This month sees the twenty-fifth-anniversary of Ride's seminal debut Nowhere. Released in the autumn of 1990 on Creation Records, it's gone on to become one of the most revered records of that generation and ultimately one of the greatest debuts of all time. To commemorate its anniversary, an expanded edition of the album will be released on November 6 featuring 15 tracks along with a live recording of their concert at London's (now defunct) Town & Country Club from March 1991.
Having reformed earlier this year, the band returned to the stage with a glorious hometown show on Easter Sunday. Since then, the Oxford four-piece - Mark Gardener (vocals,guitar), Andy Bell (vocals, guitar), Steve Queralt (bass) and Loz Colbert (drums) - have been on a world tour that's taken in six continents not to mention an endless list of festivals.
Next week, they'll return to the UK for nine shows starting in Leeds on 11th October. As the comeback of 2015 shows no signs of abating just yet, DiS caught up with Mark Gardener and Loz Colbert to discuss the tour, the making of Nowhere and their future plans.
DiS: You've been on tour since April. How have the shows been since the band got back together?
Loz Colbert: The shows have been off the scale. They've been far better than we ever thought they'd be.
Mark Gardener: It's been amazing. Far better than any of us could ever have expected them to be.
Loz Colbert: We spent a lot of time rehearsing as we only wanted to do the reunion if we could do it justice. We wanted everything to be of a high standard. Also, we'd been inspired by some of the other bands who'd recently reformed and how great they sounded. A big one for us was The Stone Roses. It made us think that the only way we could do this was by making it the best it could be. So we really got into the rehearsals and production and I think the response so far has been great too.
Mark Gardener: It's been one of the greatest years of my life.
DiS: What have been your highlights so far?
Mark Gardener: It's difficult to say because every time you pick out a particular show another one comes along that's a highlight as well. Primavera was quite a moment for me. They were instrumental in us getting back together and also the announcement part. But then our own headline shows have also been off the scale, better than the festivals in a way because it's just our audience. You've always got the hardcore at some of the festivals - again, Primavera stands out - but with those club shows it was a nice mix of hardcore fans and people checking us out for the first time.
Loz Colbert: For me, visiting some of the countries we never played first time round has been a real pleasure. Mainly because we're getting to experience parts of the world that held a candle for us yet we never experienced before. Places like Japan and Korea for instance. But another highlight has been going back to places where we used to play and getting a great reaction. The shows at the Barrowlands, Manchester Albert Hall and the Roundhouse were all quite special for that reason. It felt like a big celebration. A joining of the circle in some way.
DiS: Which audiences were the most responsive?
Loz Colbert: The audience at Primavera were amazing, as were those at Fuji Rock. There have been so many stand out moments to be honest. It would be difficult to choose one.
Mark Gardener: Glasgow was manic, which we expected it to be. Manchester and London were amazing too. Festival wise, Off! in Poland and La Route De Rock in France stand out as well as Primavera. To be honest, I can't think of anywhere that we haven't engaged with the audience. The vibe at Coachella perhaps wasn't as strong as most of the other festivals, but that might have something to do with the fact people can't have a drink in front of the stage where the bands are playing.
DiS: Did you expect such a rabid level of interest in Ride after the band got back together?
Loz Colbert: Not really, no. There's always a worry about doing something like this where you're thinking what if nobody cares. But it became pretty obvious once tickets went on sale that there was a high level of interest, and all of the shows sold out pretty fast. I guess we expected some people to turn up because we hadn't played together for twenty years and we've had plenty of people telling us to do it over the course of that time. But that didn't mean we expected every show to sell out in advance, so when they did it came as a complete surprise.
DiS: Most of the reviews have been high in their praise too. Even to the point of saying these shows have been better than they remember you being first time round. Would you agree with that?
Loz Colbert: I tend to agree with them. Because of various factors, I think we've been able to perform our songs better than we did back then. I guess 'better' isn't the most appropriate word to use because we always did our best at the time. But we were angry teenagers and the music that was around back then wasn't very interesting so we stuck out as being different. Since then there've been so many other bands - and many who we've influenced as well - that we've been able to change and adapt so much to the point where the songs have become re-energised. It's been much easier this time around to play a whole set brilliantly. We made it our mission as soon as we got back together!
Mark Gardener: That's something we do have control of. To try and move it up another level. And I think what we've all been doing individually over the years since we first broke up has made a huge difference. I've worked with lots of bands, so has Loz, and Andy's time in Oasis and Beady Eye is also well documented. As a result we've all become better players, so when you put all of that together it should make a difference. Also, we've grown up a lot since then. We were four teenage boys that started the band. When I listen back to some of our early concerts there's a real spirit and it's quite frenetic but I think we're much more consistent now. There's a lot more soul, a lot more groove as well as still managing to keep the energy levels up too. We've also rehearsed a lot more than we did back in the day. We all wanted this comeback to be better than we were first time round. That was our challenge, and I think we've met that challenge really well. The reviews have been totally encouraging. It's a difficult time for bands like us because there are so many bands reuniting and playing live nowadays. So all we can do is try to play as many blinding shows as we can and hope people like it.
DiS: Is the camaraderie between the four of you stronger than it was first time around?
Loz Colbert: I think so. We're adults now, and it's real life things such as having children that shapes you. Even when the band broke up, we all remained friends and stayed in contact with one another. So when it came to playing together again, there was already that bond. It's something that you can't engineer so I think we're lucky to have that. It was the same when we first met at Art College all those years ago and is something we've carried through into adult life. Only now we've got so much more life experience to share than we did back then.
Mark Gardener: The communication's definitely much better and stronger. I think when we did Ride first time round it was hard to appreciate in the same way. It was all we knew, then things started to happen so we just kept going with it. Now we know that something like this won't last forever. That it could be here one day and gone the next has made us fully appreciate it a lot more. And I think it shows on every level down to the performances. I can honestly say that having worked with a lot of different people over the years, nothing has come close to matching the chemistry I get from playing with the other three in this band. I don't know what it is but it's been incredibly enjoyable being able to do this again. Nothing feels as good as being in Ride. The solo thing was really difficult because it's just me and a guitar trying to keep the audience engaged. For me they were really challenging shows whereas with Ride it doesn't feel like that. It's challenging to meet some of the schedules - that side of it when we're on tour - but the overall experience has been great.
DiS: Nowhere is 25-years-old in October. Does it seem like a quarter of a century ago since that record came out and did you expect it to be held in such esteem all these years later?
Loz Colbert: I can't believe it's 25 years ago. I can't really get my head round that. It's weird. Funnily enough, we played a couple of songs off Nowhere last night that we hadn't played in years and it was then when I realised this is what we did when we were teenagers. In a studio with no one else there apart from the engineer. So I don't think any of us had any idea where it would eventually go. Certainly not 25 years later playing the songs in places like America to rooms full of people that never got to see us first time round.
Mark Gardener: We had no idea as far as predicting the future is concerned. When we made that record we had no plans beyond finishing it, let alone expecting people to remember it in 25 years. That's what makes it all so great. We just did what we felt was right and great at the time. Of course we hoped it would touch people and stand the test of time, especially as we were being labelled 'shoegaze' for all the wrong reasons back then. It was a lazy journalistic term when we made the record and maybe some people might have a point, but does it really matter in the end? We were just trying to make interesting music. When I look at how Nowhere has stood the test of time I think about some of the music from twenty years earlier that inspired us. Maybe because that stood the test of time we somehow managed to transcend that quality into our own work?
DiS: Was it a memorable time making the record?
Mark Gardener: I just remember going in and out of the Blackwing studio in South London and being completely out of sync with the rest of human kind. They'd be going to be work in the morning when were going to bed, then they'd be going out at night when we'd be starting work. There was a spooky atmosphere in that studio. I think it was an old consecrated church that got blown up in The Blitz. It was a bi church at one point but after the bombings only half of it was left. So it was quite weird but I remember Eric (Radcliffe) who owned it being there quite a lot, and also John Squire happened to be working out of it around that time as well. It was like being in a complete bubble with the rest of the band.
Loz Colbert: I've written a couple of things in the sleeve notes for the twenty-fifth-anniversary edition that's coming out soon. I do remember it being a very practical set up. There was so much emotion going on, not only with the music but in our lives as well. Some of us were just starting relationships with our girlfriends. I guess we were just trying to grow up, basically. Whilst we were always trying to create this document of the time, we had a lot of stuff happening in real life as well. In a way it felt like the final chapter of that period from art college up to then, and we'd set ourselves this goal of trying to finish it. So we got on with that. There was a cafe round the corner where we used to go every morning and have egg and chips, then we'd come back and get on with the business of recording. Then we'd play pool and listen to Public Enemy. I had this Public Enemy record which we all loved. Then we'd go back into the studio and thrash the hell out of our instruments. Record some more existential angst about our lives, have a break then go back and record some more.
