“You can’t fake it. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. That’s what bends my mind about the life I’ve had, because I’ve played in bands that have had great chemistry, and I’m still very lucky about that. I mean, obviously Ride had a good chemistry because we were all school friends … The version of Oasis that I was in—we really did have a great chemistry on stage, even though it wasn’t the quote-unquote ‘classic’ lineup. We still had something special. You can’t go on stage at River Plate Stadium in Argentina and just be five guys on stage and tear it up like that.”
Andy Bell at length about the Ride reunion (and the possibility of stretching it past a handful of 2015 shows), the American preservation of shoegazing, Dave Sitek’s influence on both sound and an eBay gear binge, Beady Eye’s battle to stay in the vinyl world and trying to break into film- and TV-scoring by way of Steve Marriott. Oh, and also why an intense fandom of the Beatles and the Velvet Underground caused a schism in the Ride discography …
PS: So I guess place to start is with the Ride reunion. You’ll be coming stateside soon for Coachella, right?
Andy: Yeah, that’s right. We’ve got Coachella and we’ve got a few little shows in between, as well. Because they have it over two weekends, as I’m sure you’re aware. So we have a show in San Francisco and a show in Pomona. We have a show in San Diego, as well. So it’s really shaping up.
PS: And then later in the summer, you’re hitting New York and Toronto, correct?
Andy: Yeah, that’s right.
PS: Are there any thoughts of expanding beyond that or is this just a one-time roll of the dice?
Andy: In terms of touring, I mean, we’re going to keep on going this year as long as we can just get out. [Laughter] It seems like there are some more gigs coming up on the horizon, although at the moment, it’s pretty sketchy. But we are looking at a lot of offers. The demand, actually, really surprised me. I mean, you’re never really sure what to expect with these things. Obviously in the beginning, it was a run of 2 weeks. That 2 weeks is still in place—it’s a slightly hectic bit, where we do London, Glasgow, Manchester, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Portugal, New York and Toronto in one kind of hit. So straight after New York, we fly back to Europe, and that was because we were sort of trying to fit it all into a short time, to fit everyone’s schedule. And now, other things have come in before and come in after, so the year is actually starting to fill out a bit, which is cool.
PS: Any thoughts about more stateside shows?
Andy: Yeah, certainly, yeah. Nothing that I can say is firmly in place yet, but there seems to be a good amount of demand, so yeah, I’m hoping we’re going to get back again after those two trips.
PS: Is it good to be with the old gang again?
Andy: It certainly is. It’s cool, yeah. And talking about America, you know, it’s good to be coming over there, because I do credit the American fan base with keeping Ride in particular, or basically that kind of whole early ‘90s shoegazing, whatever-it-is style—it was really the American side that kept it going. I mean, you know how the UK is. Once a new scene comes along, virtually everything is swept away and you concentrate on a new thing. Then something else comes in and something else comes in. It’s like there’s no looking back, really. Whereas America seemed to have this growing underground of bands that were listening to that music and taking something from it and taking something forward. I’d always be hearing American bands like the Warlocks or the Brian Jonestown Massacre—there’s loads of bands, but I can’t think of all their names now. But you’d hear bands and go, “I think I can hear a bit of Ride in that.” Even stuff like Beachwood Sparks, the more west coast, almost country-ish stuff. There’s definitely a thread that’s gone into American alternative music from what we were doing, and taking seed in a really cool way. So I’m kind of happy that we have got these gigs in because it’s a way of paying back a little bit, you know?
PS: When you define that shoegazing sound, do you look at just the first two Ride albums as opposed to Ride as a whole? Because I know—and maybe it’s speaking to the point that you just made about the UK—I mean, Carnival of Light was ’94 and you guys changed the sound at that point. Had you already decided “Well, we need to move on from this”?
