INTERVIEW: Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Glasgow music stalwart Aidan Moffat and the best jazz musician to ever come out of Falkirk, Bill Wells, recently released their second album The Most Important Place In The World. A beautiful collection of songs that tackle an abundance of lesser-discussed topics from “chip shop scuffles” to being “ugly, old and thick”, no stone is left unturned as these two geniuses flit between polished digital beats and erratic analogue freedom. The tone of the album is a mournful one and it’s an album is full of unexpected turns; from On The Motorways’ dark solo piano tones, and the scathing lyrics and polished beats of The Unseen Man to the explicit nature of Vanilla, exposed by the scarcity of Wells’ orchestration.

I caught up with them as they’re about to take this brilliant new album on tour, arriving at Newcastle’s Mining Institute on Thursday 28th May, and there’s an obvious sense of growing confidence in the project. As I touch on their growing relationship, Aidan is quick to point out that very little has changed bar his trust in Bill. “We’re a bit more confident about what we’re doing and trust each other more.” Bill echoes Aidan’s feelings: “I would say it’s become a bit more open with the exchange of ideas.”

Yet a lot appears to have changed when it came to the process of creating this record. 2011’s Everything’s Getting Older was an incredible album; however both have slightly different feelings on creating The Most Important Place In The World. Whilst Bill felt “much more free about where I could go with the music and [I] certainly gave Aidan a much bigger and wider range of ideas to work with”, Aidan takes a more rounded approach with a view on the whole process: “It was a lot more focused and organised than the first one. We demoed everything in advance, whereas the first album was more of a continual work in small bursts over a few years. We knew we had an end product to work to this time.”

From the outset, there is a deep and personal feeling to the lyrics; Aidan has never been one to shy away from taboo subjects and when confronted with this he’s quick to concur that these subjects were indeed taken from personal experience. “There’s some poetic license exercised of course, but they’re all rooted in real life and come from an emotional truth.”

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“there are billions of words on the subject of mid-life love and there will be billions and billions more. I even used some of them to get me in the mood”

That said, once you begin to dig into the bowels of this record, the darker subjects become inherently apparent. In a world where social media is king and everything is broadcast instantly, nothing is sacred anymore. Yet this record has a stark element of truth to it. “Love and its pressures are synonymous with music and people have been singing about the subject for centuries. Of course, there are billions of words on the subject of mid-life love and there will be billions and billions more. I even used some of them to get me in the mood.”

When pushing the lyrical content aside allowing Bill to take the fore, the results are incomparably brilliant, yet it reaches its peak with the incredibly erratic Lock Up Your Lambs. A track built from a single loop, as Bill explains: “having heard it with vocals and from Aidan’s suggestion to use a sax player I thought of John Burgess. His contribution certainly gave the track much of its character.” Aidan describes the track as having a “Satanic feel to it, which inspired the lyrics about raising a demon.”

Talk turns to the upcoming live engagements, with an album that clearly features a multitude of players and complex instruments, it’s going to be a tall order to replicate this live, but they’re unanimous in their belief that this record will take on a new life as more people get to hear it. “That’s the thing with a song, it’s never really finished – a record is just that, it’s how a song sounded at a particular point in time, and most songs get better the longer you live – and tour – with them.”

When quizzed on the touring band though, things will definitely be different to the record as Moffat confidently states: “I like presenting songs differently; I think audiences are a lot more open to that sort of thing these days. We did a tour as a three-piece a couple of years ago and it was probably the best one, so we’re quite confident about any kind of show. Fingers crossed we can put together a full band at some point later in the year – including the 20-piece choir!”

Touching on the recent launch party – never ones to conform to convention as they held it online – there was a surreptitious link to the album, as Aidan describes. “We thought about doing it in Glasgow but then I realised we could do it in a way that could give anyone access and could fit with the album’s themes.” My personal thought was that it may have something to do with Aidan’s Twitter presence, yet he’s quick to set me straight. “To be honest, I think most of my Twitter followers enjoy me swearing at politicians. I’m not sure they’re all that interested in the music!”

Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat play the Mining Institute, Newcastle on Thursday 28th May.

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