Mark Gardener is riding out the storm

By Scott Kara

A star of UK's shoegaze era is in town for solo shows, reports Scott Kara.

Mark Gardener will play acoustic versions of Ride. Photo / Supplied
Mark Gardener will play acoustic versions of Ride. Photo / Supplied

Mark Gardener and his school friend Andy Bell wrote some of the most beautifully heavy songs of the early 90s for their British band Ride.

With a dynamic mix of shimmering feedback, intense fragility, and the occassional dancey groove, songs like Polar Bear and Vapour Trail made Ride one of the leaders of the "shoegaze" scene which also included bands such as Slowdive, Swervedriver and Lush.

Musically they were all influenced by the likes of My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins, and it was also a heady, drug and booze-filled time. Well, that's how Gardener remembers it.

"In that band and throughout that whole existence we were f****** out there." And when Ride weren't playing and partying you could find Gardener on the tour bus "coming down" by listening to the ethereal and dreamy music of the Cocteau Twins or Dead Can Dance.

"I was having the time of my life. We did two tours of North America, to Australia, Japan, and across Europe," he says on the phone from his Oxford studio ahead of two solo shows in New Zealand where he plays a mix of Ride songs and his own solo material.

But it all ended badly in 1995 for Ride after four albums - two of them, Nowhere (1990) and Going Blank Again (1992) are classics - when Gardener and Bell's creative issues came to a head.

"It was sad for sure," he says. "But I have to say it was also a kind of relief. We were four people on the edge, and there is no way you can sustain that. When Ride were playing we were really on fire [but] when that intense magic ended I think we left the stage at the right time."

Bell went on to be bass player in Oasis, while Gardener has a solid solo career and established himself as a producer. But before he went solo he did some soul searching in "the middle of a walnut orchard in France". "I did a lot of work to get at peace with my past, to stop being the guy who was always in a rage about stuff," he says.

He released his first solo album, These Beautiful Ghosts, in 2005, and has just released his latest single, The Places We Go, a collaboration with former Cocteau Twins leader Robin Guthrie.

As for "how the hell you do Ride songs acoustically?", well, says Gardener, it's about taking the songs back to their roots.

"They have attained this timeless thing, and I'm not a religious person at all but I feel a little religious when I play some of these songs - when it's just a voice and guitar."

Who: Mark Gardener, formerly of British showgaze band Ride
Where & when: Kings Arms, tomorrow
Listen to: Ride - Nowhere (1990), Going Blank Again (1992); Mark Gardener - These Beautiful Ghosts (2005)


- NZ Herald

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