I first had the pleasure of meeting John Ashton AKA Little Gem around a year ago, when the Gomez-friendly part-time Last Shadow Puppet and Arctic Monkey supported Ben Ottewell in Nottingham. Since then he’s taken up parenting but perhaps more importantly, he’s answered some questions for this here interview piece!
AS: Where do you go when it all gets too much?
LG: Go for a walk along the Tyne.
LG: Bit of both.
AS: Who would be your dream collaborator?
LG: Bill Murray!
AS: What’s the last gig/concert you went to?
LG: War of the Worlds: Next Generation... (Marti) Pellow let me down!
AS: What’s the best / your favourite music video?
LG: Probably something by Sigur Ros or A-ha.
AS: If you were a musical instrument what would you be?
LG: A Keytar played through a space echo (as used by Nick McCabe).
AS: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
LG: Everything around us man!
AS: Care to share any regrets, missed opportunities or things that might’ve been?
LG: That I didn’t know then what I know now.
AS: Were /are you aware of your escalating popularity?
LG: Not that I’m screamingly popular, but someone wrote to me telling me that one of my tunes had helped them through a particularly difficult time, which was wonderful.
AS: Will your past come back to haunt you or will karma be kind?
LG: It always bites back!
AS: Where do you most enjoy playing live?
LG: Copenhagen’s Vega… off the top of my head!
AS: What influences your sound above all else?
LG: Cheap microphones and pre amps.
AS: Why the name Little Gem?
LG: It’s none descript, so I can do what I want.
AS: Wish you were doing anything else with your time other than music?
LG: Park ranger!
AS: Who were your heroes as a teenager?
LG: Chuck D, Jean Michel Jarre and Frankie Hill.
AS: What do you think of the paparazzi?
AS: What music are you listening to of late?
LG: Just downloaded a covers E.P by Lissie.
AS: Any message for underachieving or odds-facing musicians out there?
LG: Don’t lose faith or focus.
AS: Any career highs or lows you care to share?
LG: Highs: Headlining the Albert Hall with my mum and my godfather in the audience… and the Shepherd’s Bush show the day after, playing Jools Holland’s Later and the Heineken Open’er festival… generally anything between 2008 and 2010. Realising through my crippling hangover I was stood where Kurt Cobain had stood all those years ago at Reading! Playing in Mexico City… they were good times. Lows: Sheffield and Gateshead on this last tour.
AS: Do you enjoy playing live or are you more at home in a studio?
LG: I love both.
AS: Your career defining dream moment would/will be what?
LG: Not sure, let’s see if I can get back on track next year.
AS: Know of any upcoming bands that are destined for greatness?
AS: How important do you feel visuals are in relation to music?
LG: If the gig’s a big one... definitely.
AS: What’s been the highlight of your year?
LG: Building my studio.
AS: I’m sure you’ve done a few but which gig has been your best?
LG: In this guise the Nottingham one but overall, probably the Albert Hall… although there was a good one in Sweden. Any that aren’t shit are good!
AS: Any forthcoming plans for you/the band?
LG: Make some vinyl.
AS: Is there more pressure playing live with a band than there is playing solo?
AS: Are you unlucky in love and if so, why?
LG: I’m doing ok at the moment!
AS: Best song, movie OR album ever?
LG: Check your head!
AS: Where did you sleep last night?
LG: Apartment in Sydney.
AS: What’s your secret vice... what are you a sucker for?
LG: Delay machines.
AS: What makes the world go round?
LG: That’s complicated.
AS: Where’s the place to be?
LG: The coast.
AS: What’s your weak point?
LG: My right elbow!
LG: Juno 60.
AS: What inspired the LP title ‘Collected Dust’?
LG: It was doing what it’s called!
AS: Are you a good dancer and can you prove it?
LG: Yes... If you buy me a number of pints!
AS: What kinds of music (if any) do you dislike the most?
LG: I dislike what surrounds the music more than the music itself. The music industry and how it’s marketed. When the music doesn’t matter, that’s what I dislike... Hello Will.i.am.
AS: Where will you retire to when you're tired of comeback concerts?
LG: Alameda (California).
AS: Who’s the main driving force or do you work as a team?
LG: Me, myself and I.
AS: How important are the single / album charts?
LG: If you want that kind of success then very I guess.
AS: What revival would you most like to witness?
LG: My skateboarding ability.
AS: Which era would you have been born in ideally?
LG: I’m happy with the eras I’ve been part of.
AS: Are exercise and diet important to you?
LG: Yes and then no and then yes again!
AS: Who’s the most gifted person alive today?
LG: I haven’t got a clue!
AS: Have you got any famous relatives and if so, who are they?
LG: None that I’m aware of.
AS: Does complaining accomplish anything?
LG: It hasn’t so far.
AS: Whose autograph do you have and why?
LG: Jeff Kendalls’ on a t-shirt I got at a skate demo in St. Helens many years ago.
AS: Which rules... the digital age or the vinyl/cassette age?
LG: Vinyl and cassette for me, despite requiring more effort and attention. But then it would’ve been really difficult to get any music made if digital hadn’t come along.
AS: Which musical style should become extinct first?
AS: Do you have any tragically unused band names you’d like to use?
LG: Bastard hour, but then that could still be an album.
AS: Was it easy becoming who you are today?
LG: Well I managed it, so it must be easy!
AS: What’s the biggest myth about stardom?
LG: When people claim it doesn’t change them.
AS: Have you ever been conned into or out of something?
LG: Everything all the time… I’m trusting and shy.
AS: Do politics have a place in music?
AS: If you could protect and save one thing in the world, what would it be?
So there you have it, something of a lowdown on a lovely low-key kinda guy who just happens to have worked with some of the coolest (in my mind at least!) names in the music industry. Now go check this blossoming insomniac out on Facebook, before he gets his priorities all wrong and quits the scene to raise his littler gem!