Interview by Mark Bayross
Ten years ago, Ride were one of the biggest bands around, and one of Britain’s biggest exporters of six-string fireworks. After the band’s split in the mid-nineties, guitarist and chief song-writer Andy Bell enjoyed some success fronting his own group, Hurricane #1, but an offer to fill the vacant bass slot in a certain well-known combo called Oasis proved too tempting.
Now Ride have released OX4, a ‘best of’ compilation, both as a stand-alone album and as part of a box set, including a collection of previously unreleased material and a recording of their set at the Reading Festival in 1992 (their only ever live album). What’s more, they have also decided to re-release their entire back catalogue, re-mastered and with additional EP tracks.
I spoke to Andy about the new releases and the good old days.
What was behind the decision to re-release the Ride back catalogue and the new material?
The ‘new’ material is a load of old stuff that hasn’t been released before, and the box set is something extra for the fans.
Ride’s ascent was fairly rapid, although some bands today seem to hit the big-time even quicker. Do you have any advice for bands like The Strokes or Starsailor who seem to explode from out of nowhere?
Don’t listen to the record company! [laughs] Stick to the plan… Between all the people in the band, decide what you want and stick to it.
How did you react to the band’s success?
We were all very caught up in it for the first couple of years. Only looking back now do I release it was real, do I realise how fast it was. I mean, we had only played five or six gigs before we got signed up…that’s not very much! From then on, the next two years were pretty jam-packed, playing and recording. It was only by the third album that we really stopped and looked around us.
What is you favourite memory of your time in Ride?
Probably the shambolic, early touring time. That was a great time – our roadie was a mate of ours; we spent our time travelling around in a transit van, drinking a lot…[laughs] We didn’t get paid a lot back then – about £50 a night. Our manager spent most of the time getting angry with us for being so hapless…and we spent most of the time getting pissed off with him. [laughs]
I would have thought, given the huge shows you played, you would have mentioned one of those…
Well, we played the Albert Hall in 1994. That was a special venue to play. It was great playing Reading too – which is why have released our recording of it for the box set.
Ride’s music changed a lot over the course of the band’s life. Do you think your fan-base did as well?
I don’t know if it changed – I guess it didn’t grow much. I know we made a big impact at the beginning, and the second album did really well, but I was a bit disappointed by the third and fourth albums. Hurricane did have really different fans – it was more of a lads’ band. With Ride, the fans were mainly students, both male and female.
Why do you think that was?
The bands gave off a different vibe, I guess. Plus, in Ride, we had Mark, which helped bring in the female fans…! [laughs]
Which is your favourite Ride album?
NOWHERE, the first one. The second one, too – that was spot on. CARNIVAL OF LIGHT was good fun to make, but turned out not so good in the end. The fourth one was a nightmare. There was no real communication between us; we didn’t know why we were there. Beforehand, we usually had to wait to get into the studio, so by the time we did, we were ready to start recording. That time, however, the tour had been cancelled and we went into the studio unprepared. It was a real ‘vibe hoover’… [laughs]
Is SEAGULL still your favourite Ride song?
Maybe DREAMS BURN DOWN as well.
How would you say you have developed as a song-writer over the course of Ride and Hurricane #1?
I wrote most of NOWHERE. Mark wrote DECAY and Loz wrote the song NOWHERE, but I think I wrote the rest of it. I guess I haven’t developed that much, it was just the sound of what I was into at the time. Since then, I’ve got into more ‘classic’ rock. In the beginning, I was trying to get close to the sound of Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine – I wasn’t so much writing songs as creating ‘sounds’.
With Hurricane, I probably wrote too much…[laughs] I was the only songwriter in the band and I think the quality suffered as a result. I think STEP INTO MY WORLD and ONLY THE STRONGEST WILL SURVIVE were great songs…they came fast. Once I have an idea, after an hour or two, it’s done. I’ve even got one song on the new Oasis album, which is fantastic – it’s great to be able to have anything on it all.
Are you disappointed that you have less of an opportunity to write songs at the moment?
Not at all. It’s all down to your personal state of mind. After Ride, I was really up for it. I was happy to be the leader of Hurricane, up in front. The problem was, I was the only song-writer in the band, so after a while, I just got burnt out…I got writer’s block. By the time it came to writing a second album, songs were thin on the ground. With the first one, I had written all the songs in just over a year. I guess I have eventually re-discovered that – Oasis have been really encouraging.
If you could re-live those years, would you have changed anything?
No, it was all pretty magical, really…even the falling apart bit – that was part of what it was all about! [laughs] It was good that we were over-reaching and taking risks. I think I would leave everything as it is. Not all bands can go on for 20 years…
So, no chance of Ride getting back together?
No, there’s going to be no reunion. You never know, the band might get together in a private room somewhere…