In his early years, star drummer Ash Soan transported his kit to gigs in his 2.4 Targa, and now, back in a 997 C4, he tells fellow skins-pounder Tipler how he plans to replay those halcyon days
There’s a good chance you’ll have heard Ash Soan performing on some of the music you’ve listened to over the past 20 years. As a seasoned session drummer, he’s played with and backed a vast range of musical superstars, including Van Morrison (at the Albert Hall), Marianne Faithfull (New York) and Rick Wakeman (Havana, Cuba). Too old school for you? How’s about Will Young, Adele or James Morrison? He’s also drummed for Squeeze, Del Amitri, Nellie Furtado and dozens of others. You can even see him live without leaving the comfort of your sitting room: for sheer versatility, check out the backing band on ITV’S The Voice UK: there’s your man, in his fourth season as house drummer on the show, laying down the beat for the benefit of the wannabees. More pertinent to us, though, Ash is a 911 buff too. Just as he prefers to work exclusively with legendary percussive makes like Gretsch and Zildjian, so he adores Porsches, and 911s in particular. He’s just snared his second one: a black 997 C4, with just 31K on the clock, acquired from Williams Crawford at Saltash, Cornwall.
Ash traces the moment when Porsches first appeared on his radar as a schoolboy in the 1980s: ‘I remember having a white Matchbox 930 whale-tail Turbo, and I used to draw them and I loved that shape and everything about it. But when I actually bought my first one it was a Boxster 986 in 2003, just a 2.7 – and that was it, I was totally hooked.’ We know, some of us, that a normal five-piece drum kit and hardware can be accommodated, without too many compromises, in a 911. But what about a Boxster? ‘I never attempted that; it would have been considerably trickier, with the bass drum on the front seat, toms in the back and front luggage boots, but the ergonomics are quite different to a 911. But it’s no problem in a 911-shaped car.’
Parlaying the paradiddles for the Porsche, it wasn’t long before Ash got his second one, a 1974 911T Targa, in 2005. He was doing pretty well on the music scene by now, and bought his father a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow around the same time. ‘I found this cheap 2.4 Targa for £13 grand, and I loved it. I used to bomb around from gigs to rehearsals, bass drum in the front, snare and toms in the back and stands underneath the bonnet. It’s shallower, but there’s more space there than modern 911s. Stands right up against the bulkhead panelling, cymbals, snare drum in the foot-well, bass drum on the seat and toms in the back. My kit is still a standard five-piece – I’ve never really ever gone for those enormous kits, never felt that I needed to do that.’ That’s lucky, because anything bigger would seriously challenge the 911’s ergonomics.
Ash got his first drum set aged 11, and a musical scholarship to Salford Tech kickstarted his journey up the percussive pathway. As resident big-band drummer at college he also played for a number of Manchester bands before moving to London in 1991. It wasn’t that easy to begin with: like many an aspirational musician he spent a year or two on the pub and club circuit. His luck changed in ’93 when, performing in a Greenwich pub, Ash was spotted by Massive Attack’s bass-player and hired on the spot for the Tom Robinson Band. A year later he auditioned for Scottish rock band Del Amitri, and spent the next three years as their drummer. In quick succession, he was drafted into Faithless and then Squeeze, before touring with Belinda Carlisle, Marianne Faithfull, Sinead
O'connor, Sheryl Crow, Robbie Williams, James Morrison, Will Young, The Waterboys, Trevor Horn and Seal, Ronnie Wood, Dionne Warwick – and many more. He backed Mike Oldfield at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, too. See ashsoan.com for the full Monty. He also lays down drum tracks and gives lessons at his Windmill studio in Norfolk. ‘Actually, my career has mainly been involved with the recording industry,’ says Ash, ‘and over the past 20 years or so I’ve recorded on fiftyone Top 20 albums for artists including Cher, Seal, Robbie Williams, Billy Idol, Adele, Dionne Warwick and Rumer, James Morrison, Cee Lo, Celine Dion and Ronan Keating. And 45 of those albums reached the Top Ten. My discography also includes 21 Top Ten singles, and I've recorded 18 Number One albums and 11 Number One singles which have featured on various pop and rock charts around the world.’
