by Scott Clancy
Since their beginnings in the English shoegaze scene of the 1990s, Ride has been a name synonymous with alt rock and introspective guitar music. First releasing a series of albums on label Creation Records that propelled them into independent charts, Ride re-emerged in 2017 with their first new album in years, Weather Diaries. Ride continued to build on their legacy with their 2019 album, This is Not a Safe Place, on Wichita Records.
Ride recently put out a re-imagined version of the album, remixed by Petr Aleksander, entitled Clouds in the Mirror. It is a full length transformation of the album incorporating electronics, neoclassical arrangements and sparse vocal treatments that turns This is Not a Safe Place into an introspective yet danceable trip through an already compelling album. Enjoy this throwback interview about the origins of the remixed album with the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, Andy Bell, at Riot Fest in September, 2019 and check it out on Ride’s bandcamp page.
WLUW: First off, how do you think your set went today?
Andy Bell: Extremely well! Our sound man was good and we really slimed down the set. Normally we play for about an hour and a half. This was forty minutes so we’re playing the absolute bangers.
WLUW: I think it’s interesting how a band will build their set for a festival. It’s kind of like the best of an introduction to the band.
AB: It totally is like that. Yeah, it’s a special kind of thing at festivals, especially when it’s somewhere with quite a lot of new people. At festivals, you want to get new people into the band. Of course, you’ve always got a few rows in the front who know your stuff. We have to figure they’re going to be happy with whatever you play, so let’s play stuff that can bring people in. We actually ended up playing a lot of stuff off the new record anyway.
WLUW: I’d love to hear a little bit about the new record. Is the title of it a reference to any specific place?
AB: Well, the title is This is Not a Safe Place, and we got that kind of indirectly through going to a Jean-Michel Basquait exhibition. When he was doing graffiti in New York, and he would tag
the walls and do these three lines like slash, slash, slash on the wall, and that is in the Hobo Code. So it’s like if you put those three lines on the wall, it’s meant to mean, “This is not a safe place.”
WLUW: Did his artwork or spirit go into the record even more?
AB: Yeah, when I read that was what it meant – it’s just a theory it might not be true – but someone said it could be that and, of course, Basquait’s not around to confirm or deny. But anyway, he was said to have really liked this book called “Symbol Sourcebook,” [by Henry Dreyfuss] which is a reference book of symbols. So, I got this book and it had the hopeful Hobo Code, so we gave every song on the album a Hobo Code reference. They’re all on the sleeve. You’d have to go and research what they mean, but every song has its own little symbol that is specially chosen. I forget them all now, but it’s cool and I’m gonna get tattoos of a couple of them because they’d be good hand-poked tattoos.
WLUW: Musically speaking, were there any new directions you were trying to get to on the record?
AB: No, on the contrary, really. We went back to the influences we had when we very first started out. So, everything we were listening to in the late 80s, we brought it all back and tried to do something new with it. It was kind of post-punk stuff like Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Fall, Public Image Ltd, The Cure. We just kinda got back into all that, started playing it aurally, [deciding] what we like about it and then building these songs out of it.
WLUW: I can hear that in Kill Switch. It has a sort of harder sound to my ears.
AB: What’s cool with post-punk is it’s kind of minimal and it’s kind of basic in a kind of dark way, but then it’s also catchy.
WLUW: And there’s a bit of electronics on the record, too?
AB: Yeah, it’s definitely a new thing since we first started. We had broken up in the 90s and it [electronics] wasn’t really becoming a big part of music at that point, at least for us. We were always pretty much a guitar-based band. And then when we came back, it just felt like a natural thing to add because in the intervening years we had all been following the same music. So we are building on what we would have done if we were together all that time.
WLUW: I’ve always been curious about someone like you who has been releasing records for a little while now – how different of a process is it releasing a record in 2019 compared to ’89, ’99?
AB: Very, very different. In a lot of ways it feels like, before the album is out and you’re putting out singles, you’re like, “Are we even releasing anything?” You don’t feel like you’re doing anything because all that happens is somebody uploads a track to the internet. Whereas it used to be, you would produce a physical item; a single would be a CD and a vinyl and you would go and play gigs for it. But now it’s just: the track comes out. And it’s a lot to get your head around.
WLUW: There’s definitely a larger amount of music just being released today.
AB: But the whole process is different, apart from the lead times which is funny because you think the lead times would be a lot less, but you still have to give them six months to make the record. I mean both the last two albums, they were finished about six months before they came out.
WLUW: What I’m also curious about, coming from a fan’s perspective: I wanted to ask you about your former label Creation Records. I’m a massive fan of that label, I’ve always wanted to ask someone who was on it what, if any, perception or memory they have of it? Because, to me, that seems like it’s stuff of legend.
AB: Yeah, people used to ask me, “What’s it like being on Creation?” And I would always kind of be like, “Well, I don’t understand the question.” Because it was the only label I was ever on, it was all I knew. We signed when I was 18. I already understood the importance of that, that it was special, but now I really do. Since that time, I’ve been on many labels and had lots of
different experiences. Now I look back and go, “That was really special.” I think it’s almost on the same line as maybe like Motown, where all the bands were kind of working like a family towards the same kind of aim. Everyone had their own particular take on it but we were going really well. When I first went to the Creation office, it was always like a kind of party going on. I mean, that was the lifestyle, that was what it was like. It was really always about the music, but at the same time, it was also about partying it. It was a real kind of rock and roll – definitely. But I look back on it and realize more how special things were now. How many great bands there were on it at the time pays tribute to Alan McGee’s [Creation Records’ founder] choices really because in the beginning it was really him A&R-ing everything. His partner, Dick Green, who was fifty percent of Creation, he now runs our label, Wichita. I feel lucky to have been part of it.
WLUW: Do you have any thoughts on American College Radio?
AB: Well, I mean, having never lived in America, it’s an outside perspective. I’ve always been aware that American college radio has helped our band because they playlist it and they support you, and that means a lot and had a big influence as well. I mean, I’m just grateful that it’s there. If I was an American student, I bet you I’d be involved with college radio.