Mark Gardener

Mark Gardener... In the spotlight

Interview: Mark Gardener – part 2

Published on January 17th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams

Read on for part 2 of Rocksucker‘s interview with Mark Gardener…(click here for part 1)

Ride – “From Time to Time” (from Carnival of Light)

Who was involved with the remastering of Ride’s back catalogue?

I was away a bit more at that time so I think that was Chris Blair, the Abbey Road guy, and certainly Dave [Newton, manager] and Steve [Queralt, bassist] took them in. It’s weird when it comes to mixing, mastering and production stuff with Ride, because obviously I was involved in that group in a different way, being the singer and one of the songwriters. Even now when Ride stuff could be mixed, I don’t want to do it because I think it never works like that, bring Alan Moulder back and that sort of thing. I suppose it could get a bit political. Production-wise it’s different because we basically produced our own records, but when it comes to mastering and stuff like that I’d rather let other people do it.

Do you like the job that was done with those remastered Ride albums?

Yeah, I think so. You know what, I don’t sit around and listen to Ride records that much (laughs), but I think they did a pretty good job. Again, it’s hard to hear something that objectively when you were on the inside of it, but yeah I think they did an alright job. When I’m listening to 6music or something and a Ride tune comes on, I always think they sound great, still fresh. In the end, the people decide, and they seem to have decided that Ride lives on, and that can only be to do with the sound of the records because we’re not playing live anymore.

Did you guys really used to refer to Carnival of Light as “Carnival of Shite”?

I didn’t, no, but maybe someone else did! Maybe Andy in a mad moment, or one of the journos around at the time. God knows. Strangely, it’s one of those records that, more and more as time goes on, people keep going, “You know what, I think Carnival of Light was your best album.” It took twenty years for people to work that out! (Laughs)

That kind of slow-burning realisation is often the mark of a great album.

Yeah, I agree. At the time, I thought it was superb and I really enjoyed that whole session, as I did with Going Blank Again and Nowhere. They were great album sessions to be around. When I play solo shows, I always play “From Time to Time” from Carnival of Light because it’s a song that I still feel very close to.

Do you have any love at all for Tarantula?

It’s a break-up record for me, so I have mixed feelings about it whenever I hear it. It might sound strange but I don’t know the album that well, in the sense that I couldn’t tell you the tracklisting, but it is an album that I have listened to more recently out of the Ride stuff because I don’t feel so familiar with it. In retrospect there are some great songs on it, like “Black Nite Crash” and “Starlight Motel”; there are a few real gems on it but it just takes me back to the time we were making it, and it’s definitely our Let It Be!

You know, things were pretty strained between us by that point, so hearing it brings back some not-so-good memories, shall we say. Whatever you’re going through as a band, whether you’re flying or it’s all falling apart, the music has always been pretty honest with it and good things have come from all the range of emotions that came with being in Ride, because it was kind of a rollercoaster.

Ride – “Black Nite Crash” (from Tarantula)

In this interview, you described Alan McGee’s as being “heart-broken” by the failure of certain Creation-based relationships he held. Were you referring to anyone in particular here? Perhaps Kevin Shields?

It’s a difficult one – I definitely think there was some love lost between him and Kevin, for sure – but it was more a reference to the fact that Alan was so emotionally involved with those artists, because he signed bands who he really believed in as people. I was very close to him, and I still am. He’s like family, sort of like a mad uncle, I guess. Thankfully we’ve never really fallen out, not that we see each other all the time; obviously I saw a lot of him last year [while promoting the Upside Down film] and it was great to see him like that.

It was a very personal label, nothing corporate about it, and I think the whole nature of a label like that is that things do really affect you on a personal level. Throw a load of drugs into the mix as well and that heightens emotions even more. (Laughs) He might have been heartbroken at a certain point when all the E’s ran out! Alan was always close with the artists, like Guy Chadwick, Kevin Shields, Bobby Gillespie; his relationship with Bobby was key to Creation, and I think they’ve fallen in and out of love a lot. A bit like myself and Andy, I suppose.

When you’ve got two people who are as close as Alan and Bobby, went to school together and grew up together, sometimes you’ve just got to get the hell away from each other. They’re the kind of classic ‘guy’ relationships that have been there throughout labels and so many of the great bands; if you look at bands like the Stones and The Who, there was always that sort of tension, usually between singers and guitarists!