Andy: Yeah. I mean our development was really weird, and it was borne out of our youth, I guess. We hit on something amazing in the beginning, where I think we just basically arrived with a great sound. And then probably based on my love of the Beatles or our love of classic bands who kept developing that—the Byrds and the Beatles are the two touchstones, and the Velvets too—where everything changed every album. Just to take an example, if you think of the first Velvet Underground, the banana album, that’s very bare and on its own, but the second one is noise terror, and then the third one is very quiet, and then you’ve got Loaded, which is sort of like a pop album. And obviously the Beatles just changed totally every time as well. So we were sort of swinging between styles for the sake of it. And once we had abandoned that—we kind of threw the baby out with the bathwater, if you want a cliché to go with it—we threw out all the effects pedals. The arrangements we were using, which we self-consciously felt was sort of like a Pixies thing to go quiet and then go loud, we were like, “It’s a bit played out now, so we’ll stop doing that.” The effects pedals, it’s a bit like, “Oh, we should be writing songs that can stand on their own without that.” So we painted ourselves into a corner, where the only thing left was kind of classic rock. It was largely my fault, I think. I was living out my Jimmy Page/Pete Townshend/George Harrison fantasies, I suppose.
PS: But not entirely to diminishing returns, because some of the songs on those last two albums are fantastic. What always surprised me about it was looking back at the reviews, reading it in hindsight—you guys took it on the chin for “going retro,” and then a few months later, Definitely Maybe comes out …
Andy: Yeah, but people talk about Oasis being retro, and actually, when they first came out, my reaction was, “This is like the Jesus and Mary Chain.” The guitars were roaring, like the Pistols. It was really, really raw, especially compared to where Ride was at that point. We had sort of gone clean, and here they came out with something dirtier than we had ever done. And also live, it was like that too. It was pure punk rock.
PS: So with the reunion shows, is it mostly focusing on the earlier material or do you revisit a couple of those later songs?
Andy: At the moment, it is the early stuff. We did do an acoustic show—we got offered to do this very last-minute, but the first time me and Mark stepped on stage together in a long, long time was about a month ago. We did a charity show for a thing called War Child, which looks after the children that have been in conflicts around the world. It was at the 100 Club, and for that, we knew as it was going to be acoustic, we had a completely free choice of songs to do. We could pull things out of later that maybe wouldn’t suit the electric sound so well. I’m trying to think, we did a couple of songs—“Only Now” off Carnival of Light and “From Time To Time” as well. I don’t think either of them are going to be in the live set, initially, because we are just pulling it out of what you might call the “A” list of tunes. Which, I’m sure, if you would reel me off the ones that you would be expecting to hear, it’s probably them. We want to just hit everyone’s favorites really.
PS: Beyond that, are there thoughts of developing new work? I know you’re doing the Psychedelic Machine stuff. Is that where your mind is musically now, or would you be open to recording with Ride again in the future?
Andy: I’m open to anything. I think with Ride, the attitude is to do the tour. We’re still rehearsing. We’re still trying to nail the tunes. I mean, it’s sounding great and it’s feeling great, but we’re now into the late, sort of technical stage where it’s all about the changeovers and the different pedals, guitars and effects, switching things on and off, that kind of stuff. We want to make it so good musically, and that is plenty to be dealing with right now. Beyond that, we want to try to bring in some more of the old material that we want to play. So as the year goes on, we want to keep playing more and more of the old stuff. Beyond that, who knows? I’m open. I’d love to do more stuff. But I don’t want to second guess it. I don’t want to predict it now, because once we do the gigs, it might all flop, you know what I mean? It might just be like, “Nobody’s interested in hearing any more from you guys now. Thanks and goodbye.” [Laughter] Our main priority right now is satisfying everyone’s nostalgia and hopefully getting them G’d up for possibly a new chapter. That would be cool.
Andy: But yeah, the Psychedelic Machine thing is really just me opening up the flow of ideas again. I just decided to do something as a channel for instruments or music that I’ve either had around just to sort of get out there, brand new stuff, or just whatever I feel like fits that mood. So far, I’ve done four uploads. They’re all like mini little albums, no individual tracks. I’m just pushing on with the next one now. It’s a lot of fun, but completely zero pressure.
