Whisper it quietly but Andy Bell is fast approaching his twenty-fifth year as a recording artist. Having formed Ride in 1988 with childhood friend from school Mark Gardener, plus Steve Querelt and Loz Colbert who they met on an art foundation course at college, Bell and colleagues were responsible for creating arguably some of the most groundbreaking records from that era.
Their first four EPs and debut long player Nowhere still stand proud as flawless artefacts, while 1992's follow-up Going Blank Again (recently reissued to commemorate its twentieth anniversary) highlighted the band's development from being part of the then-lambasted shoegaze scene into genuine innovators of some repute. Sadly, as with all good things, it wasn't long before Ride fell apart and just two albums and four years later, it was all over.
After Ride's demise, Bell formed Hurricane #1 in 1997 at the height of Britpop, releasing a handful of relatively successful singles along with two albums. Nevertheless, critical acclaim proved hard to come by, mainly because of their similarity to Oasis, so it was perhaps no surprise that Bell's next musical venture would be to join the Gallaghers as bassist, following the departure of Paul McGuigan in 1999. He continued to play with Oasis right up until the brothers' acrimonious split a decade later, contributing to the band's final three albums.
Now, having formed Beady Eye with fellow former Oasis members Gem Archer, Chris Sharrock and of course, Liam Gallagher, Bell finds himself in the studio once more, demoing material for his current outfit's projected second record, the as-yet untitled follow-up to last year's Different Gear, Still Speeding. During an extended break, the discussion switched from the making of both Nowhere and Going Blank Again, to his disillusionment with music after disbanding Hurricane #1, to working with the Gallaghers and the questions everyone keeps asking; will Ride and Oasis ever reform and take to the stage one more time.
What are you up to at present and how are the new songs shaping up?
We're still at the writing stage and then recording a few demos from what we have. We've been making demos for pretty much the whole of this year. It's always good to have far too much music before going into the studio and beginning the actual recording process.
Are you heavily involved in the writing process with Beady Eye?
Me, Liam (Gallagher) and Gem (Archer) are all equal partners when we're writing, which means we all get to make sure none of us has a song that sounds too much like "me" - in the collective sense of the word. It's a good way of working because it means none of us have our individual stamp on anything we do. It's all about what's best for Beady Eye.
You've recently started incorporating Oasis songs into your live set with Beady Eye. Is this something you intend to do on a regular basis for the foreseeable future?
I'd say it's something we'll definitely do again, yes. The reason we didn't play Oasis material from the outset was because we wanted Beady Eye to create its own identity. So when we started touring around the world we wanted to get everyone that came to our shows used to the idea that we are a new band, and not just a continuation of the old one, even though when you come and see Beady Eye we look pretty much like Oasis on stage. Except Noel's (Gallagher) not there.
Are you pleased with how everything's turned out for Beady Eye so far?
Yeah, it's been cool.
Some people probably don't realise or might not be aware that you've been a recording artist now for almost a quarter of a century. How does that make you feel?
Old! But yeah, it is quite mad. Twenty years is a long time. We put out the twentieth anniversary edition of Nowhere at the start of last year and now we've just done the same thing with Going Blank Again. Thinking back from Nowhere, twenty years before that it was the end of the sixties, 1970 I think. To be the same difference from that with Nowhere and then again to now kind of puts it all into perspective. You think about how young rock and roll music really is. It's not like we're a million miles away from the creation of the (rock and roll) big band era. We're still seeing the reverberations of that happening. The music world keeps changing in a massive way. When you see the internet and think how music's changed in the last ten years, some of it in ways you'd never previously have imagined. That time has gone very fast.
I also remember even at your early shows you seemed to attract a large female following, which was quite unusual for guitar bands at that time. Did it ever occur to you that Ride would become poster boys of the indie scene back then?
