cars have them.

“People don’t have CD players anymore. Yeah. I understand that. It’s all about streaming now. It’s convenient, I get it, yeah. I really don’t buy CDs anymore.”

What’s your take on Artificial Intelligence and some of these computerized pieces of music?

“It scares the hell out of me. I think I was just talking about this to somebody else and have been watching some stuff online about it; it’s really weird. I think it’s extremely close to the possibility of AI taking over for sure. Yeah, I’m very apprehensive about it. I think of it getting to the wrong hands, or the hands themselves being the Artificial intelligence (chuckles) and all hell breaking loose. If you think about it to any degree, it’s really scary. I mean, just what my brother said to me ages ago; there’s this airplane, a commercial flight, and the computer took over. There was a malfunction. The computer took over and said, “No, no, no, we’re not doing this. We’re doing that,” it just started to nose-dive to the ground, and then their pilot couldn’t get it to overrun to go into manual mode. Stories like that. That’s just a very, very simple thing. So imagine an artificial intelligence, and you feed it so much information, and then the day comes when the switch is switched, and suddenly the artificial intelligence has more intelligence than the entity that created it. A shocking nightmare. That’s what I’d say about that.”

But I can also see hypothetically, yourself and Kevin and David sitting together and saying, “Alright, ten songs in the vein of 1986 Express; take it down a couple of octaves; throw in some King Crimson.” And it would be curious to see what came out, you know?

“Oh yeah, that is interesting. Yes. Okay, so you feed it all the information to tell it to write an album. Wow.”

Right? And then, who owns that?

“I never thought about it on the creative side, I just thought about it on the things like politics and war and the power of AI taking over in that capacity, but I haven’t thought about it on a creative level. That’s fascinating, but it’s also scary. It’s a double-edged sword completely. Absolutely fascinating, to say the mix of two bands. Okay, here’s one. How about The Velvet Underground and Britney Spears? Hear them make an album together. Wow. Interesting. That could be fantastic.”

Love and Rockets, photo by Kevin Westenberg

As an artist, you can use any tool that’s available to you, so…

“Yeah, yeah. Okay, I get that. Okay, the sky is the limit. But then when does it become so easy that literally anybody can do it, and everything’s fabulous? Then suddenly you are left with everything being so brilliant that nobody’s really doing it. The machines are doing it, so human talent is out of the equation at a certain point. Human creativity is out of the equation at a certain point because AI has taken over, so then we are obsolete, and all we would be is an audience. And then that’s all very well and good, but I think there’s something fundamental in human beings where they get a kick out of the fact that another human being has created, let’s say, the music of your favorite band. There’s a deep-rooted thing. Otherwise, why would people want to go and see bands when they could just play the music at home? They want to see those other human beings playing that music because there’s a part of them in those artists. So if you take that equation away and suddenly you know that it’s AI. Maybe it’s; you are in a void then because you know a human didn’t create it.”

It sounds like DJ culture to me.

“Ah yeah. But then again, the humans did create the original music for AI to work with, so that can never be taken away. But then you can take that and go, Okay, well then get the machines to actually write their own music with all the information and all the songs that have ever been written. Given all that information to them, and then they can write the perfect, three-and-a-half-minute hit single forever. Just keep churning them out every week. (laughs) I don’t know. It’s so vast. The idea of AI, it’s so vast. It’s limitless.”

I’m only ten years behind you. So we both saw Terminator and Terminator 2. I feel like we’re flirting with Skynet.

“Yes. Yeah, absolutely, that’s what I’m concerned about. Just AI taking over, as in the robots themselves or just AI getting into the internet, the possibility of having the power to shut you down in this day and age, if you shut down people’s electricity, you’ve got them. Modern warfare? All you’ve got to do is get to the electrical sites where every single store, the little corner store, the liquor store on the corner, the gas station. Everything can’t run without electricity because everything’s online. Everything. You take down people’s electrical grid, and you’re done. You’ve got them. That’s it; they’re done. So again, AI could do that.”

Yeah, absolutely.

“AI could do that in a heartbeat. In the not-too-distant future, they can suss it out by going, “Oh, if they are a problem, shut them down, done.” The machine will do that, and then we’re at the mercy of whatever. That’s the problem. It doesn’t bear thinking about it, really. So I’m not going to worry about it, where I’m going to be one of those underground rebels with the machine guns trying to blow up all the robots (laughs).”

When you were starting out as a young musician, you must have had an idea in your head of what being in a band and making music for record labels would be like. How accurate was your preconception?

“Well, first of all, all our record deals were great. The percentages weren’t so great, thank you very much, but they were great in that we always have had complete artistic control. So we never got into a situation where we were working for the record company and having to use this and that producer, and no, “This is no good.” We’ve never had that.

