Ride Interview

By shane

Man, what a daunting task this paragraph seems to be. Somehow, in some way, I'm supposed to provide a proper introduction for an interview with my favorite musician ever. This is tough.

Let me try the professional approach first:

Once upon a time, there was a band from Oxford that captured the essence of post-Madchester UK psychedelic rock. Crafting layer upon layer of fuzzy guitars over hypnotic basslines and pounding white-hot drums, they somehow managed to push the sonic envelope time and time again, without once losing their knack for a captivating hook and powerful melody. The press dubbed it 'shoegazing,' but when push came to shove, the music defied labels, defied description, defied definition. There were dozens of these bands around at the time - several of which were great, several of which were crap. But only one of these bands had the ability to break through the underground to achieve massive critical acclaim AND commercial chart success. That band was called Ride.

Flash forward to 2001. Ride, like most of their contemporaries, are no more. But just in time for the holidays, the boys of Ride have given us a mighty present: a remastered back catalogue, a greatest hits collection, and a triple-disc box set with two entire CD's worth of unreleased tracks (one live, one studio outtakes.) To commemorate the release of the box set, Excellent Online was able to e-mail off some questions to Ride drummer Loz Colbert.

Ah, f**k it. I've never been a professional, I'm not starting now.
Ride has always been the single most important band in the history of my musical up-bringing. If it weren't for them, I'm certain I'd be listening to Sting today. Ride was the first band I ever connected with. the first band that moved my soul in that indescribable way. the band that made me realize I was a fool for rock and roll. All four of them were bloody genius: Andy and his nerd chic effortlessly devastating guitars. Mark and his floppy hair and his jangle-popped rhythm guitar. Steve's concentrated, dubbed-out basslines. and Loz. F**king Loz. The greatest damn drummer in rock and roll, and I'll shout that from any mountaintop in the free world. Loz's drumming was the spirit and the backbone of Ride - a guy who could take a four minute pop song and pound it into the core of your soul. From the early thunder of "Drive Blind" and "Like a Daydream," to the unbearably inventive pulses of "Polar Bear" and "Leave Them All Behind," through the retro chic of "Birdman" and "Black Nite Crash," Loz consistently made Ride more than just another guitar band. Quite simply, Ride didn't just make good music, they made music good. They opened my eyes, they opened my ears, and I've never been the same.

When the box set came out, I went on a holy quest to contact anyone in the band and get an interview on this site. It wasn't that easy: Mark's moved to France. Steve's in the furniture business. Andy, of course, plays bass with the brothers Gallagher. Loz balances several projects. but we found him nonetheless, and he was glad to answer a few questions we had via one rather lengthy e-mail. What follows is definitely fan-boy worship, but I'm not ashamed. It's also a pretty cool glimpse into the career of arguably the most inventive drummer of your lifetime. Absolute and total respect.

EO: When did you first start playing as a kid? And who were your major influences when you were starting out?

LOZ: I started at about 15-16. My influences at the time bizarrely were anything with drums in it, from Buddy Rich to the B-52's... Adam & the Ants ' "Kings of the Wild Frontier" flicked my switch from the age of 10 - and I guess that was the first record to awaken something in me.

EO: Ride have always struck me as one of the few bands around where the drums played just as important of a role in the songs as the guitars or vocals, especially on the earlier stuff. Was this something the band strived for from the get-go, or were the complex drum lines something that just came naturally to you when playing?

LOZ: I'll take that as a compliment :) But, yes, it totally came from just playing.

EO: In the early days, when did you guys first get the feeling that you were clicking as a band and might have a chance to make a name for yourselves?

LOZ: We started "clicking as a band" after the first practice. I mean, it fell into place like nothing on Earth. After that, and after the first ever gig, there was no turning back. We never spent too much time thinking about making a name as it just "seemed to happen."

EO: And, sort of along the same line as the last question, when did you guys first realize that you'd become "famous" proper indie rock stars?

LOZ: I guess it's the usual ones - being on "Top of the Pops" and other programmes we watched at the time, like "The Word", etc...

EO: Did the critical and commercial success of the early releases change you guys or your goals in any way?

LOZ: Of course it changed us. We didn't have a "masterplan," so we were easily swayed and (young and) vulnerable in some ways.

EO: Listening to the music and lyrics on the "Nowhere" album, the average listener could make a couple stereotypes: (1) Your teenage years were full of misery and angst, and (2) there was a sale on hallucinogens down the road from the studio. Truths or no?

