RIDE Secret messages

Ride, alongside My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, were the leaders of the influential shoegaze scene of the late 1980s/early 1990s, with their 1990 Nowhere LP often cited as the premier example of the genre. Despite critical adoration, the band split in 1996 before fully reforming in 2014 and releasing their first new music in over 20 years. Now with another new album ready for release, This Is Not a Safe Place (out August 18) and an Australian tour hitting The Astor Theatre on Saturday, August 31, MICHAEL HOLLICK talked to founding member and lead singer Mark Gardener to find out more. 

What has it felt like touring and recording again with Ride since your 2014 reformation? Are things different to how they were in the 1990s?

I think the biggest difference is we really appreciate things now, we understand and acknowledge how much hard work goes in to get something off the ground, and how many people it takes to do things such as put on a festival or a tour. Plus, being older now, we’re more adept at working things out.

Since 2014, Ride have undertaken some rather extensive touring. How have you found that part of being back in the band?

I have a daughter now so having to leave her behind is difficult. But for any gain you will have pains, so I accept that’s always going to happen. And the gains have been amazing. We just finished supporting The Cure in Greece and Ireland, and headlining some of the biggest European festivals, like Primavera. It’s been quite mind blowing.

What has it been like returning to the current festival scenes like that, compared to the UK festivals you frequented in the 1990s?

It certainly marks a big change. To compare them, well, going from the old mud-fests of the UK to feeling like I was in an episode of Caddyshack at Coachella with golf carts whizzing around all over the place, to me, was surreal.

What have audience reactions been like thus far? And what has it been like for you to play in front of tens of thousands of people again?

I have done quite a few shows on my own or as a guest vocalist over the years, so I have stayed in the music scene a little bit. But to go from playing to a hundred or two hundred people to performing in front of 50,000 people as the headliner of a festival, it is quite a change. Nothing could prepare you for that. Bizarrely, when I started music, I did much more expect to be playing to 50 or a 100 people, if I was lucky, as opposed to massive crowds. That sort of thing didn’t even occur to me, so it has always seemed a bit crazy to me.

Your new single, Repetition, has a very post-punk 80s, ala Killing Joke, feel to it as opposed to Ride’s more traditional starting point which I have always thought of as The Smiths. Does that ring true for you?

I think all of that music is imprinted on us so we never sort of go “we want to make it like this or like that,” we just try and do what is right for the song at the time as they start to form. If I was to talk about the songs’ influences, I’m sure they are from the 80s, but to me really, I feel like we serve the song and it just comes out naturally.

Drilling down on this track, what were the feelings and influences that went into creating it?

We had a bit of a difficult time during the recording. We had to let go of management and that got really difficult and there were a few other horrible management-y type things to deal with. So I think it made the band sit back and reflect about just what it means to be in a band, and be together. It led us to thinking about our early days when we were just a band and it was just ourselves making music. There were a few nods to those earlier days in the lyrics, with references to art school, and things that were going on in our lives in the late 80s.

What can you tell me about the forthcoming album, This Is Not a Safe Place?

I think the tracks on the record all come from a similar space as Repetition did. Some of the other tracks are a bit more politically informed, but at the end of the day, I truly believe music is supposed to be an escape. You really need art when things get difficult, so I think making art and music just for the sake of doing so is the key aim for us as a band.

And what does the title represent?

This is Not a Safe Place is a term used and signalled in chalk on buildings in America by the homeless to let others know that that spot is not a safe place to stay. I became fascinated by this use of a code and discovered that there is a whole range of different symbols used, a secret language that enables this group of people to navigate and structure their lives. In broader terms, I saw a link between this lack of a ‘safe place’ and the fear that currently exists in the western world due to the rise of far-right politics. I think Trump and others’ actions are having the same effect on a wider group of people, a reduction of ‘safe places’ for people to exist in.

Finally, I was too young to see Ride originally, so I am very excited that you have reformed and are coming to Australia for the first time in over 25 years. Have you found that to be a common experience from your recent audiences?

That’s really good to hear and to know as that was one of the reasons why we wanted to get back together. So many people did miss out the first time and we can reach people now that we may never have had the chance to before. Some people following the band now were not even born when our first records came out. Things have changed but the passion is still there, and the fans are integral to that.

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