Ashley Carr is the South African frontman and guitarist of the rock group Danger Line, now based in Exeter, England. He took time out with Prime (UK Band) singer Lee Heir for a chat about his background and the music scene in his home country, and festival/tour plans both online and live in person.
LEE HEIR: Good afternoon Ashley! How are you on this rainy British day?
ASHLEY CARR: I’m great thanks Lee, although it’s not raining in Exeter.
LH: I'm up North for the first time in a while so rain was to be expected! Have you been up to much?
AC: That makes sense! I have been very busy. I moved house recently and am setting up my new studio. It’s a good kind of busy.
LH: Fantastic! Has the move gone without any snags? You've been super productive this year, with a new release this month: Tell me more about 'Fallen Angel'?
AC: There are always snags when you move but I was excited, mostly because my studio has more than doubled in size. Yes, 'Fallen Angel' is probably one of my favourite releases, mostly because of the driving guitars and the space to really get behind the mic when singing it. I wrote the song about a good female friend of mine many years back. We were young and wild and prone to a lot of substance abuse. Fortunately for me I quickly realised the effects the life style was having on me and I pulled away from it. Looking back though I saw how it negatively affected our relationship, how she struggled to break free, and just how destructive drugs are.
LH: Are you still in touch with the person and is she getting on better now?
AC: No, we lost touch a long time ago, but I believe she has come through it.
LH: That's very good to hear that she kicked the bad side of her life, and great that she's immortalised in such a high energy old-school rock song! What are your plans for the release in such an uncertain Lockdown affected time? I suppose it's the perfect time to move house at least!
AC: To be honest, Lockdown for me was the best thing ever - my next planned music release is called ‘These Four Walls’ - as it gave me a lot more time to focus. Everything has changed, especially the live music scene. So I do a lot of promotion through social media and the results have been good. Once it’s safe to do so, Danger Line will be out there performing as much as possible, but for now we have to find alternative ways to do things. I have been asked by a festival organiser in South Africa to do a live stream, so I’m busy putting that together at the moment.
LH: That sounds brilliant. What's the festival called? Is it purely South African artists?
AC: It’s one of the biggest festivals in South Africa, called Slashy Fen, they do monthly live streams. I remember the year I played there, Hot House Flowers were headlining. I plan to do the live stream at the end of September. I’m using a studio in Exeter and using a full line up... Part of the set will be unplugged and we’ll finish big with the whole band.
LH: So tell me more about South Africa... What was the music scene like there once you started playing?
AC: I grew up in Johannesburg and started my first band when I was 17, but I was always drawn to the ocean and moved to Durban on the east coast when I was in my early 20’s, where the music scene was really vibrant and I started a new band which did really well. We got a song on the radio and we’re very popular on the east coast.
LH: That was One Lonely Child right? Great name. What got you into music, did your parents play or have a big interest?AC: Actually One Lonely Child was my first band, the band in Durban was Switch. (When I was a child) my Dad played the organ occasionally and sent me and my sister for lessons, but I was always drawn to the guitar. One day a friend gave me an old battered six string which was a turning point for me. I taught myself to play it and started writing songs. I would drop a microphone into the sound hole as a pic up and practice for hours in my room. Good memories there.
LH: So who were the bands you looked up to in the formative days and who were the top bands on the scene?
AC: On the international scene it had to be the 90’s rock bands like Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam, etc, and South Africa had some great bands doing the circuit as well. You probably wouldn’t know them but bands like Squeal, Prime Circle, Arapaho and Henry Ate. I was fortunate enough to open for some of them with Switch.
LH: I've come across Prime Circle, but only because my band's called Prime and I was probably looking for some s**t about my band that I'd lost online, ha ha. I will check out your recommendations... Nirvana? Never heard of them...
AC: Lol. You must be quite young then.
LH: What led to your move to the UK and what was behind that decision? Obviously not our lovely weather...
AC: I’m not going to get into politics, but South Africa has seen a massive increase in corruption and crime. I initially came over in 2016 for a short period, but then decided to stay. I love the opportunities here, yes the weather can be crap but I’ve got used to it, I quite enjoy that first ice cold breath of air as I leave home in the morning during winter.
