Ask Me Tomorrow is essentially Slowdive unplugged; a special record, with a hushed grandeur all of its own.
We recently released a one-off reissue of Mojave 3’s debut album, Ask Me Tomorrow.Limited to just 500 copies, it was pressed on seafoam green vinyl and with Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg’s artwork beautifully repurposed in a shiny gold mirror board sleeve.
Ask Me Tomorrow has been unavailable on vinyl since its release on 4AD in October, 1995 and original copies now change hands for three-figure sums. The reissue is timely as it follows the recent announcement of Slowdive’s fourth album, and this could well have been that record, but after being dropped by Creation following the release of Pygmalion, the band — reduced to a three-piece of Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell and Ian McCutcheon – rechristened themselves Mojave 3 and experimented with stripped-down, acoustic songs more in thrall to Leonard Cohen than LFO.
Ask Me Tomorrow is actually an album of demos. Neil Halstead had started recording at his flat above a carpet shop on the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road in west London – the very same place in which he conceived much of Pygmalion, which was inspired by his housemates Darren Seymour of Seefeel and Mark Van Hoen, who recorded electronica as Locust and Autocreation.
“I just wanted to try some songs, because Pygmalion was so abstract,” explains Neil of this musical about-turn. “I wasn’t writing for a record at that point, just messing round on an acoustic and listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake, Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons… This was even while Pygmalion was being made, almost as a way to relax and change worlds.”
“I remember recording the vocals for ‘Love Songs On The Radio’ at Neil’s flat,” says Rachel Goswell. “We were also lucky to still have a publishing deal with EMI, so we were able to utilise their studio in central London for recording, too.”
Joined by Christopher Andrews on piano, they recorded a further three songs, live, during a one-day session. “We couldn’t separate the instruments, drums and vocals because the studio was so small,” explains Neil. “I think that’s why there is a lot of reverb over the tracks – everything bleeds into everything else. The only way to mix it was to push the room mics up and push the vocals up.”
With six songs completed they made some demo tapes, still marked with the name Slowdive, one of which was sent to Ivo Watts-Russell at 4AD, who initially ignored it for a couple weeks. “I thought, if they’d been dropped and 4AD wasn’t having a blazing success with anything, then what could we do that Creation couldn’t?” Ivo tells writer Martin Aston in his definitive 4AD history, Facing The Other Way. “But once I played the tape, I instantly adored it.” He wanted them to follow in the footsteps of the Red House Painters and make their demo their debut album.
However, Neil had since gone travelling in the Middle East, spending time in Jordan, Egypt and Israel: “I remember calling Rachel to check in and she said Ivo had heard the demo and loved it and that I should come back so we could record a few more tunes and put an album out on 4AD.”
On his return, they recorded three further songs in south London’s Blackwing Studios, with the assistance of former Chapterhouse guitarist (and future full-time Mojave member) Simon Rowe and, almost without trying, an album was complete.
“The thing I remember about working on Ask Me Tomorrow is that the recordings came together pretty quickly and it all seemed so effortless,” says drummer Ian McCutcheon. “It was a really positive time, the complete antithesis to the final months of the Creation era.”
“I didn’t dream for a moment we would get picked up so quickly by another label and for it to be 4AD was just amazing,” reveals Rachel. “Creation to 4AD – the two greatest indie labels at that time.”
“The band name came while we were mastering the record,” explains Neil. “A friend of ours was at Abbey Road with us that day and 4AD were asking what we wanted to call the new project. She suggested Mojave because she thought the music had a wide-open, desert quality and so we thought, ‘Oh, maybe that could work…’ Of course, in true Spinal Tap tradition there was already a German band called Mojave, so we added the ‘3’ as we were a three-piece. That sort of became redundant later when we were six!”
But three was the magic number and, on October 16, 1995 – just 252 days after Slowdive’s swansong was released – the metamorphosis was complete and Mojave 3 were born. What happened next? Well, just ask me tomorrow…