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Ride returns to Japan for Fuji Rock


TOKYO (TR) – Along with the likes of Lush and My Bloody Valentine, English four-piece Ride was lumped into the “shoegaze” rock scene in the U.K. that reached its peak in popularity in the early 1990s.

Mixing psychedelia and pop, Ride released four albums before breaking up in 1996. The year before, the band made its last visit to Japan. For singer and guitarist Mark Gardener, however, its first trip, in late 1990, will always be the most memorable.

“It was completely mental,” says Gardener in a heavy English accent by phone from Oxford. “It was probably the closest we ever felt to being the Beatles when we landed there. There were hundreds of people, mainly girls, waiting at the airport. None of us had ever been to Japan. No one had any real expectations. I think the culture shock alone of the place would have been enough, let alone 400 or 500 girls waiting for us.”

Now reformed, the band will on Sunday play the Green Stage at the Fuji Rock Festival at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture — a chance for the band to dust off its catalog during one of the top events on Japan’s festival circuit.

The band reunited in November of last year, and has been touring North America and Europe in recent months. For Gardener, times have certainly changed — and for the better.

“I don’t feel like I’m reliving the early ’90s, I’m really loving playing with Ride again,” says the 45-year-old. “In a way it feels pretty fresh, to be honest with you. Although, obviously, for now, we’re kind of going back to some of the earlier stuff — that’s what people are calling for; so were are quite happy to give people what they’ve been calling for. Obviously, the main challenge is to come back and be better, really, than how we were, and we’re definitely doing that.”

The idea of reuniting over the past few years had previously been considered, but, says Gardener, certain things got in the way: notably, guitarist Andy Bell was playing in Beady Eye, which broke up last year.

“It always seems the stars align nicely for us when we get together. It felt that way,” he says. “On a personal level, I got the feeling, in the last few years, that there was unfinished business for us, and it would be a tragedy if we lived the rest of our days and didn’t experience that again, which was contrary to what I felt 10 or 15 years ago about it, in which I didn’t really see that we would play again.”

Formed in Oxford in 1988, Ride released its first EP two years later. A mix of pop and noise, the self-titled record was quickly followed up by two more (“Play” and “Fall”). But it was the band’s debut album “Nowhere,” released that same year, that brought it to the forefront. The closing track “Vapour Trail,” with its distinct guitar intro, would go on to be a classic of the era.

The band’s breakup came as a result of a simple need for space, says Gardener. “We’d been living abnormally in each other’s pockets since school,” he says.

During the Ride’s hiatus, Gardener focused on his own recording projects. He recently released the album “Universal Road” with guitarist Robin Guthrie.

Though Ride will always be connected to the 1990s, Gardener still thinks the band in its reunited form has a lot to offer.

“I’m always writing,” he says. “I don’t think I’ll ever be in a state of satisfaction as an artist. I’m enjoying playing these songs again. It’s amazing, because, in a way, they’re fresh again when the audience is fresh. Most people coming to see us are fresh; they never saw us the first time around. It kind of gives it a whole new life.”