Ride: Coming Up For Air

Ride: Coming Up For Air
Ride on "Pioneers: Sonic Youth"

It’s generally acknowledged that Ride broke up in 1996, just before the release of their fourth album Tarantula, and that they reunited in 2014 initially for live shows and then for a couple of excellent new records and counting. However, it’s important to note that that wasn’t the first time that Andy, Mark, Loz, and Steve got back together to perform and record together.

It’s crucial to this timeline that they first got back together in the studio in 2001. Rather than summarize the what and why, I refer to the original announcement in the band’s e-newsletter in October 2001.

So yesterday at the John Henry rehearsal complex in North London, Andy, Mark, Steve and Loz all turned up, set-up, plugged-in and put together about an hour’s worth of un-rehearsed sonic jamming to accompany the forthcoming series of Channel 4’s Pioneers.

The show is about the influence of Sonic Youth and is effectively “presented” by Andy and Mark. They talk about Sonic Youth’s influence generally to 90’s music and specifically the influence on the then-fledgling Ride. As part of the idea for the show, the producer had asked Mark and Andy to play 10-15 minutes of guitar-based feedback which they wanted to film and use as a backdrop to the programme. It was Andy’s idea that if he and Mark were going to get together to talk about Sonic Youth’s influence on Ride then any “performance” to accompany the programme should feature all 4 ex-Ride members.

Mark flew in from France for the day, Andy delayed his return to Sweden after the Oasis tour for a day and both Loz and Steve managed to juggle their existing commitments to make way for the day’s filming.

Everyone arrived about 11 and everything was set-up and ready to roll about Midday. Once the TV people had sorted their sound and camera positions out, the band started to work on a loose jam that they’d put together on the spot. It was a simple recording – one stereo mic for the drums, one bass mic and one each for Andy’s and Mark’s guitars. No vocals.

It was truly amazing how quickly the whole sound slotted into place, that old adage about riding a bicycle was never more appropriate. There was a break while the sound levels and the overall mix were checked: and also while the lighting team sorted out their part of the equation. After a spot of lunch the band started playing about 1:30 with the cameras and the tape rolling until it came to it’s natural conclusion about 2:15. Mark and Andy then filmed the interview and they all packed up and went their separate ways – Mark and Andy off to Heathrow for their respective flights, Steve back to Oxford and Loz back across London.

It was very strange to witness how natural the whole event was and also how enjoyable and inspirational it was too. They talked about whether to base the jam on perhaps Grasshopper or even the middle section of Drive Blind but in the end a completely new piece of music came out of the day. There will some snaps of the day and maybe some camcorder footage up on the Ride site in the next couple of weeks or so – don’t touch that dial.

via Ride Archive

Though the entire segment was barely 10 minutes long, the band jammed for over half an hour and the main “song”, as well as two soundchecks over five minutes, were dutifully captured and released a year later as the Coming Up For Air EP, a single CD in a cardboard sleeve limited to 1000 pieces. I was lucky enough to snag one and even though the very slim volume tends to disappear in my CD racks, it’s quite treasured hereabouts.

For those not amongst the other 997 fans (two copies are currently for sale on Discogs), the main jam – entitled “Performance” – is archived on YouTube:

Some video footage of just the Ride jam also exists, even if the quality is not so good:

And the original episode of Pioneers is also available to watch:

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