Blank Generation

31 July 2012 | 2:58 pm | Chris Familton

"Much more important to me than monetary richness is a spiritual-type richness which I felt when I travelled in India for six months. Who knows about the afterlife, so I want to feel like I’m doing what I want to be doing with my time as much as possible."

Like so many other bands of the same era, Ride were catapulted to fame on the back of the resurgent indie guitar scene in the early '90s. Alongside Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream and Stone Roses they ushered a new take on psychedelic music into the public consciousness. As history shows, the bubble quickly mutated into a Britpop cliche and burst, leaving a vapour trail of musicians to retreat to studios, bedsits and form new bands as they hurtled toward the end of the century.

Now, 20 years on from the release of Ride's second album, Going Blank Again, the band's frontman Mark Gardener is celebrating the anniversary with an Australian tour backed by US band Sky Parade. He'll be mixing up classic Ride tracks with songs from his more recent solo, collaborative and soundtrack work – giving him the perfect excuse to indulge in all corners of his career.

“When I spoke to promoters about doing some more shows in Australia it seemed quite timely to celebrate 20 years of Going Blank Again,” he explains. “It's not going to be the album from start to finish, that's not what I'm doing, but I can either sit here and have a beer in my studio and keep on producing and mixing and have my own little celebration or I can come out and play with a band. I thought that a lot of my post-Ride stuff hadn't been played live and people aren't aware of it. It is great for me that I can come out and play a lot of the new stuff as well as the old familiar stuff as a bit of a celebration and I'm happy to do that.”

With his own recording studio and plenty of producing and mixing work Gardener isn't exactly twiddling his thumbs and living on past glories. He does, however, look back at Going Blank Again as the most enjoyable phase of the band's career and has fond memories of its recording.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“I do, yeah, because it was still the early days of Ride which was an amazing time. It was still the feeling of things going up and everything exceeding our expectations and still the feeling that we were living our dream lives that you never thought you would live but were in the middle of now. [Debut album] Nowhere ended up being a chaotic record to make which was great but by the time we came to make the new record I felt we were really firing on all cylinders. We recorded it at Chipping Norton Studios, a lovely residential studio 30 miles from Oxford, so we felt a little bit more connected back to Oxford after being away on the road for so long but far enough away to have a bit of distance from it at the same time. We felt like we were in the right studio, we were all in the right frame of mind, we knew we didn't have ages to make the record but we'd all been doing a fair bit of writing so it all came together for me on that record. When I listen to it, it just reminds me of good times.”

With the cyclical nature of musical influences and the way new bands reinvent past genres, it is no surprise that shoegaze and psychedelic music have been strong drivers of indie, rock and electronic music in recent times. But what is it about those styles that still resonates today?

“I think the music still has some life to it because it has an edge to it,” Gardener says. “At the time it was a lot more edgy than what came after it with the whole flag-waving Britpop thing which was the death of a lot of experimental and interesting things. Music became uninteresting after that. There is also a lot of unfinished business as well. Nirvana and grunge also came along and that took over to an extent. The more experimental approach that preceded that was cut short. There should be more people doing interesting, experimental stuff. That is still the challenge now. When I listen back to our stuff or hear a Ride song on the radio when I don't expect to there is a real freshness and edge to it that I think still really stands out amongst all the middle of the road stuff on the radio these days.

“People also have much more access to track back to hear and find things these days. We were lucky that our bass player [Steve Queralt] worked in a record shop so we had access to a lot of stuff like Neu! and sounds that influenced us. Myself and Andy [Bell, Ride guitarist] grew up with parents that loved Beach Boys and Beatles which influenced our melodic side and with Steve and our manager working in a record shop they immediately heard the new stuff that bands like My Bloody Valentine, Loop and Ultra Vivid Scene were making so we were onto it straight away and they had a big influence on our sound in the early days.”

On top of running his studio and composing soundtracks (his credits include the Creation Records documentary Upside Down), Gardener has been keeping busy with a number of other musical projects, some of which should see the light of day later this year.

“Some of the new material is new in the sense that it hasn't been released before. One of the collaborations is with Robin Guthrie [Cocteau Twins] which we did a while ago and has never been aired. Another collaboration is more of an electronic thing with Dive Index – a song called Love Like Ghosts. I'm also getting together a few Mark Gardener things that might come together as a new record, more of me in an experimental form which I'm hoping that I can test out live.”

Though he feels compelled to celebrate his past achievements, the sense you get from talking to Gardener is that he is living in the now and enjoying having a range of things to satisfy his muse.

“The idea of being in a band still, doing tours, answering to a record label and not being your own boss – I couldn't deal with that in my life now. I need to be in control of my destiny. In Ride I never felt in control of my destiny, It was a fantastic ride to be on though, I remember sitting with the guys and Alan McGee [Creation Records], with Seymour Stein [Sire Records] on the phone and being told they wanted us to do these tours and thinking, 'Okay, that is the next eight months gone'. That was fine at the time and I loved every minute of it, but that was then. Music didn't make me rich but I managed to get a mortgage on a modest place in Oxford and that's me. Much more important to me than monetary richness is a spiritual-type richness which I felt when I travelled in India for six months. Who knows about the afterlife, so I want to feel like I'm doing what I want to be doing with my time as much as possible.”