Interview by: Victoria Llewelyn
Photos Credit: Daniel Edison
MGM: Ashley, your journey in music is said to have started at the age of three, when you started singing and found yourself in demand for school performances, choir, and any local events that required a singing youngster! Were you always expecting to have a career in singing, and was this something that your parents supported, given that this stems from your early childhood?
AE: I’ve always been able to sing, and I come from a very musical family. Both my parents are wonderful singers. My dad was a session musician, my mum was a professional dancer, and I think it was always meant to be. When I was three, maybe even younger, my parents started to encourage singing onto me – I was in school choirs without even knowing and ended up being in school plays where I always had to do the lead song. My parents would get very involved by recommending songs for the school to have me sing and stuff like that. Of course, they wanted me to do so music since it was so close to what they did, and it just seemed to be always there, always going to happen. I kept saying to myself growing up, I wanted to be a footballer or probably loads of other careers, but it always fell back to music. It was the one thing that was a constant.
If there was a school nativity, I would be the one that had the big, long, solo, two minute piece of music to sing! Anything music related in school, before I even knew it, I was doing it. I wouldn’t even say I had a passion for singing when I was that young, when I was maybe four or five or six, it was just something I could do, and I think my parents just saw that I could sing like they could. I’ve always been put into that spot as a singer, as someone who’s got a voice that my parents wanted to show off! Without that start, I’d never be doing the stuff I do today. It’s led to my work with Dendera and Power Quest and Tigertailz. It all stems from singing at a very young age, which I’m very grateful for my parents for.
I studied music at college and university, but I never considered myself a singer. In college, I wanted to be a lead guitar player. I wanted to be like Dimebag or one of the guys in Trivium and just be able to shred, but I could never move my fingers that fast! I thought I was pretty good though, and I still play a bot today. But I could always sing. I had a tutor at college, and he pulled me aside one day and said to me – I don’t think you realise what you can do. He sat me down; he showed me these exercises to access parts of my voice that I didn’t know I could reach. His exact words were, if you do these, you’ll sound like that bloke you like from The Darkness. Did it work? I went and practised, and I’d wait for my parents to go out for the day, so I’d have the house to myself and I’d sing at the top of my lungs and try and do these techniques.
Then YouTube came along so I’d study stuff on there and figure out, what can I do here, what can I do there? I’d sing Iron Maiden songs and the next thing I’d be trying Judas Priest songs, then I’d give myself something a bit harder. It all stems from sort of being shown those techniques so yes! It worked!
Going back from my parents, when they realised that I was taking it seriously, they were thrilled – they were like, wow, we want to be able to help you with this! Everyone that’s helped me with music and with my vocals has been so supportive. Having the right people around me at the right time made all the difference. I guess I really didn’t know what I could do. It was what the other people saw in me that made it happen.
MGM: At what point did you realise that this had become a career for you – in that you were going to get in a band and do music for a living rather than as a hobby? It’s a huge transition and would have required a lot of courage. Was there anything in particular that made you take that leap of faith?
AE: I was in college bands and stuff like that when I was like 16, 17, but I didn’t really take it seriously until Dendera came along. They were looking for a singer to complete their line up so I replied to an advert online with these guys saying they were looking for a singer and I went along to meet them, sung some Iron Maiden covers or something like that, and the next day I woke up to a text message straight away saying, please sing for us, please do this because we haven’t found anyone else like you!
I nearly didn’t do that audition. I was so full of anxiety. I was so scared and nervous. This was a serious band and I’d only ever thought of singing as something to do for fun. I was living at home with my parents at the time and I wasn’t going through a particularly exciting part of my life. It was like a bit of a reset period, trying to think out what I can do and where I can do it.
I remember vividly my mum saying to me, what’s the worst that can happen? Just go there. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it. Okay? She just really reassured me she told me – you’re really good at this, but again, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it. Just take your time. I remember thinking, okay, well, I’ll go, I’ll give it a go. I definitely wasn’t a confident person at that time, I never envisaged myself as being able to go out on stage in front of thousands of people and feel completely comfortable and secure in my ability. So yeah, I nearly didn’t even go to that audition, and if I hadn’t, I don’t know if I’d be doing any of this today. Two years later, I went on stage supporting Saxon and thinking of that conversation with my mum, thinking, I might not ever have had the chance to do this if I didn’t go and just do that first audition.
