(Ride / Oasis)
In a career stretching over a decade Andy Bell has been in one of the most influential bands of our time (Ride) and one of the biggest bands of our time (Oasis) and not forgetting Hurricane #1 and Gay Dad. With the "Best Of ... Ride" in the shops this month we caught up with Andy to look back on one of indies most romantic stories and the influence they have on everyone from Radiohead to the Chemical Brothers. Taking it to the present day we also find out the truth about the new Oasis album and why he's happy to be called the George Harrison of Oasis.
Q: A "Best of" collection or a host of re-releases usually signals a reunion. I gather this is not the case with Ride so I guess the obvious place to start is Why?
A: That's only started over the past few years - this whole reunion business. We've been wanting to this (Best Of.... / Box Set etc.) for a few years and now its finally happened. People had been carrying on buying the Ride albums to make Creation want to do it, then when Creation folded we just got a plan together and found a label for it.
You'd stopped seeing Ride albums in the racks and people still wanted to buy them - we had to do something about it and of course its nice to look in the R section of HMV and say I did that.
Q: Is the idea of not reforming in essence not wanting to tarnish the memory of the band?
A: There's always that thing that you want your favourite bands to get together but at the same time you don't. If the Roses got back together again i'd be there, if the La's got back together i'd be there. But you don't want them to because you be watching with one eye closed going "Aagh - don't do anything wrong now and spoil it". The Second Coming was enough like that for me. It was painful yet it was still fantastic!!!
You've got to look good though. You can't be bald and you can't be that fat unless of course you were that way to start with!!!!
Q: Surely the Radiohead gig request must have been quite tempting - if not as a career move, doing it just for the fun of it all?
A: Totally - it was for 5 minutes!!! Its always tempting for you if someone is so complimentary. But I personally couldn't have done it because I was really committed to Oasis and we were out in Asia or South America.
Q: The Box Set, which is out in the shops soon, features a CD of unreleased material. Is there going to be any tracks on there which really surprise even the hardened Ride fan?
A: Its from all different times. The first track is from before the band got together - a 4 track demo that me and Steve did of "Chelsea Girl" - and then it goes through to one track from "Tarantula" that never came out and covers everything in-between.
The most covered album is "Gone Black Again" because that was originally going to be a double album. So a lot of those tracks that got left off have finally come out.
If people give it a listen people will be surprised at some of the things we tried to do. One track on there is pure New Order - its is totally New Order but without vocals. There's a dubby version of "Dreams Gone Down" off the first album. And there's also a lot of tracks that are more your typical Ride.
Q: One thing you get (even just from listening to the "Best Of") is how much you evolved over the years and bands just don't seem to do that anymore?
A: That is so true. The Verve was the last band I can think of that changed on every album and actually got better. I don't know if we got better with every album but we certainly changed and we tried to get better. You don't see that many bands striving for a different sound.
The Coldplay album is definitely a creeper and just gets to you after a good few listens. I haven't seen them live recently, but Noel went to see them at one of the festivals and said that their new stuff is really really rocking. I actually feel that they may come up with a second album that is mind-blowing - they are seen as being really quiet and I think they've got a lot of talent - it would be great to see them do something really noisy and rock & roll!!!
The charm of the band was tied in with the spontaneity of the band and the things that made us fall apart after only 4 or 5 albums together was part of what made us great as well. We didn't see ourselves as an indie band. We saw ourselves as a pop band with indie influences. We wanted to be in the charts and that's what we were striving for.
Q: Could you remind us again why you split up ?
A: It was mainly just growing up and growing into different styles. I was basically into 60s rock & roll and Mark was into Paul Oakenfold and going to raves. I tried all that and it was cool but I wanted us to still stay as a rock band. So you had those two opposites and then Lawrence was a mad head.
Q: Looking back do you have any regrets on things that could have happened or did happen?
A: No, I don't think you should do that. You look back as it being a very romantic story that ends up being a disaster but then again so do a lot of good stories. When you see the Ride story written down I want to see the usual "how great it all started, the gradual decline, the final album and the acrimonious split" and then I want to see how they all got together and put out the Best Of and everybody was happy.
Q: If we could move on to the present day. There's so many rumours about the new Oasis album - what's the story?
A: Were just trying to get the last few bits done now. I've put a song in called "Thank You For the Good Times", Liams got 2 or 3 in there and Noels done the rest obviously. When I wrote "Thank You....." it sounded like "We All Need Someone To Lead Them" by The Rolling Stone. When we started playing it together though it started to sound like "Some Might Say" - I never meant it to be a "Some Might Say" copy but that's what it is!!!!
Q: It must be hard for someone who has been such a major creative force to join a band where essentially you'll have to give up a lot of the song writing side of things?
A: I wasn't actually writing anything at the time, I had writers block. I'd wrote 2 albums for Hurricane and that had been really heavy work for me, I was supposed to be writing a third one and it never really came. When I joined Oasis I wasn't song writing at all and Noel said "If you do write songs, bring them in, put them on the table and see what you've got".
It took me months to write one and then took me longer to have the courage to play it to them. After all you're dealing with really good songwriters here. So I was really happy when Noel decided to do this tune and I was glad that it ended up sounding like the band. I didn't want to come in and change the way the band sounded - if they would have changed over-night when I joined it would have just sounded unnatural.
Q: Are you over the writers block now?
A: I've settled back into a George Harrison vibe of writing two songs a year. I'm kind of just writing when it occurs to me rather than feeling like its my job. With Hurricane it was like i'd get the songs that came really easy like "Step Into My World" or "Only The Strongest Will Survive", which were the best ones, but the rest was quite hard to do.
You really should just write when you've got something to say and in the past with Hurricane I was writing 10 songs about nothing.
Q: Looking from an outsiders perspective some people would get the impression that a couple of songs per album isn't enough for yourself and Gem?
A: It is for me. I've done everything and had the chance with my own band. I have my magic band which is Ride and my hard working band which is Hurricane. I've written enough songs - how many more songs do people want me to write.
The thing is I've written about everything I want to write about and if there's anything else I can put it into one song a year or two if you're lucky. Maybe 5 years down the line from now there will be an Andy Bell solo project because its the one thing I haven't done yet. If you see my hair falling out beware of an Andy Bell solo album - you can't have a bald man on the front cover can yer!!!!
"The Best Of...Ride" is out now
Check local stores for the Ride Box-set and re-releases