LOZ: (1) I wouldn't put it quite like that myself, but who hasn't had elements of that?! (2) We didn't so much have experiences in the studio as bring them to the studio.

EO: One of the things that always struck me as odd about Ride was the way you guys were initially marketed. Here you were, making these sweepingly epic, intensely musical records, yet many of the videos and band pics from the "Nowhere"/"Today Forever" era came across as "Here's the new one from Mark the Pretty Lad and His 3 Other Friends." Was there ever any real concern among the 4 of you about how you guys were perceived by the media?

LOZ: I can honestly say I HATED all of that... It immediately pulled us in different directions and put pressures on us that didn't need to be there. There was never time to ask why or find out what the implications would be before all of that became pretty much standard (and I hate that whole concept of when you have something new and unique and you just throw it in with the rest of the crap.) Great question, and you've pretty much answered it yourself - I'd almost forgotten about that whole aspect. To say it annoyed would be an understatement of the century... But what you find is that people who think all that stuff is really cool (what you described above.) are "in charge." I don't want to go on about it, but a historical note: At the start, I didn't want to do photo shoots, only interviews, if that...

EO: What was the band's reaction to the UK press sort of creating the "shoegazing" scene and lumping you guys at the forefront of it? Did you guys ever feel that there actually was a scene, or was it NME trying to drum up business?

LOZ: I never felt there was enough of a scene to justify a tag. They were just creating something for the sake of "reportable material," I guess.

EO: How much of your playing (fills and breaks, etc.) was improvised in the studio? I've heard and seen tons of Ride bootlegs, and you always seem to change up the fills totally spontaneously (for instance, on the live versions of "Vapour Trail" that I've heard, you play the ending a lot more intense than on the album.) Is it just a matter of hitting the right groove and just letting the drumming flow?

LOZ: It's hard to explain all that in words and as an answer, but yes, spontenaiety has been the main thing.

EO: Why was there such a radical difference in sound from the "Going Blank Again" album to the next, "Carnival of Light"? Were you guys purposely trying to distance yourselves from the shoegazing tag, or was it just a natural evolution in the band?

LOZ: It was both. There was talk "up top" of changing the sound and creating something new and not repeating ourselves -- and the rest of it was due to what new music everyone was listening to. "Carnival of Light" was influenced by so many things, it's hard to separate them - songs written in a different frame of mind. the "writer's" lives had changed so much... Big US producer [George Drakoulias] shapes the early part... classic UK British producer [John Leckie] does the main and recording part... recorded in different places... mixed in different places...

EO: I love the tunes on "Carnival of Light," but it seems to me like Leckie really buried the drums in the mix, especially on "Natural Grace," which has such a tremendous performance from you on the bridge, but I've always thought it'd be a much more powerful track if the drums were brought out more. Were you happy with the production on that album?

LOZ: In terms of drums. no, I wasn't. But I could see what he was trying to achieve "globally" and felt it necessary to go with it. At the time, we seemed to be going for the "classic" sound (like Coke Classic - you know, the same old thing, only "rediscovered"...!) and I didn't feel it was my place to argue! The one I was more annoyed about was ["Carnival of Light"-era b-side] "At the End of the Universe." We argued about that one quite a bit, and I think it was after that he just started ignoring me in the mix studio and getting on with it. I "got the picture" (and time was running out.)

EO: The cool thing about the band's materials from "Carnival of Light" onwards is that you started stepping away from the kit and experimenting with different types of percussion. Do you want to try to expand outside the standard kit, or was it that the songs simply required differing percussion?

LOZ: Just for the record, all the percussion on "Tarantula" is played by a professional, but after Ride, I started learning Tabla and studied them for 2 years in Oxford with an Indian master. I am currently learning (amongst other things) about Latin Percussion, Tumbadoras, Timabales, etc... Also, I got a chance to play around with ethnic instruments on "Walkabout". so I guess I was, and am, curious, yes.

EO: If push comes to shove, do you prefer playing more of the complex drum lines ("Leave Them All Behind," "Mousetrap," etc.,) or would you rather play the simpler yet more aggressive patterns ("How Does It Feel to Feel," "Black Nite Crash," etc.)?

LOZ: Definitely the former.

EO: The press at the time made a rather big deal about the conflict between Mark and Andy during the "Tarantula" era. Was the recording of that last record as difficult as we've been led to believe?

