Continued from previous post...
"We left at the right time I think. A lot of great love affairs don’t go on for 20, 30 years just as Ride's season of intense creativity wasn't meant to. I think a lot of bands kid themselves quite well that they can maintain the intensity of their first rush, but we opted not to fool ourselves or our audience by doing that." Gardener adds that his life was becoming all consumed by Ride, "The strange thing was when our bubble burst, I suddenly realised I was about seven years behind my friends who weren't in bands in terms of building an actual life. That's probably why I went a bit funny and ended up living in a walnut orchard in France for a couple of years." As Mark continues elaborating on his life after Nowhere, living with nuts soon stops sounding like such a bizarre life choice.
"When Ride finished, life just seemed to be such an anti-climax really." He reveals, "I filled that gap by turning my house in Oxford into a kind of non-stop night club, but then after a year of that you just go 'shit, this is really not good' and I had to get away from there altogether. So that's what I did." I wonder with time being touted as a great healer and considering some of Creation’s most popular acts are touring again, is the temptation to re-join the party there at all? "How would you feel about maybe going back to your past and reliving a part of it that was so intense and ridiculous…?," He says searching for the words, "Playing together again would be like going back to an ex partner and shagging them long after you’ve moved on…." He pauses again, "I mean we always get gig offers and so it's been brought up a lot and we've all discussed it and agree that no time thus far has felt right." Despite that fact, Gardener has maintained a love for Ride playing acoustic versions of their songs on tour and frequently giving interviews discussing the band at length. But more recently he been integral in a new project celebrating Creation Record's boom-time.
"In the last week, Alan (McGee) and I have been doing press conferences around Europe for a new film about Creation to be released later this year." Mark, who has also written the score for the film, reveals he and Alan have remained close ever since Gardener's initial signing to the label. "Alan, as well as being my manager, used to be my drug brother but our friendship has thankfully lasted longer than Ride or our indulgences." Mark laughs, "I've always seen him as like an older brother really. Alan didn’t bail out when the business or drug side to our friendship ended and that makes him a true friend in my eyes." The film, titled Upside Down, aims to put Creation Records - "The last great independent label"'s - wild story into some kind of context. Mark explains.
"This film is the last word on the whole Creation family. It covers absolutely everything and everyone of the acts Alan signed, but at the same time it’s not a pat on the back to him or the bands involved." Mark adds, "There was no room for big egos when you're in a meeting with the label boss smoking a joint and sitting on a crate." Ride, like many of the acts Alan signed, were there because McGee liked them as people. Mark continues, "That's probably why in the end he had to walk away. He invested so much of himself into his acts because he believed in us and wanted us all to be great mates as well. In the finish I think he was kind of heartbroken from some of those friendships failing for various reasons and he had a break-down." Gardener has hinted in the past that he himself suffered a near-breakdown in 1996 resulting in him walking out on the band one week before their infamous final album Tarantula was released. "I was starting to get bored with it all, and I'm a restless sod anyway.” He decides. But as far as Ride's drug-use goes, Mark refuses to admit it destroyed the band and that he was "never out of control and just attempting to pass the acid test".
"That can help you decide if what music you’ve made is… you know great or not." He laughs, "Plus when you do drugs with people you tend to cut through the crap a lot. I mean I wouldn't say we were fucked up on it, but for a little period in our lives that was going on and it added a lot of fuel to our fire." He then adds, "The only thing with adding fuel like that is you can get burned quite easily. We lasted just long enough to realise that I think, but you know we when were writing and actively recording our albums we were working fucking hard man.” He confirms, "Working hard to do our best possible music and not just sound like a bunch of wasted guys bashing out some tunes on the weekend."
As the film, Upside Down testifies, virtually no one involved with the label sacrificed the quality of their music for a cheap thrill and a few hits. While the music of the Madchester scene sometimes came second to the band's excesses, Creation celebrated the making of music above all else. Mark, being the musical director of Upside Down, had the mammoth task of making sure all of Creation's bands were represented in the all-important score. "I also did a lot of the incidental music for Upside Down." He adds, "I mean there are obviously two or three tracks by each of the bands featured, but all the music playing during the narratives, I made. It just goes from house music whenever somebody's talking about that scene to this weird discordant noise used when Bobby Gillespie's talking about having a drug psychosis." He laughs, "So it was a kind of fun soundtrack to work on."
