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Ash frontman Tim Wheeler travelled the world when writing new album Islands, and his wanderlust produced a vibrant return to form for one of Britpop’s best-loved bands. Gary Walker meets the Northern Irish singer to find out why the band still care about vinyl as much as ever…

They pressed their first record at the same time as studying for their GCSEs, released a volley of infectious chart-topping 7”s and a million-selling album while in their teens; cut 26 singles in a single year, and provoked Eric Cantona into threatening to “spit on your record”. Ash’s next move, in 2007, was to announce that Twilight Of The Innocents would be their last physically released album as the digital revolution took hold and they split from Warner subsidiary Infectious. Thankfully, the band hadn’t banked on the resurgence of interest in vinyl, and this spring unleashed their seventh LP – Islands.

Records remain just as close to the Downpatrick, County Down band’s hearts as when frontman Tim Wheeler, drummer Rick McMurray and bassist Mark Hamilton formed their Iron Maidenaping first band Vietnam as 12-year-olds inspired by their fledgling collections of punk and metal albums.

With a catalogue that already included the debut mini-album Trailer, coming-of-age Britpop classic 1977, the darker Nu-Clear Sounds and the swoonsome yet underrated Free All Angels, the decision to turn their backs on albums was shortlived. 2007 proved to be vinyl’s nadir, as sales bottomed out before starting to climb again and Wheeler, who grew up listening to Pixies, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Mudhoney records, was happy to change his mind.

“I’m delighted about it,” he says. “It was a reaction to the streaming and digital iPod world. I think it was definitely a reaction to losing the experience of having a physical product. The physical format makes it easier and you feel more connected to it. I completely understand that, from my early days of collecting vinyl in the early 90s, with all the indie bands I love. It’s great to see it make this comeback.

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About Long Live Vinyl

The Godfather, Super Fly, Blade Runner, Purple Rain, Clockwork Orange, The Graduate, The Wicker Man, Pulp Fiction, Help!… In issue 17 of Long Live Vinyl we salute soundtracks, round up 50 of the greatest film classics ever committed to vinyl and talk to the good people at Invada Records, who brought us the Stranger Things and Drive soundtracks. Elsewhere this issue, in our packed interviews section we speak to Creation Records founder Alan McGee about the albums that shaped his incredible career in vinyl, working with an astonishing array of bands that included Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Oasis and The Libertines. Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reflects on travelling the world to write the band's best new album in years, Islands, and Gruff Rhys tells us about his own new record Babelsberg. The ever-outspoken John Lydon completes our artist line-up, telling us why he's happier in Public Image Ltd than he ever was in the Sex Pistols. You'll also want to dig into our feature on Grime, arguably the most exciting and fresh musical movement to emerge from British shores since Lydon's punks shook up the 70s. The Trip pays a long-overdue visit to the record shops of Birmingham, while we wish Kate Bush a happy 60th birthday as our Classic Album series turns the spotlight on her 1985 masterpiece, Hounds Of Love. The Who fans, meanwhile, are in for a treat as our Essential feature rounds up the 40 records by Townshend, Daltrey, Moon and Entwistle that every collector should own. We meet the people behind Hypergallery, visit Newport's Diverse Vinyl and, if all that's not enough, you'll find the widest range of new release, reissue, turntable and accessory reviews anywhere on the newsstand, plus essential hi-fi buying advice. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers! Enjoy the issue.