Ride: Nowhere Celebrated (An Interview with Mark Gardener) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Ride’s Mark Gardener

Nowhere Celebrated

Feb 24, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


This month Rhino Records reissued Ride's seminal debut LP, Nowhere, along with the band's Today Forever EP and a live concert from 1991, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Nowhere's release. So much more than the shoegaze tag that was bestowed upon the band, Ride represented what was exciting and alive about the early '90s English music scene. With dual guitarist/vocalists Mark Gardener and Andy Bell, bassist Steve Queralt, and drummer extraordinaire Laurence "Loz" Colbert, the band survived only three more albums, 1992's stellar Going Blind Again, '94's Carnival of Light, and their last stand, '96's Tarantula. The band never reached the same heights in the U.S. as they did in Britain, but Ride's sound remains as vital today as it was 20 years ago and Nowhere is ripe for re-exploration. To commemorate 20 years, Gardener took some time from his current studio and soundtrack work to speak with Under the Radar about his band's milestone.

Frank Valish: Where am I calling, Mark?

Mark Gardner: You are calling me in my studio in Oxford. I'm back in Oxford now. It's basically a new studio I had built toward the end of last year. I'm quite happy being here at the moment. I'm busy with various studio work, production, mixing, and more soundtrack work, which started with the soundtrack for the Upside Down Creation film. [Ed. Gardener did the soundtrack to the recent film Upside Down: The Creation Records Story.] It's sort of incidental music. It's proving to be the main thing that's keeping me busy at the moment, which I'm more than happy about. I'm not such a road runner as I was. But you never know.

I read a little bit about that. You were at a film festival fairly recently, weren't you?

I was. I'm been asked to go do some question and answer sessions. The film seems to be being received so well everywhere. Gothenburg [Sweden] showed it three times on their Scandinavian film festival, and each show was sold out. Then basically myself, Alan McGee, and Danny [O'Connor], the director of the movie, did a question and answer to the audience after they'd shown the film, about how we survived those days really. It's pretty good really. And I think I'm possibly doing a couple next week in Glasgow and Dublin, so as well as my studio work, I guess I'm still hitting the road now and again for things like that and the odd show from time to time.

So I wanted to talk a bit about Nowhere today, as we're planning to run this as a Q&A surrounding the reissue. The first thing I wanted to ask was when did the plan for the 20th anniversary reissue begin? Had you been planning for a while to put the album out again?

It's funny because we got together and we talked about it. We always sort of get together from time to time, whether it's Christmas or whatever, the boys get together, and so we had sort of talked about it, but then all of a sudden we just had this mail from Rhino Records. So they suddenly beat us to it in a sense. They were very interested to do it. I've got a lot of time for Rhino. And immediately we thought that seemed great. We have, on our site, started to do the 20 years thing. We realized that there were some potential anniversary dates coming up. Of course, it's 25 years since the "Upside Down" thing [Ed. Creation Records' first successful single, 1984's "Upside Down" by The Jesus and Mary Chain], and then we knew it was 20 years since Nowhere. So yeah, it's something we definitely thought about, but Rhino really sort of forced the issue. And also, outside of America, I think we're going to our own kind of thing for it here, where we'll do a similar thing to what Rhino has done. I don't know.

What sort of emotions did it bring back to revisit the album after so many years?

In a way, the strange thing is, I feel more like a Ride fan now. I think, when you're in the middle of it all, you just have no objectivity. You're sort of running with it. It's like being on some sort of spaceship or bubble or something. You're heading somewhere, so you're just trying to stay on board and keep going with it. Which is great. It's a great trip. Now, given all the time away from it...certainly in the last few years, it's the first time I've been asked to listen and hear that stuff fresh again, so it's almost like you hear it for the first time, strangely, even though it's something you'd been so involved in. And I kind of get now more why people got it and why it worked, where at the time I didn't really know what was going on. I guess I was smoking a lot then as well, which never really helps that sort of thing. But it's something that I just got more clarity on it.

Obviously, with Ride and being involved with Creation and Sire, and the other bands that were around at the time, I feel very quite proud now to be in the middle of it and, to look back on it, I have to say that I have no regrets about any of it, and I'd sort of do it all again if I had that time again. There's not a lot I would change about it. At the time, you're always thinking, maybe you can change this, change that, but actually I kind of understand now that there's a great sort of freshness, rawness, and sort of naiveté about it, which is very sort of natural, and that's what really I hear in it now. And I think it really helps it sound fresh, you know?

One of the things I found most interesting was in the liner notes is where Andy is quoted as saying that he was worried at the time that the first two albums were going to sound dated. I wanted to get your reaction to that. Did you feel the same way when you were doing Nowhere or did you have any doubts about the album you were making when you were making it?

