Sunday, March 23, 2014

Obituary - Scott Asheton

On Saturday 15 March 2014, Scott Asheton, drummer of the legendary proto-punk band, THE STOOGES, passed away aged 64. The cause of death, as stated by his daughter Leanna, was a heart attack.
Ashton was born Scott Randolph Asheton in Washington DC on 16 August 1949. At the age of 14 and shortly after the passing of his father, Asheton, along with his mother and brother, made the life-changing move to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
It was in Ann Arbor that the Asheton brothers would encounter bassist Dave Alexander and together with a certain Jim Osterberg, they formed THE STOOGES. The band’s history has been written about in all manner of press, but needless to say, the first two STOOGES albums - the self-titled debut from 1969 and the sonic mind-melt of ‘Funhouse’ from 1970 - remain quite unlike anything else of the period with dense, repetitive riffs, Iggy’s sneering delivery and behind it all, Scott’s solid, relentless drumming. Both albums were poorly received by fans and critics alike at the time of release.
Following ‘Funhouse’, Alexander was fired and the band, with the exception of Ron Asheton, dived into a dependency on Heroin. Live shows became erratic and Elektra Records dropped the band.
Come 1973, Ron Asheton had been pushed onto bass, making way for David Bowie’s buddy, James Williamson on guitar. It was this line-up that recorded and released the ‘Raw Power’ album; an album that was to be one of the main influences on the Punk scene of the late 70s. But like its predecessors, the album was a commercial failure at the time. In February 1974, the band split.
It’s said the split hit Scott hard. Still addicted to Heroin, he was reduced to living on the streets of Los Angeles. He got a ticket back to Michigan and survived doing carpentry and bricklaying jobs as they appeared.
Here, Asheton returned to music, playing in many projects that included former RATIONALS vocalist Scott Morgan including SCOTT MORGAN BAND, SCOTS PIRATES and, most notably SONIC’S RENDEZVOUS BAND which was the project of MC5 guitarist Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith and released just the one single, ‘City Slang’ in 1978.
1978 also saw Asheton reunite with IGGY POP on his 1978 European Tour.
He also toured with DARK CARNIVAL - a latter incarnation of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and recorded extensively with Sonny Vincent of THE TESTORS, playing on four solo albums and making special appearances on a number of other Vincent releases. The pair’s close ties continued with a US tour which included Steve Baise of DEVIL DOGS.
Asheton also briefly formed his own band, ROCK ACTION, which was a nickname for the man. He had the words tattooed on his left forearm with a lightening bolt passing through them.
The reformation of THE STOOGES was realised when DINOSAUR JR maverick J Mascis and MINUTEMEN bassist Mike Watt took both Asheton brothers on the road, playing sets based around the first two STOOGES albums. The tour was well received and caught Pop’s attention.
In 2003, following a successful performance at the Coachella Festival, THE STOOGES reformed for a series of shows and two more albums - ‘The Weirdness’ in 2007 and 2013’s unfortunately titled ‘Ready To Die’.
I was fortunate enough to see THE STOOGES with both Asheton brothers live in Sydney in 2006. Even in the expanse of a festival situation, the band nailed it and it remains one of the most memorable and important gigs I’ve been too. I recall 'Dirt' in particular, with those immense beats locked in with that guitar riff.
Following the passing of Scott’s brother Ron in 2009, ‘Raw Power’ guitarist James Williamson returned and the band set out on the ‘Raw Power’ tours.
In 2011, following an appearance at Hellfest in France, Asheton suffered a severe illness (said to be a stroke on a plane back to England), which caused him to curtail performing live with the band, but allowed him to play on the aforementioned ‘Ready To Die’ album.
Asheton is survived by his wife Elizabeth, daughter Leanna, stepsons Simon and Aaron Wallis and sister Kathy.
In the week following his passing, IGGY POP has said, “He drummed songs. He had terrific force in his hands and a natural power punch. He always played trust on the instrument - always.”