From Modeling to Music, Ash Stymest Focuses on a Bright Future
Ash Stymest is biding his time in releasing his music but with almost a decade spent working behind the scenes, the hype is already building for the EP he’s been working on with London record label Project Melody Music where he signed in 2021. He keeps most allusions to his recent work as cryptic as he does his online persona but as we’ll learn, that’s all part of the process.
Having been model-scouted in 2008 by Hedi Slimane at the tender age of seventeen, skateboarding through the streets of Camden, i.e., the absolute nexus of London youth subculture, the now 31-year-old is making his transition to the world of music. But Ash is no mere stranger, no influencer just looking to make more money. He’s already graduated from two bands he played in as a teenager, Mannequins and the one he himself founded, Bones, where he played drums and wrote the music. Now, he’s trying something different: he’s singing, and trying to produce work that is “100% me.” This truth he wants his work to convey is clearly important to Stymest, who explains that much of it has “a similar vibe to all the music I grew up listening to. Musically and lyrically, I want my songs to tell my life story for people to get a feel for who I really am.” Maybe it’s a redo of the youth he spent in the spotlight and under the scrutiny of early internet platforms like tumblr and Instagram. He says that for all of the experiences and opportunities fame brought him, “it also brought me to a lot of bad things as well” and as a result, “I don’t really go out much anymore.”
If the artists he listed as his main sources of inspiration are anything to go by (Oasis, The Vines, The Subways), we can probably expect some similarly heavy and heady alt-rock musings on youth and truth and all that other good stuff, which Ash may have felt was missing from his public-facing identity growing up. And perhaps some of the angst he wasn’t allowed to fully express.
Visually, he has all the makings of a punk rebel, with sleeves of tattoos and piercings he’s been collecting since youth, the first of which—a DC logo—he managed to acquire with a fake ID. Hoping maybe to uncover something of Ash’s mysterious persona, we asked if had a particularly good story to tell to which he honestly admitted, they were all just a product of the tattoo guns his friends had growing up, leading to impulsive and “fuckin stupid” ones. Some, he says, he’s currently getting lasered off.
His sparse Instagram feed makes a statement: sharing a mix of his outtakes from VMAN magazine and brooding selfies. He says he relies on a team to schedule these posts because “I honestly hate social media.” And you’ve got to respect his frankness, especially when up-and-coming artists are so readily expected to keep fans and followers up to date 24/7. It’s refreshing and so is his total self-assuredness.
But if his riotous stint presenting the outrageous, late-night MTV UK show MTV Bang from 2010 to 2011, (which you can still watch on YouTube) tells us one thing, it’s that this rebellious, don’t-give-a-damn attitude comes naturally. Watching them back, sure, they make him “cringe so fucking much,” but he also recognizes that he was “just a kid who [wasn’t] embarrassed of shit they did at 16.” If those untamed, teenage behaviors had nowhere to go but full speed and straight ahead to a camera before, they’ve matured now and are being channeled into his creative endeavors. Although it’s likely that they’ll be just as unapologetic and exciting as those wild weekends. “I’m a completely different person now,” he says. “I’m sober and much more clear-headed and mature now. I can still be pretty immature, but not nearly as stupid as I used to be.”
Moving to LA full-time after getting engaged—and then divorced—all whilst raising a daughter, Ash reveals that the hardest thing about moving to America from the UK is “finding the right people to surround myself with…finding my core people,” especially because he “misses English people.” It’s likely though that the Brit is used to being transplanted transnationally, on runways for countless more grand fashion houses. He recounts an experience working for Karl Lagerfeld with admiration. “The things he would come up with were insane. I remember once in Paris where he had a huge space shuttle launcher in the middle of the runway. It was beyond anything I’ve ever seen at a fashion show.”
Aside, perhaps, from his own social media, Ash isn’t camera shy. What is clear is that he is confident, cool. He enjoys the act of performance, however it manifests. He’s not only modeled and made music, he’s been acting, too. In 2016’s French film, Sex Doll directed by Sylvie Verheyde, he played the enigmatic stranger Rupert, who begins a tumultuous affair with Virginie the escort. And more recently he played the role of band member Harry in the 2021 horror film, Phobias. Ash is a busy man, juggling three different vocations and he says that “I’m more into focusing on my music right now [but] if something comes my way that I’m really interested in and like the script for, I’d be open to doing more.”
The pandemic, terrible as it was, “[motivated] me to take that time to improve my craft and learn more things that I wouldn’t have had the time to, otherwise. It gave me time to figure out my next move.” Releasing his EP is clearly at the top of the list, but he also, quite admirably, discusses his road to sobriety, calling it “the most exciting thing” to happen all year. “It’s something I’m really proud of myself for and my main goal is to carry on with my sobriety. Be a better person, the best boyfriend I can to my girlfriend and a better father. I also just want to be really proud of the music I’m putting out, and with that, I think everything will fall into place.” @ashstymest