In anticipation of Mark Gardener’s Brixton gig on 1st November we caught up with him to get the lowdown on his current projects (one with Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie), his memories of ‘shoegaze’, Creation Records and tantalisingly offers his thoughts on the notion of Ride reforming.
Could you tell us about your new project? What brought it about?
Aside from ongoing mixing and production work I have three main projects going on at the moment which will all be released within the next few months. A new Robin Guthrie/Mark Gardener album is finished and will be released on Robin’s label so I’m just waiting to hear the release date. An Ox-4-Sound, Mark Gardener mixed up/collaborations/mixes and remixes album is also finished which pulls together the various collaborations, mixes and remixes I have been involved in over the last few years and will also be released soon. I’m also currently working with John Leckie revisiting, reworking and remixing a classic lost album he originally recorded in Holland in 1973. The album is called ‘Western Justice’ and it’s Jack Rieley’s solo album. Amongst the many records Jack Rieley produced he managed, produced, sung and wrote with the Beach Boys on the albums ‘Holland’ and ‘Surfs Up’ both of which are up there with my favourite albums of all time. He was very close with the Wilsons. I also worked with Jack in New York during Ride’s ‘Carnival Of Light’ and ‘Tarantula’ period so I’m honoured to be working with John Leckie and Jack again on this album.
What can we expect from your upcoming Brixton gig?
Stripped down acoustic new and old songs with hypnotic loops covering my last 20 years in music
‘Shoegaze’ as a label was often used pejoratively, how:
a) Did/do you feel about being shoe-horned into the ‘scene’?
We always expected some kind of back lash from the music press at that time as that build them up then knock them down was how they worked . At that time we were ‘living the dream’ playing big shows touring and seeing the world outside the UK for the first time which was fantastic and mind blowing so you tend not to be too concerned with what a few music press people are calling you when you get back to the UK !! We understood that not many of these people had been to our shows and it was easier for press people to address and write about perceived self-invented scenes instead of writing about the individual bands. No bands escaped being shoe-horned by the UK press into one scene or another back then.
It was obviously one of the better scenes in hindsight as the originators have all stood the test of time very well and ‘Shoegaze’ is now a recognised worldwide genre of modern music!
b) Did/do you perceive the bands within it?
I loved the originators of that spacey sound such as the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine and still do. Not sure if they were bands perceived as part of the ‘scene’ or not. I was also a fan of Swervedriver and Slowdive and still am as they’re great. We toured the US with Lush who I also thought were great. I think a lot of dodgy bands then followed with the short names and similar sounds but I never watched these bands or bought their records. I wrote the first draught lyrics to “Leave Them All Behind” whilst on the road during our 1st US tour and that was how I felt about our position leaving not only the various cities and people in the US behind as the wheels kept turning but also many of that second wave of dodgy bands that I was only vaguely aware of following in our dust!!
c) Do you look back on it now? That period is now seen as a time of great experimentation and has become another facet of the heritage industry where everything undergoes a renaissance wherein nothing was ever dire and everything was amazing = re-sellable. Discuss.
I don’t look back and analyse it much these days. It was a great time of experimentation. There were lots of amazing bands but there were also many dire ones just like today, just like the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. People are very nostalgic. Nostalgia can really distort the realities of past times. I don’t live in the past. There’s so much to do and concentrate on now. Music is a powerful force and has a powerful effect on people and it always will do. I love it, I’m as passionate now about music as I have ever been. That’s my driving life force. Every band I work with and every song or piece of music written I see as a true challenge in these challenging times. I just want music I’m involved in to be heard. I’ve never had big expectations on any music I’ve been involved in as that always leads to disappointment. I am and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised when music connects with people and an audience large or small comes to hear it. Time is the real test of great art and music. Ride and those others I have mentioned have stood the test of time and all existed on the edge of the mainstream and life to some extent. Ride certainly didn’t taper ourselves to any rules and we didn’t repeat ourselves. Our challenge was to keep going and keep it interesting for us and our audience. It was all intense fast and fantastic until we crashed the car!!!
