Ride’s Andy Bell on Basquiat, mad super loud music and new album This Is Not A Safe Place


Ride’s Mark Gardener

Ride are back with a new album and UK tour and Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman chats with Andy Bell about Creation Records, reuniting and Byrdsian jangle.

Slough, 1991.

A huge line of unwashed teenagers snakes around from the train station, along Bath Road and towards Upton Park.

The previous year had seen The Soup Dragons, Teenage Fanclub, The Cardiacs, Northside and Frank Sidebottom all play the town’s short lived music festival, but 1991 was local heroes Ride’s turn to headline what has become known in certain quarters as ‘shoegazing’s Woodstock’.

On the night Ride previewed various tracks from their second album and follow up to the classic Nowhere debut, Going Blank Again, including Chrome Waves, Leave Them All Behind and Time of Her Time.

The 10,000 fans lapped it up.

A few months later they would crash into the top ten and Ride looked set to become one of the world’s biggest bands. So what went wrong?

Ride‘s third album, Carnival of Light, was released in June 1994, at a time when Britpop was the focus of the music press.

The Oxford four piece looked ideally suited to take advantage of the movement’s 60s obsession but instead of the sharp mod pop of The Kinks and Small Faces and with their label Creation‘s heads turned by the rise of Oasis, Ride favoured the classic rock approach – Black Crowes producer George Drakoulias and Deep Purple’s Jon Lord were dragged in to guest as the split between songwriters Mark Gardener and Andy Bell was emphasised, with the former’s songs making up the first half of the album and the latter’s the second.

A year later it was all over with Ride‘s swansong Tarantula remaining on sale for one week before being withdrawn with fans and critics alike panning its descent into 70s rock cliches.

Oasis: Supersonic- a tale about ambition, euphoria and downright cheek

Bell went on to have his Britpop moment in the sun with Hurricane No.1 and eventually join Oasis with Gardener and drummer Laurence Colbert forming short lived band The Animalhouse.

But Ride always felt like unfinished business and in November 2014 it was announced the band had reunited again for a series of tour dates in Europe and North America.

By 2017 they were announcing their first new studio album in 21 years, the critically acclaimed Weather Diaries with Ride quickly capitalising on its success with this summer’s This Is Not a Safe Place which seems them work again with the same producer as their previous album, DJ Erol Alkan.

Ride’s Andy Bell

“It definitely didn’t hurt that we started writing in the gaps between touring Weather Diaries,” explains Bell. “It meant we sidestepped any sense of pressure because we were ahead of people’s expectations. But it happened pretty naturally.

He (Alkan) has a great pair of ears and a good understanding of what the band is all about. Plus he has the technical skills to help us achieve the sounds we’re after. And he also likes listening to mad music super loud in the studio which is a bonus for me.”

Following the successful release of and hectic touring schedule following Weather Diaries, the band gathered influences from a variety of sources, including the post punk sound of The Fall and Sonic Youth, to make an album which contains echoes of their earliest days as a band, while bringing these elements into 2019.

Perhaps the most interesting of these is Bell‘s explanation how feted New York artist Basquiat became one of the inspirations for the new record.

“I went to the exhibition dedicated to him at the Barbican in late 2017 and was still steeped in his world when I started writing songs for the Ride record at the start of 2018,” he says. “The album title comes from the ‘hobo code’ – graffiti left on American walls for homeless people to communicate.

Basquiat is supposed to have used this code as part of his graffiti when he was tagging NYC as ‘Samo’ before he got famous.

I wrote Repetition after reading an interview with Basquiat talking about his art school days. He just seeps into the album lyrics here and there.”

Ride (Credit: Kalpesh Lathigra)

Recent single Future Love was the first song to be unveiled from This Is Not A Safe Place. An unguarded, gloriously optimistic song, it brings together many of Ride’s best loved elements.

Layers of guitars chime and drone, as the Oxford quartet effortlessly meld shoegazing dynamics and melodic psychedelia with their distinctive Transatlantic harmonies. Fans of the likes of the Byrdsian jangle of Ride classics like Twisterella and Chelsea Girl will be smitten.

“It’s a mode we operate really well in but we were playing like that and had those harmonies before we knew much about The Byrds,” admits Bell with an interesting theory. “It’s just all of us operating within our limitations and to the best of our abilities.”

Mention of the Slough Festival and my heritage as a fellow Thames Valley native allows for a bit of reminiscing and it’s clear Bell still has fond memories of Ride‘s rapid rise to indie’s top table.

“It was a special time for sure,” he agrees. “Although as a band, our social group was more the other Creation bands, than the other shoegaze bands. We were mates with Swervedriver because we were from the same town though.”

As I reel off some of Ride‘s contemporaries from that time (Lush, Thousand Yard Stare, Slowdive) we both realise that it’s startling how many have also recently reformed.

This Is Not A Safe Place

With shoegazing now acknowledged worldwide as one of the 90s defining genres and so many contemporary acts citing its keynote bands as influences perhaps it’s hardly surprising?

“It seems that way,” he agrees. “Although it wasn’t deliberate from our side. I guess that’s the reason we had the offer to play Primavera though.”

Recent interviews have seen Bell being upfront about the influences that shaped Ride‘s early sound but he’s keen for the band to be regarded as far more than a heritage act.

Pushing boundaries: Getintothis’ Top 10 Byrds tracks

He lists plenty of newer acts (“Diiv, Planet, Washed Out, Lo Moon, Buffalo Postcard, panda bear, Early Years, Beabadoobee, Fontaines DC, Bodywash“) when I ask what’s currently floating his boat and says there’s no reason why Ride can’t continue to record and tour.

Good news for fans then but what about hearing some of those songs from Carnival of Light or Tarantula, the two albums that Ride seem to have forgotten?

“I haven’t totally disowned them but there are just so many songs we want to do instead!”

Ride play:

  • November 29: Waterfront, Norwich
  • November 30: Foundry, Sheffield
  • December 1: O2, Birmigham
  • December 3: Town Hall, Oxford
  • December 4: SWG3 Studio, Glasgow
  • December 5: Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
  • December 6: Boilershop, Newcastle
  • December 8: Engine Room, Southampton
  • December 9: Barbican, London
  • December 11: Beckett University, Leeds
  • December 12: O2 Ritz, Manchester