The legendary Ride are back in Australia and New Zealand after more than a twenty-five year gap as well as a long hiatus in the intervening time. During this time, Andy Bell joined label mates Oasis on bass while other members pursued their own projects. Ride reformed in 2014, playing live across Europe and North America, including a performance at Coachella. In 2017 Ride released their fifth album ‘Weather Diaries’ which was followed up this year by ‘This Is Not A Safe Place’.
‘This Is Not A Safe Place’ sounds like the Ride of yore – with added creativity and verve that only experience and maturity can bring. Tracks like ‘Clouds of Saint Marie’ and ‘Future Love’ have the same spine tingling anthemic qualities that made Ride such an exciting phenomena in the early nineties, while songs like R.I.D.E. and Dial Up explore a more eclectic electronic sound.
I caught up with Mark Gardiner, co-songwriter with Andy Bell, in the midst of their antipodean tour. You can still catch Ride at the Forum in Melbourne on Thursday, 5 September 2019 and at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney on Friday, 6 September 2019 – tickets available here.
First of all, welcome back to Australia for your first visit since 1992. It’s been too long!
Yes it’s been too long for Ride to come back. I’ve been back and played a few solo shows and also spent a bit of down time in Australia in the interim but yes it’s been too long !
I saw you play in Sydney back then at the Enmore Theatre and remembered it to be a phenomenal live experience. You’re back at the same venue later this year – did you ever think you would still be still playing music with Ride 27 years later?
I have vague memories that the Enmore Theatre show was really good ….I certainly would not have thought I would be playing music with Ride 27 years later. I think back then I would have been surprised if somebody told me that I’d be playing music with Ride two years later let alone 27 .
What can we expect regarding set list and line-up this time?
We’re leaning the set more towards the reunion shows in 2015 as we didn’t play Australia on that tour but also including some newer songs to keep all fresh for us and hopefully take the audience to new places as well as some of the more familiar places of their nostalgic past.
Ride were once described as ‘The House of Love with chainsaws’ and are considered to be at the forefront of the Shoegaze phenomenon. What are your thoughts on the term Shoegaze, and how orchestrated was your sound – was it organic and accidental or were you deliberately building on earlier musical influences? If the latter, who were your musical heroes at the time?
I don’t have many thoughts on the term Shoegaze to be honest with you, It’s something that’s on the outside of the band and a term that started as a criticism in the UK and has now become a pretty wide genre from what I can work out. We’ve always been pretty organic in the studio and I’ve never thought we have to sound a certain way . I guess some of the earlier songs could fit the Shoegaze thing but loads of songs couldn’t be further away from it. Bands such as the Cocteau Twins will always be with me and I still love them now as I did back in the early nineties but I could also say the same for Leftfield, Orbital, The Cure, The Smiths , The Beat, The Specials and so many others that had the quality to transcend time .
It seemed to me at the time that ‘Carnival of Light’ dialled back the ‘chainsaw’ sound. Was this a response to the Britpop era, an attempt to break out of a stereotype or label or something else altogether? With the benefit of hindsight, was this the right response?
No we just made an album at the time as with Nowhere and Going Blank again that felt right and good for us and helped keep the journey interesting for us . We probably had some different influences around this time than we did when we started . I thought most of the bands from the Britpop era were pretty awful so I definitely didn’t want to respond to that .
The dynamics between you and Andy Bell are well documented, both in terms of the harmonies, twin guitar attack and song writing. Did the dual song writing role you both had (no doubt fuelling innovation and creativity) lead to competitive tension? How are you dealing with that since your rebirth in 2014?
We have known each other and been friends since school days together. We’re very close and passionate about what we do. Any relationship where you’ve been close with somebody for many years will always endure periods of tension as you can’t have the release and the highs without the other. Everybody in the band is fuelled creatively and contributes to the songwriting . It’s never just been Andy and I . For sure this fuels innovation and creativity for the good of the band and at times when your songs don’t make it onto the record or you feel marginalised with your input then that is a tough feeling but when you get older you deal with that much easier . Ride is a band and where it’s at is the most important part of Ride not where and who its from. We have solo projects alongside Ride and I run a studio where I mix and produce many bands and musicians so I get lots of opportunity to do my thing outside of Ride .
How the second phase of Ride begin in 2014 – what brought you back together?
We’ve always been close and in contact so at a certain point we all decided that it would be interesting and potentially great to go again.
Has your audience changed in the intervening time?
Well like us some are older but there are also lots of new and young people that are now into Ride and aware of Ride for the first time which really vindicates and powers on the band now.
What has been your reaction to the reception of ‘Weather Diaries’?
Pleasantly surprised and inspired . I know we’re a great band but I don’t hold out big expectations as this business is totally random. Many great bands and artists only became popular after they had died so you never know how the public will react to any artistic endeavour at any particular time .
The new album ‘This Is Not A Safe Place’ is, to me, a brilliant progression of your sound. Can you describe the inspirations behind the songwriting and recording process?
Was similar in approach to ‘ Weather Diaries’ as we kept the same team together and maybe this helped all flow more with this record. There are many inspirations behind some of the songwriting. The band had some difficult situations to overcome as we found ourselves in a legal battle with an ex manager that we parted company with. Personally I found myself in some pretty testing times with certain situations and the death of my last parent so as an artist I used music and songs to try and help turn some adversity into something more positive with music and also as a way of some self therapy!
What tracks do you envision being band ‘’classics’’ and live favourites from ‘This Is Not A Safe Place’?
It’s too early to say for me and it’s tough as when you’re on the inside I can’t hear the songs in the same way as the audience. When we’ve played some more shows which will focus more on the new album I’ll be able to let you know!
What contemporary music has caught your interest?
Soulwax. Essential album, Aparat LP5, Yann Tiersen’s All soundtrack, Ex Re, Ex Re album, Fabric presents Bonobo album, Max Cooper, One Hundred Billion Sparks, Nils Frahm , All Melody album, Marconi Union albums in general. Ghost Stations and Different Colours , Max Richter, I’ve been enjoying all these albums over the past year.
Photo: Steve Gullick