New Look From 'Shoegaze' Rocker

Ride soloist Mark Gardener talks of new directions ahead of Tel Aviv gig.

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“I was trying to do it earlier in the year, but things went a bit crazy in Israel, so I postponed,” says Mark Gardener, soloist of the band Ride. His original schedule had included a stop here in August to warm up for Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500, but the performance was postponed due to what Gardener referred to as “things going a bit crazy” and what we call the events of Operation Protective Edge. Wareham’s show was not rescheduled, but Gardener did not give up. He will be coming to Israel to do a show at the Barby club in Tel Aviv on January 14.

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The show is supposed to be a solo acoustic performance, far from the loud sound that his mother band is so identified with. “I’ve got a new record that’s coming out with Robin Guthrie from the Cocteau Twins,” Gardener said in a telephone interview from Britain. “That record will come out early next year, so I’ll play a few tunes from that. I’ll play a few Ride songs which work really well just with voice and acoustic, and a few collaborations from over the years. So people will get a bit of old, a bit of new. It’s a nice little balance.”

The timing of Gardener’s show in Tel Aviv, which will be the last one of his solo tour, could be called historic because of the big news from last November – Ride will be getting back together this summer for its first tour since breaking up in 1996. “We talked about it for years and we know it was going to happen sometime,” he says. “It was just waiting for the right time, because I was very busy, and Andy Bell was busy with Oasis and Beady Eye. We got a lot of suggestions to get back together. We were aware that people wanted that.”

Gardener, 45, started the band in 1988 with his musical partner Andy Bell and their friends Laurence Colbert and Steve Queralt. Ride released four albums. Their debut album, “Nowhere” (1990), is still considered one of the best and most influential albums of the decade.

The genre that Ride was most identified with, together with other British bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, was called “shoegaze” at the time – referring to what was seen as the introverted soloists’ tendency to stare at their shoes during shows. Gardener says he never liked the term. “I don’t really understand it,” he says. “I don’t care what the genre is, but specifically that description was used as a criticism against us. It wasn’t meant as praise; it was criticism. So it’s funny that it’s used to describe a musical genre. It’s also laziness, because back then, if you were British and didn’t play Britpop or classic rock, then you were automatically branded as shoegaze.”

Now, 20 years later, the bands of your generation get a lot of respect, and many younger bands are proudly taking on that genre.

“For me, it’s more about content. We didn’t have a lot of style, but we did have good music and great songs. What’s important is that they have stood the test of time. Britpop came with more style and with waving the British flag, but it died out because it didn’t have a lot of interesting bands. I really liked Supergrass and the first albums of Oasis and Radiohead, but the rest was pretty boring. It’s funny to me that a term that was meant as a criticism 20 years ago is now something to be proud of. But it’s fine as long as people are happy.”

In 1996, Ride decided to break up following artistic disagreements between Bell and Gardener. Bell joined Oasis as bassist (and after Oasis broke up, he joined Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye), while Gardener worked mainly as a studio producer of albums and soundtracks, the best known of which is the soundtrack of the film “Upside Down: The Creation Records Story” (2011), which tells the story of the record company that signed Ride more than 20 years ago. In 2006, Gardener released his first and only solo album, “The Story of the Eye,” and will soon be releasing a joint album with Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins.

So after the breakup, you went into the studio a lot and your career was mainly outside the spotlight.

“You might say that. I had a chance to live a normal life. But I always made music in the studio. Being a rock star is fun, but in the end I love music. If it means being a rock star every once in a while, that’s fine.”

Andy Bell went to the other extreme, though.

“That’s true. I went into the studio and he found himself with one of the biggest bands in the world. I think Andy’s glad to keep on performing, and Oasis were fans of Ride, so that wasn’t a surprise. I was more surprised that he went over to playing the bass. It’s good that he did big shows and there’s a lot of experience in that, and I have a lot of experience working in the studio. Having these things come together is a good thing. We’re in a place that is much stronger. We have a lot of unfinished material and with all that knowledge, we’ll be able to take the band to the next level. We’re not going to become U2, but things are going to become more whole, and crazier. We’re going to show people that you can be edgy and psychedelic on bigger stages, and I’m excited by that.”

Is there a chance you will come to Israel?

“Definitely. I also talked about that with the producer who’s bringing me. It’s nice that I can see how it is in the upcoming show, and if I enjoy it, I’ll come back and say, ‘Hey, guys, we need to go to Tel Aviv.’ That’s a place I always wanted to go to, and I’m sure that the rest of the group will be happy about it.”

Is there a chance of any new material from Ride?

“Yes. That’s definite. It’s natural for us that if we play together in the same room, that’s going to happen. As long as we play together, new things will always come.”

That’s a nice thing to hear.

“It’s a nice thing to do!”