LOZ: That was just part of what made it difficult. There were plenty of other things, as well...

EO: After the split, what made you decide to go with Mark and be a part of Animalhouse? Did Andy ever offer you a job with Hurricane #1?

LOZ: The Mark/Animalhouse thing was a pure coincedence -- we ended up meeting similar people in Oxford in our searches for something new (we were in the same town,though!) Andy never asked me to be in Hurricane #1 - fair enough!

EO: On your work with the Animalhouse, you utilized a lot more drum loops, samples, and effects than you'd ever begun to experiment with in Ride. Had you always had an interest in drum machines and programming, or was it new to you at the time? When you guys played live, did you use drum loops and samples behind the real kit? And if so, how did you learn to adapt to that?

LOZ: Oh yeah, I had always wanted to join in on all that fun that was going on, being a big fan of, for example, Public Enemy. And at the time, I was well into drum & bass (I had a real desire to play all that stuff,) and it was a real release to be doing something contemporary instead of trying to sound like Crosby Stills & Nash! For Animalhouse, I had to completely rethink the way I played drums to do it, and that was one of the "good" things about it in some ways...

EO: Now that the Animalhouse appears to have folded, what are your future plans? I heard somewhere about some sort of hip-hop geared website you were going to be involved in...? You shared some songwriting credits with Ride - do you still compose lyrics and music on your own?

LOZ: I am actively writing at the moment and doing many, many other things -- and when you list them it just seems to "trivialise" them - but I may put up a website/homepage at some point. I've never felt so involved in life and music and I'm discovering so many other things I thought I'd never do.

EO: What music excites you nowadays?

LOZ: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Champions of Nature, Vademecum, Squarepusher, Theramin, Arvo Part, Sibelius, collectively- "Samba and Son Music," 4 Hero, Foxy Brown, N0UGHT, Mary J Blige, Beachwood Sparks, Ugly Duckling, Roberto Pla and his Latin Rythum Allstars, The Away Team, Hedrock Valley BEats, Plump DJ's, Aspects, Copyright, Ian Simmons, Herbert.

EO: What are the other guys up to currently?

LOZ: Mark = in France working on building a studio at his new home out there. Steve = doing very well for himself in his new job. Dave = running Shifty Disco. [Dave Newton: founder of Shifty Disco, manager of Ride, ace bloke.]

EO: Recently you guys all got back together to do an instrumental jam for a show on BBC 4 paying homage to Sonic Youth. How did you guys get involved, and how did the reunion come about?

LOZ: Andy, bless 'im , thought that if there was going to be 15 minutes of noise recorded for the programme, that we should all do it!

EO: What was it like working as a band one more time?

LOZ: Strange. and yet familiar?

EO: How did the box set come to be? How challenging was it to get from the idea of "hey, we should do a box set" to actually releasing it? Did Creation's demise hinder the process, or was it easy to get the rights to your works again? Did you all have a hand in the choosing and assembling of the tracks, etc.?

LOZ: Dave Newton did such a sterling job from coming up with the idea to seeing it through. We all played our part when the time came, but as usual, he did a good job of sorting out all the logistics... And we drew all the pictures and coloured in the gaps!

EO: Are you surprised by the success and buzz that the box set has already received? I tried to order mine the day it came out, and every import shop was already sold out - I had to wait for the second pressing to finally get mine. But just the words "second pressing" are pretty awe-inspiring alone - were you guys expecting this much press/ sales/ etc.?

LOZ: Surprised - yes Expecting - nope

EO: With all the good times and great memories that the box set must be re-hashing, are there any regrets?

LOZ: I regret never getting that drum-shaped swimming pool!

Ride have established a new website, www.rideox4.com , to promote the box set, reissues, and greatest hits album. And for those of you in the States, we at Excellent Online strongly recommend www.oxfordmusic.net to score your necessary import copies. Loz himself moonlights for fun with The Zimmermen, a great Bob Dylan tribute band from Oxford - we'd like to thank Norman from the Zims for helping us out with this interview, and you can check out their fun website at www.zimmermen.com. Lastly, the man responsible for bringing the box set to life is Dave Newton, and we're proud to call him a close friend of this site -- and we'd be remiss without directing the lot of you to his always amazing label, www.shiftydisco.co.uk.

Image taken from Ticket to Ride.