In Conversation with Head Like A Hole

This story was originally published on 13/07/2015

I met Andrew [Ashton, guitarist] in the bowels of Ding Dong Lounge. It was the middle of the day. The jet black floors were wet and sticky, having just been mopped, and the air conditioning hummed in the background.

Sunlight streamed down the staircase from the gate in the booths it radiated from orange lights.

At this time of the day, the bar is technically closed but we sat across from each other with a pint of Epic beer, Andrew’s tattooed fingers drumming on the table, small talk about him having never been there before, about the night Seether were there after their show at Logan Campbell and with the bar’s owner, Matt, passing and out like a shadow, his feet sticking to the floor.

Andrew is your typical older rocker. Mid forties he’s tattooed with long hair and long beard. In a weird way — and I told him this — it was foreboding, like I could be staring at myself when I’m forty.

Head Like a Hole are a legacy band, I tell him, a band that holds a place in NZ rock history and, since being in the band from 2009, he holds a place alongside them.

He chews that over for a moment, sips his pale ale. He reckons it’s not something he’s ever thought about.

“You gotta understand that if you’re not doing something for money then you’re doing it for love and you have to be happy with it. It’s flattering if people like it and if people will pay for it and come to see ya but fundamentally, if you play your cards to someone else’s whim you’re a danger of losing who you are. We write and play what comes out of us naturally.”

He has me for a moment. If you’re not making money there’s no imperative, if you’re not bothered if people like there’s no point, surely. So why bother with the albums and the interviews?

“So that would be a situation where you played music in a practice room and you never played it to anyone? That’s a pretty good question, actually. A pretty weird one. I guess you could say, why does an artist exhibit their art? I guess in some level you want people to dig it, fair enough. And playing live, there’s a thrill in playing live.

“So yeah, you’re right man. While we don’t write music to make a certain group of people happy if you’re playing live it would be good to have an audience. It would be no good touring to empty rooms.”

Part of releasing the music, he says over a sip of beer, readjustment of the way he’s sitting, is self validation. He tells me many times during our near hour talk that he’d play guitar no matter what, even if he wasn’t in the band, but being on the stage in his blood he’d rather be self validated than never leave the practice room.

We all know the legacy of Head Like A Hole. They got together, ripped shit up, took a 10 year holiday (as Andrew calls it, before roaring with laughter) and then came back in 2009. Andrew joined when the band got back together so he’s still kinda new…and shiny. And so reluctant to make too strong a claim on being part of the band’s history.

“The longer I’m in the band and the more albums we come out with the more relevant I would be and contribute. A lot of fans will think of Head Like A Hole as the original line up but time marches on.”

And so it does. As we drain our beers we fall into silence with only the air-conditioning for company.

The new album Narcaccido and their upcoming tour have spurred thoughts of going abroad — Australia, Germany — and playing shows to drive the HLAH flag into the ground.

It’s weird then, at least to me, that the man sitting opposite me has no expectations for their future.

“Enjoy it for what it is, appreciate it and make the most of it while it’s there and do your best at it. We don’t have an end plan with the band and if anyone does it’s just keep doing it as long as you enjoy it.”

A swallow a mouthful of beer, partially trying to swallow my tongue. Is he really, 40 minutes into our conversation, turning out to be a washed up rocker?

“It could be cynicism. I guess. Because I’m a bit older. It would be naive to think that the situation would change to a point where it was full time income for us and we could tour the world on it and pay of our mortgages.

So I don’t think there’s any point fighting that but it’s not an apathetic attitude, it’s a semi-realistic one. And that doesn’t mean you don’t do the best you can at it, y’know? It just means you work with what you’ve got. If something, fuck, we’d be all over it.”

In the next few moments, neither of us speak. He picks up his beer, finishes it, puts the glass down. Something he’s said has stuck with me: “Because I’m a bit older”.

Andrew, I’m 22, sitting opposite you is like talking to myself if I were 40 and washed up. Do we really all have to fall into the, ‘fuck it, we weren’t going to be famous anyway’ line?

“The thing is, and what I would say to that is, because people say there’s no chance you could do that full time so why bother? I’m against that. What’s the ultimate job a kid wants to do? Say it’s be an astronaut. What are the chances of being an astronaut? Pretty slim. But, some people are astronauts. So, what’s the chance of being a professional musician? Pretty slim but people do it, a lot of people do it. So of course you can do it, if that’s your focus and you’re not relying on anyone else then fuck, I totally believe you can do it.”

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