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Matthew Ashman - A celebration

On Sunday 21st November 2010 the Scala, in the London Kings Cross area, will play host to an evening's celebration of the life and work of guitarist Matthew Ashman.
Matthew, who died exactly 15 years ago on this date due to complications surrounding his diabetes had played in The Kameras, Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Chiefs of Relief and Agent Provocateur.

The evening will include artists that have shared a stage with Matthew over the years in the various bands that he had been a part of including:
Adam Ant, Dave Barbe, Leigh Gorman, Annabella Lwin, Paul Cook, Duncan Greig, Lance Burman and Andy Taylor.

Billy Morrison, guitarist over the years with Into A Circle, The Cult, Circus Diablo, Camp Freddy and now Billy Idol's rhythm guitarist took it upon himself to organise the event through his admiration of Maff's work. Adam-ant.net put some questions Billy's way where he was only too happy to answer as follows:

What was the idea behind the Matthew celebration, what did Matthew mean to you.

The idea for this gig just started a couple of months ago when I was listening to the Chiefs album and some early Ants stuff and I thought.... "wouldn't it be fun to play these tunes live"..... and somehow its gone from that to ....."oh SHIT, we're doing this for real!!".
Matthew was a huge influence on me as a player and I have always felt that he was taken from us too early. I just simply wanted to celebrate his memory and those songs.
Discovering The Ants when I was a kid - songs about sex, and fetish, and more sex - it made me feel like I was actually ok, that other people thought the same way as I did. And Maffs image, the cool guitars, the mohican in BWW, the whole MA-1 flight jacket and Les Paul in the Chiefs - it spoke to me. He was a lovely guy, a talented and underrated player, and I just want to tell people about him.

Why now for the benefit show

Once I decided that it may be fun to try and actually do a show, I realized that this year is the 15th anniversary of his death. My touring schedule this year has been hectic, and so November became the month by default.....and I discovered that the actual date he died was the 21st. So the timing could not have been more natural and organic.

How long have you been trying

I haven't been trying. I've been doing. I simply had the idea (and I believe the motivation is key - this is not for any profit, and is not about egos, politics or any kind of music business bullshit. This is about a guitar player and the bands he played in.) and then I picked up the phone. I guess I have developed a lack of fear about organizing these events after running Camp Freddy in LA for nearly 10 years. In my experience, people would much rather have a direct and honest phone call, than a pile of emails and phone calls from business people.......none of which actually get to the point.

How receptive were people to the idea of the show.

Without question, every single person I have approached for this show has been amazing. Not one person has said no (which has enabled us to get a lot of the original members of these bands on the same stage for this gig) and in fact, all of them are going above and beyond in terms of helping. Everyone is listening to the songs we are going to play, brushing off the cobwebs, spreading the word and wholeheartedly donating their time and effort to support this show. I think that goes to show just how much Matthew is missed.

What influence has Matthew had on your playing

Maffs influence was huge in my early days. I obviously now live in LA and that rock scene has also influenced my style and tone, but underneath I have a bedrock of Steve Jones, Mick Ronson and Matthew Ashman.
Maff used quite a clean tone in BWW, and those guitar parts are crazy! He wrote some amazing stuff. The Chiefs were fundamentally significant in affecting my style, with the big powerchords and using 12th fret inversions of chords. And the Ants stuff?......not really sure how to describe what that did to me! I sat in my room learning all those early Ants tunes, trying to nail every lick. I loved it all, and played along to the records all day, every day!

Favourite songs that matthew has played on/written

Freedom To Rock and Weekend were both Chiefs songs that blew me away. The combination of the synths and guitars and the beats - it was just what I was looking for at that time.
Red Tape (the Agent Provocateur track) was another crossover/fuse track that he wrote that just amazed me. Listen to the power of the chords in it. Fucking awesome song. Aphrodisiac and Orang-Outang (BWW) represent all that was stylish and new and pretty much all "Maff". And his playing on Dirk and those early Ants songs was just so melodic, left of center...... emotional and tortured (if you wanna talk like a journo!!) - I'm not going to name just one cos they were all my favorites!!

Photo - Graham X

Is there anybody that you would like to have at the evening that you haven't had any success with so far (or been able to contact)

Because of Matthews connection with Big Audio Dynamite, I have to say that Mick Jones would be a wonderful addition to the evening. I hear he's busy, out on the road at that time, but I feel sure that he would support this night if he could.
And my good friend, Billy Duffy from The Cult would be another player that I'd love to see do this thing. I've spoken with him about it and we're going to see what his schedule is like nearer the time. He was there on that scene from day one, and the whole White Falcon/Punk roots thing with Billy would compliment the evening perfectly.
John Frusciante from the Chili Peppers would be incredible - he often talks about Matthew in interviews and was, I believe, a big fan. This is not about 'did you actually know or play with Matthew' - this is a celebration of the man and the music.
Andy Taylor from Duran Duran will be playing on the night..... he was a friend of Maffs and simply wants to be involved in the event and lend his support. THAT is the kind of reaction I need from people. Remember what it's like to simply be turned on by a song. To be moved by a riff, to be a part of a scene. Matthew did that for me and I hope we can all enjoy the night with that spirit in mind.

...and a footnote:

When I got word back from Adam that he would do this show, it made the whole thing seem right, and I'd like to thank him for understanding the spirit, the soul and the nature of this show.
I believe that there are too few artists in this business who remember the early days, the excitement and the chaos of it all. So to hear that Adam is willing to be involved is music to my ears. The reality is that he is a huge part of Matthews journey, and it simply wouldn't be the same without him.
And a huge thanks to my UK partner in crime on this whole event, Will Crewdson, who is as much of a Maff fan as I am, and who has helped translate this vision from a more-than-slightly crazy idea, to a real, fully-functioning night of great music.

Tickets for the 1145 capacity venue go on sale this Friday 17th September.

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