In Alan’s case, it was with various artists because, as I said, it was a very personal, close thing. He partied with the bands, and that’s why I trusted him, but when Creation gets that big you just can’t keep up with that, can’t handle being that close to that amount of people. Once you get used to getting a straight answer from the boss, which was Alan and Dick Green, then you always go back to those people. I’m not going to start talking to some guy who’s been brought in by Sony or something, know what I mean? So yeah, that’s a hell of a lot to deal with, and I think there was a lot of heartbreak and love lost for lots of people during that period.

The Animalhouse – “Small” (from Ready to Receive)

Further on down the line, were you confident of The Animalhouse ‘taking off’, so to speak? It was definitely good enough to have done so, at least in my humble opinion…

We thought it was going to do alright, but to be honest we were in no real shape as a band to go on tour together. It had all gone a bit Fleetwood Mac after about six dates! For me, that band was all about meeting Sam Williams. He was living in Cornwall, in a monkey sanctuary (Rocksucker says: we’re pretty sure Mark wasn’t referring to Supergrass there), so he found himself in Oxford. I wasn’t ready to work on a solo project then; I was still quite into being a team player so I wanted to work in a band again.

I went up to Sam’s house at one point because I’d heard a lot about him, that he was quite an eccentric guy who was setting up a studio in a church, and that was enough to get me knocking on the door. Like I said earlier in the conversation, we did it, and it was a big learning curve. We wrote the majority of The Animalhouse songs together, which was working really well and slowly became a band. Then things got a bit difficult because, as the people we were and the headspaces we were in at the time, it was quite difficult to operate as a touring band.

Also at that time we did what I said I’d never do: signing for a major label, in this case BMG, and we got ourselves into quite a lot of debt. At that point we were dealing with The Boilerhouse Boys, who were great and also on BMG, and we were all pretty royally shafted, to be honest with you. At least they released our record, but at that time labels were starting to realise that records weren’t going to keep selling like they used to, so there was a big sort of panic.

The people we were dealing with at the start of the project were completely different two years later – they’ll sign a band and then new people come in and go, “Who are you?” “Yeah, well who are you?” – and it was pretty awful to deal with that. I thought, “It can’t be THAT bad,” but it was even worse than I thought. Having dealt with just Creation and Sire Records before then, bosses like Seymour Stein and Alan McGhee…it doesn’t get a lot better than that, really, but you only realise that when you start to deal with people after that!

Along with the stuff that had been going on in Oxford, that was pretty much the trigger for me to want to get away from the music business. I was really disenchanted with it all by that point, and that’s why I ended up in France for those few years in the wilderness, really.

The overwhelming impression I get from interviewing musicians is that the music industry is predominantly made up of people who haven’t got a clue about music.

Yeah, I agree with that! When there’s money to be made in places, you’ll always get people who are into money and not necessarily music. You put your trust in a lot of people who think they know what they’re doing and would like to be credited for something, but actually they don’t. When I meet the management of people I’m working with, you can quickly tell [if they’re competent/knowledgeable], and I’ll sometimes say to a band, “I really don’t see how that guy can help you at all, and if you were a little bit more organised then you could just do all of that yourself.”

It means more to the band than those people, so I think that bands now do need to be a bit more organised because they won’t necessarily have the budget for managers and all that sort of stuff. It’s my thing now to say to people, “Look, no-one’s going to care about it more than you, and on many levels no-one’s going to know about it more than you.” It’s good to have mates around you to say, “That song’s good, that one isn’t,” but you find that stuff out as soon as you get in front of an audience anyway. In a way, I think that the band generally knows best!

Mark Gardener – “Magdalen Sky” (from These Beautiful Ghosts)

Whatever happened to your plans to record an album with Robin Guthrie from Cocteau Twins?

I’m not really sure. I haven’t really spoken to Robin for a while. I know he got a bit ill for a little period but I think he’s okay now. It’s the same thing again; he’s been really busy producing and mixing for people, I have been too, and when you’re trying to keep your head above water, you tend to just keep doing that. If we’d have got a bit of funding then I think it would have happened, but we’d both be looking for downtime to do it and it didn’t really materialise in the end as we both ended up really busy with production stuff.