PS: Right, when no one’s expecting anything, you can be left to your own devices.
Andy: Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of cool, you know? This feeling that you can work on something that you’re buzzing off and then a few hours later, you can upload it and get it out there and let people hear it. It’s very instant.
PS: The one thing that struck me having listened to “Astrochemistry,” especially that opening 3 minutes is that it really reminded me of the stuff that Dave Sitek brought to the table with the last Beady Eye album.
Andy: Right. Cool.
PS: Did that open doors for you or was it a direction you wanted to be going anyway?
Andy: Yes, I mean we went into that album kind of with a bunch of songs that we really liked that we had all had for a really long time, and with an open mind to working with a producer that we didn’t know who it was going to be. And we didn’t actually want someone we knew about. I think it was the combination of Scott Rodger, who was our manager at the time, and Alison Donald—basically the manager of our label, Columbia, at the time. They both knew Dave, thought he’d be a great fit and he did turn out to be a great fit. So yeah, I mean, he arrived with a control room full of gear that he’d brought over from L.A. A lot of that gear I immediately wanted to buy myself. So a lot of my time was spent on eBay trying to amass some of the things that he was turning me onto. And you’re right—it did open a massive door for me and it basically reminded me that, in terms of guitars, the whole thing of using guitars or using pedals for effects over whole tracks. Over different instruments, over vocals—just creating loops and creating massive, long reverbs and just letting things spin out completely. So he revolutionized my ears during the making of that album and I credit him massively with that. A lot of the guitar rig that I was using for the Beady Eye tour after that, it was the Eventide pedals that Dave brought with him to the studio and some other stuff too. He just really kind of awoke in me my awareness of guitar sounds. I mean, it was always there, but I’d kind of probably got a little bit out of the loop with what was possible these days. And a lot of the sounds that you can get now—I would have killed for those sounds back in the early ‘90s. I mean in 1991, when we were making the Going Blank Again album, Alan Moulder was the producer. A lot of the time, playing guitar with him in the control room, I was using this Eventide thing called an Ultra Harmonizer, which is like a big rack. I’ve now discovered that Kevin Shields was a big fan of it as well, which is kind of cool, because the Valentines were like my ultimate guitar sound heroes. So Eventide coming out with this space pedal and another one called Time Factor—they’re just like these really, really amazing, huge soundscape delays and reverbs that do tend to take over the track, but we let that happen with Beady Eye. Yeah. To cut a long answer short, the Psychedelic Machine sounds—what I did was I brought my live guitar rig into my little studio that I go to and set it all up in there and let it happen. So really, in a way, it was a direct product of all that, because it’s all the same guitar rig and a lot of the same synths that Dave had that we used on some bass sounds like “Soul Love” and “Don’t Brother Me” that I ended up buying. Then there was a Fender VI—the guitar that’s like a bass—that was in the studio. The studio’s owned by Terry Britten, who was an old ‘60s guy who ended up writing songs for Tina Turner. With the proceeds of that, he built himself a studio at home, which was like a little mini copy of Abbey Road. He basically had his home studio, and more recently, he started hiring it out to bands, I think, on a sort of private kind of basis. It’s not like a studio that anyone can go to. You have to sort of have an in, or know somebody to get in there.
PS: Let’s talk a little bit more about BE. Because to me, when I heard it, I thought, “This is really different. This is cool.” And for whatever my opinion is worth—which is nothing in the end—but it seems like one of those albums like Paul McCartney’s Ram, where it comes out and it catches critical indifference or slights. But then 5 years, maybe 10 years later, people start going back and saying, “No, this is a really good album. You gotta listen to it.” I mean, obviously with the tour, Liam’s thing came up, there was Gem’s injury—it didn’t get the same promotional cycle as the first one or as other projects that you worked on. But do you think all that prevented BE from getting its fair shake?
