Staring at the ground, an interview with Mark Gardener - 20th September 2001
Where have all the Ride records gone? I asked myself, what seemed no more than just a couple of months ago, but was probably more like a year. The band may have disbanded, their record company disappeared from the face of the earth, but hey that's no excuse not to give young ears the chance of hearing this epic sound. Amongst the famous for 15-minutes brigade of, "Stars in their eyes". Acts who have never once picked up a guitar let alone sung live. And pre-packaged teens who would make even The Osmonds look good, bands like Ride and their ilk should be on the curriculum, to show what it's all really about.This aside I had considered putting together a compilation of the bands tracks to save myself going to the trouble of over playing these sacred slabs, but this is something I'm afraid always took a back seat, considering our busy lifestyles. But no sooner had I reached into the inaccessible cupboard where I had stored my favorite LP's, than "Ignition" announced they where to release "OX4", just the compilation I had been waiting for. Did this mean the band had re-formed? Following a categorical "...no intention...", after being asked to play with Radiohead just this summer, "we should all be so lucky". But I did get to speak with former front man Mark prior to this album's release, whilst he was in the process of fitting out what was once a barn in Northern France, soon to become a studio.
So what was the first question I asked? Well one that had been on my mind for some time and one I did apologise for being THE question I supposed he was always asked.
AD: So what have you been doing since the release of 'Tarantula' and the bands subsequent break-up?
MG: I did a bit of solo'y stuff, that never came out, but still might some day, not much. And then did some stuff with Paul Oakenfold and his label, putting my dance hat on a bit. The track was with the 'Man With No Name' called 'Horizons'. And then I also worked with a guy from ex-Big Audio Dynamite when I was living in London for a year, Gary Stonadge. That was a little project that didn't quite work out, also connected with Paul Oakenfold. Then after that I did the 'Animal House' thing.
MG This was myself, Loz who was in Ride. It was a meeting of quite bizarre people who got together and made an album, which came out on BMG last year. But subsequently we had a nightmare with BMG, so I think the album will be re-released with someone else. (sniggers) So that's my history and now I'm in France fitting a studio in a barn in preparation for doing my own records basically.
AD: Now going right back, how did the group (Ride) get together in the first place?
MG: Me and Andy were at Art School in Banbury, Banbury Technical College doing an art foundation course. Obviously when me and Andy got the same place at college we knew that was it, fate, we obviously had to get a band together. So then we met Loz, who was at this Art School and we already knew Steve, who was playing bass for a band in Oxford. So we stole him, and basically pretty quickly after being at Art School Ride was formed, around '88, '89.
AD: And did you end up completing your course?
MG: No, god no, we all failed because of our attendance. Half way through we were talking to record companies and playing gigs, but they were completely cool with that and I really respect them for that. And while everyone else was filing off to go to whatever University for talks about possible places, we were writing in the book - 'WEA record company and Creation Records' - and as far as they were concerned, 'well the guys have found their art'. That was important to have that around you, because up until that point you're just a dosser really! You want to be in a band, it's pretty clichéd stuff, but we did it and did it well.
AD: When did you first become aware that you'd created something that would not just be looked back on as 'just another band' and would stand up alongside other groups who had been there at the start of a trend and not just followed the crowd?MG: I guess at certain gigs and when you find yourself on 'Top of the Pops' where you just never dreamed of being. Within the space of a year and a half from playing 'the old Dog and Duck' somewhere in High Wycombe, to suddenly realising that something was happening. For us it was fast, but at the same time because we were playing gigs all the time we could see that from 40-50 people crammed in a room, to 500 to 5000. On every level it seemed to be working and I felt that if we could get 40 people going mad in a room it's only a matter of time. I dunno really, I think the first time we all got in a room together we realised that there was some chemistry happening, but that was all we did realise, we didn't think it would be as big as it was.
AD: Were you aware that you were creating a fashion, or was the fashion growing up around you?
MG: Erm, not really 'cos we felt a bit more counter culture really. I don't think we ever felt that fashionable as a band, it was more an attitude of the way we did things and having artistic control, the old short name, you know 'Ride' and suddenly there were loads of them everywhere. You start thinking, now this is odd, what's going on, but I guess further down you are creating something fashionable. But to us the fashion was more around the baggy 'Madchester' scene and we always felt a little bit like the outsiders. We always liked that kind of music and visa-versa.
AD: Was the fact that 'Ride' had become almost the centre of the 'shoe-gazing' scene something that you minded and was going to be a hard act to follow in future projects?
MG: Erm, you know, I mean that was only in England that people talked about a 'shoe-gazing' scene. The scientific explanation for that was we used to buy all these stupid guitar pedals, that we'd have on the floor and with the given light we were dancing around on these guitar pedals, in the chaos, trying to find them, that was the reason we were looking down. But there was also another more cultural reason, and this was that, to be honest with you, with all the 'Jim Kerr' and 'Bono-isms' flying around at that time, I just thought 'keep it real'. And I just thought that we'd stand there more and blow people away and not have to prance around like performing monkeys basically. I thought we did that well, but the people who were talking about us, giving us negative press had not even been to the gigs, but people who had been to our early live shows would all agree that they were completely rockin'.