LH: Said an English person, never! Ha ha. You are welcome to discuss politics: I positively encourage it and am not one of those people who thinks musicians should keep their mouths shut about these things! Let's hope England doesn't go the same way with the corrupt clowns we have in charge... Have any of these issues seeped into your songwriting at any point in the past or have your songs been on more closer-to-home themes?
AC: Not really, I try stick with more fun or positive themes in my music. There’s enough negativity out there. Most of my songs are written about closer to home themes, but not always. Sometimes I just let fantasy take over. Most of the music I have written though will take me back to good times or places I have spent time in.
LH: I love the likes of Springsteen who take big themes like that and make it more personal and also add a layer of hope to their songs. I tried to do that with my Prime song 'In Summer'. So what was the first track that you wrote that you really got the balance right?
AC: Springsteen, what a legend, I’m thinking of doing a cover of one of his songs in the near future. Obviously I think all my songs are great, but I would probably say the best balance I got was a song I wrote for a friends wedding. When I decided to release it, I played around with the lyrics, looking from the outside in and then ending the song being the one. Incidentally the song is called 'The One'.
LH: 'The One' has done very well online and got plenty of attention... What advice would you give to musicians just starting out who find the promotion side of things - which clearly comes natural to you - a bit of a minefield?
AC: Yes I was really happy with how 'The One' took off, especially on Spotify, it got over 10K streams in the first few weeks. Promoting music is really difficult, especially with so many good artists out there. I would advise artists to firstly be true to their identity, don’t try be someone else. Fans like to see the real you. I also believe in keeping close to my fans, my motto is ‘friends, not fans’! Reply to their comments on social media, take an interest in them. Also never stop learning, like you say it’s a minefield out there, keep growing, keep learning and most importantly never give up.
LH: Great advice as someone who has been learning a lot with Prime for the last five years... and even then you never have all the answers! Be cool to people whoever they are is a big thing too. You briefly touched upon looking forward to playing after Lockdown is fully over, how do you think you'll approach a tour for Danger Line in 2021?
AC: There is so much uncertainty about if future dates will go ahead, so my plan is to plan as if there was no Covid and try get a tour together for the summer. If it fails I’ve lost nothing, and gained some future contacts. I would like to do a 2 or 3 band tour over 3 or 4 weeks.
LH: So mix in performers from different areas? Any venues that have caught your attention for possible shows?
AC: Yes that’s what I’m hoping to achieve. I have picked up a festival gig in Brighton for next August bank holiday weekend, so would plan the tour around that.
LH: Brighton is a fantastic place. I'm hoping to film the last ever Prime music video there next month. What's the festival?
AC: Yes, I love Brighton and spend quite a lot of time there. The festival is called Brunswick Square Festival. It’s a beer and ale event where whatever is left over in the barrels at the end needs to be finished before collection the next day. So the bands and crew tend to have a lot of fun on the Sunday night. Lol.
LH: Oo I might have to go to that and help you out! Any particular plans for the performance, any new material or covers going to be on display?
AC: Oh yes, I think you should join us Lee. I will definitely be performing my popular releases as well as any new releases. It’s always good to throw in a few well thought out covers with a Danger Line edge time them, in fact I’m thinking of releasing one or two more by then. I’m always working on new material and should have quite a few releases by next summer.
LH: I wish you the very best with your upcoming projects Ash, and thank you very much for your time!
AC: Thanks Lee, you are welcome. All the best.
Danger Line 'Fallen Angel' is out now on Spotify and all streaming avenues.
Prime UK Band - 'Art / Facts' compilation is out now on digipak (with extra tracks) and the usual streaming sites.
Danger Line can be found at:
www.facebook.com/dangerline007/ / Instagram - @dangeline007 / Twitter - @ashleycarr35
Lee Heir of Prime UK Band is online at:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ukprime + Twitter / Instagram: @primeukband + Youtube: @badfridaypictures
Spotify 'Art Facts' Link: