Andy Bell. Interesting guy. Enters the scene with Ride in the ‘90s, a guitar band destined to be the next big thing. It doesn’t exactly pan out that way; after they deliver two cornerstone-of-shoegaze albums their third, Carnival Of Light, mucks it up when the band discovers the record buying public doesn’t share the same obsessive love of ‘60s psychedelia that they do.
Things get a little stroppier from there. When recording fourth album Tarantella Bell, bandmate Mark Gardner decides that Ride just isn’t big enough for the both of them. Mark storms out and the band winds up soon after. Bell, of course, is far from out of the game and mucks around for a little while with Hurricane #1.
Ahead of Ride’s second record since their celebrated reunion, This Is Not a Safe Place, we sent Andy Bell a few questions. This is what he had to say.
Not long after that he does what any reasonably sane person who’s lived through such calamitous spates of volatile band behaviour would do; he joins the only group even more wildly dysfunctional than his own.
Looking back on his decade-long stint with Oasis in 2019, Bell doesn’t seem to think it was a wrong turn. When it comes to describing the formula for the Gallagher brother’s success, he simply puts it like this: “A genius songwriter, a genius singer and loads of attitude.” Which might not be too far off of what you might say about him and Mark in Ride – who, as you may know, reunited in 2014.
The group has had their rough spots, but since Bell and Gardner have put their differences aside and decided that making music isn’t an altogether bad idea, things have been running smoothly. The group is better now live than they ever have been, Bell contends, and recording-wise they’re taking their sound to unexpected places.
HAPPY: I think Carnival of Light might be my favourite Ride record. Am I crazy?
ANDY: I wouldn’t say you’re definitely crazy, maybe a little eccentric. There are things I like about that album, but my contributions were below par personally. If you’d said Tarantula I would have said yep, you need to be locked up.
HAPPY: Along with The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and Oasis, Ride really seemed to be at the heart of this wave of groups which were, among other things, influenced by sounds, movies, books and fashion of the 1960s. Why do you think it was that people were returning to things from this older period at that point in time?
ANDY: I don’t know. Something about it called to me. I remember watching The Beat on Top of the Pops. 1983 or so. I was into two-tone and ska, like all my mates, and The Beat were my favourite band of those. The singer had a teardrop shaped guitar and my mind was totally blown. I had no idea that it was a ‘60s style guitar, I just loved it. It was like, when bands I was into referenced the ‘60s I responded subconsciously or something. My dad had Beatles albums and I loved them. But it was more than that.
HAPPY: Can you tell me a little bit more about the influence of the ‘60s and psychedelia on your own work as an artist?
ANDY: It’s central to my being. I would describe all the music I like as being, on some level, psychedelic. Whatever strain of music I get into, it has to have a particular ‘thing’ about it. To give you an example, I recently (in the last five years) heard minimalist classical music for the first time. Steve Reich tape phase stuff, Philip Glass, et cetera. I responded to something in it that felt like Spacemen 3. The James Brown or Fela Kuti tracks I like, they are almost like CAN or something, jamming on one chord, elements that drone through the music. Ambient music puts you in a similar headspace. Same with acid house, it’s a drone and a beat, that’s my definition of psychedelic I suppose.
HAPPY: Do you remember if there a song, album or something else that first turned you on to this kind of music?
ANDY: Yes. 19th Nervous Breakdown by The Rolling Stones. When I heard it, something about it made me put it on over and over again. I had bought the album Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) and this was the song that hit me.
HAPPY: A question about Oasis. I’ve always found it interesting that after Ride parted ways – at least in part due to creative fallout between you and Mark – you almost immediately joined a group whose own creative tensions were legendary! What were you thinking at the time?
ANDY: I was thinking, “Fucking hell, I’m joining Oasis!”
ANDY: A genius songwriter, a genius singer and loads of attitude.
HAPPY: You wrote a few Oasis songs yourself. Do you have a favourite?
ANDY: Turn up the Sun.
HAPPY: Enough about the past! Tell me about your new record This Is Not A Safe Place…
ANDY: OKAY. So the album comes out this winter in Australia, it feels like it’s come together pretty quickly and easily. We used the same production team and studio as last time, with the addition of a different drum room because we wanted a particular drum sound. [It’s] maybe the easiest album I’ve ever been involved in. And I think that is a good sign, by the way.
HAPPY: Any closing thoughts?
ANDY: Yes, just to say I’m looking forward to the tour, we are better live now than we ever were. Thanks to everyone who has bought tickets, thanks to anyone who takes a chance on our new records. We’re really lucky to be given this second chance, and we appreciate it.
Ride’s new album is out August 16th, pre-order your copy here. You can also catch the band live in Australia and New Zealand during the following dates:
Thursday 29th August – Powerstation, Auckland
Saturday 31st August – Astor Theatre, Perth
Wednesday 4th September – The Tivoli, Brisbane
Thursday 5th September – Forum, Melbourne
Friday 6th September – Enmore Theatre, Sydney