BILL BELL: The Vicar’s Son
Bill Bell’s latest CD The Vicar’s Son delves into traditional and contemporary Irish, Scottish and American fiddle music…but that’s only a small slice of Bell’s musical interests. His musical resume includes work with iconic underground pop stars, film, the avant-garde and Rai and Raga music. Bell’s early musical influences were church hymns and Country/Western music. These influences were, according to Bell due to his father being a Southern Baptist minister and an accomplished Western songwriter and singer. Bill was also introduced to classical music and started lessons on the violin at age 12. He later lost interest to pop influences with the invasion of the British and the Beatles. Bell majored in choral composition in college and in the late 1970s but his later interests found him concentrating on electronic music, focusing on “Musique Concrete”.
“I spent years with razor blades and magnetic reel to reel tapes“ he recounts. One result was “The Sirens of Galilee” a four years-in-the-making composition of found, recorded and manipulated sounds. His influences at the time were Morton Subotnik, John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Walter Piston. Living in Los Angeles afforded Bell the opportunity to meet other electronic musicians like Bob Moog, Tom Oberheim, Serge Teherepnin and Don Buchla. Bell worked with some of their earliest synthesizer modules. Electronic music and its frontier possibilities led Bell further into a period of experimentation with microtonal, non-twelve tone composing systems. This came in handy when ten years later he met and worked with kitch icons The Del Rubio Triplets.
“While living in Long Beach I met the amazing Del Rubio Triplets at a bar/lounge on Pacific Coast Highway. At this time they were playing lounges and rest homes. It was the beginning of a long friendship and collaboration as I brought them into the pop world as an opening act for the Fibonaccis at the Masonic Temple in Long Beach in 1988. We recorded the album, “Three Gals, Three Guitars,” and their career was launched into the Hollywood underground. After the initial success of their first LP I produced “Whip It” and “Jingle Belles,” both CD releases in 1991.
During this same time period Bell also studied film composition with Earl Hagen and Jerry Goldsmith. “ I assembled a recording studio in Long Beach and recorded projects with some early Southern California bands including, the Suburban Lawns, Su Tissue and Rhino 39. Bill also contributed violin tracks to bands he says he respected; the Fibonaccis, Electric Sheep, Non Credo and Giant Ant Farm“.
In 1992 Bill Bell contributed tracks to the film score of “Kafka” with Jeremy Irons and wrote and produced “Frightened by Nightingales,” with Josey (Josie) Cotton in 1993. His later work with Josie Cotton resulted in the co-production of another Josie (Josey) Cotton CD, the popular “Invasion of the B-Girls.”
As a matter of clarification he often used his middle name ‘Rhea’ instead of ‘Bell’ and much of his 1990s music was credited as Bill Rhea. After the completion of “Frightened by Nightingales” In 1993 and 1994 Bill began recording orchestral and mandolin tracks on an international music project with the Algerian Rai singer, Rimitti. These recordings were produced by Jean Benoit Vauxelaire in Paris, France and with Geza X in Hollywood. Other musicians contributing to the two CDs were Robert Fripp, Flea, Geza X, East Bay Ray, and the Fowler Brothers. Bill has also written and produced the mockumentary, “Mysteries in Midgetville.” He is also a member of the Intercontinental Philharmonic Orchestra and contributed multiple tracks on the 2007 release of “The Pillory,” by Jasun Martz.
Since the late 1990’s Bill has concentrated on American and Celtic fiddle music, having produced two CD‘s. “Under the Dome” (2003), is a compilation of Civil War music and his latest, ‘The Vicar’s Son,’ The Vicar’s Son’ is a collection of traditional and original Scottish, Irish and Texas fiddle music. It includes folk tunes Bell has picked up on his travels in the British Isles as well as his own inspired tunes. He imbues the recordings with beauty and care, bringing in top of the line musicians Paul Burton, Eddie Young,Dan Richardson, Enrique Platas and Red Dice to provide sensitive background accompaniment.The result is warm, inviting folk music in an historical context with Bell’s contemporary twist…as you can hear in the title track. This is friendly, unaffected music by an equally friendly and unaffected artist, with just enough mystery to provide an edge. Music that is presented with warmth and just a touch of slyness. According to Bill:
“I found my fiddle in a pawn shop in Lubbock Texas in November 1983. It is labelled ‘Aldric’ Paris France, 1828. I hope you enjoy listening to ‘The Vicar’s Son’ which is, after all, just a fancy way of saying “Preacher’s Kid”.