“Blackbird is about the end. Its a time of reckoning with your mortality. Regardless of good or bad, death can be an acceptance as part of ones life.” – @denofashes
Listen to the Interview
Episode #293 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax : http://www.blogtalkradio.com/avaliveradio/2016/01/28/episode-293-ava-live-radio-behind-the-music-with-jacqueline-jax
GETTING TO KNOW DEN OF ASHES
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio
Interviewing: Ash Beck
Music was always the focus…
of our home growing up and especially my grandparent’s house and cars… It was EVERYWHERE. I listened to EVERYTHING from Country and Western (Western did exist) to Rock, Folk, Hard Rock, Psychedelic. Pop, including Classical. I kept circling back to The Beatles, The Doors, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, as well as Johnny Cash, Elvis, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Jackson Browne, Glenn Campbell, Willy Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, and Bob Dylan.
Diverse. yes! but it helped me understand how musical styles emerged and influenced each other. I also watched my share of HeeHaw. My grandparents would relive their past as traveling musicians and watch their friends on TV.
I would also say that my brother Paul led me down that path as a music enthusiast. Paul was stationed overseas in the Navy and would come home to visit from and bring me his stash of cassettes, including imports that weren’t available. The first time I heard The Who, it blew my mind…incredible!
As far as singing, you can thank my mom. She has an incredible voice and still at it. She was a 4 octave singer in her prime. That might be a little to high for me, but she gave me my singing chops in my teens.
My parents required all of us to take piano as our foundation, after that we could chose any instrument we wanted. I went straight for the guitar. My mom had a guitar, not a very good one, I would play until my fingers bled. My grandparents then gave me a guitar and amp for my birthday. It wasn’t very good either! Then I made a deal with one of my friends to buy his Fender Music Master that was sitting around collecting dust for $75. I was dying to have something in my hands that I could play and be expressive, write with and connect with people and sing.
is about the end. Its a time of reckoning with your mortality. Regardless of good or bad, death can be an acceptance as part of ones life. I wrote Blackbird in 2 hours. The offset strumming just opened up a moment of clarity. The words came. You hear about songs like this and hope that it happens as a songwriter. It was a clear picture. I write songs about the pictures that emerge in my mind when I start structuring a melody. Many are lyrically profound, dark, moody and melodic.
My dear friend and music producer and drummer Robin DiMaggio made this album happen. Robin has toured with everybody including David Bowie, Paul Simon, and Johnny Cash. He is also the Music Director for the United Nations. We had a conversation years ago when he heard me play. He said “when you’re ready, let me know and it will happen.” Well that took a while in the midst of an intense career.
Its one thing to play, its another to write. I had a natural style that I ignored because I was driving more toward Rock, then I decided to give and embrace my natural style, then EVERYTHING changed. The music kept coming and coming, I could hear every instrument. I started composing the songs and sent the roughs to Robin. He called me right away and said “We have to get you in the studio” The next thing he said was “Lee Sklar” the legendary Bass player. Robin is an incredible talent. He brought us all together. The tonality was perfect. Everyone embraced the songs. It was a beautiful process. Ash Beck, vocals, guitar, harmonica Robin DiMaggio, percussion / Producer
Lee Sklar, Bass Alex Alessandroni, piano and keyboards Brett Cookingham, guitar / Engineer.
The funny part was, no one at the studio truly ever heard me sing outside of my rough recordings. I laid down the vocals on the first track then went to the kitchen to get some water. I came back in the room and Robin and Brett were looking at me shaking their heads. I said “oh my God, were the vocals that bad?” They said “That was incredible, you’re like Jim Morrison, Johnny Cash, Eddie Vedder and Neil Diamond rolled into one. If you sound like anything, that’s a great group to sound like.” I’m a split between a baritone and tenor, but I tend to be more baritone.