As for who had the final word on what music ended up in the film ,that was down to the artists themselves. "I think that apart from My Bloody Valentine, everyone was quite happy to be on it." Mark says, "When they realised the legacy was in good hands and the film wasn't going to be some ridiculous dramatisation or whatever, I think everyone was okay with clearing their music for use in the film." My Bloody Valentine's departure from Creation has been well documented. The general gist of it is, they were "unceremoniously booted off" by Alan McGee for putting the label in debt, coupled with the fact that McGee and Kevin Shields couldn't stand one-another personally. "It was all over between those two parties very early on." Mark confirms. My Bloody Valentine however remain one of the labels greatest success stories, perhaps second only to Oasis - another band who's extravagant demands cost McGee's struggling label dearly. Despite Oasis's familiar bravado however, Mark reveals a surprising reaction by Noel Gallagher to the film during it's pre-production. "Noel said to me, 'It's just gonna be another film about bloody Oasis, mate!'" He laughs, "I think even he was fed up with hearing about Oasis at that stage and about how important they were." He continues, "Oasis in fact come in quite late in the story, you know. They were actually the end of the Creation story as it happened." Mark recalls, "When Oasis played Knebworth to a quarter of a million people, that's when Alan had his moment and said, 'this isn't us anymore. It's not Creation as I saw it.' It was like the moment when the Roman Empire got to its zenith and immediately started to crumble." Mark adds dramatically.
"Strangely enough, it was the early period of Creation when there was no money that felt like the strongest time within the label." Mark says, "We were refusing excesses, refusing to repeat ourselves, refusing to become over-blown or self-important and the same can be said for Primal Scream, Swervedriver, The House Of Love and many of the other bands, but Oasis I think started to repeat themselves after their first two or three albums until they ended up just referencing everything they'd done already." Mark suggests, "Ride were kind of criticised for making album's that didn't sound like our first one, but we simply weren't interested in repeating what we had already done, you know." Mark touches on a good point, but I can't help thinking that making a follow up to such a striking debut album was never going to be a simple task for a young band still deeply interested in experimenting. Nowhere was a sizable bump in the road, and a revelation to my ears at least. In hindsight it was for me perhaps what The Byrds' Eight Miles High might have sounded like to a youth in the 1960s. Digressions aside, Mark shifts his focus from the discussion and briefly moans about how cold he is as I'm suddenly reminded that England is currently going through its worse winter in decades.
"I can't complain too much though, at least its warm in the studio, where I spend most of my time these days." He smiles. His comment sparks a further discussion of one factor in making music I'd rarely contemplated. "I would love to be out in the Australian sunshine all the time but I wouldn't get any work done if I was." He laughs, "There's something about the dark skies and that slight feeling of melancholy that I find creatively stimulating. I've heard people say that because it rains so much in Manchester there's so much music being made. You almost can't deny the connection between that kind of environment and the kind of bands that came from that scene. A prime example of a band that appears to be affected by the climate here in Oxford is Radiohead. If they had've come from LA or somewhere like that, I can't imagine they'd be making album's like Kid A." He says, cracking up.
"I think LA would be the most boring place on earth to live, even though the Beach Boys came out of LA who were genius, but whatever, I see it as being incredibly one-dimensional." He ads, "In Melbourne I know you have sometimes quite weird weather patterns which results in quite interesting music, but LA is pretty much the same season all year round and therefore seems to be a very creatively dead place. I think because of how people need varying dimensions in their environment to keep kind of mentally stimulated, the weather must play a role in that seeing as we are circumspect to it." I suggest to Mark that a global meteorological/musical hot spots map could easily prove or disprove his theory, "All I know is that when we were making Nowhere, it was during many long cold nights and as I said to you before, that is my overriding memory of that time, and the feeling I get from hearing those songs back now is largely connected to the climate." Just as our conversation turns to Kate Bush's 1985 single, Cloudbusting and the songs' proposition that science could possibly harbor the secret of the weather control, and further more what that could mean for music, Mark's manager calls to remind him he has a cue of callers waiting. "I think this means we have to stop talking!" Indeed it does feel like a cliff hanger ending to our talk, but Mark is a man in demand, as you would expect of the creator of Nowhere - one of music's great indefinable pleasures.
|Meeting Mark Gardener: An unforgettable moment!|