For the past three decades and counting, Ash’s contagious pocket groove has been the bedrock of the sound on songs by the likes of Alicia Keys, Dua Lipa, Cher, Robbie Williams, Adele, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and many, many more. With 29 number-one albums and 10 number-one singles as well as a staggering 58 top 10 albums and 17 top 10 singles, his track record speaks for itself. Meet one of today’s undoubtedly most in-demand session players, the human beat machine: Ash Soan.
Take us back to the very beginning. How did your interest in music first begin?
My father played me a song by Sandy Nelson called “Let There Be Drums.” From then on that was it – the sound and feel of that instrument stayed with me.
Was becoming a drummer a given from the start?
Absolutely. I now play guitar and a little keys and bass, but drums was and still is the main beat in my heart.
Over the years, you’ve played on projects covering pretty much any style imaginable. If you had to pin down a style that is truly you, what would it be?
Songs all the way any songs, but vocal music is the one. I love lyrics and the journey they take people on.
Take us through a typical day in the life of Ash Soan.
Coffee, walk to my studio across my field then into whichever project is in my life at that time. This could be a track or an entire album, a TV theme or movie cue. When I have free time, I’m working on music and sounds for my projects.
When it comes to playing, you’ve always highlighted the importance of feel. To you, what is ‘feel,’ exactly?
Literally for me a gridded beat is in time, but what else is there? It’s in time, right? For me there is much more. Feel I think is the connection of the notes when joined together by the player, how the bass drum interacts with the snare and snare to hi-hats. Each of us has our unique way of connecting those parts and therefore our own feel. Some people have a very good way of doing this and some people concentrate on getting it perfectly in time and are mainly concerned with the click. With modern DAWs playing to grid isn’t what is needed now. Feel is.
You’ve been working as a drummer for upwards of thirty years now – touring the world, recording and performing in all kinds of scenarios. Looking back on this journey, are there any events or moments that particularly stand out for you personally?
I think playing the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony with Mike Oldfield, supporting The Rolling Stones at 24 years old, recording “Set Fire to the Rain” with Adele in the studio with me and playing with all the artists live including Bryan Adams, Sinéad O’Connor, Van Morrison, Ronnie Wood and more have been some highlights. The movie work has been fun too.
ALICIA KEYS “ALICIA”
DUA LIPA “FUTURE NOSTALGIA”
DERMOT KENNEDY “WITHOUT FEAR”
SHOW PATROL “REWORKED”