Mark Gardener (Pure Phase Ensemble 4 & Ride) Interview: “I Like Darkness In Music”

mark gardener interview

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 Is Available Now Via Nasiono Records.

Let’s not be coy, Mark Gardener is a bit of a legend. Having been a founding member of pioneering shoegaze quartet Ride in 1988, he helped popularise the genre with four studio albums while a member of the group. The band had one silver record and one gold record in the UK, and along with My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, and Slowdive, became one of the ‘big four’ of the shoegaze scene before their breakup in 1995.

Following this he formed the critically acclaimed group The Animalhouse, and released a solo album, These Beautiful Ghosts, in 2005. Currently he owns his own recording studio in Oxford where he has produced music for the likes of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Swervedriver, and Dead Horse One.

In 2014 Ride reformed and have performed a series of celebrated reunion concerts. Toward the end of last year he was also a part of Pure Phase Enseumble 4. Pure Phase Ensemble is an international musical collective specially created for the Spacefest! festival in Poland. For the 2014 iteration of the project seven musicians from the UK and Poland with Gardener, Ray Dickaty (ex-Spiritualized) and Karol Schwarz (KSAS) acting as musical directors of the project.

Gardener is currently on tour with Ride, but he took some time to talk to Overblown about his experiences creating and performing as part of the Pure Phase Ensemble,  his experiences with the reunited Ride, and the band’s plans for the future!

You can grab yourself a copy of Pure Phase Ensemble 4 via Bandcamp.

Overblown: Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to talk to Overblown! Pure Phase Ensemble, is a once a year gathering of musicians for the Polish shoegaze festival SpaceFest. How did you become involved with the ensemble for the 2014 iteration?

Mark: I became aware of PPE three years earlier as I played a solo show at one of the earlier festivals. Once I understood how it all worked I was happy to then be involved last year.

O: How did you, and the rest of the ensemble, prepare for the one-off gig?

M: We rehearsed by day and went out in Gdansk and enjoyed some food and a few late night drinks together by night.

O: How was the collaboration different from working within a ‘normal’ band environment?

M: The collaboration was not so different from working within a ‘normal’ band. I worked a lot like this with Ride when we would pull together songs in a live/rehearsal environment. What was different for me was that I was in Poland with Polish musicians some of which could not speak English so well and my Polish language is non existent! What was also different was that we just had a few days to get a live show together.

O: Were you pleased with the ensemble’s performance on the night? As it was a once off, was the build up to the gig different from other gigs?

M: I was really pleased with the performance on the night. I loved working with all the guys who are all great people and great musicians. Gdansk and the cold outside influenced the sound. There was a dark atmosphere in Gdansk at this time of year and I like darkness in music. The tougher the environment you live and work in the more you need to find your sunshine and light within the music along with the darkness.

O: Having listened to the most recent iteration of Pure Phase Ensemble, I hear a large variety of influences like post-rock/post-metal, dream-pop, electronic music and also a jam band attitude in the music. Was it important to you to keep the music varied?

M: The people and where we’re all coming from and the influences were varied so I think the music reflected this. If you have an hour’s concert to play you want to make that the most interesting journey that you can. A jam band attitude is also important for me as many Ride songs came from band jams. It’s great to connect and jam with musicians and give the music the chance to take off which happens when people are feeling free to express themselves and are enjoying the experience.

O: Were there any players that you were particularly looking forward to collaborating with before the project or ones that you clicked with really well during?
M: I had no expectations or ideas of who or how the collaboration would work before I arrived in Poland. I was just happy to arrive and be present in that situation and see and enjoy what would happen.

O: Of the tracks you performed with Pure Phase Ensemble 4, what was your favourite? Why?

M: I think I enjoyed the first couple of songs the most as I think these songs really captured the vibe for me but the whole set was really special.

O: Late last year, you reformed Ride. What made you want to reunite the band, and what has that experience been like? Was it uncomfortable at first?

M: Ride reformed Ride it wasn’t me that reformed Ride. The band and all of us have always been close through the years and have always seen lots of each other. Ride music has never stopped being played and has a life of its own so it’s great to re connect with the music. The experience has been fantastic. Playing in Ride again is like coming home to me. It’s felt totally comfortable and better than ever.

O: The last few years has seen a revival of shoegaze with the emergence of newer bands round the world, the reformation of some of the pioneers of the genre, and the release of new albums by My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver. Do Ride have any plans to release new material? Have you written anything as a group since your reformation or discussed the possibility?

M: Of course we have discussed this possibility but right now and since April we have been playing lots of shows all around the world. We are totally focused and enjoying the here and now of these shows which will take us up to December and then we’ll see where we’re at. Life has its own plans, tonight we play a festival in Sweden and tomorrow we play a festival in France and that’s as far as I’m looking for now.

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