Interrogation - Tim Wheeler, musician and songwriter
The Ivor Novello winning songwriter from Down returns with his first solo album. He talks about life and death with Eamon Sweeney.
What are you promoting today, and why?
My solo album Lost Domain, which is about losing my Dad to dementia. I had to write these songs because I love my Dad so much. Anyone who has heard it has said they find it uplifting, which is great. My fear was that people might find it a harrowing listen, but it was a cathartic record to make. I wrote the song 'Medicine' in the first person from my Dad's point of view, but I never even realised that while writing it. I hope people feel the love of it. We're also well into a new Ash record. Hopefully, we'll finish it next year.
What is the most rewarding thing about your life?
Seeing people smile when we play live. There are certain Ash songs that can transform a room no matter where we are in the world. People often associate our songs with being young or growing up. It's nice to bring people back to those places.
Why do you do what you do for a living?
Because I'm lucky enough to have started at the right time. If I was starting out in music right now, I'd have to get another job just to make ends meet. Iggy Pop recently said if he was to try and live off his record sales these days, he'd have to tend bars between shows.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I got a back injury in my 20s, so I have to look after it and do a lot of stretching. There have been times when I could hardly stand up, let alone walk. I've got into kick-boxing in the last year, so I wish I had the nimbleness I had when I was 16.
What's the rumour about you that's bothered you the most?
It's not a big deal, but a story went round that 'Girl from Mars' was once called 'Girl from Ards'. It's a popular myth up North. The whole fucking point is it is a sci-fi song about an alien! Everyone in Northern Ireland claims Van Morrison wrote 'Brown Eyed Girl' about their Mum.
It's Sunday night, you're curling up to watch TV. What's on your DVR?
I tend to watch a lot of comedy series with my girlfriend on Netflix. We're working our way through all of The Kids in the Hall. We got obsessed with that, but then they took it off Netflix, which was really traumatic. Recently, we watched all of Peep Show. They change it all the time, so you got to stay on your toes, binge and watch the whole thing in one go.
What's the most shamefully uncool album you own?
I do have a lot of Christmas records, which I got as research for the Christmas album I did a few years ago with Emmy The Great. I've got a lot of terrible Christmas records; cod reggae, punk, you name it...
Who is your best friend?
Mark Hamilton from Ash. We've been in bands together since we were 11 years old. He is like a brother to me. We became friends because he had an Iron Maiden patch on his jacket. Our first band was an Iron Maiden covers band called Vietnam.
Do you like being well known?
Great stuff comes of it, but sometimes it can be a real pain in the ass. I think that is partly why I moved to New York. I was living in London at the height of Britpop and what have you, so I used to get recognised quite a bit. In New York, they don't even bat an eyelid even if David Bowie walks down the street. When you're out and about, it is nice to do things anonymously. Selfies and camera phones have become a bit of pain. Overall, I can't complain. I've done well out of it.
What drives you on a daily basis?
Stress. A downside to living in New York is I always get a stack of emails every morning from this side of the world. I'm also a bit of late riser, so I only have an hour to reply to them all before everyone leaves work. Everything can take a few days to accomplish. I'm always excited to do music though. I could go into a studio every day of the week. I don't need to get motivated. Music is a never ending learning curve.
Who is your hero?
I've got to say my Dad. I've made this record about him. I don't have any family of my own yet, but I really admire how together and how much of a solid father he was. He's what I have to measure myself against. He was a man of honesty and fairness and a good community guy who was a very caring person.
What makes you emotional?
I can fully immerse myself in films. I completely suspend my disbelief, especially if there's powerful music involved and I'm 30,000 feet up in a plane. I might see the same film again and wonder why on earth it got me bawling the first time. I remember reading 'The Dead' by James Joyce and I couldn't speak.
What's your favourite day of the week?
It's definitely not Monday. I kind of like Wednesday. I'm a musician, so it is a self-imposed schedule. I'm doing a 20 something challenge at the moment, where I try to write 20 songs in 12 hours. I do it on a Wednesday for some reason. I do it with other writers. We get together for beer and pizza and listen back to the results, which can be amazing.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
I've been in New York for ten years, so I'd say I will move on at some point. I'll probably be back in London. I've still got a flat there that I rent out, so I might well go back there. It's also very close to the Arsenal ground.
Lost Domain is out now. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Alzheimer's Society.
1992 - Forms Ash
1996 - First full album 1977 features 'Oh Yeah'
2001 - Free All Angels spawns the hit 'Shining Light'
2014 - Releases first solo album