on life, music etc beyond mainstream

Michael Engelbrecht: For someone with such an approach to music, let‘s call it „minimal input, maximum effect“, you must feel a certain soulmateship with the one record of YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS: COLOSSAL YOUTH. Not only because of the kind of voices you prefer …


Bill Wells: It’s funny, a number of people have mentioned that record in comparison with what I do and I can understand why, but it’s an album that I wasn’t aware of at all when it was released, so was therefore not an influence. (I was probably too busy listening to „Gaucho“). I do however really like Alison Statton’s voice, though actually (rather ironically I suppose) I prefer her work with Weekend.


Michael: I bet you have a pile of Robert Wyatt albums. I know Robert from heartfelt encounters and interviews for a very long time, lost a bit contact since he retired. Now he, too, sometimes has a special way of using jazz vibes in a very British setting. Can you tell me about your „stories“ with Robert‘s music? 


Bill: Yes, for sure. I had a dream that the first six chords of „O Caroline“ were the same as the first six chords as „Streets Of London“. That was the first time I realised I had more musical ability when I was asleep. I did manage to ask him, R.W. I mean, (and indirectly via Douglas T. Stewart) about his version of Little Child, a cover which always fascinated me as he imitates, in a sort of really over the top way, both a child and an adult and I’m not sure how he pulls it off but for me it totally works and, well, I can’t remember the exact answer but he did say something to the effect of it being about the most daring thing he’d ever attempted.


Michael: Your new album, Standards Vol. IV, has a musical narrative, from the „almost nothing“ of the first notes till the crescendo in the „showdown area“. Do you remember the time of production, did it all fell into place, or was it more a subconscious process? … 


Bill: Well, since you both noticed and asked, I wrote / arranged all the material and recorded most of it as I was heading for a nervous breakdown, then became suicidal and consequently ended up in psychiatric hospital for over a month, that was September 2016. I finished the recording in 2017.


Michael: Oh, sorry for that. Ahem … you very carefully chose the moments for Ab‘s viola coming into the foreground … it only happens a few times, and always has this nearly overwhelming quality (your sense for understatement easily undermines the passion involved). And Kate‘s voice: wow! When looking at the responses to the „trio music“, all these „standard albums“, people speak of lightness, nursery rhymes, easy listening, charming pleasures, but rarely rock bottom comes into sight. That there is a darkness hidden of considerable depth. Is there a special source of inspiration for such dark matters delivered with an innocent smile, so to speak? 


Bill: No idea.



Michael: Okeydokey … now, hope you are in a good mood for this …


Bill: … I’ve certainly felt worse.


Michael: Can you name some of your all time favourite records for the infamous desert island …


Bill: Well I could but my choices are pretty definite and they’re also mainly ones that are well – known eg The White Album, Innervisions, Kind Of Blue, Hunky Dory so, with that in mind …


  • Van Dyke Parks – Moonlighting (Van is indeed the man. One great thing about this live recording is that you also hear the spoken intros which are eloquent and witty, as is the music, which is refreshingly out of step with anything else currently going on then or now in contemporary music. Much though I love Brian Wilson’s voice I do prefer the version here of „Orange Crate Art“. I love that quote of his about making pop music that isn’t very popular.)
  • Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath – Live at Willisau … First track – greatest riff of all time, plus ….. icing on the riff cake … an Evan Parker solo! … thinking of food and drink … Gary McFarland – Butterscotch Rum. Jazz arranger that understood pop.
  • Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now …. One of the best records of last year and one of his best ever.
  • Yumbo – Onibi    Shout out to Saya, Ueno, Tori, Reiko, Namio, Shugo, Otomo, Satomi, Takuji, Satoko, Tetsuya, and Nika.
  • Marvin Gaye – Here My Dear … Best break up album ever.
  • Peter Blegvad – Just Woke Up … Best wake up album ever.
  • Wayne Shorter – Native Dancer … Best Milton Nascimento album ever.
  • Carla Bley – Everything, but just to mention one, Fleur Carnivore which has a beautiful harmonica solo (by Karen Mantler) 
  • Kevin Ayers – Whatevershebringwesing … thinking of great solos, Mike Oldfield on the title track.
  • Mick Softley – Any Mother Doesn’t Grumble … Proof that the good stuff doesn’t always rise to the top.
  • Donald Fagen – all four solo albums.
  • Tyondai Braxton – Central Market … Seamless sonic mix.
  • Tot Taylor – The Girl With Everything … Not an album so I’m taking a slight liberty here …. nevertheless as perfect a pop single as was ever recorded.


This entry was posted on Freitag, 11. Mai 2018 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Jochen:

    Journey to Dawn – best Milton album ever, imo … :)

  2. Brian Whistler:

    Also the epic Milton album Angelus, which is nearly like a double album in scope and length.

  3. Brian Whistler:

    Also very interesting that he mentions Van Dyke Parks. I’m not familiar with MoonLighting, which I beleve to be a more recent live album. The album that changeed my life was the first one, Song Cycle. Overwrought, over the top in almost every way, and completely disastrous commercially, I still love it.

    Here’s my review of the wonderful remaster on the Bella Union label …

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Pete Atkin and Mick Softley were real discoveries for me.

    When I told Bill this, he answered:

    „All the Pete Atkin albums are worth a listen I think, though the Live Libel the ‚parodies one‘ is less essential but I especially love these two I mentioned – great songs and great session guys including Herbie Flowers, Chris Spedding etc. He also wrote an album for Julie Covington; ‚The Beautiful Changes‘ which is well worth checking out.

    There’s more good Mick Softley material too though I think that one is the stand out album, Jim O’Rourke is also a big fan of that record btw.“

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