Going Blank Again: Andy Bell

"...a way of putting a full stop on the band."
Mark and Andy

The concept of 'indie' is long lost for people of a certain age.

The same way that electro these days means Deadmau5 instead of Drexciya, indie no longer means music on an independent label. As every label slowly swallowed up by Universal, the importance of labels such as Domino, Heavenly, 4AD and Sonic Cathedral cannot be understated. Whilst every band from Keane to Snow Patrol get bunched together and as stamped indie, real players of this stuff from DIIV and Ghxsts to Twin Shadow and Savages are the true essence of an increasingly less meaningful moniker, rewind 20 years ago and indie actually had a true meaning and you couldn’t get any more indie than Oxford four piece, Ride.

Ride appeared fully packaged; they were young, looked good and were signed to Creation, the coolest label in the country at the time. But despite regular four track EPs and packed gigs something conspired against them. They were in the right place at the wrong time too many times. Their debut album ‘Nowhere’ is as near to a perfect debut you can get but as soon it was released, the grunge epidemic which rendered all bands average occurred pushing Ride back to the fringes. Two years later they released their second and best album, the 1992 classic ‘Going Blank Again’ but this was just a little too early be enable them to join in on the Britpop party from a few months later, a band this introverted could obviously be no match for Brett Anderson’s snake-hips or the gobshite attitude of a young Damon Albarn.

Lightening struck a third time when they released their third album, ‘Carnival of light’ during the Spring of 1994, the steam had gone and their thunder was taken by some Mancunian short arses who shared one eyebrow and by the release of their fourth album, 1996‘s ‘Tarantula’, they’d already split up

Why all this rose tinted bitterness wrapped up and presented as a re-appraisal? Well Ride, one of the first bands to break out of the indie ghetto and into the top ten with spiky indie pop classics such as ‘Leave them all behind’, ‘Chelsea Girl’ & ‘Twisterella’ have had their back catalogue re-mastered and re-released. With bands such as TOY reinterpreting the 20 year old sounds of Ride, we find out what dual lead guitarist and singer Andy Bell thinks of the band he was in prior to joining Oasis.

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I remember hearing Ride back in 1990, their first EPs sowed the seeds of a long time love of guitar bands. I think that’s the same for a lot most Ride fans, how does it feel to knowingly galvanise a big group of kids growing up and establishing their own tastes? Did it feel like most of the people that followed you were your age or where they older?

It feels really good. It does seem like a certain generation of a certain kind of people (who are now 40 year old music nerds) were really affected by Ride's music. Of course we had no idea this was happening at the time. There's no perspective on anything from inside the bubble of being in a band. I do hear more and more of these stories as time goes on. It's great to know that music I was part of making, more than 20 years ago, is still remembered.

'Nowhere‘, ‘Going Blank again‘ and ‘Smile’, a collection of their first shattering EPs are rightly held up as shoegaze classics, when you recorded this material did you think it would have such a long lasting effect on the music’s listeners?

I don't think we expected it 100%, but I know we wanted it to be massive. We saw the records as pop music and saw no reason why they couldn't be as popular as the Beatles' music.

I really loved ‘Carnival of light’ at the time, it felt like a natural progression but with age, it sounds to me that the two main song writers were pulling in totally different directions, this is something you said at the time of the split of the band. Why do you think it got to a point where you were 2 totally different parties in the same band?

Having our songs on different sides of the record was just something that we said we'd do in the middle of a heated argument and it just stayed that way. Our two styles on the record are not even that different. To be honest that period was quite chaotic, there were songs that never made the album that were finished and sounded great but we just forgot! I think we just lost sight of things a bit. For the record I think Mark's songs on it are way better than mine. I was writing my best material on the first two albums and went downhill from there, trying too hard to write certain kinds of songs, that didn't always suit me.

'Carnival’ also contained many long tracks, the first single ‘Birdman’ was seven minutes, the opening track ‘Moonlight Medicine’ featuring Deep Purple’s Jon Lord on keyboards, just as long. Alongside this, was a collaboration with ex Beach Boys manager Jack Rieley as more than before. What instigated the shift from 3 minute perfect pop such as ‘Like A Daydream’ to over-long epics and working with rock music’s past?

I think we saw the band as potentially a 'Pink Floyd'. That’s where it would have gone if we would have stayed together. We were aiming for a 'Wish You Were Here' kind of suite of tracks, that was a vague intention but nothing overt.

Ride - Leave Them All Behind (Live at Brixton Academy - 1992)

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One of the noticeable things that happened around the time of ‘Carnival’ was that almost overnight, Ride weren’t hot, the indie media decided that we shouldn’t like Ride or Primal Scream anymore, we have to like Oasis. Did this sea change feel as drastic and as immediate as it looked to outsiders and what did that change feel like?

I was one of those people. I fell in love with Oasis at first listen and I still love them now. Ride had gone off the boil at the same time, there's no doubt about that.

Do you think any of the internal struggles in the band were the result of Mark being treated as the poster boy and being pushed up front in photographs, sometimes even appearing in them on his own?

One of many reasons. Not the biggest, not by a long shot. It all goes with the territory.

‘Tarantula’ seemed like an attempt to make the kind of record that fans of the big ‘alternative’ acts such at the time such as Oasis, Weller and Ocean Colour Scene would like. Was that the intention when you went into the studio?

No, it was an album that happened very much in our own world. It was an experiment really, a desperate attempt to get some excitement going in the studio after the very long sessions for the previous album. 'Tarantula' was recorded very fast, without any rehearsals, and hoping to find some spontaneous magic. Mark left during the making of the album, the rest of us did our best to save it.

From what I understand, the reason Creation only released it for 2 weeks is that the band were kind of embarrassed by it, was that the case? How do you feel about it now?

I like a couple of things on it, but it doesn't bring back very good memories. The 2 weeks release was the idea of the record company, I don't remember why. It was released after the band had broken up. I guess deleting it quickly was a way of putting a full stop on the band.

Words by Chris Todd

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The 20th anniversary edition of 'Going Blank Again' is out now.

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