Andy: I know what you’re saying. These things happen—it’s just basically life, isn’t it? As a musician, you make the album and then you move on. But yeah, a lot of work and love and care went into making the songs and producing them the way we did. We were so into it at the time we were making it. And songs like “Start Anew” and “Flick of the Finger” and “Don’t Brother Me” and “Iz Rite” and “Back After the Break”—there’s a lot of really, really cool songs on there that we really did put ourselves into fully, you know? I still stand by it all. It’s great. But you can’t control the public. You can’t control how they react. So, in a way, you learn—as we’ve all been doing this for a long time—you learn to let these things bounce off you. Sometimes you make an album that catches fire and sometimes you make an album that catches fire for you, but not for the public. That’s cool too, you know? But thanks for the comments, because it does mean a lot to me to hear that.
PS: Well, with Beady Eye, it was the things that were kind of coming out on the sly that always surprised me. “World Outside My Room.” I mean, you never really heard Liam sing a song like that. Even though there was Kinks-referencing in Oasis—I’m thinking “The Importance of Being Idle” and such—I’d never heard something that overtly Kinks, which I thought was great.
Andy: It’s funny you mention that, because I love that vocal as well. I think he did a great job on that and it is a lot quieter than you normally hear him sing. But for me and Gem, for example, that’s a Liam voice that we know really well, because we’d hear him sing like that all the time. When he’s just playing songs in the dressing room or when he’s a playing us a song he wants to record. We’re very familiar with that voice, but you forget that on record, it hasn’t been heard like that that much. That’s one of my favorites as well. It’s a cool B-side track.
PS: It was interesting what you did with vinyl in that period too—putting the singles out exclusively in that format.
Andy: We fought like mad to be able to make vinyl. I mean it seemed to be a constant battle to stay in the vinyl world. [Laughter]
PS: Why is that? Did the labels not want to spend the money?
Andy: I don’t know, really. I think it’s got its place. It is getting more boutique in terms of—you’re not going to sell a million on vinyl, like the Beatles did. You might sell a couple of thousand. But the year that we did all those vinyl singles with their own B-sides—which was part of it for us, we didn’t want to make the B-sides available anywhere else—it was all about making it a thing that was special. In that year, I did see something that said we had a few of the top five or top 10 vinyl releases of the year. I think we really did have a year of nailing it with that. But it takes a lot of work to get those extra songs, and to record them and then push to have that vinyl pressed. You can’t always do it. Like with BE, we did keep on going with the vinyl, but by that time, it was songs that had already been out on a deluxe version, so it was all a little bit compromised.
PS: Talking about Beady Eye and the period after Oasis, there’s something I want to ask you about. Noel’s just put out his new album and I’ve been reading the press on that. One of the things that journalists keep coming back to is, “Oh, you’ve got a saxophone on some songs!” Everyone’s asking him about this, and he said that the things on this new album—“The Right Stuff” or “Riverman”—or even if you go back to “The Death of You and Me,” he’s essentially saying that kind of stuff wouldn’t have seen the light of day in Oasis because they’re not “macho rock band.” I want your thoughts on that because if I think back to Oasis, even going back to “Round Are Way,” horns weren’t alien to the band. But afterward, with Beady Eye, you got “Flick of the Finger,” “Second Bite of the Apple.” I mean if you’re going to go into “This wouldn’t have been in Oasis” territory, I’d say the most different thing I’ve heard since the split is “Bring the Light” because I just never figured I’d hear Liam over a Jerry Lee Lewis piano.
Andy: [Laughter] Yeah. Came out of left field, that one.
PS: But when you hear something like that, do you think that’s a fair assessment? That horns wouldn’t have seen the light of day or that it had to go a certain way?
Andy: Um, if Noel says so, then yeah, I’m sure that’s right. He was the boss. I mean, I’m sure there must have been some horns on those very grand Be Here Now tracks—“All Around the World,” has that not got a load of horns on it? But yeah, I mean it’s a different kind of saxophone playing on “Riverman.” And what’s the one with the really out there stuff? “The Right Stuff.” It’s such a cool track, I love it. But yeah, it’s a whole different world of horns. A horn is not just like one thing. It can be John Coltrane or it can be the Memphis Horns. But yeah, it’s Noel’s band. He was in charge of what he felt was suitable for it to release, you know?
