Between U2‘s The Edge, The Smiths‘ Johnny Marr and
The Police‘s Andy Summers, the 80′s were a decade of amazing guitarists. However, one name that is often forgotten from that period is Daniel Ash of
Bauhaus. While your impression of Ash and his band may come from what you read on your little sister’s Vampire Freaks profile, Bauhaus were an incredibly progressive outfit that was too often dismissed as being simply a sideshow act because of their reputation as the first prominent Goth band. History is slowly vindicating the band and recognizing them as a more seminal act, and it was Daniel Ash that was the musical architect who gave Bauhaus their sound of icy isolation and haunting atmospheric ambiance. After the jump we’ll take a look at some of what made Ash so brilliant.
While Ash’s tone was often bright and brittle to the point of being harsh, his approach to playing was angular, abstract and often aggressive. In the jagged high-note antics of Bauhaus’ “In a Flat Field” it isn’t difficult to hear Ash’s direct influence on other modern players like Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood or Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto.
The song that the band is often most remembered for is “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and certainly not without reason. The other-worldly sonic indulgences of Ash and the twisted delay effects on his guitar (especially in live versions) remain memorable over two decades later. Ash’s willingness to experiment with new ways to use the guitar as an instrument and to achieve unique sounds are what made him one of the best of his generation (one of Ash’s famous quotes was that he tried to “make the guitar not sound like a guitar”).
While Ash’s post-Bauhaus projects (
Tones on Tail,
Love and Rockets) shed a bit of the cloak of darkness that made his first band famous, he still found a way to incorporate some interesting sonic textures (in addition to taking over duties on vocals). While some critics question the artistic integrity of Ash’s later projects, it should be noted that Love and Rockets experienced more American chart success than Bauhaus ever did. The effects-laden drone- fest of “Love Me” highlights one more reason that young guitarists should be paying more attention to the sonic blueprints left by Daniel Ash