Mark Gardener

We intend to feature one favoured artist each month who is not Scottish. This interview comes courtesy of Pedro and his admiration of Ride.

Mark Gardener (of seminal Oxford sonic guitar pioneers, Ride) has been on the road lots over the past couple of months with the Upside Down and Anyone Can Play Guitar film/ documentaries. He was kind to answer some of our questions.

You’ve been busy mixing and producing a variety of bands and projects. What tips did you pick up from all the engineers and producers you recorded with over the years?

 ” I picked up different tips from different engineers and producers over this time. Everybody I worked with had different ideas and ways of doing things in order to try and get the best results out of their musicians. Ride were always pretty headstrong about how we wanted to sound and that we wanted it to be great and we worked hard on the songwriting as individuals and also as a band  so we never really worked with any producers who would have to pull all apart and start all again from scratch.  All the  producers we worked with used trusted and very good engineers so they could really concentrate on getting the best performance and takes out of the band. There’s loads of technical stuff to learn to become a great engineer and every studio is set up differently from the other so having great house engineers is essential so that you concentrate on the people and trying to get the best out of the people in what these days is always a pretty tight financial situation as there are not the budgets anymore to sit around and waste time in studios that are costing money. I always insist that a band is very well rehearsed and ready before we go into a studio situation and I will always try and set up in a live as possible way so that the responsibility of the take is shared between the band and the magic of the band is then hopefully captured. I also think it’s great if songs have been played live in front of an audience before they are recorded as this can tell a band lots about how a song is working or not before they get into the studio environment.  Being a singer I also make sure that the vocalist can also sing with the band during the takes and if possible have the good mic set up for this so he also has the possibility of capturing his good vocal take like this. In the end I think it’s really important whichever way you work that the general feeling of all the band and the environment is as relaxed and enjoyable as possible as power and great takes to me always come from this feeling in the room. During the recording process I will also try and keep managers and record companies away until all is recorded so there are as few distractions as possible. Every band is different so you have to be pretty adaptable to the differing needs of the people.”

“Moonlight Medicine” (from Carnival of Light) is one of the great opening tracks of my youth. I remember opening the cd at the mall and blasting it on a department store stereo because I didn’t have the patience to wait till I got home to listen to it. How was it working with two of the greats on that record, George Drakoulias and John Leckie?

   “George Drakoulias was great to meet and work with. I spent some good time with George hitting the record shops with him as we got to know each other before any work commenced buying  some of his essential listening material. Dusty in Memphis and the Stax box set springs to mind amongst a few others all of which are amazing dessert island disc records.

We recorded How Does IT Feel to Feel in LA with George in the end for Carnival Of Light and he also spent some great rehearsal time with us in our rehearsal rooms in Oxford when we were getting the songs together. We had all caught a strange sickness bug on the plane when we landed for the How Does It Feel recording sessions in LA so one by one thankfully after we had recorded the takes for How Does It Feel we all started dropping like flies and being sick. I then remember coming back to the studio when we had recovered and hearing the finished mixed takes and George had also put on some percussion and I was pretty blown away with his mix. Moonlight Medicine was then recorded at the legendary Sawmills Studios in Cornwall in England with John Leckie. I had written the song and had got it into pretty good shape so it was then just a case of playing it live as a band and getting that great take. I remember the Moonlight Medicine recording sessions very well and loved the feeling of recording that song together. The atmosphere was very smoky and that combined with the sawmills studio which sits next to a creek and estuary with the tidal waters flowing in and out of the creek which you could see out of the studio window which was the perfect place to record that song. It was a night time session which also fitted perfectly with the darkness of the song and I just remembered feeling totally lost in the music, sound and place. John Lord overdubbed his organ part at a later date at Abbey Road studios and along with the Tambora loop that I recorded separately for the track,  other than that the main track and instrumentation was all recorded through the night as a band live.

John was also a great guy to work with and also turned me on to some great music and albums during that session including the Dr John Gris Gris album and Alice Coltranes, Journey In Satchidananda album which again are total classics and I remember tripping out with him listening to these albums in the sawmills control room between Ride recording takes. John was a great vibe merchant who also understood the art of not overcooking and overdoing the work on the songs and with the people. Again we had spent time with John going over the tracks in rehearsals so we all knew what we were doing when we came to record them at the Sawmills which helped to make it a very enjoyable recording session. He also had a lot of random atmospheric sounds that he had recorded on his various world travels and some of them fitted very well as background atmospheric noise on tracks such as Birdman and before us for The Stone Roses “I wanna be Adored” intro.

Great Times !”

I’m interested in your expansion into experimental as well as incidental soundtrack music (Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records). What can we expect from your future solo work?

  ” Now I’ve got my studio up and running in Oxford  I’m a bit like the kid in the toyshop with lots of instruments , gear and sound sources so I think I’ll always keep the more experimental and hopefully interesting sounding music for future solo work and future soundtrack music work. I always wanted to get into soundtrack music as well as my solo and band work as I really enjoy playing different instruments and the challenge of making weird and wonderful sounds that sit and hopefully enhance the narrative and the vision of film. It’s been great to see the different reactions of people at various film festivals around the world in cinemas when they’ve been watching “Upside Down”. In a way when it’s right with soundtracks you don’t even notice them in the sense that you just feel yourself getting more involved in what you are watching and hearing. You are also never concerned with how you can play this music live as most of the time the music will not be played live so there are no restrictions.”

Any new bands you’ve come across that we should check out?

  “Well I’m off course biased with the bands I have been working with so do check out my recent mixing and production work on my site (www.markgardener.com) All are great !!!”

P&T

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