PS: In terms of your time with Oasis and Beady Eye, what would you say was the most surprising thing?
Andy: In a way, it was the fact that all bands are the same. You basically live or die as a band by what you do on stage together and chemistry’s just got to be there. You can’t fake it. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. That’s what bends my mind about the life I’ve had, because I’ve played in bands that have had great chemistry, and I’m still very lucky about that. I mean, obviously Ride had a good chemistry because we were all school friends. But then, you go away for a while and do other stuff. Then Oasis—I joined that band. The version of Oasis that I was in—we really did have a great chemistry on stage, even though it wasn’t the quote-unquote “classic” lineup. We still had something special. You can’t go on stage at River Plate Stadium in Argentina and just be five guys on stage and tear it up like that. You can’t do that without an amazing chemistry. We did some incredible shows. It’s just that feeling—the surprising thing for me was just that feeling of “Well, when we get out there on stage, it’s still just us.” However big the band is, it can still work that way. Like in terms of the Rolling Stones or the Who or someone—it’s just the guys that are on stage making music. And especially because it wasn’t a band of big movers—Liam invented a thing called “stillism” which is just standing still and singing. We were all pretty much standing where we were as well. A bit of movement, but it wasn’t like we were going crazy. So it was just the power of the songs and the power of the music and the power of us playing together. That was a good surprise. The fact that it was possible to do that with volume. That was our main tool. Volume and great tunes and great singing.
PS: I read an interview recently where you said you weren’t surprised by the Beady Eye split, but is it disappointing that it’s over?
Andy: I just had the best time in Oasis and in Beady Eye. Playing with both and either of the Gallaghers has been a pure pleasure. And I think—I don’t know, however it happened was just meant to happen, you know? I don’t really have much more to add than that. I’ve just been very grateful for the whole experience. It’s just very cool.
PS: I also want to talk to you about this Steve Marriott film project you’re working on. How did you come to get involved with this?
Andy: Well, a friend of mine who is a music supervisor, who I’ve known for years and years and years—I mean, she’s been doing this for a long time, but before that, she worked at Creation. We’ve always been mates. But more recently, I’ve been thinking about trying to write music for TV and film stuff, as in scoring. Just as a way of trying something different and working in a new way. So she knows this, and she gave me a call and said, “Andy, this is so perfect for you. You should really look into this.” And Phil Davis, who’s directing this Marriott thing, was an actor in the film “Quadrophenia.” He was one of the guys in the Mod gang. “Quadrophenia” is such a massive film for people my age. Any of us guys in Oasis or even Ride would be able to quote you whole scenes from the film. It’s one of those movies that’s just one of those massive generational things, the whole music of it and everything—an iconic thing. So once I knew he was involved, I was really keen. And then I had a meeting with him, and we got on great. Read the script at that stage and decided that yeah, the script was great and the idea was great. I probably shouldn’t say what happens in the film, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but yeah, it’s a really cool thing and I’m happy to be doing it. I’m scoring it and they’re going to shoot it, I think, this spring, so we’ll see what happens.
PS: Is it you putting together some Small Faces or Humble Pie type stuff or is it just more your own creation?
Andy: I don’t know. I think I’m going to make it my own creation. I’m just going to try to do me. But obviously, doing me—I am someone who is very influenced by and spend a lot of time listening to Small Faces, Marriott’s own stuff and Humble Pie. Everything to do with that is very familiar to me and a real big part of my playing. So I want to bring something to it that basically fits it without being too much like a Small Faces thing. The Small Faces are a part of the movie, really, it’s more about Marriott himself. So I want to try to score it properly, like someone who really scores films would do, you know what I mean? So I’m just going to try to follow the story or follow the mood of the scenes and just try to go with it. But it may end up having a bit of a ‘60s feel.