I don't know really. I guess that was Mark (Gardener), he was the pin-up of the indie world back then! It wasn't something I thought about that much. What I thought you were going to say was there were a lot of Japanese kids at our early shows, because I remember there being loads of them at our gigs. The Japanese do tend to pick up on things really early. Liam and Noel said the same thing happened with Oasis. The first hardcore followings they got were with Japanese crowds.
It's interesting you say that as there is quite a vibrant Japanese scene at present that's seemingly in thrall to a late of late eighties and early nineties UK bands.
The Japanese love shoegazing! And so do the Americans. I never realised what an effect the '91 and '92 American tours had. At the time we just treated it as another tour, yet now it seems like that kind of music has gone on to become so loved in America. Except that love wasn't shown for a good five to ten years afterwards. And then suddenly I'd be going over there with Oasis to play and people would be coming up to me saying, "Forget Oasis, I'm into shoegazing!"
After Hurricane #1 finished, you then got asked to join Oasis, who were arguably the biggest band in the UK and possibly the world at that moment in time. Was it quite a daunting experience at first?
No, I wouldn't call it daunting. Hurricane #1 kind of finished in a... It was never really right, that band. It was basically just me trying to keep busy. When I started the second album, I hit a pretty big writer's block that I'd been fighting for a while. I managed to finish the record but it seemed like too much hard work to carry on. I didn't really want to if I'm honest. I think at that point I'd lost all impetus as a songwriter, so I quit the band and moved to Sweden. We'd just had a child as well, my first daughter, and at that point I kind of retired from music. That was me done, aged 29. I'd given all my guitars away and had no intention of making music again, when a call came through from an old friend of mine that worked in the Oasis office. She told me I was about to get a call from Noel Gallagher asking if I wanted to join the band, and sure enough half an hour later he's on the phone asking if I want to play bass with them. I decided to fly back to England and meet them, still not really knowing what I wanted to do. But then when I met them we instantly bonded and felt at home so decided to give it a go.
How did working with Noel and Liam compare with what you'd been used to in the past? Did it seem strange going from being the main songwriter and focal point with both Ride and Hurricane #1 to being the bass player in what was essentially their band?
Working with the Gallaghers was brilliant. They're both very different yet in some ways quite similar, and also very appreciative for what I was bringing to their band. I wasn't bringing much other than playing bass on their songs to start with, but they knew and liked what I'd done before.
Your arrival seemed to coincide with the band releasing possibly their best two records since Definitely Maybe and (What's The Story) Morning Glory inHeathen Chemistry and Don't Believe The Truth.
I'm a big fan of Don't Believe The Truth. It was definitely the best record Oasis made during the time I was with them.
Do you ever see Noel and Liam burying their differences, reforming Oasis and working together again?
I'd love it to happen. I think that life's too short for it not to happen. But, in reality, do I see it happening? At this point, no I don't. The matter rests entirely with the two brothers. It probably should happen at some point but if they can't make it happen, no one should force them to.
Obviously when Oasis split up, Noel went his own way and the rest of you formed Beady Eye. What made you choose to work with Liam rather than Noel? Was it something that just fell into place?
It just fell into place like that really. When Mark decided to leave we initially thought about carrying on. But because it had been the original four, and then it would have been three, we just felt it would have been impossible to carry it on. But then who knows what would have happened in a parallel universe? We could have just carried on with what we were doing and wait to see if Mark came back but that never happens. You tend to make snap decisions in the moment of crisis I guess, and then you have to live with them. Your life is then laid out in a certain way as a result. That's what happens; in certain times of your life you have to go with one big choice or the other.
I guess it's better to look forwards rather than keep wondering what might have been.
The brave choice is always go forward.
Bearing in mind the obvious impact of Ride's music today, I guess the final question has to be do you ever see the four of you getting back together and playing one more time?
Well, never say never. We're good friends now. We get together once a year and just have a few pints and whatever. We're all pretty busy with what we're doing, but personally, it would be a shame if we never got to play those songs one more time.