Produced and performed by ASHBA and released in October via EDGEOUT Records/UMG/UMe with a devious and delectable video, “Bella Ciao” is his latest offering of the unique hybrid of electronic dance music and hard rock guitar he’s created called GDM (Guitar Dance Music). The new single follows a series of tracks released in late 2020, including well-received fan favorites “Hypnotic” (feat. Cali Tucker), “Let’s Dance” (feat. James Michael), and “A Christmas Storm.” Watch the video or stream “Bella Ciao” here: https://ASHBA.lnk.to/BellaCiao
I recently was afforded the opportunity of a chat with DJ himself to discuss his new musical direction and his musical legacy.
Antihero Magazine: I understand you’ve recently suffered a personal loss.
DJ Ashba: Yeah. Yeah, my little puppy.
Antihero Magazine: It’s difficult.
DJ Ashba: It is, but it’s good.
Antihero Magazine: Musically then, you recently played at the MMA Awards. How was that experience?
DJ Ashba: Oh, it was great. It was a lot of fun. We got to open with “Bella Ciao”, my new hit single. So yeah, it was great. Good times.
Antihero Magazine: Is sports something outside of music that you take a lot of interest in?
DJ Ashba: I love sports. I love comedy. I’m not really big into mainstream sports, but I love any fighting-type sports.
Antihero Magazine: What about playing sports? Outside of music do you play sports yourself?
DJ Ashba: I used to all the way through high school, but it’s one of those things where I love watching people fight.
Antihero Magazine: You performed your new single, as you say there. It’s quite a different flavour and you have invented a new genre of music.
DJ Ashba: Yes.
Antihero Magazine: It’s on your shirt.
DJ Ashba: Yeah.
Antihero Magazine: It’s quite a musical departure for you. It’s almost good for an artist to expand creatively, different musical genres. Is this something that you’ve always had throughout your life? You’ve dabbled in different musical pots?
DJ Ashba: Absolutely. You know, it’s weird because offstage I really had a great career in playing rock guitar, but when I’m not playing on a stage I listen to very little rock. I listen to so many different genres of music. My whole life I was very classical trained and loved movie scores to so many different styles of music from Latin music to EDM to blues to rock. Yeah, I just love good music.
Antihero Magazine: And you’ve released I think three or four videos. Are we going to see an album or is it just something that you will be releasing as individual tracks?
DJ Ashba: I kind of look at albums that, in my opinion, they’re a thing of the past. Once you lose physical copies, which is coming to an end, that’s what made albums so cool, is being able to look through. But everything is so digital now that with my new thing I plan on just releasing singles.
Antihero Magazine: Are there any other musical styles or genres that you hope to release in the future?
DJ Ashba: Yeah. I mean, I’m dabbling in all kinds of different styles. As far as I GDM, guitar dance music, I have some very Latin-influenced songs coming up. There’s a bunch of stuff coming up. I’ve got a lot of music and I got a brand-new single I’m working with right now that’s really cool. I can’t wait to put out this next single. It’s going to feature Ciara, which, she’s phenomenal, so I’m excited about that.
Antihero Magazine: Of course, the last year has been extremely challenging for everybody. Just artists like yourself, you haven’t been able to play live. I just wondered how it’s impacted on you, having all that extra time.
DJ Ashba: It’s been different. I love being on a stage. I live for it. But I just took full advantage of not being able to be on a stage and that’s when I really sunk my teeth into this new style of music that I’m trying to figure out what’s in my head. And I really am more inspired now than I’ve ever been musically, and it’s just been great, just tearing down the walls of everything you knew in the past and just trying to really come up with something unique and different.
Antihero Magazine: Do you think it brings more pressure or less pressure working under your own name rather than in a band format where you maybe feel more restricted?
DJ Ashba: I’ve never really thought about it. To me, it just happened that way. I signed a deal with Universal and they were the ones I actually signed under. I wanted to call it Pyromantic, and they were like, “No, we want to use your last name because you’ve done such a good job branding it over the years,” and I was like, “I don’t honestly care what you call it because at the end of the day it’s about the music.”
Antihero Magazine: I’m sure you’d prefer to look and focus on what’s ahead rather than what’s behind, but if we could just take two of your bands and ask maybe former bands a question about either. I would like to mention Beautiful Creatures after that debut album. Did you feel that the band should have achieved more success than what they did?
DJ Ashba: You always hope for that. My thing is I’ll always be proud of that first album. I think we were probably a bit ahead of our time on making that record, but it’s a record that I think holds up to this day. It’s just a fun rock record that I love going back and listening to, but it’s tough when you’re in the music industry because yeah, you want your songs to blow up and stuff, but I’ve always approached it differently. I’ve always written from the heart so it’s like if the song does great that’s just icing on the cake. So, yeah.
Antihero Magazine: And what about going out when you first joined Guns N’ Roses? Was that always going to be just for a limited period of time or is that just how it panned out?
DJ Ashba: Yeah, I didn’t know what to expect. I was hoping that one day Slash would come back and the reason I took the gig is that honestly, I was, no disrespect to Buckethead or anybody, but seeing a guy run around with a chicken bucket on his head, it’s like, to me, that took the coolness out of the band that I grew up loving and that’s one of the main reasons I wanted to get in there and try to do whatever I could do to get justice, bring back that reckless rock and roll vibe of what Slash was all about and Guns N’ Roses was all about. To me it was in a sense losing that thing that I loved about the band. And I love Buckethead as a guitarist, no disrespect at all, it’s just, in my opinion, he didn’t really fit the band.
Antihero Magazine: How did you feel then when Slash eventually did come back? Obviously, as a fan you were happy, but at the same time, there must be a little bit of disappointment that your turn was over, so to speak.
