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Bill Wells

Baltic beats (and all that jazz)

By • Nov 22nd, 2018 • Category: Feature

Any other Scottish act releasing a new album on a Tallinn-based record label would turn heads. But for Bill Wells, it’s just another day at the office.

The Falkirk-born musician’s career is wide-ranging – named best Scots-based performer at Glasgow’s Jazz Festival in 1996, Wells has gravitated towards indie music – working with the Pastels and then acts such as Japan’s Maher Shalal Hash Baz and Swedish star Jens Lekman.

So an album of reworkings of Estonian bands comes as no surprise – even if it also includes a few contributions from closer to home.

“I needed a good whistler – Stevie Jackson – on one track,” says Wells, “and an acoustic piano on the same tune, which Chris Geddes recorded at Banchory”.

Those sessions with the Belle and Sebastian pair, at the band’s studio, are part of a long-standing connection with Scotland’s indie music legends, Wells having previously made an album of reworked covers of Billie Holiday standards with former Belles vocalist Isobel Campbell.

And it seems that the multi-instrumentalist’s previous work with some of Scottish indie music’s royalty has allowed him to call in a few favours.

“I didn’t have a working computer at the time,” he recalls, “so Norman (Blake, from Teenage Fanclub) helped me out by letting me use his studio.”

The self-explanatory ‘Remixes for Seksound’ contains eight tracks from the label run by Rein Fuks of indie band Pia Fraus, reworked by Wells in his home studio – though as producer he perhaps deserves more of the credit for the final sound.

“For me, I find most remixes can be kind of boring,” he says, “especially when they are just a version of the original , so in most cases on this record I generally ditched everything apart from the vocals and made up a new song around them… the tracks should stand up as new songs in their own right.”

It’s perhaps unusual that this record isn’t a conventional collaboration – unlike the long-player Wells recorded with former Arab Strap man Aidan Moffat. ‘Everything’s Getting Older’ meant another award, this time for Scottish Album of the Year in 2012.

Following the new release, it’ll be back to Wells’ own project, the National Jazz Trio of Scotland – which for the avoidance of doubt, is neither a trio or endorsed by central Government.

And the tongue-in-cheek mention of the ‘J’ word ties in what seems like an uneasy association with the genre.

“I was always interested in jazz arrangers – Carla Bley, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus,” Wells says. “I needed to be able to read and write music in order to be able to arrange myself so I gravitated towards the jazz scene for a while.”

However, his work in this project leans towards indie again, with the next release planned focusing on one singer, Gerard Black, from electronic combo Babe – its predecessor featuring Kate Sugden, who also performs on the Seksound release.

As do Kate Gilfedder, and Danielle Price – the latter also collaborating with Wells as The Sensory Illusions, a guitar and tuba duo, which despite its unusual format, isn’t as out-there as might be expected.

“I’m not against a bale of hay and a bucket of water being fed to a piano,” he jokes, referring to a rather ‘avant garde’ piece by 60s composer La Monte Young.
“I still like a good tune though!”

‘Remixes for Seksound’ is out now at seksound.bandcamp.com

This article originally appeared in the Falkirk Herald (where else?).

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