Going “Nowhere” With Ride’s Andy Bell

Ride perfoming in London, January 1990. Photo: Ian Dickson/Redferns

ride – Seagull

For a band that didn’t experience much in the way of much commercial success, Ride‘s 1990 debut Nowhere rests within the laurels of the“shoegaze” movement as a defining album. Acts like Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and even the metal stylings of Jesu are certainly indebted to acts like Ride, and their willingness to fuzz out their guitars and moan about difficult times. After Ride’s split in 1996, the band trickled into other musical ventures — most notably, vocalist Mark Gardener’s own solo career and guitarist Andy Bell‘s venture with Oasis and now Beady Eye. In February, Rhino Handmade reissued Nowhere as a gorgeous hardcover book, complete with extensive photos, Ride’s Today Forever EP and an early live show recorded at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Hive recently caught up with Bell, who reflected on the origins of each song on Nowhere — humbly noting that “debut albums are always very special. The songs on [Nowhere] took the whole of our lives to prepare for.”

1. “Seagull”

“A lot of the method of writing songs for me was sitting and playing something you know already. Play around with the same chords, then eventually change them or play the song wrong and end up with an inspirational little bit. ‘Seagull’ actually came out of me trying to learn a song by the Beatles called “A Taste of Honey.” I was trying to play that and came up with my own song. [Sings a portion of each song.] The lyrics were inspired by a hippie-dippie book called Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.”

2. “Kaleidoscope”

“That was kind of a compilation of two songs. There was a song called ‘Smile’ that we ended up kind of destroying a couple amps in the process of recording it. We ended up turning that into ‘Kaleidoscope’ with different lyrics but the same chord structure.”

3. “In a Different Place”

“I think we played the Reading festival in ’89. In the summer of 1988, we had a little road trip with a few friends to the Reading festival and saw loads of great bands. It was a brilliant year for music, actually. ['In a Different Place'] is an unrequited love song, about being a bit wasted on an afternoon, lying down in the sun. That was where it came from. The guitar line that repeats like ‘London Bridge is falling down,’ that thing – I had had for ages. It was one of the first things I had on a tape recorder. I’m not sure if [a drunken afternoon at Reading] comes through in the recording, but that was the inspiration for it.”

4. “Polar Bear”

“Lyrically, that was a J.D. Salinger short story called Raise High the Roof Beam or something really awkward like that. I’m a big fan of Salinger; he’s one of the greatest writers. The story kind of appealed to me — the way he wrote this character. It reminded me of somebody and I wrote around it. It set me off. Don’t know why it’s called ‘Polar Bear.’ The guitar sound, that tremolo, was a really big part of it as well. Me and Mark got effects units for the Nowhere recording sessions; we kind of muddle through with a really cheap unit before that.”

5. “Dreams Burn Down”

“What can I say? It’s a great tune. It’s about the end of an affair — the end of a relationship. Kind of a typical, teenage reaction. I remember it became massive when the band started playing it. It was written as a pretty straightforward sound, but I remember the rehearsal when we first played it — we decided to go with this noise kind of thing. The noise emphasized certain parts of the lyrics, and that really worked and it was fantastic. Lawrence plays a massive drumbeat on it that actually Coldplay ripped off. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not.”

6. “Decay”

“‘Decay’ was written by Mark Gardner. I don’t know much about the songwriting of it. But hearing it years later, I can hear a bit of a Krautrock thing in it.”

7. “Paralysed”

“Another adolescent anthem about awkwardness and that kind of thing. This is one of the rare ones where I did lead vocal. We had to go to a different studio to overdub a piano on it and we ended up at a studio just off Oxford Street in the middle of London. We were recording this piano with the windows open on a lovely summer day, but the funny thing about it was that the Poll Tax Riots were going on that day. In 88-89, Margaret Thatcher brought in the Poll Tax, which was basically a tax for living in a house. Everyone thought this was complete exploitation and there were huge protests about it. At the time, there were huge riots, and on this particular day London got trashed. We managed to capture that on the record! If you listen to ‘Paralysed,’ you can hear it. We stuck a microphone out the window and got it.”

8. “Vapour Trail”

“I remember writing the riff in a hotel room on a very early Ride tour. We were in a bed and breakfast type scenario, and I was sitting on a bed with an acoustic to get that four-chord pattern which is really very simple. It’s played on two 12-strings. People seem to be quite interested with the guitar sound on this record, if there are fades or effects, but there’s not; it’s just two 12-strings. It’s just one of those magical songs. That’s the one that everyone talks about on the album in my experience. These songs are the easiest to write and the ones that you don’t really think about at the time. It came out so easily and it has that effortless feel to it. I guess it is the one I’m most proud of from that era.”

Enjoy classic Ride with their video for “Vapour Trail.”

Ride
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Ride, MTV Hive

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