Mark Gardener: We were really focused and also excited because we were aware that this was our first proper album.
DiS: Looking back, is there anything you'd change or do differently with the record?
Mark Gardener: Not really now. I wouldn't change anything about it. You always think about going back and changing things after a recording session but then over time you also tend to realise that can be a really bad move. So I'd never want to change something that's got a life of its own and did as well as Nowhere did in its own way. Loz Colbert: That's not really my way of doing things. There are two or three tracks on there where I still don't know how we finished them. Songs like 'Kaleidoscope' and 'Here And Now'. So I'm quite pleased that was the case and very proud of that. I hated the production for a number of years after we first made the album, but listening back to it now I've realised it isn't really that bad considering we were a bunch of teenagers at the time. So no, I wouldn't change anything.
DiS: Releasing Nowhere as a debut album set a very high benchmark for you to maintain. Did that ever play on your mind in the years that followed?
Mark Gardener: I get that but then Going Blank Again was very different so I think it soon became clear we weren't the kind of band who'd be making the same record over and over again. Nowhere was a very honest record in projecting who we were and what were going through at that moment in time. That had changed a lot by the time we recorded Going Blank Again. In hindsight, maybe it did set a high benchmark.
Loz Colbert: It's interesting. I'd never thought of it like that. You might be right? There were certainly a lot of records around at the time which were very similar, very much of a muchness and unimaginative. Unadventurous. So you may well have a point there but it wasn't something we really thought about at the time. The focus was just on completing the album and that's all we were thinking about. Also, I guess you could argue that Going Blank Again was as good if not better than Nowhere. After those two... it gave us a lot to think about where we would go next. In hindsight, maybe we should have done something similar to what Radiohead did. Gradually moved away from the guitars and classic songwriting and done something more underground instead.
DiS: A special edition of the album (Nowhere 25) is being released to commemorate the anniversary which also includes a live performance from the Town & Country Club in 1991. Why did you choose that particular show for this release?
Loz Colbert: It's just a classic recording of the band from that era. The Town & Country Club was such a pivotal venue at the time. Not only for us but a lot of other bands who defined that era before Britpop came along. It also sits perfectly in the period between finishing Nowhere and starting Going Blank Again, which was another big change for us. The footage captures us in our prime. I remember we received a lot of hype from the music press around that time, which felt really weird. Looking back, I guess it shows where we were at the time and how far we'd come.
Mark Gardener: We've already put out the Brixton show with the Going Blank Again reissue that was recorded a little later so we wanted something from the Nowhere period to go with this. That Town & Country Club show was a really spirited performance and we knew it had been filmed and recorded really well. I actually mixed it. I've just spent the last two-and-a-half weeks working on it. It was quite interesting mixing it again and hearing the recording that way. That's how I know we're a much more polished band now than we were then. It was quite an experience bringing something old like that back to life. In a way it was very odd hearing it again but then it also has a certain charm about it. I was pleasantly surprised by how we sounded as I thought it would be very ragged.
DiS: With it being the interim period between Nowhere and Going Blank Again, was 1991 a defining year for Ride?
Loz Colbert: Yes, absolutely. We'd gone as far as we could with what we had to start with, and it was just before a big shift in approach that led to Going Blank Again. So from that perspective it's a very interesting snapshot of the end of an era for us.
DiS: Will you be playing Nowhere in full on the October tour?
Loz Colbert: Yes we will. It's going to be special playing all those songs as a whole.
DiS: 'Natural Grace' and 'Black Nite Crash' have featured quite regularly throughout the tour and I believe 'Birdman' also made a reappearance in the set the other night. Do you feel more comfortable playing material off the last two albums now than you did back then?
Mark Gardener: I really loved 'Birdman' at the time. It wasn't so much a case of us avoiding it back then or indeed any of the songs on that record. It was more about us not knowing how to reproduce the recorded sounds live.
Loz Colbert: We did used to play 'Natural Grace' a lot back in the day, but I think it's fair to say we feel a lot more confident playing some of the less obvious songs nowadays. Initially, we did mainly focus on the songs we wanted to play and what we thought people wanted to hear, but as time's gone on we want to open that out now. Thanks to advances in technology, it's also a lot easier now to replicate some of the sounds off the record. With Nowhere, it was just a basic four-piece band set up along with a few effects pedals but as we changed with each album we ended up bringing in a keyboard player and using samples. There's no way we could have played some of those songs live back then. I don't think we really knew how to recreate them.
