“Too much focus on what’s already happened would have just hampered us. It’s a different world now...” - hmv.com talks to Ride
Last time shoegazers Ride put out a studio album, things couldn’t have gone much worse.
Already pretty much broken up by the time of their fourth album Tarantula in 1996, the album was such a critical and commercial flop that it was deleted by label Creation Records just a week after it came out.
Before that messy demise, Ride had enjoyed charmed lives. Formed in Oxford in 1988 by school friends and guitarist/singers Andy Bell and Mark Gardener, who were swiftly joined by bassist Steve Queralt and drummer Loz Colbert, they’d been a band for just a year when they were snapped up Alan McGee for Creation.
Over the next five years, they’d deliver two top five albums, a series of hit singles and would rise to the higher reaches of festival bills across the world with their particular brand of cascading psychedelic and powerhouse musicianship before it all fell apart.
After the split, Andy Bell landed on his feet rather nicely as he took up bass duties in Oasis, while Gardener and Colbert formed a new band named The Animalhouse, with Queralt stepping away from music altogether.
There wasn’t much talk of a reunion for the years in between, Bell was part of Oasis, and then followed Liam Gallagher into Beady Eye, while Gardener performed a solo artist. But then, in 2014, with Oasis and Beady Eye no longer a going concern, Ride did indeed reunite.
Initially, it was for a European tour, a tour which kept growing and growing and has now led to new album The Weather Diaries.
As it hit shelves we spoke to Gardener and Colbert about coming back together, working with producer Erol Alkan and their hopes for the future...
How did making The Weather Diaries compare to the last time you recorded as a band?
Mark Gardener: “We were much happier than when we finished our last recording as a band, put it that way!”
Loz Colbert: “We’ve been always been working, so though music making has changed, it wasn’t like we had a lot to catch up in terms of technology. It’s much more comfortable now, you’re not always chasing creativity and being hindered by what you can physically. The technology meant we could try anything we wanted to and less ‘Did you get a good take?’.”
Mark: “The studio’s always been a magical place for me, chemistry makes great records, the kind of spark we had when we started, but with the addition of much more experience.”
Did you go back and revisit your old songs to get back into Ride mode for the album?
Mark: “Definitely not. We’d obviously gone back to the songs to rehearse them for the live shows, but I never sat down with an old Ride record and studied it. I wanted to clear everything out and start afresh. Too much focus on what’s already happened would have just hampered us. It’s a different world now.”
You did the album with Erol Alkan, who most people will know better as a DJ, what was he like to work with?
Mark: “I think that’s a good thing. We did think about doing it ourselves, just carrying on and recording the songs. But Errol was someone our management knew well and who Andy knew and really liked it. Working with him was quite slowly, slowly, we just booked some studio time as a little test and it rolled on from there.”
Loz: “His name kept cropping up when we talked about producers and we got a great feeling when we met him.”
Mark: “I always like it when artists bring different voices into their music and how different styles can mix, it keeps things interesting. There were more obvious names that were discussed, but it just seemed like the easy choice.”
Loz: “We picked Erol up at a time when he’s been quiet. There are buzzier names, people with hits right now, Erol’s big break felt like it was 10 years ago with the Mystery Jets and I feel like this is his second time now.”
What do experienced musicians like you need from a producer? For young bands, it tends to be the discipline of getting stuff done, but what do you look for?
Mark: “It liberates you. You go back to just being a player. I’ve worked with bands and I know how producing changes your mindset. You need objectivity, someone to put your trust in, Erol’s very detailed orientated, very into the rhythms and beats, making the laborious parts of recording work.”
Loz: “With any producer, it comes down to personality and Erol is fantastic. He gives you so much confidence and makes you trust your instincts and how to drive forward an idea.”
What kind of album do you think it is lyrically? Does it have a common theme?
Mark: “I think it’s quite disparate, but in a good way, this is a disparate time. There’s plenty of anger in there, it’s a bit of an exorcism, trying to wrestle with your anger and trying to turn it into a positive, embracing the darkness and the light and shade of your life. Dark times do bring good things out of creative people and I’m impressed with a lot of the stuff I’m hearing.”
Loz: “Ride has always been about escapism and getting away from reality, to the extent that it almost became a cliche. I think this album doesn’t do that, it looks right at the world and tries to deal with things and process what’s happening. It’s a much grittier record.”
When did you settle on the album title?
Mark: “Steve actually came in with this one. It was an exhibition he’d been to by a Nordic artist. I really liked it, it’s this out of control, shifting thing, power you can’t control and then it got attached to a song and it stayed on the record. It worked really well with the music. It’s also got a nice Englishness to it, we love talking about the weather.”
Loz: “It was only one on a list, but we kept finding more and more reasons to use it as time went on and the other names just fell away.”
How’s your live set coming together? Will new material make up the bulk of the set?
Mark: “We know we’ve got a great legacy so it won’t be relentlessly new material, but it’ll be a good chunk of it. We’ve got our A-list tracks from our past and they’ll all be there. But the new blood will be the focus for us, we’ve really proud of this record and it’s totally good enough to stand alongside what we’ve done in the past.”
Are you aiming to win over new fans with this record? Or is this more for the fans you’ve already got?
Loz: “I don’t think Ride is a band that’s anchored to a moment in time. We were worried about that before the reunion, whether we could imagine playing the songs now, but they translate really well to modern audiences. I don’t feel like we’re just for people of our age, I think we’ve discovered a real burst of youthful creativity.”
Mark: “We’ve still got the energy, we still move around and make the crowds move. It’s like a good wine, people of any age can enjoy that.”