In 2012, Andrew Ashong, a relatively unknown but amiable chap from Forest Hill, teamed up with Theo Parrish, a paragon of Detroit techno, to release ‘Flowers’. The nine-minute track became 2012’s underground club hit, and was crowned Track of The Year at the Gilles Peterson’s 2013 Worldwide Awards. The questions are: who is Andrew Ashong, how did this happen, and what comes next?
His musical realisation has been a long time coming, and rides of the back of years of graft. “Just over 10 years ago I built a computer. I didn’t have the money to buy one, so my brother explained that I could go to a computer fair and buy the parts. So I tried to put together a system. Finally, I loaded up Cubase. Bit by bit, I got my head around how all that works, and I was able to multi-track record. It’s so fun to work within your limitations and then slowly peel them away to expose freedom.”
Ashong had already been DJing since the age of 16, and his love for music has morphed into a character-defining obsession. Years of charity shop vinyl hunting snowballed. Now, the south London crate-digger has a huge vinyl collection – “I’m in a room with about 10,000 in as we speak,” he tells us. “For most of my life, I’ve really just dug everything else. There is a lot of it. There is plenty of Marvin Gaye in here, all the Shuggie Otis albums. Everything Bill Withers recorded, too. I am constantly excited and inspired by all this great stuff.”
Parrish entered the mix when the pair met opportunistically. Ashong covered for a promoter friend and picked Parrish up from the airport for a London gig. The pair bonded, became friends. “Eventually and reluctantly,” begins Ashong, “I played him some tracks. He came back with some great positive feedback and eventually said he wanted to put it out.” The result of their friendship has been some smooth organic house numbers – collected as the ‘Flowers’ EP – with soul inflections and slow bpms, and in every 10-hour deep house set from Peckham to Belleville, these tracks burn like golden flares in the hypnotic club mist.
2014 welcomes Ashong’s debut solo EP, ‘Special’ (or ‘The Andrew Ashong EP’). A release less targeted to the dancefloor, it instead chooses to retrospectively immerse in the ethics of true music: “Whether it’s a great song, or a great recording or great production, for me, the inspiration is in tracing all of those influences.” The EP presents a timeless sound, where slap bass, percussion, drums, guitar, electric piano and his trademark vocal layers are arranged into three dreamy soul/jazz compositions.
It will be an answer that changes everyday of the week, but with an ear as seasoned as Ashong’s, we had to know what his most treasured three records were before he left us, a mixture of the best and the hardest to replace. “This is so tricky. I'm going to say The Descendants Of Mike And Phoebe, ‘A Spirit Speaks’. Then Fela Kuti’s ‘Expensive Shit’, which has got ‘Water No Get Enemy’ on the other side. And I’ll put in the Archie Whitewater self-titled. That was excruciating.”
Later, Andrew calls us back to say, “Jorge Ben’s ‘A Tábua De Esmeralda’!” and then hangs up. We haven't heard from him since.
- - -
Andrew Ashong, ‘Special’
- - -
What: Dreamy soul/jazz
Get 3 Songs: ‘Special’ (above), ‘Never Dreamed’, ‘Flowers’
Unique Fact: Ashong’s vinyl collection was valued by an insurance company for an undisclosed six-figure sum.
- - -
Words: Joe Zadeh
Photo: Liam MF Warwick (website)
Stream the ‘Special’ EP in full via Deezer, below…