I think, in a way, you always have doubts. I wasn't really thinking so much along those lines, that it would sound dated, but at the same time you're not that aware of what you were doing, because you were so on the inside of it. But I think doubts to a certain extent are good, because it meant that we weren't becoming complacent. I think we were aware suddenly that the public was watching and there was an expectation because of our EPs. We were the first band to get EPs into the charts here, for Creation. And Creation was very happy because, for the first time they were starting to see a band on their label hitting the charts. So there was expectation around us. Alan McGee was coming in quite a lot as well when we were recorded Nowhere. So I think that we all felt that, and then we just tried to do the best we could. But because we had been playing so many shows, and we toured a lot around that time —your small shows, your little bars, all over the country, and I think we dipped into Europe and Scandinavia and stuff —I think actually we were probably a lot more competent than we even sort of realized at that point.

To be honest, I've always felt challenged with music. I love that feeling. I didn't go to music college. I couldn't sit at a piano and play you off Beethoven's "5th Symphony." And therefore, I feel always a bit like the kid in the toy shop, where you've got guitars, you've got pedals. It's a lot more of an experimental feeling, and I like the feeling that we were challenged. As I do now in way with a lot of production and mixing that I'm doing. Each new band is a different challenge and, to me, I'm lucky that I've always sort of had that feeling in my life.

I love the Camus quote on your website: "A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened."

Yeah, when you're heart first opened. That was on the Scott 4 album [by Scott Walker], that quote as well. And that's another album that I love. And also I love the thing about the Henry Miller thing [Ed. Another quote on his website, by Henry Miller, reads, "All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience."], that all roads lead in the dark, in a way, because that so felt like that at the time. We didn't really know what we were doing, but we just sort of pulled together the songs that we had. I think we just sessioned and played them all though the night, until we thought, "That's great." It all just felt like a total leap in the dark, to be honest with you, and because of that, we grew quickly as people, and the music reflected that.

The bonus disc on the reissue is your show from 1991 at The Roxy in Los Angeles. Do you remember that particular show? Is that possible even to remember...

Not really. I was really high as well. I always wanted to travel, so first thing is I'm realizing my dreams because the band I'm in is starting to happen, and the next real advantage is that I'm getting to travel and see the world, which I always wanted to do. I'm restless, so that was definitely good. And of course, I was reading at the time Wonderland Avenue I think, the Danny Sugerman stuff on The Doors, and I think in my sort of deluded mind at that time, I sort of thought I was Jim Morrison or something [laughs].

As we sort of arrived, I remember there were people queuing outside of the venue —the venue was sold out —and in my mad mind, I sort of felt like that. Our agent at the time, who is suddenly no longer with us, Ian Copeland, used to just stock us up with this grass as we landed. He heard we'd find a bit of pot, but he wanted to say, "Hey guys this is pretty different from what you smoked at home." So there was also madness or whatever, because that was going on, and I do remember feeling like, 'Christ, what's happening here?' But I think because we'd played so many shows to that point, it was second nature, what we were doing. And yeah, I absolutely loved those gigs.... I just felt so connected. Maybe I was wrong, but I just thought everyone in the audience was high as well, on whatever, so I just thought it was one of those where we were all going off here somewhere, that whole transportation thing that happens in shows, which is just an amazing feeling. That's what was going on in my mind. I was sort of concerned when we first thought about that gig, because I thought, 'Christ, maybe that show's going to sound a bit ropey,' because I just remember it being pretty haphazard and mad. But it actually sounded great. I was quite relieved.

Do you feel that the band ever got its due in the States?

Um, I think in time. A lot of people missed it. It has the legacy. I think it got there in the end. But possibly not at the time. But like I say, more was going on than I expected anyway, so I was totally fine with that. And I just thought, as we did in England, we got to come to America, and we'd played smaller shows, and then if that worked, we'd play bigger shows on the next tour. I understood that it's a long system of working things up. But I wasn't that ambitious in that way. I'm a guy whose ambitions were to headline my band at the local venue at Oxford, thinking that would never happen. So once I went past that, and then I'm doing an American tour, this was all a big bonus for me. I was just really happy to be on the journey. I enjoyed playing those shows. People around us were probably secretly plotting or thinking, 'Oh we want it to be doing this, doing that,' labels and, of course, at that time, people were starting to invest money into us, and also, Seymour Stein and people like that like to be right when they back bands. People were putting their reputations on the line for us as well. So people around us were maybe a bit more worried about that than us at the time. Personally, I think we were all just thoroughly having a good time.

You were 18, 19, 20 at the time, right? How old were you when you recorded the album?

I was 20 then. We were 18, 19 when we started the band. I was 19 when we gotten the deal with Creation. So we were hellishly young. And those pictures show it. Bloody hell.