“So we had a good experience in that respect. Our payments for record sales could have been a lot better over the years, I can tell you, but as far as a creative process, we never got into that trap of being told what to do ever. But that was great. There were a couple of times when people were trying to fuck with us, and we were like, (I won’t say exactly what we said, but basically,) no, we’re not doing this; we’re doing what we want to do. So we’ve had that all the way. So, not cynical about the record company taking over, and making us puppets and making us do things. We were not in that category; we were independent all the way along the line, so we never had the big machine behind us. Luckily we didn’t as well, because that’s why we didn’t have that horrible eighties drum-machine sounds that were very expensive to get, and we couldn’t get. But that’s why we never got that horrible 1980s drum machine sound.

“Because we couldn’t afford it at the time. I’m sort of half-joking and half serious if you catch my meaning. You know what that is when there’s the thing in the eighties that went on as the bands and the producers were using far too much cocaine for the mixes, so everything sounds ‘clacky.’ You’ve got this thing where they go, “Ah, that was made in the 80s, and the kick drum sounds like a snare instead of the kick. It’s all trebly because your hearing goes when you do too much blow. Apparently. (pauses) So they tell me (laughs).”

Daniel Ash in 2017, photo by Mike Bax

Can you remember what started your love affair with motorcycles?

“Yeah, when I was about 12, my dad had scooters, we had Lambretta scooters, and I remember just going on the back of that and just getting a thrill like nothing else. And the other thing was, when I was a kid, a typical boy, the look of a motorcycle and a guitar, electric guitar, those two things were just fascinating to me, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on both of them. So I remember getting my guitar when I was a little kid, but also the motorcycle thing from when I was about 12. It’s a freedom thing, that sense of freedom—the adrenaline rush. I could go on and on about what it is with bikes, but it’s an addiction that I’ve got, but it would have started at around 12. But then, when I was about 15, my older brother was actually a Mod in the 60s; he was a full-on Mod. But his best friend, which wasn’t allowed at the time, his best friend was a rocker. And he had a 650 BSA Thunderbolt. I got on the back of this bike at 15 years old, and he just went down the road super fast, and I was terrified and exhilarated at the same time. And then after that, after that 15-20 second burst going down that road, I never looked back, and I got a bike as soon as I possibly could, and that’s it; I’ve just been riding ever since.

“It’s my Transcendental Meditation. I keep saying this all the time, but it’s lazy man’s zen to ride a bike. Because you have to concentrate, it forces you to concentrate. I just said this in another interview; there’s a thing with motorcycles when you get in the middle of nowhere where you get to a certain point. Suddenly you go into the zone, I call it, where everything’s all in its place, and you have this euphoric feeling that is extremely addictive in a good way. A biker would understand what I’m talking about; it’s just something that you get at a certain point, usually after about 10, 15, 20 miles out in the middle of nowhere, and then suddenly you are at one with everything, and it’s the best feeling in the world. So I’ve been addicted to that for, wow, 40 to 45 years or something?”

What’s the longest road trip you’ve ever taken?

“The longest one was from Los Angeles to Sturgis. The Sturgis thing. That’s probably the longest one, right into the middle of America. That was fun. The gig itself is not so great because there are a lot of morons there (when I went, anyway), but yeah, it’s a hell of a trip; fantastic. I want to do the 66 before I get too old; do the Route 66 East Coast to West Coast. I’d like to do that.”

I wondered If you’ve done that already.

“No, I haven’t. The trouble is I’ve tried bits of it, but you keep having to off the road because it keeps getting blocked. You have to go on and off it, so I don’t know how it works now, but I might do that trip this summer, actually. I might just be able to do it this summer after the tour.”

Do you think you’ll ever release a memoir?

“Somebody else asked me that. Well, I haven’t got the patience to sit down for it, not yet, anyway. Maybe I’ll be able to sit down for more than five minutes in ten years because I’m a bit neurotic, but the idea of sitting down and writing it now doesn’t appeal to me at all. Not at all.”

Just get someone else to do it with you.

“I could get a ghostwriter to do it. I don’t know; I haven’t thought it out. In all honesty, I don’t really think enough people would be interested enough to make it valid; to actually do it. I don’t really see that, personally. But yeah, I’m too preoccupied with riding; I go out all the time on bikes, so I wouldn’t have the time to sit down and write stuff down. It doesn’t appeal to me anyway. Maybe it will in 10 years or something. I don’t ever think about that. It’s not for me.”

Interesting, well listen, I could do this for another half an hour, but I know you’ve got stuff to do, so I thank you for your time, and I may get on a plane and come in and see you.

“Yeah, well, thank you very much for the plug; I appreciate it. Okay, then, well, I’m off to rehearsals now. So I’ll see you when I see you.”


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