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Interview: Ride

“What we were trying to make was a reaction against stadium rock”

Written by
Graham Turner

Along with bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, Oxfordshire four-piece Ride stand as one of the progenitors of shoegaze as we know it today. Hazy, fuzz-laden guitars, dream-like vocals and large soundscapes are all well-worn phrases and terminologies now but in the late 80s to early 90s, it was mind-blowing stuff.

It’s a shame then, that Ride’s end in 1996 was an unfitting one. Their last studio album, Tarantula, was created in a myre of tension between the band’s members over contrasting opinions as to what their sound should be moving forward. And so, here we are, almost 22 years later and Ride are back with a new album (produced on the back of touring for several years) produced by electro stalwart and gifted producer, Erol Alkan. When Weather Diaries was released in June 2017 it proved to be a resounding return to form for the UK rockers. It’s with great joy then, that we speak to the band as we welcome them back after a two year absence as they play their first-ever headline show in Hong Kong.

How do you feel about returning to Hong Kong?
I’m really looking forward to it. The last time we were in Hong Kong was for Clockenflap back in 2015. And there was so much excitement then because we were playing somewhere we’d never played before, so it was a real buzz, in no small part down to that incredible location, looking out from the stage over the harbour. I’m hoping to see more of the markets when we come back this time.

A lot of bands here take heavy influence from Ride and there’s a real renaissance surrounding that sound. What do you think has brought that about, and does it surprise you that so many young rockers have come to seek the specific sound that you pioneered?
Part of me wonders if it’s down to improvements in technology and sound. The sound that we made and that we were trying to make – the ideas of sonic soundscapes and adding texture – was a reaction against stadium rock where everything was about really upfront vocals and stripped down, basic drums and clean guitars. In some ways, people weren’t best suited to hearing it at the time and couldn’t get into the detail of the sound because of certain limitations. Whereas now, the technology has improved so much in terms of speakers and hardware that you can make incredible depths of sound that are much easier to appreciate.

Did releasing Weather Diaries feel somewhat cathartic when you reflect on all of the stuff that happened around Tarantula’s release?
Yeah, absolutely. I think what was cathartic about releasing Weather Diaries was that we never got to release a decent studio album. Even with Weather Diaries, we were still trying to capture the sound of the band live – us being us. And what felt really great about the new album was that we’d had nearly a 20-year gap, so there was a huge amount of ideas floating around and there was no rush. We could really take our time and create something that we were really happy with. It felt fantastic releasing it.

What do you think Erol Alkan brought to the table in terms of production and why did you decide to work with him?
We wanted to work with him not directly because of his DJing background. We looked at a few producers at the time and Erol was one of the first ones that we met and that meeting went really well. And although we wanted to work with someone a little bit different and outside of our immediate genre, Erol had actually done such a wonderful job with the Mystery Jets [Alkan produced their 2008 album, Twenty One], a few years before and a lot of other artists... But in fairness, when it came to producting the album, we were up for anything. Day one in the studio we were like, ‘are you going to be DJing and we’ll play to that?’ but the reality is, Erol wanted us to be ourselves and he wanted it to very much be a Ride record. Over the next few days we discovered that he’s just a brilliantly creative producer.

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