How did it feel when Britpop appeared like a tsunami and swept up all and sundry rendering everything part of it?
Grunge !?!? Well Nirvana appeared like a Tsunami and swept up all more so before Britpop. I was pretty burnt out by that time. We hadn’t really stopped. I’m always suspicious when the flags start waving and dodgy bands start telling us how they’re going to conquer the US as the Beatles and Stones once did. That was never going to happen.
I thought early Oasis and Supergrass were great. I also thought Radiohead made many great records during that time. Most of the other bands for me were style over substance whereas Ride and our contemporaries from the preceding period were probably more substance over style !!!
What are the chances of Ride reforming? If so, what would be your reasons? The lucre, unfinished business? Have any barriers dissolved?
As long as we’re all still alive and fit there is a chance! I guess there is unfinished business in some ways. Barriers dissolved very quickly after we split in 1996. We have all been free birds and great friends since then and continue to be. I’ve been very bored with many of the bigger safer headline bands that seem to be doing the gig and festival circuits over the past few years. Ride live would blow peoples’ minds now compared to what’s been going on and with what people have got so used to and so comfortable with. It’s pointless and stupid to sit around complaining about how bland and boring many of the bigger bands are these days. To be able to take the stage with Ride, tear it all up and do something about it would be fun for sure. However as I sit and answer these questions there are still no plans to reform Ride.
What was your relationship like with Alan McGee and Creation? Do you feel that the subsequent mania and mayhem attached to Creation has unfairly marginalised your input to (his)story?
My relationship with Alan has always been great. We quickly became close friends and he’s like family to me now. He believed in the people he signed and we believed in Alan and Creation. We had many mad and great times together. Creation was a brilliant, creative, passionate, music party madhouse back then. It was the best kind of chaos and one of the best labels! I’ve never felt unfairly marginalised by the mania and mayhem attached to Creation and Alan. We started the stampede into the charts for Creation and felt in the middle of most of the mayhem in those earlier days until we split. Once Sony got involved and Oasis went global Creation was never the same again so we enjoyed being at Creation during the earlier chaos days and were out when all got more sensible and corporate with Sony!
1994’s Carnival of Light captured the zeitgeist (aesthetic and sonic nods to the ‘60s, Creation cover) yet bafflingly was not well received. What are your memories of that? What or who is the story behind ‘From time to time’?
I loved the making of ‘Carnival Of Light’. Those early EPs, ‘Nowhere’ and ‘Going Blank Again’ were tough records to follow so maybe the audience and all wanted more records like that. It felt very natural as we had grown and changed to make ‘Carnival Of Light’ and to not repeat ourselves.
I wrote “From Time To Time” pretty quickly on a morning in Oxford after being up all night. It had been a psychedelic boozy big night out and I had that dawn rising, come down afterglow feeling and just kept on strumming those chords in a kind of lucid trance once I got home. I’d had an interview in Greece a few weeks earlier and I had just received a thank you letter from the girl who took the interview and to end the letter she wrote “now I know that angels walk the ground” which really moved me. The letter was on the table as I pulled the music of the song together which was the inspiration for the words which I changed to “I know that angels come from time to time”. I then wrote the rest of the words around that line very true to my experiences at that time.
What tickles your fancy music wise nowadays?
Other than the records I’ve been working on loving and lost in I did get out and see Bonobo live in Oxford earlier this year which was the best gig I have seen in a long time. I’m a big fan of Simon Green and Bonobo especially the last two albums ‘Black Sands’ and ‘The North Borders’. I also love the new Beck album ‘Morning Phase’.
Coronation Street or Eastenders?
Neither, I have no time or interest for either of them. ‘Grand Designs’ , George Clark’s restoration man and amazing spaces where people actually make interesting houses and things I do enjoy and have time for on TV and of course Match Of The Day, but no soaps for me, thanks !!