There are many happy songs in the world, but there is also beauty in darker songs. Many songs have dark lyrics wrapped around catchy uplifting melodies. I tend to create a mood with my western style of playing and let that mood resonate in the lyrics. Not all of my songs are dark. I do have some very catching more Western Rock driven songs, but I have my demons and it keeps them quiet for a while when I talk about them.
I wanted to set the style and tone of my music on my first EP. Its more about the expression and showing your craft as a songwriter. You have to be pure to yourself. Music finds its own audience. I’m sure of that. My fans are pretty hardcore loyal. When you write, you keep your music close to your heart. When you perform, you project that and it helps you connect with your audience. Performing is my reward for writing. We have a lot of fun, and some very great moments. I’m very lucky.
I live in Los Angeles…
We have a great music scene. Locally for me it is great, although LA can be a little self-serving at times when venues make it hard for emerging acts. I am fortunate.
It does take a lot of effort to keep the ball rolling…
but that’s all part of having a music career. My EP Blackbird peaked at #25 on iTunes new releases. We let everyone know about it, including a small pre-release. It was very encouraging.
Den of Ashes is labeled many different ways…
some stations are calling it Rock, others Folk, Americana, Alt-Country. I call it Western-Alt Rock with its roots in Country.
The music business is…
just that, a business. Most broadcast radio stations do not want to play anything unless it is going to appeal to the masses, or a major label, Internet radio has been very accepting of my music. Broadcast radio is just now catching on with my music. I have to say that some of my direct relationships to radio stations in LA have been disappointing… and then from out of nowhere I get a connect on social media that my music has been picked up in a completely different market. I keep track, yes I do. Those that are with me in the early stages are the most important to me. I appreciate them and appreciate that they play my music.
I will most likely release EPs…
I like keeping songs together like a storybook. It keeps the thought intact. Most all of my fans have purchase all 4 songs on the Blackbird EP. On iTunes all of the bars are full up. It says a lot to me about keeping a group of songs together. The way many of us experience an album is very different now. I like the thought of a full album, but now most songs are cherry picked from an album. I want to lead my audience on a journey and although the journey may be only 20 minutes, it is a journey we take together.
I do like the idea of a single…
but only if it is released as an A side B side, keeping 2 songs together that fit as a pair. My next release will be an
A side B side for “Easy Town” in May.
I would love 5 minutes alone with…
That question could get me into a lot of trouble if it involved a female but I would say Neil Young hands down. From Buffalo Springfield to Crosby Stills Nash and Young to Neil Young, his music helped to define a generation and pop culture by being true to himself and his talents.
Music trends are timely…
great classic songwriting is timeless. Your own style is what saves you
I am most afraid of God….
He’s a lot wiser and stronger than I will ever be. I’m a mere mortal.
The word success is…
very limiting, successfulness is an ongoing process doing what you love to do and not wasting a moment.
My greatest success has to be my kids. If you ask me how I achieved that from inception, well this interview could go downhill real quick!
Embracing my talents…
There is immortality in art. I have a musical recording that will exist for as long as anyone is willing to listen.
I also have 2 associated works in the Museum of Modern Art with director Mark Romanek for Madonna’s Bedtime Stories and Nine Inch Nails Closer music videos. I also contributed to the visual design of Michael and Janet Jackson’s music video Scream which won a Grammy. I have several feature films under my belt including the past 2 Spiderman movies and most recently Point Break and Suicide Squad. This year, my entire focus is changing to music. Its hard to have 2 very demanding careers. It’s time for music, that was always in the plan.
My overall goals are pretty simple…
Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll…it sounds good, I am a liability, but I’d settle for being a good down to earth Rock Star.
I challenge myself constantly…
1) Achieving Perfection where it’s possible. Learning at the same time letting go when perfection is not possible. Its ok to move on.
2) Making changes and not being afraid of change. It gets you out in the world. New experiences and people. Being adventurous.
3) Learning patience. Sometime life is not a sprint, its a marathon. Set a good pace and move forward.