Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Broken Homes: An Interview With Jimmy Ashhurst

The Broken Homes - promo photo
Originally published in Rave-Up
Issue #17 (1989)

By Devorah Ostrov

"The band has been really misunderstood over the years." Jimmy Ashhurst, bassist for the Broken Homes, isn't really complaining about the lack of recognition his band is receiving so much as he's trying to understand why.

"It seems like it's been difficult for business people - record company people and agency people - to figure out what kind of band we are. We're just a rock 'n' roll band. It's not that difficult to figure out, but you can't sit 'em down and explain it. You feel like an idiot! You just kind of go, 'Fuck, what are you? Stupid!?' But that doesn't help your situation. And until they figure it out, you're fucked! I don't mean to sound bitter or cynical... but I am."

Although you'd never guess it from Jimmy's rant, the Broken Homes were easily signed to MCA Records and have just completed two major tours supporting the Georgia Satellites and Joan Jett. When he called, the band were entering the studio to record a cover version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Born on the Bayou" for a new Oliver Stone movie, as well as preparing new material for their third album.

The Broken Homes first grabbed my attention when Stiv Bators, an early fan of the group, played me a demo tape he'd confiscated. But it wasn't until their second album, Straight Line Through Time, that I really had a chance to immerse myself in their bluesy rhythms and soul-searching lyrics.

Their next album promises to deliver more of the same, with a few slight variations on the theme. "There'll be a couple of weird influences this time," explains Jimmy.

Straight Line Through Time LP (back cover photo)
Photo: Jim Herrington
It seems that singer, Michael Doman, has taken a profound interest in '70s super-funk group Sly and the Family Stone. "That might creep into the album somewhere," warns Jimmy. "I'm kinda hoping it doesn't, but it may."

Andy Johns, whose credentials read like a who's who of rock 'n' roll, will be producing the next album and this, Jimmy hopes, will give the Homes some additional clout.

"You can't get much more famous than Andy Johns," Jimmy says. "If that's what it takes, we've got it."

One hopes that MTV, at least, will treat the next Broken Homes' video with more respect than the last one. "The Howling," from Straight Line Through Time, was subjected to the ridicule of "Smash It Or Trash It" during the "Yo MTV Raps" hour. Guest host Jazzy Jeff added insult to injury by declaring: "Broken Home boys... Go home!"

Not surprisingly, the video was soundly trashed and thrown into the abyss termed "light rotation." Or as Jimmy laments, "Whatever they call it when it's shown at 4:30 in the morning."

The history of the Broken Homes and Jimmy's own musical career, follows no established pattern. Indeed, until a chance meeting with the Damned's Rat Scabies, Jimmy had no idea what he wanted to do in life. He laughs as he recalls Rat's advice: "Rat basically convinced me that I would be useless unless I learned how to play an instrument."

The two met up while Jimmy was "dirt-bagging it" through Europe a few years ago. He ended up staying with Rat in London, where the drummer gave him a bass and taught him how to play it. When he eventually returned to Los Angeles, Jimmy kept himself busy by joining five different bands at the same time.

L-R: Kreg Ross, Jim Swahl, Michael Doman, Jimmy Ashhurst, Michael Graves
It was during one show with "some silly punk band" that Jimmy found a note attached to his amp. It was from the one band he wasn't part of - the Broken Homes. The note read: "We got management and we've got a gig at the Roxy. If you wanna do it, ring us up."

"I'd never played the Roxy before," says Jimmy, explaining what first appealed to him about joining the band. "I thought that was really cool!"

After the Roxy show things happened fast. "We were virtually signed at that show. All of a sudden all these guys in suits and ties appeared out of nowhere!"

Due to the dismal Hollywood club scene of a couple years back, the Broken Homes found themselves gigless for almost a year between their first and second albums. But that didn't stop Jimmy from playing.

He can be heard backing-up Stiv Bators on his solo single "Story in Your Eyes" b/w "Have Love Will Travel," released through Bomp Records. Of that collaboration Jimmy says, "We were up for a few days and decided to make a record. It got really hairy after about four days with no sleep! At the very end, Hein Hoven (Damned producer) came in with a Fairlight computer and mucked everything up."

Straight Line Through Time
The Broken Homes second album
released 1988 (MCA Records)
A second venture with Stiv also involved Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats and Broken Homes' guitarist Kreg Ross. Although never released (to Jimmy's knowledge), the unlikely foursome recorded versions of Slade's "Gudbuy T' Jane" and the Hurriganes' "I Will Stay."

Jimmy also lent his talents to the Damned, playing bass on "Would You" (featuring Rat's girlfriend on vocals), which appears on the B-side of the obscure "Shadow of Love" Ten Inches of Hell mix.

More recently, Jimmy could be seen onstage with Finnish rockers Smack, who were in Los Angeles looking for a record deal. While the band searched for a permanent bassist, Jimmy was recruited for their Southern California gigs.

"I really liked playing with Smack," says Jimmy. "I was getting real lazy with the Homes. Not only is our music more laid back, but we've been doing it for so long that rehearsals are just a joke. Playing with Smack woke me up. It was good for me to have to learn three albums worth of material in a week's time!"

Of course, no side project could pull Jimmy away from his commitment to the Broken Homes. And while he wishes his band was better known, he's taken a commendable stand on the subject of selling-out: "We're sticking to our guns," he firmly states. "We're not gonna change anything for the quick buck. That could've been easily done and it hasn't. People will realize that our music is good, whether they realize it now or five years from now. We will be recognized at some point in time. That's compensation enough for me."

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