Mark Gardener: This tour and especially the American shows have been great for bringing some of those songs back and bedding them in. Also, I think it's worth noting that some of the earlier songs we wrote that preceded Nowhere never got played on bigger stages either, so this is an opportunity for that to happen as well. Like with 'Drive Blind' for example, where we can do that psychedelic wigout in the middle. We used to do that in small rooms back in the day so it's great to be able to do that in bigger halls now. It's just a case of working out how everything fits together.
DiS: Will you be doing anything special to commemorate Going Blank Again turning 25 in a couple of years?
Mark Gardener: I don't know. I haven't really thought beyond these shows to be honest. Whenever I have looked too far ahead in the past, things haven't worked out as I planned so I'd rather just wait and see.
Loz Colbert: I hope so. It would be a good one to do. We did the twentieth anniversary release in 2012 but hadn't planned to do anything else. Since then, we've started playing again so there's no reason why we couldn't do a live celebration of that record.
Mark Gardener: A lot could change between here and there really, and we are playing a lot of the Going Blank Again material in the set anyway. I tend to play every show as if it's my last because you never know when it could be.
DiS: So I guess it's fair to say that Ride are going to be around for the foreseeable future?
Loz Colbert: I think so. I think it would be good to give it a go. We need to finish this bunch of shows first and take it from there, but I don't see any reason why not. To be honest, when we agreed to do this, I just thought it would be those two weeks of shows at the end of May starting in the UK and finishing at Primavera. Which was great. I was happy with that and never expected all this other stuff as well. But then it seemed pointless putting things on hold again, so we decided to carry on playing until the end of the year instead. It will also give us a chance to properly assess where we are at that point.
DiS: What about the other projects you're involved with? Mark in particular with the Robin Guthrie and Pure Phase Ensemble albums coming out this year as well as the solo album you'd almost finished last time we spoke. Is everything else on hold and Ride your main project going forwards?
Mark Gardener: I've got a collaborations album which I'm hoping to put out at some point. It contains a few bits and pieces I've worked on over the past few years along with some remixes I've done. The Pure Phase Ensemble record was interesting because that came about through working with some random Polish musicians. The concept was organised by Ray Dickaty who used to be in Spiritualized. We spent a week together working out an hour's worth of music to play live and even though their English was limited which was quite challenging, everything turned out really good. I've never worked like that before but I had a great time putting it together. My solo record's on the back burner for now.
DiS: Could there be a new Ride album in the future?
Loz Colbert: I hope so. That's definitely one of the things on the list it would be great to do. It's not something we've discussed in great detail but I'd like to think it could happen.
Mark Gardener: We've talked about it but it's something we've kind of put on hold until December. The shows are our main focus at the moment. We're still spending a lot of time in rehearsals with the intention more songs from our back catalogue into the live set so if anything were to happen around new material it won't be until after this tour.
DiS: You've played with a lot of other artists at various shows and festivals this year. Are there any who've particularly impressed you?
Loz Colbert: I didn't really know a lot about Tame Impala before this year, but they seem to have been on pretty much every festival bill with us and they're incredible live. We've got Diiv opening for us on this tour and I really like them. Also Tuff Love who played with us at the UK shows in May. It's been great trying to turn our gigs into something interesting with new bands. We've really made an effort trying to get bands we all like to open for us. The only problem is whether they're available or not.
Mark Gardener: Not only because it's a great platform for them but also because we want to give people who've bought tickets for the shows a really good night. I remember seeing some great support bands back in the day like when The Verve opened for Mercury Rev. We always tried to do that with our own tours back then as well. I remember Slowdive coming out on tour with us for Nowhere.
Loz Colbert: We've got The Besnard Lakes joining us for the rest of the American shows.
Mark Gardener: I've just done a remix for a band called The Little Unsaid. It's track called 'Can We Hear It?' which is really beautiful, haunting. I haven't really seen that many bands in recent years. Nowhere near as many as I'd have liked to anyway. I think it comes from spending too much time in the studio!
The Nowhere 25 UK tour calls in at the following venues:-
11 Leeds O2 Academy
12 Norwich UEA, Norwich
14 Brixton O2 Academy
15 Liverpool O2 Academy
17 Bristol Anson Rooms
18 Newcastle O2 Academy
19 Edinburgh Corn Exchange
21 Nottingham Rock City
22 Birmingham Institute
The expanded Nowhere 25 CD & DVD package is released on 6th November.
For more information on Ride visit their official website.