“If you have the balls to start something new, then do it.”
Ask anybody about Darren Ashley, and chances are good that he or she will say, “Oh, that guy’s music was in Jinnyboy’s video!”
Darren Ashley’s single, “If I Don’t Stay”, was featured in the closing credits of “Abuden?”, a YouTube video by local radio and web personality Jinnyboy. The video has been especially popular with the campus crowd, reaching over a million views (1,444,286, if anybody’s counting).
He’s been around for a while, actually. Darren’s also the drummer for local alt rock band Busco, a band successful in its own right (they’ve just returned from a tour of Melbourne and New Zealand).
Outside of his band, he’s done rather well for himself. He’s played in several notable events including last year’s Rockaway Festival, SHOUT! Awards, Urbanscapes (where he featured his collaboration, Mana Diriku, with the Impatient Sisters). Darren also appeared last March in the recent Mosaic Music Festival in Singapore.
TAYLORMADE spoke to Darren in an interview here in Taylor’s Lakeside, where he talked about his career and music.
TM: Has it been a long week for you?
DA: Yeah. There’re a lot of things. A lot of new events are coming up, so a lot of preparations la. There’s the Mosaic Festival – that’s a big one – and then all these small collaborations with different people. And the album, I’m trying to finish it.
TM: Okay. Let’s talk about your music. Besides the obvious genre stuff, how would you describe your music and your approach to it?
DA: It’s basically everything I want to do: a bit of electro, and anything from jazz to chilled stuff. Drum ‘n’ bass, that’s the new track.
A lot of the new electro stuff has been first attempts at that sound. I’ll be like, I want to make this French sort of feel, so I’ll put it together and it doesn’t work, so I take it apart and put it back together. It’s all like a first few times, then you let it go and then… (trails off)
TM: So when you started out it was mostly acoustic stuff, then you shifted to electro. Do you think it’s gonna change anymore?
DA: Definitely. I don’t know where, though. But music is constantly evolving in itself, and it will evolve into something more professional-lah. Maybe something cleaner, simpler – because now it’s very intricate and all over the show, very hard for people to digest. Except for the elite few who go “Phwuah, this is great music! Ohh, you should check this out!” (affects highbrow accent), all the normal people are like, what? (laughs)
TM: You started out as the drummer for Busco. What exactly made you want to start a career as a solo artiste?
DA: Actually, I started out by myself. I used to do solo acoustic songs. The band was only later on. What made me go back to it was well, just pure love for music. Whatever I want to do with music. Because Busco’s got a certain sound to it, a rock sort of genre, so it’s gonna be a bit weird if I want to do anything else. Darren Ashley was just like anything and everything. Which it has been.
TM: You were actually pretty young when Busco was formed – you were 18. So were you absolutely sure at the time that music was going to be your main career?
TM: What made you continue?
DA: Nothing else to do. (laughs)I guess I’ve always wanted music to be an integral part of my life.
TM: But most university students don’t know, though, what they really want to do, doing this course and that. How did you reconcile your music with your studies?
DA: I didn’t study. (laughs) I did Business. Then I couldn’t take it, so after I finished the course and passed, I moved on and told my parents that I really wanted to do audio engineering. They were like, “OK, sure.” So I went to Bangkok for audio engineering and then…well, I was really passionate about it. Because that was exactly what I wanted to do.
Then when I came back here, a studio called me while I was writing my resume. That’s a funny story, because the studio was an amazing studio I had seen two years earlier and I was like, wow. It’s a house on a hill. I was like, “This is where I want to work”, and two years later before I could finish my resume, they sent me a “Hey, can you come in for an interview?” I got the job and immediately started working. It kind of all fell into place. Not something you would get on a regular basis.
But for the kids here? Well. I’d make them watch a video, actually. I just watched this really good video, called “What if Money Didn’t Matter?”. What if money was no object? And you could do anything you love? And it really boils down to what you want to do with your life – if money was no object. Because that’s usually the real weighing factor. “Oh yeah, I want to be a painter, but nobody becomes a painter because you can’t get cash out of it”. I would say: if you have the balls to start something new, then do it.
And if you don’t, then get a desk job. (chuckles)
TM: That’s something that they all struggle with.
DA: I know. It’s not just them! It’s worldwide. Kids, taking on their parents’ dreams. (laughs)
TM: Let’s talk about your recent collaboration with the Impatient Sisters.
DA: “Recent”…that was last year.
TM: Fairly recent, then. How did that happen?
DA: We record vocals a lot at the studio (Two AM Music Studio). So we need different vocals for jingles, and the Impatient Sisters have come out. So like…how did we get to know actually? Yeah, I think I saw them at a show and I got their number and said “Hey, I work at a studio, I need vocalists for random ads”. And they’ve done a lot of the ads actually! If you want to look. They’ve done Hotlink and a bunch of ads overseas as well. So we got to know each other in the studio, and I composed a song which they sang over for a jingle. We kind of became close friends. “Mana Diriku” started out as a small melody. I was like, “this is a good piece of music, we should make it into a song.” My friend went “Dude, this is a dope track! We’ll make it into a song!” So we did, and I said, let’s do it in Malay! Just for the sake of it. I started writing lyrics with the Impatient Sisters. They helped me out. They were really nice. And then I said, you girls should sing on it, just like we do with the ads! Come in, rock some vocals out, write some lyrics.
TM: What do you love the most about your work?
DA: The music and the response-lah. The creating process, because you know, the sound’s dope and then you wonder what the world is gonna think about it. Like, you know you’ve got a kickass track and then you’re like, “Wah, this sounds almost like it could be on radio!” Because from a bedroom artiste, you’re always trying to get sounds right. And when you finally get to that level, you’re like, “Hey, this one’s okay,” and then you put it out to people and you see their faces. You see their responses when you play live, laughing at your jokes or jumping to the song – that’s the best feeling la. I guess that’s what I love.
And all I really need is someone from Taylor’s College or anywhere to say, “Hey, dude, your track, I’ve been listening to it for a week.” That’s enough. Like, dope, you’ve been listening to my lyrics, my music? For a week? There’s tons of other music in the world, and – it’s a good feeling already. [TAYLORMADE]