AD: Yeah. During your time as 'Ride', what was your high-point?
MG: I think there was loads of high points really. I mean just the whole rise from art school to suddenly, erm, some of the early tours in Britain were just incredible. I look at the high points as more of a touring thing really and then also the first American tour and the first Japanese tour, just places that you never expected to go, and you were going to every place and just 'rockin' the house out. But it was every gig where everything was happening, that was just one massive high for three years. But then I guess after that the chemistry started changing a bit. The second American tour wasn't so good and the great romance started faltering a bit. So I think the first three years and particular events. Maybe like Reading (featured on the box-set), the Albert Hall gigs were amazing for me, Oxford Apollo gigs were great, Glasgow Barrowlands gigs and that's it really.
AD: When you eventually split, had this been at a natural point and had you achieved all you wanted to as artists?
MG: I didn't feel I'd achieved all I'd wanted to as an artist. I mean I felt that in "Ride" the chemistry had changed to the point where we weren't playing to our strengths, which, you sort of recognise that and I thought, the recordings were going to suffer now and that was why it had to be terminated. But as an individual I didn't feel I'd done everything that I wanted to do creatively, I mean I still don't feel like that. I guess most artists feel like that. It's a bit of a cliché really.
AD: So you feel you still have avenues left to explore?
MG: Yeah, in a way and I still feel I haven't quite "painted my masterpiece" yet. (laughter) But as far as the Ride masterpiece, then definitely. But I just look back on that as a great thing. I feel very proud of it and good about it, and given a few years to reflect and heal any strange feelings, I just look back with joy really, fine.
AD: It was only recently that you were personally asked by "Radiohead" to reform and play their "South Park, Oxford gig". This you turned down, citing that you'd no intention of getting back together. How did this feel to first off be remembered, and even considered?
MG: Yeah it felt great. It always feels good to be remembered, all I ever wanted to do was make "timeless" sort of records and that feels great. So I feel that we did that. But with that Radiohead show, I actually think we were quite up for doing it. But obviously Oasis wouldn't have been so happy because they'd have lost a drummer, and people were doing other things at that point, so the logistics were difficult in such a short space of time. But I think we all thought it might have been quite a good thing to do. So I think that if the time is right and the gig and the event is right, it might be quite a good. I'd say we'd never not reform at all, so "never say never". We've no plans to do it, but time does a weird thing and if we all hit a point again where we all felt we could do something great and the chemistry was good, then I think we should do it, but I can't say that at the moment.
AD: As a group of people, do you still get on?
MG: Yeah we do, absolutely. I mean obviously by the end there were a hell of a lot of tensions, and certain people weren't getting on, but that's the way it goes. We were all very passionate about what we were doing, and when you spend that amount of time locked together in the same room, then it's quite natural. You hit a point where your passionate about doing things that are different to the other people in the group, do you know what I mean? Yeah, urmm, I mean, what was the question again?
AD: Question was, do you still get on?
MG: Yeah, yeah we do. We get on like you might with an ex-girlfriend I guess. That is if you do still get on with an ex-girlfriend!
(laughter from both sides)
AD: Yeah? Run that one past me again?
MG: It's with that amount of time you share so much together that it just seems really stupid. I mean I was still playing with Loz, up until last year and would gladly play with Loz again, so yeah we still get on.
AD: So, is this the end, or what can we expect to hear from Mark Gardener and Ride in the future? Mark K. Gardner's Home Page (!!?)
MG: With Ride, there are no plans to get back together, but I would say "never say never" and I think that if the right occasion came along and other commitments allowed, it's a possibilty that we could play and write again. Personally at the moment I'm finishing renovating a little barn in France, where I've set up my studio equipment.
AD: Why France?
MG: This has always been a bit of an escape place, where I've always had a few good friends here, like English people who are here. So it was always a bit of an escape route during the Ride days. It's not so far away from England. But it's a different world, total sort of medieval, rural place, where there are absolutely no distractions. I think I have to physically put myself somewhere like this, to sort of feel great about making music and especially about making my own album, which is what I'm thinking about doing now. Just to get away from the business and the phone going all the while, so it's good to get a distance from that.
So with Mark lubricating his creative juices and a possible solo debut time-scale loosely pencilled in, or perhaps even less permanent than that, for this time next year, Ride records are as we read spawning themselves across record shops nationwide.I am now left asking myself the question; why, if I had no guitar pedals at my feet, let alone a guitar slung around my neck, was I left starring at the ground during my misspent youth? Not that I remotely consider this to have been misspent you understand. I may even be caught doing the same each time I hear those familiar strains, echo across a crowded room.
I would like to thank Mr. Mark Gardener for his time while conducting this interview. The years seemed to just slip away, I was once more young again! So when I do start to feel my years, joints stiffening up, perhaps the group might consider reforming, call it a sort of therapy. Cheers.
Interview by; Nick James, assisted by Awia, NTL and a crappy phone!
© Copyright 2000/7 Atomicduster - all rights reserved