Ride – Mark Gardener on “This Is Not a Safe Place” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Ride – Mark Gardener on “This Is Not a Safe Place”

Living the Dream

Oct 30, 2019 Mark Gardener
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It’s been a rewarding four years for Ride since the band returned to the live stage in the early part of 2015 after an 18-year hiatus. Since then, the Oxford, England-formed four-piece have recorded two critically acclaimed albums culminating in this year’s excellent This Is Not a Safe Place, a record some are calling their finest since 1992’s Going Blank Again.

As with its predecessor, 2017’s Weather Diaries, This Is Not a Safe Place was also produced by esteemed DJ-cum-producer Erol Alkan and represents a marked progression not only in the band’s songwriting, but also in its collection of diverse musical styles and sounds. Indeed it was this creative urge that initiated the band’s reformation in the first place, and with the seeds of those labors beginning to bear fruit, it wouldn’t be amiss to say Ride are arguably in finer fettle now than they ever have been.

Until Weather Diaries Ride hadn’t released a new studio album since 1996’s Tarantula, which was put out after the band split up and was poorly received. The quartet’s original run lasted from 1988 to 1996 and included four studio albums (Nowhere, Going Blank Again, Carnival of Light, and Tarantula). They were at the forefront of the original shoegazing movement.

Under the Radar caught up with buoyant singer, guitarist, and songwriter Mark Gardener on album release day and discovered there’s much more to come from the rejuvenated outfit. The band’s line-up has always also featured Andy Bell (guitars/vocals/keyboards), Laurence “Loz” Colbert (drums), and Steve Queralt (bass).

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): This Is Not a Safe Place marks a new chapter in Ride’s history, not least in the way it covers every single base of your past while introducing a range of new elements to the band’s sound. Was that always your intention?

Mark Gardener: I think that just happened gradually. We’ve been settling into a new creative zone for a while now so the flow feels a lot more natural. We didn’t feel the pressure of having to write a big reunion album. We’ve started to operate as a proper, fully creative, working band again. We were greatly inspired by what happened on our return and that spurred us on. Last year was a busy one for me as I was building my own studio alongside making a new album but everything worked out really well. It’s difficult for me to comment objectively on the album as I was on the inside making it, but the response so far has been amazing.

What’s particularly noticeable of the bands that returned from that era—yourselves and Slowdive especially—is the way you’ve come back with some of the finest music in your entire catalogue when it would have probably been easier to just focus on past glories instead.

The only reason I agreed to do Ride again was because we were all eager to write new material. That’s what it was all about for me. I still love doing the nostalgia shows as well—the 25th anniversary Nowhere shows were amazing—but then once you’ve tapped into that, it’s time to move forwards. It’s like having a blood transfusion only with new songs, which refreshes it all and reaches loads of new people too. It keeps us moving in the right direction, then everything naturally balances. So we can address the old stuff but also balance it out with the new material and move forwards, which feels miles better for me. It vindicates the whole reason for doing it. The reunion could have gone one of two ways. We could easily have messed up our legacy so it’s nice when people believe we’re really delivering the goods right now.

Is your songwriting more prolific now than it was first time around?

I think it’s just increasing now because I’ve got my own studio. It means I can write if I’m on the move as well so it just snowballed. Maybe there was a bit of frustration back then when things weren’t happening whereas everyone has a chance now to make up for lost time. Also, it’s not just Andy and I that do all the writing now. Loz and Steve have come to grips with how to lay down more of their ideas now as well, so we’re not short of input. That’s what’s keeping us busy all the time, and meant we could chisel the new album down from 20 tracks to the 12 that made it onto the record. We’re not scratching around for inspiration. In these times we’re currently experiencing there’s a lot to write about and escape from.

Will your live sets be predominantly centered around This Is Not a Safe Place when you tour later this year?

We’ve now learned about eight or nine tracks from it so we are going to make the new set quite heavy on the new record.

Have you settled back into being part of a touring band again after so many years away from doing it?

I find travelling pretty exhausting now but I’m loving the actual shows. So you have to take the rough with the smooth. I’m a bit daunted by the amount of touring we’re about to be doing but once we get going it will be okay. Then we’ll hopefully play a few more festivals next year, which are a lot easier. It’s nice to be wanted so we just have to meet that demand and it’s great. The studio was almost like a happy medium for me. I know that I can be producing and mixing when Ride aren’t on tour because being in a band, you never know what’s around the corner. The studio’s doing really well, so that side of my work has increased so along with the new Ride album and tour; everything’s going good together. It’s a good problem to have. It just gets a bit tough for my family.

What’s predominant at Ride shows since 2015 has been the wide range of demographic and age groups, many of whom will probably have only heard the band for the first time either via their parents or Weather Diaries.

Again, stuff like that vindicates us getting back together. It revitalises you. The whole process even, which is an amazing thing and ultimately, why we’re going out on tour and playing to thousands of people once more. Even playing festivals has been massive for us as well because you reach a lot of people that might have been curious, but not totally committed until they see us live for the first time. That’s why it all works and makes us feel like we made the right decision to come back when we did.

What else have you been working on besides the Ride album?

I’ve mostly been working on music made by various friends. None of them have got completely huge yet. I feel I’m in a very privileged position that people send me their music and trust me enough to let me mix it, then turn it into something great. That’s where the alchemy is and why I love this job. I love playing live but being in the studio is where it’s at for me. I had a hearing test the other day as well and my ears are still in good shape, which is quite rare for someone that’s been working in music as long as I have. I’ve always been fascinated by electronic gear and sonics so this is my dream. I always said if I ever made any money out of music, so long as my family are looked after and the bills are paid, I’d put money aside and have my own studio, so that’s finally what I’ve done. So I guess I’m living the dream now!

Will there be another Ride album?

I can tell you now that I purposefully bought this bit of mobile kit so I can start writing while we’re on tour. The trouble with travelling is there’s a lot of dead time, which bothers me. So I’m trying to find a way where I can make some new music or at least get some ideas down. I think this album’s great but I’m still not completely satisfied that we’ve hit our best yet. We never will be so that’s what drives me on to the next creative process, and especially now we’ve got this studio where we can really mess around with new ideas. We just have to capitalize on it whilst we’re on the ride!


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