The first thing that will strike you about Ashley Buchholz, one half of Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker, is his sea blue eyes, which were amplified 100 times by his turquoise blue button-down shirt.
We met at a sushi place in Markham, in Ash’s ‘hood’ where he spent much of his youth growing up. He has come full circle – he left the suburbs only to come back with a new appreciation of his roots.
I asked him to stay a while as he was hesitant to take off his puffy bomber jacket as he described as a “hug” – feeling confined gives him a sense of comfort and warmth. I was surprised that he removed his sunglasses – his trademark. “I wouldn’t leave my house without sunglasses… I didn’t want you to see how I really felt about myself.”
It wasn’t a typical interview; Ash is very open and honest about his life and music. I didn’t have to ask him many questions as the conversation moved with a natural ebb and flow.
The music that he and his partner, Jason “Human Kebab” Parsons, make together is magical and whimsical. Jason is also a DJ and turntablist. His unusual maneuvers like doing head-stands while mixing beats, are enough to make a gymnast envious.
The two together flow in an electric synergy, even though you wouldn’t know that they are like opposite charges pulled to each other by a mystical force. I describe them as Yin Yang – Ash laughs. I think he agrees.
USS released their new album, Advanced Basics, an eclectic mix of sounds and vocals, rhythms and lyrics. They are also embarking on part two of their cross-Canada tour with Hedley and Classified.
The dynamic duo met while working on a golf course together; Ash was a college drop-out while Jason was a university grad. Jason was the DJ at Ash’s sister’s wedding so when they were putting beer away, the two finally met. “It would’ve sent ripples across the universe except the walls were thick steel – from the synergy of that meeting.”
Ash spent weekends in Jay’s basement with his younger siblings while Jay would spend hours in his music room. Finally they came up with their first song, Cloud Boy, which didn’t make the first album. The lyrics “Here’s my heart, please don’t let me down” weren’t about a girl – they were about Jason.
“At the time I was an extremely broken, turbulent person and Jason recognized something in me. The best anti-depressant in the world would be to get a pint of his blood.”
“He’s in the ¼ of ½ of 1 percentile of the population that has the ability to process emotions, get mad if you need to get mad but let it go, be direct, take life head on, be able to put on different hats, love life and be so excited and grateful about every little thing,” Ash days.
Meanwhile, Ash has had a tumultuous journey. He says he was stuck as the ultimate Peter Pan archetype, never wanting to grow up and be responsible. Just as the lyrics in the song Built to Break, “I don’t mean to trip, but it’s easier than dealing with it, “ Ash describes how easy it is to reach for tempting gluttonous substances to fill those addictions rather than dealing head on with mental health issues and past issues that were never resolved.
Ash has been down that road a few times, dealing with his demons of addiction – drugs, alcohol, cigarettes – and mental illness, a disease that he is open to discussing and feels he has an obligation to speak out about it
“Over the course of the last 15 months since last December 27, I have actively engaged in de-Peter Pan-ing myself. That was the day I stopped taking drugs and that’s something that I’m open about,” Ash admits.
“I don’t glorify or demonize drug use. I do want to be a good role model in life. I have a certain perspective of what I wish I could have been exposed to at an earlier age. It’s ok to grow up if you still have fun, doesn’t mean you don’t become responsible – you can be responsible and have fun.”
Altering his mindset, Ash has since fully embraced a holistic lifestyle, starting his nighttime routine at 6:00pm rather than at 6:00am. He meditates for hours, quieting his mind although it would be fascinating to jump inside and spend some time there to see how he processes his intricate thinking patterns.
When Ash needs to recharge his “batteries”, he does yoga, acupuncture, meditation, and senior aquafit classes. That’s right. By saying yes to new experiences, Ash says it’s incredible the opportunities that present themselves when you open up to the universe.
“I’ve been on numerous meditation retreats because when I wasn’t in the psych ward I was meditating or thinking myself into depressive suicidal anxious depressions and so when I went away on these meditations and you sit with yourself without all of these stimulations, you feel this aliveness in any square micro-millimetre of your body.”
Ash is on the right path – he has reconnected with his father, who he lost touch with for most of his life. His mother is a big part of his life and will be watching from the side stage on their upcoming Toronto show at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on March 27. They’ll then continue onto Montreal, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver and more through until April.
Ash compares touring like Tantra. “It feels like I and the collective entity that is the audience and the performance are having passionate sex. There is that level of intimacy. It’s like my journal is on an overhead projector above me on the stage as I’m singing, and it says, ‘come on in and witness me on my most vulnerable and honest moments of my entire existence.’”
From the first bar they played in Stouffville, Ontario to playing at the Air Canada Centre, Ash feels vindicated. “It’s vindicating because I stuck with something and through thick and thin and thicker and thinner, I just knew I have a mission, duty, simple profound purpose.”
The album is called Advanced Basics because it’s a metaphor for “weaning yourself off every instant gratification and knowing that… it’s going to be real simple but it’s not going to be easy.”