Steve Queralt Interview

Steve Queralt is the Bass Player for Ride. Over the last few months I have been able to email him questions about his time in the band, as well as some personal history.

Steve, can you tell us where and when you were born; family life (brothers, sisters); what your parents did to earn money.

I was born in Oxford in 1968 which makes me 40, yey!! Dad is still an electrician and Mum has always worked various part time jobs. Darren my younger Brother is an actor although spends most of his time bringing up his 2 sons. My own son is about to start the 6th form at Cheney School where Andy, Mark and I met. He is planning to become an actor as well.

What sort of musical instruments did you play when you were young (child/teen)?

My Dad brought home an electric guitar one day which he claimed he found in a skip. I was listening to a lot of reggae at the time after growing up with Two Tone so was thrilled that it turned out to be a bass guitar. I managed to amplify it through my music centre and jammed along to the the records I had at the time. Over the next few years I built a very primitive 4-track studio in my bedroom buying some Roland and Casio keyboards, a Yamaha drum machine and a Westone guitar. When Ride was first formed we managed to squeeze the whole band in to record some demos which we later sold. I'm pretty sure the version of Chelsea Girl on Firing Blanks was also recorded in my room.

Did you have any musical encouragement at school?


Why did you choose the Bass guitar?

It was destiny, I had no choice - See above

There's some musicians out there who would probably like to know what sort of gear you used for recording and for touring. What sort of guitars did you use? What about effects/amps?

I started off with a Westone Concorde, Peavey Amp and cheap Yamaha distortion pedal.

My first grown up bass was a Fender Precision which I bought from a music shop in Banbury. I had it re-sprayed white with a tortoise shell scratch board and it looked beautiful. We eventually sold it to Paul Weller after he used it to demo some songs one Xmas which I regret as I would love to have it today.

The first album was recorded through a Trace Elliot which at the time everyone seemed to be using. It was around this time I bought my first Musicman Stingray which I used pretty much all the time from then on. For live shows I also used my Westone when we played Nowhere. For Going Blank and beyond I moved onto a Hartke system which worked both in the studio and for live shows. We all had some custom made effects pedals produced although I forget the guy's name but he had an impressive pedigree having worked with Hendrix blah blah. This is where I got my beloved bass distortion which appeared whenever I got the chance. This Musicman/Hartke set up saw me through to the end with the odd exception when the Fender came out oh, and the double bass on Carnival of light which I really struggled with.

Before joining Ride, were you in any other bands?

Only small time local stuff. I joined a band called Dubwiser after Ride which I really enjoyed.

When most bands begin playing, their song list is usually lots of covers before they begin writing anything decent. What were the sort of cover songs Ride was playing in its first year?

Only the Stooges "I wanna be your dog" and "Taxman" by the Beatles although we did a couple of special shows in Oxford where we performed a set of Madonna covers and another one of Blondie. We also produced a Blondie giveaway demo but other than the Stooges and Beatles covers we pretty much kept to our own stuff.

I think it was Andy who said that Ride's studio sound was influenced enormously by My Bloody Valentine, but when it came to playing live it was about Sonic Youth. Would you agree with this? Would you care to comment on this definition?

I absolutely agree. At the time MBV could be pretty awful live whilst Sonic Youth were always incredible especially around Daydream Nation time.

I'm pretty certain that it was you who said that Ride had two different directions it could take and chose the wrong one (I'm assuming that's in light of Carnival of Light and Tarantula). Could you expand on this comment?

In my view we took the retro route instead of exploring the freedom we'd earned with Going Blank. I'm not saying we were groundbreaking by any stretch but we certainly didn't sound like too many other bands at the time. Carnival was too backward looking - Led Zep, Pink Floyd, too mid tempo. I think we tried to mature way too quickly and started to take ourselves a bit too seriously. I would much rather have seen us continue along the Going Blank vein, working as a true foursome at least for one more album. I just feel we lost a bit of freedom and with it the courage to take our time creating something interesting and contemporary.

Nowhere is one of the albums on the list of Robert Dimery's "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die". In that book it says that some Poll Tax riots occurred outside the studio during production and some of these protest sounds made it onto the song Paralyzed. What are your recollections of that event?

Only that we were mixing in Soho and witnessed some of the crowds running along the streets below us. I don't think we realised the magnitude of the event and the importance of the day until later that day. But, it was an exciting day to be in London nonetheless.

Alan Moulder produced both Nowhere and Going Blank Again and is today a highly respected music producer. What was it like working with him? Andy said that Alan taught him how to bend strings - do you remember that?

Yes I do. Overnight Andy turned into Hendrix and could do the "bit" in smells like teen spirit all of a sudden. The sessions with Alan are amongst my fondest memories. It was during this period I felt we had established ourselves as a proper band and could do whatever we liked, choir, keyboards, lesley speakers. It felt like anyone could suggest anything, nothing would get laughed at or dismissed at least until we'd given it a good go first. Alan would always encourage this and always take our ideas seriously despite knowing that sometimes they would be a waste of time. Alan had great Depeche Mode stories and always knew what to order from the studios T/A menus.

