The Forum: Andy Bell, RIDE

Photo Credit: Francesca Tirpak

Introducing The Forum: a new, regular interview series, featuring artists - DJs, producers, designers and more - orbiting the Phantasy universe, and focused on both veritable legends of the electronic and alternative music scene, as well as undeniable new talent. In the debut edition, John Thorp speaks to Andy Bell, a founding member of acclaimed shoegaze band, Ride, whose comeback LP, ‘Weather Diaries’, was produced earlier this year by our own Erol Alkan. They discuss that fruitful partnership, how to crack a successful reformation and keeping up with their stellar live reputation.
 
Andy Bell, along with the seminal shoegaze indie band Ride, of which he has been a founding member and fixture since 1988, are very much on Phantasy’s Christmas card list. This past summer, they released their fifth album, 'Weather Diaries', following a twenty year hiatus, expertly produced by our creative director and Phantasy founder (not to mention lifelong Ride fan), Erol Alkan.

As such, we thought Bell would make the ideal candidate for the first in our weekly(ish) The Forum series here on the blog. There’s almost too much to talk about with a man who’s been a key part of two of Britain’s greatest ever rock bands; that two-decade gap saw Bell galavanting across the globe as bassist in the quite-popular Mancunian outfit, Oasis. Avoiding the temptation to ask ten questions exclusively about life with Liam Gallagher, we instead asked Bell to reflect on working with Erol, living up to their stellar live reputation on tour, dream reformations, and why 'Weather Diaries', is proving to be as relevant as any of their earlier work.
 

Ride’s new single, Pulsar (also produced by Alkan)

  • The reformation of Ride, and the subsequent success of ‘Weather Diaries’, is pretty heartwarming stuff. Looking back, do you think the break-up of the band in the nineties was mainly due to circumstances at the time, rather than a fundamental lack of compatibility among your personalities? Or have you each just grown and changed into different people, and so the dynamic happens to work again?


A little bit of both. We grew apart within the group, and when we split, we were definitely on different musical paths. Musically, over 20 years, our musical tastes have become more similar again. It terms of other reasons, I think our young age was the cause of most of the issues we had. We hadn’t learned how to discuss or compromise and we hadn’t learned how to slow down in life. And there was no guiding hand outside of the 4 of us to give us good advice when things started to go off the rails. We are better at those things now.

  • As well as Ride, your contemporaries Slowdive have also enjoyed a successful year. Both records sound not like reinventions, but bands refreshed. Had you anticipated the ‘sound’ of the shoegaze rock genre finding new relevance, as well as new audiences, in 2017?


I’d say the return of that kind of sound, has been building for 10 or 15 years now. The UK seemed to switch off from our kind of music in the mid 90’s, but in the US, the people who had got into it didn’t forget as easily. It took root in a more underground way, and a few years later, I started to notice US bands name checking Ride, Slowdive, MBV, etc. Then suddenly a few years ago, Primavera in Spain started booking those bands for headline slots at the festival. After MBV and Slowdive, we were the next band to be given a push back into the limelight.

 

  • I know Erol was hugely excited about the process of working with the band. As he is a lifelong fan, the dynamic there could have gone awry as much as it ultimately worked out. In what ways did he challenge you collectively, in order to be the very best band you could? 


His style as a producer really suited us. It felt to me like he joined the band for a few weeks - and we all challenged ourselves collectively. So it wasn’t like he was an outside force, telling us, do this, do that. He produced from within the process and with his ideas and energy driving us forward, we all pushed ourselves to work fast and try interesting ideas. Ultimately though, he took his role as producer really seriously and subtly kept us moving through different songs, usually one a day, without us band members ever hearing a song sounding near to its finished state. He kept the overall vision to himself until we were much further along the process. What was useful about Erol having been aware of Ride in the 90’s, was that he knew the elements of our original sound we had to preserve but also had a good feel for where we’d be willing to experiment without losing our identity.


  • Ride always wore their influences on their sleeve, taking elements of other bands and working them into something fresh that you were collectively passionate about. During the years that the band were inactive, how did it feel to hear other bands influenced by yourselves?


Pretty cool. One of the first times was when I met the Dandy Warhols and Courtney was telling me he loved Ride, how they had a song that was like a tribute to us on their first record. I was listening to him like, hmm are you just saying this to be polite, anyway I said to him, “Cool, I’ll check it out, what’s that one called then?”


He was like “Dude, it’s called “Ride”.

  • When Ride broke up in 1996, Britain was enjoying what people now consider a golden era of optimism and creativity, politically and culturally. Weather Diaries contains political elements that are significantly less sunny. Does the community and presumably the catharsis of the band feel important during what’s a difficult period in history?


Yes, for sure. We wrote and recorded the album with all that as a backdrop, and it gave a lot of focus to the lyrics. It felt good that as things were happening, we were able to respond immediately, sometimes the same day, to what we were seeing and hearing unfold. The situation worldwide has continued to rumble onwards and play itself out as we’ve released and started touring the album, it still feels like we’re living through that same story.


  • Ride always had a stellar reputation as a live act. You’re about to embark on an European tour, having already visited the US. Presumably the new material has been developing in new directions?


Every song off Weather Diaries gets played live. And even the short instrumental track gets used, as our intro music. The new material is great to play, and it’s sounding great live, but we are sticking pretty close to the recorded versions. It’s still the older songs which have the open ended sections that can go anywhere. Maybe we’ll make more improvisational music again in the future, that would be cool.

  • Now you’ve had a successful second crack of the whip, can you think of any other bands you’d personally love to see get back together? And what advice would you give them?


Spacemen Three ! But that may be a pipe dream. And if they did, I’m sure they would do just fine without my advice.


  • Finally, as a member of both Oasis and then Beady Eye, you have spent more time than most with Liam Gallagher. A lot of people have very much enjoyed him being back in the spotlight ahead of his solo LP. Do you miss his company and/or wisdom these days?


Yes, he’s a very funny fella, an absolute riot to be around, as is his brother. And they both make great music.


John Thorp, November 2017.


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