I wanted to ask because I know how much you looked up to Creation at the time you were signed. And now Alan McGee calls Ride Creation Records' best signing. What would your 18-year-old self have said to me if I told you this when you signed, that this was going to be the legacy?

I quickly sort of became aware of Creation when we were at art school. This is how ridiculous it was. I remember being at art school and we taking our art history A levels or something because I'd botched it up at school, and I remember coming back home to put a sort of pasty in the oven or something, and it was a guy from Warner Bros. saying that we want to speak to your band, we'd like to sign your band. And I just went back and completely botched up the exam again, because I obviously I just sort of felt like, 'Well, I won't be needing my art history exam now.'

It was only a matter of weeks. I think we ended up on a tour with Soup Dragons of all people, and that was when McGee started coming on the road. So it was all that little period at art school. Also, you have to understand that me and Andy were at school, and we knew Steve from school, but up to the time we went to art school, that's where who should we meet at art school but one of the most amazing drummers, which is Loz. So it was all coming into place. You have your dream lineup in a sense, so things were feeling great.

Steve had been working in a record shop in Oxford at that point, so he was first on to the early releases that Creation released, the Bloody Valentine, Mary Chain, and all that stuff. So we quickly became aware of those bands, and also the feeling that something is really going on here, with this label and with McGee. You could just feel it. These were very interesting characters. And leading on from that, it just seemed so easy and yet almost fated, that these things happen for reasons, and then from the lineup, a matter of weeks later we're meeting Alan McGee, and a matter of weeks after that we're signed on to Creation. And it's kind of like, 'Well. Alright. Okay.'

Yeah, it was pretty mind blowing, but just great, and it just helped sort of vindicate, you know we had made choices at that point. An art school foundation year was about sending you after that to a university to do an art master's degree or something like that. At a certain point, throughout the foundation—I was probably the first one—I was just like, 'Fuck going to do our art masters, let's just do this band.' So you make those choices, and on the outside of that, you have like your parents just despairing, and everyone just going, 'Oh my god, what are these guys doing?' At that time it could have all gone wrong, but we made certain choices, individually and collectively, and then it all just started to work, so it just vindicated the fact that we made the right choice. We followed our dreams, and that's the thing. It's kind of a cliché, but we did, and it worked out for us. So that's kind of what I say to anyone now, whether they're trying to play football or be in a band or whatever. Dare to dream. You can actually achieve it.

So I just have the final, expected question. You're always asked the reunion question. I read the feature in Nightshift, and everybody seems generally game to playing with one another. Why not give it another go for fun, play a couple festivals maybe?

I probably wouldn't be against playing a Glastonbury, or a couple of festivals or whatever, but the idea of reforming, I don't know. It's just too weird, because it's the past, you know? At that time it was our present. Like now, as I'm talking to you, it's the present, and I'm a believer that we should try to stay present in our lives. I just think it could be weird to sort of go back and try to do something like that again. And I think, in the end, obviously, we've talked about it. We get offers. We're aware of that. But each time that we've really sat and talked about it as a band, we've kind of generally come to that conclusion, of why would we be doing it.

The legacy grows so well, and of course, it would be nice for all those people who didn't see us or just discovered us, to have a chance to see us. But at the end of the day, I'm sorry you weren't there. You missed a good gig. For someone outside of the band, if you could imagine going back 20 years and sleeping with or going out with a girl you were going out with back then, or guy, it might be nice once or twice, and then you sort of quickly hit those things of like why you moved on. It's maybe a strange parallel I'm making, but that's the way I kind of throw it back at people. Like, 'Hey, you go back and sleep with who you were sleeping with 20 years ago and do it again and see how it feels.' That would maybe be how we would feel as well if we did that.

Is there also a feeling that reforming for gigs is viewed as a cash-in, that perhaps it cheapens the original art?

I think it possibly would, because at the moment it's untouchable. I think commercially, we were a nightmare, because we didn't really play the game commercially. We made our lives and record company's lives incredibly difficult, not putting our names on the fronts of albums, not releasing singles but releasing EPs. "Leave Them All Behind" was our biggest single hit here, our Top 10, and that was 5-6 minutes. We just did it the other way. Of course, if we did it, it would be nice. I kind of have things that I need in my life. I don't need to sort of cash-in in that way. I'm in a studio I love being in. I'm surrounded by my guitars and instruments and mixing, and I'm really happy with that. I think success is good in life, but I think what you see time and time again is people who kind of lose their integrity. And I think it's quite hard to hold onto that. And I think now we're kind of surrounded by a world of success without any sort of integrity. I don't know. I couldn't predict the future then, and I can't predict it now, so I couldn't say that we'll never play another gig, but it's certainly not something that's been in our plans at all.

(www.rideox4.net)

(www.markgardener.com)



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