During the GBA sessions I understand that the band managed to procure a copy of Nirvana's Nevermind. What was it like listening to it the first time? Did it affect the production of GBA in any way?

I don't remember that. I'm sure we heard it on MTV first. We did obtain 20 pre-mixes of MBV's Soon which we played to death on tour. From what I can remember the 20 test versions were supposed to be variations but despite what the others might claim they all sounded identical. Still incredible but identical.

What was the rationale behind releasing 4-track EPs to start with? Was there some marketing theory behind it?

No, It just felt big and clever. I always admired New Order's approach to releases, no compromise, 12" only releases, loss making artwork, remaining anonymous, no band pictures. At the time, Indie bands seemed to be doing everything possible to get in to the top 40, sign with a major label, release a single on every conceivable format, it just didn't feel like correct route to me.

Okay, the obligatory break-up questions - at what point did you start to think "Geez, something's seriously wrong here"?

Second American Tour.

From your perspective, what was the whole Andy/Mark feud about? How did it affect their approach to the studio and to touring?

It wasnt really a feud as such. Both decided to remove themselves from the band dynamic which was really strong for the first 2 albums. Boundaries seemed to pop up overnight and became progressively tighter as we progressed through Carnival and the final album.

Do you remember your tour to Australia? (I'm an Aussie but I didn't get to see you in those days) I vaguely remember you were supporting a popular Australian band at the time called Ratcat - what are your recollections?

Sydney was a great town which I'd visit again but I live in London now so will never need to. Highlights include staying in King's Cross where you could buy baked beans on toast. Lowpoints were slaughtering David Bowie's Heroes in Melbourne.

Was there any point during Ride's existence when you moved from being a struggling, poor musician to reaping the financial rewards for your work? When would that have been?

It all happened really quickly. I don't think we ever felt we were struggling, the transit van tours were an adventure and before we new it we'd progressed to sleeper buses and full on catering. It didn't happen overnight but we always felt we were moving forward. Each step was bigger and better than the previous, from sleeping on fans floors to sharing 4 to a b&b room and then onto our own hotel rooms. It never got repetitive and was always exciting.

Are royalties from your time with Ride going up or down these days?

Down, way down.

What's your current status?

Today I live in London having left Oxford 12 months ago. I have a kid although he is now 16. Thankfully I do not have to rely solely on our royalties.

Okay, the obligatory questions about reforming the band - When Ride reformed back in 2001 for the Coming up for Air sessions, what was the "magic" like? How did it compare to the days when the band was touring?

It was incredibly easy to play with the band again. It sounds cliche but we just picked up where we left off, it felt really natural. But it wasn't until weeks later that I suddenly realised where I'd nicked the bassline from.

Both Andy and Mark have said that because the "magic" would obviously not be there, the band should not reform. Would it be possible for Ride to reform and produce a "different" kind of "magic" (excuse the Queen
reference)? (I know that's a confusing question so let me just explain it further: Coming up for Air was a pretty good Ride production but occurred after the band broke up. Surely there is a chance of Ride creating some great music in the future, even though it won't compare to what happened between 1988 and 1996. Wouldn't that be a good reason to reform?)

There are 2 trains of thought. Reform and cash in playing the back catalogue again. Reform, but as a working band writing new songs. The camp is divided on this one.

I understand that all four members of Ride turned up to watch My Bloody Valentine recently. What was MBV like? Did it give you all the chance to rethink reforming?

I don't think so. The show itself was one of the best I'd ever seen. MBV made perfect sense, not at all just the nostalgia trip I was expecting. They were truly incredible, for once I was proud to be considered a shoegazer.

There's been a lot of bands recently that have released CDs free to download over the internet (Radiohead - In Rainbows; Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV and The Slip; The Charlatans - You Cross my Path). What do you think about this new practice - is it a fad or is it where the music industry is heading?

No idea where it is all heading. I still buy CDs but am often disappointed. It bothers me that the concept of albums seems to be dying, that consumers choose specific tracks to download and as a result could easily be missing out on some of the gems that might not instantly grab you during a 30 second preview.

There are people out there who have downloaded Ride albums. Given that many people think that this is where the industry is headed, what are your thoughts about these people?

As above really. It's great that the albums are easily accessible but for me Chrome Waves is one of our best songs but I can't imagine anyone downloading it in isolation.

Would Ride ever consider releasing their back catalogue (and more) free to download?

Would you consider working in a supermarket for free? The greed the record companies are accused of are little to do with the artists. We received such a small percentage of the rrp goodness knows where the rest went.

Are you playing in a band at the moment? If no, how often do you pick up a bass or a guitar?

No, I miss it. I'd love to play again but have so little free time.

© 2008 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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1 comment:

mel8twelve said...

I just stumbled upon this interview! I knew Steve for a time then we lost touch. If you still have his email, would you be so kind to send him my email address (which you'll have once I comment)? Thank you!