DJ Ashba: Absolutely not. Actually, Axl wanted me to stay on board and it’s one of those things where I was playing most of the Slash parts and if he was coming back that was great news for me as a fan and even better news for me as a musician because it was never my band. I was just basically filling in till the big guy came back. But it allowed me to really experience a band on a level like no other and I learned a lot of stuff about performing live on that magnitude to me, it was great news because I was going to go off and do what I’m doing now and that was to create and carve my own path. I’ve always been a big, big believer in not following in people’s footsteps and I get more pride and joy, even if this thing never gets to that level, at least I’m cutting my own path and doing something really unique and to me as an artist that’s awesome.
Antihero Magazine: You are the owner as well of two corporations. I just wondered, how did you get started? Did you have any form of business training? Was it just experiences that you picked up and learned as you went along? How did you get involved in those?
DJ Ashba: I’ve never had any training as far as business. I’ve always thought the best business sense was common sense, just use your brain, and that’s what I’ve always done. We’ve always created things that I believe people would enjoy. You’ve got to create the demand, but yeah, I’m super proud. I’ve always been an artist, even before a musician, I just figured out a way to create a company that I could encompass all of that in it. So, art and music have always gone like peanut butter and jelly in my life. My art is my left brain, my music is right.
And actually, you learn a lot as far as marketing along the way. If you’re marketing yourself every day as a musician, which you should be, you learn a lot. And so, it really applies, and I’ve taken that knowledge over the years, and it’s really helped grow my business, to be honest.
Antihero Magazine: Obviously, the music business, the music industry, has changed significantly. Is it important for musicians to be adaptable and show diversity in the changing world?
DJ Ashba: You have to be adaptable, or you die. It’s the people that get stuck in the same old same old that tend to fade away. If you don’t have your ear to the ground and know exactly what’s going on in the industry and figure out a way not to change yourself but to figure out a creative way of how to take what you do and inject it into what’s happening creatively, and that’s what I’ve done with guitar dance music. If you listen to it and you take all the synths away it sounds like me playing guitar. I haven’t changed anything about myself, I’ve just changed and injected what I do into a new form of music and that’s all I’ve done, but I’m staying as true to myself and as a musician and a producer/songwriter, as I always have.
Antihero Magazine: You’ve achieved many goals, ticked many personal boxes. Do you still have hopes, dreams, and aspirations?
DJ Ashba: Huge ones every day. That’s what keeps me going. The fans keep me going and when I set out to do this new genre of music, I didn’t really set out to do a new genre. I saw an opening; electronic dance music was something that I loved. I loved that genre of music and there was very little guitar going on in that genre and I figured out how to creatively inject what I do into the world that I love to listen to so much and what came out was a very, very unique sound and no one knew how to describe it until I came in the room and I said, “Well, why don’t we just call it guitar dance music because that’s what describes it perfectly,” and so, lo and behold, a new sub-genre is born, but I didn’t set out to do that.
Antihero Magazine: I think the only band that I ever saw live do something a little similar was the Prodigy because every time the Prodigy played live; they always had a live guitarist with the band.
DJ Ashba: Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Yep.
Antihero Magazine: You’ve been a professional musician for many years. What’s the key lesson that a career in the music industry has taught you?
DJ Ashba: Grow some thick skin. If you don’t have thick skin in this industry you won’t last on and learn the business and study the business as hard, if not harder, than you study your own instrument, and that’s the best advice I can give you. You’ve really got to learn the business side because at the end of the day it is called the music business and you’ve got to learn the business.
Antihero Magazine: Obviously at the current time it’s difficult to make any sort of long-term plans, but what would you like to be doing next year? Playing live I assume.
DJ Ashba: Next year I would like to be at every major festival from EDC to Tomorrowland. That’s the goal, it’s just to play all the big electronic dance music festivals. There’re so many great ones and I hope to be featuring and working with a lot of the big EDM artists. So that’s the goal for me. I love to collaborate with great musicians. I’ve done it my whole life and I’m excited to tap into this new world that I’ve listened to for so long but haven’t had a chance to really work with some of these artists. So, that’s exciting to me.
Antihero Magazine: So what about Sixx:A.M. then? You’re going to put that on the back burner for now and just focus primarily on what you’re doing, yeah?
DJ Ashba: Sixx:A.M. has always been a labor of love. It’s weird with Sixx:A.M., we all three are currently still full-blown members and we are very proud of everything we’ve created. James has mentioned recently that he’s kind of retiring, kind of stepping away from music, which is sad to hear, but the guy has done so many great, great things in his career and the songs he has been a part of. He has a lot to be proud of.
Now, that being said, the three of us at any given time could call each other and go, hey, let’s do one more tour. Let’s write a new song. That’s just how we are. We don’t ever plan anything. So, I would say, never say never, but I have no intention of doing anything further with it. I think we’ve put a nice bookend to Sixx:A.M. with the greatest hits and if something else were to happen so be it, but I think we’re all pretty satisfied with what we’ve done with that.
Antihero Magazine: Just the final one. I’m sure you’ve done many, many interviews over the years but if the roles were reversed and you could sit down like this and interview a personal hero, somebody that has inspired you, who would you choose to be sitting down and interviewing?
DJ Ashba: There’d be two people. There’d be Elvis and Eddie Van Halen.
Antihero Magazine: What about outside of music? Is there anybody that you sort of would pick?
DJ Ashba: Elon Musk would be the number one. I look up to him so much. I mean, I’ve learned a lot just really studying the way he does his business and I just have so much admiration for people like that and Steve Jobs and people that have literally changed the world and how we live and to me, it’s very motivating.
Antihero Magazine: That’s great. Thank you very much for talking to me.
DJ Ashba: Cool, man. Thank you. All right, ciao.