I’d certainly like to release the one track that we did do together at some point, and I was trying to pool together the various collaborations that I’ve done with people over the years; I’ve got an album’s worth of that stuff, and you can see what that is if you go onto my site, but not many people have heard a lot of it and I think some of it’s really interesting. The song with Robin would have been one of those things, and now we’ve done this interview I must give him a call!

Rocksucker will be taking all the credit if an album ever does materialise!

This is the year we should do it! I really love Robin, he’s a great guy to work with. He lived in northern France while I was over there – I think he’s still living there – and he’s got his own studio set up, like I have here. I was always a big Cocteau Twins fan so he was a great guy to work and deal with, and I’ve got a lot of time for him. It’s funny, he’s kind of got a whole ‘sound’ around him; a lot of synths these days have a ‘Guthrie’ preset [as one of the sounds], guitars that sort of float off into wherever. It’s the stuff of legend!

Speaking of the stuff of legend – and please do excuse the lame journalistic segue – do you ever look at other bands reforming, many of whom had said they wouldn’t, and feel that Ride reuniting one day is inevitable?

(Laughs) Not “will you do it?”, but “do you feel it’s inevitable?” – I like that! I dunno, really. I’d never say never but it’s come up so much – we get some serious offers thrown our way – and I’m a great believer that we should stay in the present in life. Nostalgia’s a dangerous thing if you get overly caught up in it. I deal with it in the sense that I’ll play a few Ride songs when I do acoustic sets, and I like that because I’m not trying to be Ride, they’re just songs I wrote then that sound good now as they were written on acoustic guitar. So I exorcise it a little bit like that.

We have talked about it when we have our get-togethers now and again, but each time we agree that it doesn’t feel right. It’s funny when you hear that The Stone Roses are getting back together, and you think, “Ooh, Stone Roses support, that would be a good one.” You know, now and again you think, “Actually, main stage one of the nights at Glastonbury would be fantastic.” But I think that everything has a start, a middle and an end, and I think we left Ride at the right time. It could be nice to do a show or whatever, but at the same time it could stir up a lot of stuff which is best left now.

The only real benefit from it that I can see would be money, and we were a group who did everything in a very un-commercial way, which was a nightmare even for Creation. We never did anything which made any sort of commercial sense, like in the way we were putting out EPs. We made it very difficult, but I think that’s also part of why some people got really into the band, because they could trust us. I might be deluded but I think Ride is a band that did keep its integrity, and – without mentioning any names, when you see some bands reforming, people become a little bit indifferent to it.

I’d hate that to be the case with Ride; I like the fact that you can’t touch it now, and the mythology around is great. The music and the albums are doing their job as more and more people are discovering Ride – even just recently, Going Blank Again went gold in this country – so that’s kind of ‘job done’ for me, you know? It’s a tricky one but certainly, as I stand here in my studio, there are no plans to reform Ride!

Ride – “Chelsea Girl” (from the Ride EP)

Fair enough. Now, a fun/irritating question to end with…

I thought that was the one, wasn’t it? (Laughs)

No, that was just irritating! Anyway, if you had to spend the rest of your life in solitary confinement, but you were allowed to take the entire works of five music artists in there with you, whose would you choose?

God, that’s incredibly difficult! The Stones would have to be in there, obviously. It’s the boring and obvious one, but I’d have to say The Beatles. Those two bands are sort of the bible, really. Let me see…(ums and ahs)…probably Scott Walker.

Coincidentally, I’ve got a CD copy of Scott 4 sitting on the desk in front of me.

Oh man, I love that album. I’m a massive Scott fan, and Scott 4 is a genius record I think. I guess I’d have to say The Beach Boys as well.

I read you saying that your late uncle was buried alongside a copy of Surf’s Up

He was, yeah. He was the guy who really got me into music when I was a little kid, played me music loud on a stereo and I was like, “Woah, what’s that?” Okay, I’ve got my ‘song people’, so finally I’d have to say Miles Davis, especially Sketches of Spain. You’ve got to have something a bit different.

Mark Gardener, thank you.

Mark Gardener – “Dreams Burn Down” (from Live @ the Knitting Factory, New York City)

For more information about Mark’s current projects, please visit his website at markgardener.com

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.