|Date of Birth
||30 September 1974
|Place of Birth
||Los Angeles, California, USA
Just ten seconds into Ashley Hamilton's thunderous debut single 'Wimmin', there's already something deliciously inviting about the magnetic Californian.
"Kids just wanna rock," he states, plainly, and Ashley can't remember a time when he wasn't drawn to the electric buzz of a live amp. At school he was sent home from a careers lesson when he declared, to a room of future nurses and firemen: "I wanna be a rockstar so I can party all the time". From a guy who lists meeting Elvis Presley - at the age of three - as his earliest memory, you can see where he's coming from.
In the quarter-century since his brush with music royalty, Ashley's been captivated by the rock and roll lifestyle - he grew up on the road, so it would be difficult not to be - but his passion has always been for the music itself. He learned his trade by singing along to Jim Morrison, and remembers holding a guitar for the first time as a defining moment in his life. Between that point and today things have hardly been easy, but all rock stars need a story. Only when you meet him will you discover how amply Ashley fits the bill.
Though only 28, it may seem like Ashley Hamilton's life already qualifies as one of modern pop's most bookworthy. But as the tattoo-friendly rockstar-in-waiting will tell you, we're barely past the first chapter. As beginnings go 'Wimmin', an incandescent flare above the rooftops of pop with Robbie Williams on co-writing duties and Sex Pistol Steve Jones spitting out the riffs, is a fine way to kick things off. It's just one track from a debut album that ticks every box in Hamilton's rock agenda.
Flick through the album - the gloriously tongue-in-cheek 'TRL', the sparklingly tender 'If I Fall', the expectedly brilliant cover of INXS's 'Need You Tonight' with Tommy Lee on drums and the Beasties' Mixmaster Mike on decks - and it's obvious that a rare talent has landed. This is a talent watermarked with significance by its refusal to take itself too seriously. The logical outcome of influences that range from Nirvana and Lou Reed to Bowie and Gary Numan, Ashley's music fuses state-of-the-art modern storytelling, fucked up characters and achingly bright tuneage. And while Ashley's interpretation is typically offhand - "it's like Sid & Nancy meets National Lampoons," he splutters - this means everything to him.
Ashley's priorities are more straightforward than most musicians on the verge of releasing their debut single, and he's virtually unique in that the carrot on the end of his stick isn't so much fame, as overcoming it. Growing up with screen legend George Hamilton as a father and Rod Stewart as a stepfather, Ashley has seen the ups and downs fame can bring and, by his own admission, has had a rough time in its hands: at 23, in the same year that People Magazine voted him one of the 50 Most Beautiful People In The World, life's excesses were beginning to take their toll. Ashley is philosophical about this stage in his life, it's all great songwriting material, he muses, and listening to his album it's hard to disagree. Amid all this, as Ashley also made tentative steps towards rock stardom, he also found time to accumulate a string of movie and TV credits, most recently in the forthcoming series of HBO's gritty prison series 'Oz'.
But while acting to Ashley Hamilton was a "way to earn my own money, just like any other kid growing up wants to do", it is no exaggeration to say that the reason Ashley lives and breathes is music. "One day things were so bad that I realized I actually couldn't listen to music any more," he explains. "And it became a living hell. I would rather be dead than not have music." Then when a friend sat Ashley down and explained, quite bluntly, that Ashley should quit "wasting time doing acting and shit", it was a necessary blast of reality that would change Hamilton's course forever. His songwriting had already earned a publishing deal with EMI, and as a member of a notorious LA ubergroup with Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland, Orgy's Jay Gordon, Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray, he could feel that his onstage destiny was finally within reach.
As the band's other members drifted back to their own bands, Ashley found himself left a little high, but by no means dry. This was his chance to explore his own music in his own right. He travelled the world, suffered the knockbacks, "learned a load", and before long the same labels who were refusing to take his calls just a couple of years earlier were ringing him up. While demoing tracks Ashley penned tunes for artists as diverse as Meredith Brooks, Sugar Ray and Robbie Williams whose forthcoming single, the soaring 'Come Undone', is an Ashley co-write. For Ashley, the buzz of finishing a track, like 'Wimmin', which he describes as "a timeless song which will still be current ten years from now", is like nothing else on earth. Which is totally appropriate: for Ashley's songs are like nothing else in pop.
By the time Ashley signed with Sony last July his album was at such an advanced stage that the whole shebang was recorded by October. By then bluechip songwriter Phil Thornalley expressed a strong interest in hopping aboard, but while the album bears and impressive rolecall of cameo appearances it bristles with a personality that is unmistakably that of just one man: Ashley Hamilton.
"I just want to have fun with rock 'n' roll, and to do that I need to bring the fun back," he explains, an echo of that kid in the careers group at school. "I'm not a saviour of rock," he laughs, "but there's something that makes me feel this is just right. Lots of artists have a hunger - but I feel like I've got a real fire for this. I'll keep going, and going, and going. It's just right. It just feels right."
Ashley jokes that his life story could easily be summed up "as sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" - ironic for a man whose music is so devoid of cliché, whose work teems with originality and fresh ideas. 'Wimmin' is just a taste of what's to come, and with his album Ashley easily establishes himself as one of rock's brightest new talents in years. It's been a long time coming, but Ashley's is the sound that will define 2003.
Like we say, everything else has been the prologue. Now the story really begins.