MGM: Of all the first, serious bands you could have auditioned for, what stood out to you about Dendera? With this being your first band, how much influence did you have, and how has the band grown and developed in the time you’ve been with them?
AE: The early reviews we used to get were very much reflecting on our love for Iron Maiden. We couldn’t hide our love for Maiden, it just came out in the music. I’ve always loved Maiden and bands like that, so I was looking to be in that style of band because again, I knew where my voice sat and what I felt I was best suited to. If I hadn’t gone down that road, I’d have looked to be in a classic rock band- something like The Darkness or Guns n’ Roses, that sort of thing. So, originally with Dendera, they were a completely different sound to what they are today, especially with the new stuff we’re going to come out with; but back when it first started, it was Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, twin guitar harmonies and big operatic vocals which was just want I wanted.
I think the music has changed for the better in that everything that Dendera has done has been a reflection of what we’re into, and I think very much what we used to be into at that time as well. Everyone’s musical tastes change and ours definitely changed to a heavier side. I’ve always been into that really heavy side of music, but I felt I couldn’t do it that well back then. Now I feel as I’ve grown as a musician and the band’s grown, we’re able to do this stuff pretty well and it’s really come out in the writing. We can play more complicated songs and add time signatures and really heavy bits that people wouldn’t expect. When I listen to the new record we’ve got coming out, for example, I can’t pinpoint who I think sounds like us. Maybe Parkway Drive, Trivium, Killswitch Engage; there’s definitely more metalcore!
I honestly think it’s evolved into its own sound whereas before there were a lot of influences that people could see and hear and even came out from the way we looked on stage.
MGM: You mention there’s new music coming soon, you’ve been working on a new album and Dendera continue to be a strong and consistent presence in the heavy metal world. You’ve also been singing with Tigertailz for almost a year and are getting ready to head out on tour with them for several dates in March and later in the year. It would be difficult to select two bands further apart on the musical spectrum. How have you ended up in this position – what tempted you to add Tigertailz to your repertoire?
AE: It’s a complete contrast isn’t it, but I love that because both bands show completely different sides of me. I’m really into the style of music that Tigertailz play, similarly bands like the Darkness, Ratt, Van Halen, all that sort of stuff. I think both bands show the different styles of music I’m actually into.
I’m not someone who will pigeonhole myself. If I could sing all the styles that I want to, I’d do it. I’d be in 50 bands if I could with every one of them playing a different style of music that I love. Tigertailz came about because I knew they were looking for a vocalist and I knew Power Quest was winding down, so I was looking for another project to do alongside Dendera. I had my ear to the ground and when I heard about Tailz needing a vocalist, I thought, whoa, that’s amazing. I love Tigertailz. That could be a really cool opportunity so I reached out to Jay (Pepper) and we just connected.
When I put the idea to him about me doing it, we had a phone call and his exact words were, why is a guy that can sing like you wanting to be in our band? What’s this about? And I said, honestly, I love it. I love this stuff. Bands like this were the bands that made me want to play rock music. I wanted to be in this style of band. And he said, I just have no idea why you’d want to sing this. I said, in what sense? He goes, you shouldn’t be singing this type of music. And I went, oh, well, I hope there’s a compliment there! He was so nice about it. I think he was quite flattered in a way, actually. It was really nice to hear.
He said, can you come down to Cardiff and sing these songs? Okay, I’ll give it a go. And I went there, and he gave me three songs to go and practise. The first one was Sick Sex, which ended up being the re recording of the single from years ago, when it was originally released. I sung it and I heard them giggling in the next room. And I thought – is everything all right? And Jay said – I’ve never heard these songs sound so good ever. I was blown away completely that they loved it so much. The recording you hear of Sick Sex, the single that they re-released, that vocal there was the quickest I ever recorded a song, actually. It took about 20 minutes probably, to record that. Usually, I’m spending about an hour or two each song. That was 20 minutes, I think, a couple of takes, and Jay went, people need to hear this. He said, I want people to hear this.
They said, image wise, it’s very different to what we’ve had before. I was worried they’d want a bit more of a long-haired blonde, that sort of thing. And he said, shocker, it’s different from before. We’ll make it work because the songs sound so strong. We will make this work. And I went, I’ll trust your judgement. We’ll go with it. So, it came about partly by a bit of luck being in the right position at the right time, and Jay being so nice and approachable about the whole thing. I genuinely enjoy it. It gives me a chance to show a side of me that not a lot of people saw before with Power Quest and don’t get to see in Dendera. Much as I love Dendera and Power Quest, I was never going to go and do things there like support Steel Panther! That sort of stuff. It lets me do things that I never had the chance to do before that I always wanted to do. So, yeah, I love it.
MGM: Tigertailz are on tour again this year, with dates booked through March, July and August. In recent years we’ve only really seen them at festivals and bigger events, it’s been a long while since there was a headline tour. The shows are reported to be styled towards fans that have followed the band faithfully over the years – more of ‘An Evening With…’ kind of show than a regular, ‘local support – main support – headline’ kind of show. How are you feeling about getting these shows on the road?
AE: I’m excited about it. I’m excited to go visit most of the cities. I think all the cities I’ve played before are on there, but I always enjoy going to cities and being on tour and meeting new people; everything that comes from going on headline tours is something I enjoy. I’m looking forward to meeting loads of Tigertailz fans from this huge, loyal fanbase they have out on these shows because there’s been so many nice people that have reached out to me since I’ve been in Tigertailz, so many compliments and comments and messages. For every not particularly nice message on YouTube you’ll get 15 to 20 people that are so supportive and lovely about it, and that’s how it’s been.
The Cardiff show is flying in terms of the ticket sales, as expected because of the history behind the band, it is doing so well and we expect that one to be absolutely packed, so that one’s going to be special. I always like going to Cardiff anyway. I’ve played there a few times and I love the city, so that one’ll be cool. The London one, with Quiet Riot is going to be really cool. That’ll be just a big show supporting a legendary band. And on a personal point of view, I’m a huge Newcastle United football fan, so I’m looking forward to going to Newcastle and going to the stadium again, probably, and buying some sort of shirt or doing stuff that I enjoy doing in Newcastle, which is very much around my football team. So I’m massively looking forward to that one.
MGM: What’s been the high moment in your career so far?
AE: Dendera supported Skindred on tour, super cool band, super nice guys. It was surreal at the time because it was quite early on when we were starting to get some bigger support shows. We’d just supported Saxon and UFO and some other ones, and then Skindred fell on our lap, and we were like, oh, that’s amazing. That was a lot of fun. I’ve done some cool stuff with Dendera – supported Sepultura, went out to Europe on tour supporting Glory Hammer. That was a month-long tour and I’ve got so many exciting moments there, it’s hard to pin down two or three.
The steel Panther shows last year were amazing because they were a band I was so into in college when they first blew up in the UK, so to become friends with those guys to the point where they asked me to sing with them on stage and I’m out there singing with Steel Panther! That was a huge moment for me. I had two of my best friends fly over to the Dublin show to come and watch it, they met the band and they were so nice. I think that whole experience was really special for me. Going to Japan with Power Quest was a massive thing. It was incredible to play shows out there and, yeah, I think those will be the big ones.
MGM: Other than preparing for the upcoming Tigertailz shows, what are you going to be working on next?
AE: It’s full focus on the Dendera album at the moment. I’m so excited to get that out. We’ve got a really cool guest on the record as well, which we’re excited to show people. This is probably the most excited I’ve ever been for any material, it’s what I feel the most proud of when I listen to something. We’ve been looking at the album, we’ve been looking at the album and going, I can’t believe this is ours! There are a few things we’re going to be telling people in the coming weeks about it – how it’s coming out, where it’s coming out and all that sort of stuff.
I’ve also set up a management company to support new bands that are ready and willing to go to the next stage – planning tours, publicity, giving advice, that sort of thing. It’s a new venture for me and it’s going really well. It’s nice to work on the other side of things sometimes, the management side rather than the performance side, and see how it all fits together. It’s Stage Right Music Management and there are some really promising bands on the roster already!
TIGERTAILZ 2024 TOUR DATES –
Tuesday 5th – 1985, Southampton
Wednesday 6th – Nightrain, Bradford
Thursday 7th – HRH AOR X, Great Yarmouth
Friday 8th – Asylum, Birmingham
Saturday 9th – Think Tank, Newcastle
Sunday 10th – O2 Academy, Islington – With Quiet Riot
Friday 19th – Tivoli, Buckley
Saturday 20th – Bannermans, Edinburgh
Sunday 21st – Waterloo, Blackpool
Saturday 10th August – Tramshed, Cardiff