‘We beat Radiohead at football 25-4’: Ride’s Andy Bell

The former Oasis bassist answers your questions on sharing a name with Erasure’s frontman, the wildness of Creation Records in the 90s, and what he owes to the Cure’s Robert Smith

Have you ever pretended to be the Erasure frontman to get a better table in a restaurant? TeeDubyaBee

No, but Andy and I have a brilliant little friendship that’s developed over Twitter after people started tagging the wrong one. I’d tweet funny replies, like “I wish I had a little respect …” A couple of years ago I reached out to him for something which unfortunately he wasn’t able to do, but he said he’d be up for something and we are talking about working together. You read it here first.

In a 1997 interview with Japanese magazine Crossbeat, you were asked what Ride meant to you. You asked them to ask you 10 years later. Do you have the answer now? nomorewater

Ride means an awful lot to me. When I started, I was the most myself I’ve ever been apart from now, and I like to touch base with that person. We formed just after leaving school, it was a really exciting time and I’m so grateful that we keep being allowed to do it. Ride is the portal to who I am.

The four members of Ride looking moody in a field, in black and white
Ride: (l-r) Andy Bell, Laurence Colbert, Mark Gardener and Steve Queralt, photographed in Oxford in 1990. Photograph: Joe Dilworth/Avalon/Getty Images

Rumour has it that the Creation Records HQ in Hackney was some kind of crazy blend of student bedsit/messy office/bar/nightclub/crack den. Did you wonder what you were letting yourself in for? Timwthornton

When we signed they were in Bethnal Green, in what Alan [McGee, the founder] called the bunker, accessible via a sort of sweatshop where women with sewing machines were making clothes. Otherwise it was pretty much as described: studenty, messy, walls covered in record sleeves and musicians hanging around. One of the first times I went in there was a party going on and someone from Primal Scream phoned to say that [producer] Andrew Weatherall wanted them to play to a click track, and they went: “What’s a click track?” It must have worked because the results were Loaded and Screamadelica. We’d signed after six gigs so I was like a kid, watching this spectacle. Magic times.

Did you find the term shoegaze offensive? stoneinatincan

I didn’t like it at the time because it was of the way it was used in the music press along with other snotty terms. It must have been the same to be German, in a band labelled Krautrock. A few years later I was touring the US with Oasis and people would come up and say, “I love shoegaze.” So I’ve grown to accept it. It’s just a label now.

Liam Gallagher and Andy Bell on stage at an Oasis gig in 2007.
Liam Gallagher and Andy Bell on stage at an Oasis gig in 2007. Photograph: Diana Scrimgeour/Redferns

What was the first pinch-yourself moment while playing live with Oasis? JesseAndrews

Waiting to go on stage at Wembley. You’re hearing the excitement of the people that are waiting to hear you, which feels brilliant.

I always felt that a guitarist and songwriter of your talent was wasted playing bass in Oasis. Did it ever feel like that? ScorchTheBlueDragon

That’s rude to bass players. Not at all. I learned so much about music as a guitarist playing bass. The bassist and the drummer are the backbone. I took it very seriously. Plus, it was lovely to be asked to join in with songwriting. My song Turn Up the Sun was the opening number for a whole tour. It even broke a barrier in the Manchester City stadium, when the crowd rushed forward. Luckily I don’t think anyone was injured badly.

The resurgence of the double album has been an unexpected development in 2022, with standout releases from yourself, Beach House, Big Thief, Johnny Marr and Wilco. Are you a fan of the format and what’s the story behind your double album, Flicker? VerulamiumParkRanger

Not forgetting Tim Burgess’s [Typical Music]. I just think there’s a moment in an artist’s life when only a double album will do. 22 Dreams by Paul Weller wouldn’t work as a single album. They work best with a lot of concise songs. Flicker has 18, definitive versions of half-finished ideas going back to the 90s, which I able to do in lockdown. I hope people appreciate the reasoning and don’t find it too indulgent.

You’ve written many great songs over the past 30 years or so. Is there a particular one which never received the appreciation you felt it merited? I love 1997 Hurricane #1 B-side Smoke Rings. VerulamiumParkRanger

Thank you. I have a funny relationship with my own songs in that my favourites tend to be the ones other people like. Vapour Trail was never a single in the UK but it’s become popular over time. You put things out and see what comes back and I very much react to what comes back.

Bell and Mark Gardener of Ride drink beer with Robert Smith of the Cure in 1991.
Bell (left) and Mark Gardener (right) of Ride talk to Robert Smith of the Cure in 1991. Photograph: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

You came to the rescue of Oasis (and Gay Dad) when they were short of crucial players, loaned prize guitars to Noel Gallagher and Gem Archer, and after Ride’s Going Blank Again show in London introduced yourself to everyone while DJing. In your career, who has shown the most kindness and generosity to you? david99b

Robert Smith from the Cure. When Ride were getting started, he used his influence to get us added to the bill for a TV programme called Brits 91, so we got this amazing prime-time exposure. Since then, he’s asked us to support the Cure, got us added to festival bills and he did a great remix of Vapour Trail. He’s always been there to encourage with a very giving spirit.

Apparently Ride used to refer to [1994 album] Carnival of Light as Carnival of Shite. Do you still feel that way or have you made your peace with it? Europeanbychoice

Ride were about loud guitars, submerged harmonies and exciting drums – a wash of sound. By Carnival of Light and Tarantula, we’d picked off those elements until we were left with a shoegaze band trying to play classic rock, but I have made peace with it. It’s got a lot of good tracks, like Moonlight Medicine and Birdman.

Tell us a Brian Jonestown Massacre story. ShermanMLight

In Stockholm once I was watching from the side of the stage when Anton [Newcombe] sacked the drummer during the gig. I drunkenly jumped up and started playing drums. He didn’t chuck me off, which was nice of him. Before their gig in Oxford a few years back I mentioned that I once saw Spacemen 3 playing in armchairs. Anton immediately went into overdrive. “Man, [Ride’s] Mark Gardener is coming to the gig tonight. I’m gonna get you guys armchairs and we’re gonna have the Ride reunion on stage.” Mark and I hadn’t spoken for years, and suddenly we were sat in armchairs for the entirety of their gig, asking each other: “How’s it going?”

Please tell us about the infamous Ride vs Radiohead 5-a-side match Stuartyellow

I’m not a footballer, so wasn’t in our team but we beat them 25-4 or something. You know, they might be playing stadiums around the world, but ours was the real victory [laughs].

You’re doing a DJ set but people aren’t really feeling it. What 12-inch would you whip out to get the room moving? stevehiggs

Synthesist 2048 by Monokompatibel featuring Harald Grosskopf. It’s a proper 103bpm banger. If it’s an indie night, then Pixies’ Here Comes Your Man. I don’t mind clearing the floor because then you can define what happens. Get rid of the crowd and bring ’em back slowly.

Andy Bell’s new solo EP, The Grounding Process, is out now on Sonic Cathedral. Reissues of Ride’s classic early albums and EPs are also out now on Wichita


As told to Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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