You have to remind yourself that, all the while, this rhythm-master is also lusting after his next 911. ‘Yeah, I used to bomb around in the Targa, doing gigs, and I used to get the car serviced by Chris Turner, bless him, and he was overjoyed that I was trailing around my kit in that car. But then, a couple of years later, quite by coincidence, the day after I found out my wife and I were going to be having a baby, a chap pulled up alongside me at some traffic lights and offered to buy it on the spot. So, the deal literally fell in my lap, and I said yeah, ripped his arm off!’
A decade on, the fire still burned, and Ash’s two children are still small enough to fit in the back of a 911. The inevitable purchase would happen, and I was able to help. Over the past couple of years, I found myself increasingly on the receiving end of messages from Ash, soliciting my opinion about cars he’d spotted for sale. They were, almost without exception, 997 C2SS or C4SS, and I focussed him on those gracing the forecourts and showrooms of reputable dealers of our acquaintance. His home is up a track, so a C4 could be a blessing in disguise. ‘We knew that there would be issues around getting up the drive, in any car, let alone a Porsche! But I always knew that I’d get another one at some point. In the business that I’m working in, I’m seeing them all the time at venues and in studio car parks, which was quite frustrating because I didn’t own one. Anyway, I’m back in the club now, so I feel good!’
He regularly tours the world with bands and artistes, so the prospect of a trip from Norfolk to Cornwall was not daunting. He’d noticed a 997 C4 on Williams Crawford’s website and engaged in a dialogue with Adrian Crawford. It seemed perfect: just over 30K miles from new, an all-wheel drive C4 to get up his track, black with black. We flew from Norwich to Exeter, 40 minutes in the air, and were met at the airport and driven the 60 miles to Saltash. I mention this because of the ease and swiftness of the buying spree: three hours, give or take, from Norwich to Saltash (Plymouth). Ash thoroughly enjoyed his buying experience. ‘Obviously you and I talked about it a lot, and when that car came up and I discussed it with Adrian (Crawford) I realised that he is genuinely passionate about the cars, and you can feel it from him. It’s not just a business, it’s something that’s in his heart,
You have to remind yourself, this rhythm master is also lusting after his next 911
definitely. I really enjoy his social media stuff as well. And then our brilliant journey down there was quite exciting, and the whole Williams Crawford thing has been really cool. And then it was like, I can’t wait to get in it and drive home! And driving back was a pleasant trip; I was staggered, actually. A six-hour run, and we just stepped out the other end, feeling fresh as a daisy.’ It was indeed an intriguing journey. As we motored northeast up the motorway network we basked in the 997’s ease and solidity, Ash regaling me with tales of jawdropping scuttlebutt concerning members of the top-line rock star firmament. If I told you, he’d have to kill me.
Now back home, will the kids get treated to the school run? Inevitably! The 997 gets the thumbs up from the whole family. The only upgrades Ash is contemplating is a Bluetooth indulgence: ‘I’ll be finding out what I can do to get it up to a modern everyday car standard, because really that communication system is pretty much defunct, but for £300 it seems you can get it to like your iphone, or an android phone will integrate with it in a modern way. You can buy it online and fit it yourself, and there’s a hundred guys around the world who’ll show you how to connect it, and I’m up for doing that as long as it doesn’t invalidate the warranty. That’s where the forums are too, and I absolutely love them. I know they’ve changed the design ever so slightly, but it’s still a five-spoke, although seeing these in the metal on my car, they have grown on me, and they’re not so unappealing to me when I see them up close. Either I’ll learn to live with them or advertise them as a straight swap for the Carrera five-spokes.’
Having previously enjoyed lengthy runs, four-up, to Portugal in 3.2 Carrera and 964, complete with top-box, I remind Ash that a 911 can also provide domestic pleasure, too. So, will there be a Soan family holiday in this car? ‘Potentially, very much so! We’ve got to go and see my dad soon over in Shropshire, and we’ve had both the kids in the back. My daughter’s five and she fits perfectly, my son is nine, and he’s over the moon that the centre of the back seat is like a nice little wall between him and his sister! I asked them, “do you think you could do a long journey in this?” and they seemed pretty enthusiastic. The leg room for me and my wife is perfect, there’s plenty for us in the front and enough in the back for the kids.’
So, family car and band transport – for his kit, at least. Head out on the highway: that’ll be Ash, drumming up a storm in his new wheels. PW
solidity” Motoring up the motorway, we basked in the 997’s ease and