Andrew Piran Bell (born 11 August 1970 in Cardiff, Wales) is a British musician, songwriter, singer, producer, DJ and former member of the early 1990s shoegazing band, Ride, and later, Hurricane #1. He currently plays bass guitar and is a songwriter for Oasis. On Oasis' latest albums, the band have taken less clearly defined roles and Bell was able to contribute guitar on his own songs.
Bell formed Ride with Mark Gardener (guitarist), who he met at Cheney School in Oxford and Laurence Colbert (drummer) and Steve Queralt (bassist), who he met doing Foundation Studies in Art and Design at Banbury in 1988. While still at Banbury the band produced a tape demo including the tracks "Chelsea Girl" and "Drive Blind". In February 1989, Ride were asked to stand in for a cancelled student union gig at Oxford Polytechnic that brought them to the attention of Alan McGee. After supporting The Soup Dragons in 1989 McGee signed them to Creation Records.
With Ride, Bell released three EPs between January and September 1990, entitled Ride, Play and Fall. While the EPs were not chart successes, enough critical praise was received to make Ride the darlings of music journalists. The first two EPs were eventually released together as Smile in 1992, while the Fall EP was later incorporated into CD releases of their debut LP, Nowhere, released in October 1990, which was hailed as a critical success, with the media dubbing Ride "the brightest hope" for 1991. Nowhere was followed in March 1992 with Going Blank Again. The twin rhythm guitars of Bell and Gardener, both distorted, both using Wah-wah pedals and both feeding back on each other was seen as the highlight of the album's critical and chart success.
Despite having a solid fanbase and some mainstream success, the lack of a breakthrough contributed to inter-band tension, especially between Gardener and Bell. Their third LP, Carnival of Light, was released in 1994, after shoegazing had given way to Britpop. Carnival of Light was oriented towards this new sound, but sales were sluggish and the shift in musical tastes devastated much of their original audience. The band were joined at Creation Records by Oasis, who shot to fame in 1994 with their debut Definitely Maybe. As label mates, Bell came to know the band's Gallagher brothers well and often shared in their partying, if not their success.
1995 saw the dissolution of the band while recording their fourth album, Tarantula, due to creative and personal tensions between the two guitarists. Bell penned most of the songs for the album, one of which - "Castle on the Hill" - was a lament for the band's situation and contains references to Gardener's self imposed exile from the group. Upon release of the album, it was announced that it would be deleted after one week.
Since the break-up, both Bell and Gardener have been more reflective on the reasons why the group disintegrated, with Bell especially admitting his own part in the process. It appears that they had just been too young and too stubborn and had no real idea of where the band was heading when they changed their style.
Bell returned in 1997 with Hurricane #1, another Creation signing. Aware of his own vocal fragility, Bell had drafted in a more gutsy singer, Alex Lowe, who would sing the songs Bell wrote for him. The same year, they released their first album, also called Hurricane #1. Their first single, "Step Into My World", number 29 in the UK charts (a re-mix of reached number 19 that year), and other less successful singles "Just Another Illusion" and "Chain Reaction". Their second album, Only The Strongest Will Survive, was released in 1998 and the title track was released as a single reaching number 19.
Hurricane #1 drew criticism, bordering on ridicule, for their similarity to Oasis. Bell himself said "Hurricane #1 is not so much influenced by Oasis, it's inspired by Oasis". Ill-advisedly, they let one of their songs be used on a TV ad campaign for The Sun. Their albums did not sell well and in 1999 Bell took time out to tour as guitarist with the band Gay Dad. Bell described the situation surrinding the demise of Hurricane#1 as thus: Meanwhile, Creation's reaction to the success of the first single was to go into marketing overdrive, a bewildering and unsettling experience for any band, especially when you end up a year later owing the label so much money that they can force you to do an advert for The Sun just so they can get some back. The big budget videos and everything else just turned the presses noses up even more, and in the end, the whole experience did take it's toll on the band. I ended up leaving the country to try and get some peace, and to write the bands third album. I hit a huge writers' block, and ended up, to all intensts and purposes, retired from music. After a few months of that, Oasis called me up. When asked in an interview what he thought of Hurricane#1 Bell gave the following answer- Yeah. Looking back on it...of all the songs we [Hurricane#1] released, which was two albums and B-sides I think we could’ve put together a really good album out of that. I don’t think that every track on the albums are good. I think about half the tracks on the each album are good. I think a few of the B-sides are really good and I think a few of the remixes are as well. So there is some good stuff there, but it was a weird old time.
During 1999[ with Hurricane#1 on hiatus Bell moved from Oxford to live with his wife Idha and daughter in Sweden to try and get some peace, and to write the band's third album. I hit a huge writer's block, and ended up, to all intents and purposes, retired from music. Bell then toured with Gay Dad playing lead guitar for two weeks during which time according to Gem Archer, Liam yelled [after hearing a radio report Bell had joined Gay Dad], "Andy Bell's joining Gay Dad! We can't let him do that!" Within a day, Noel Gallagher was on the phone and Bell had flown to Wheeler End studio in Buckinghamshire. "I'd never played a bass before," he recalls. "They asked me to pick it up and join one of the biggest bands in the world. It was an offer I couldn't refuse." He plays a black Burns Bison bass. Bell was invited to join Oasis because they were looking for replacements for founding members Bonehead and Guigsy. Bonehead was quickly replaced with fellow Creation signing and former Heavy Stereo frontman Gem Archer. Guigsy proved harder to replace and the video for "Go Let It Out" had to be filmed with Noel Gallagher on bass, Archer in Noel's role as lead guitarist and Liam Gallagher in Archer's role as rhythm guitarist. While unsuccessfully testing other bass players (such as David Potts), the band finally selected Bell as a replacement. At the last minute Bell had to learn to play bass as well as the entire Oasis catalogue before his first Oasis gig. As he had no part in performing on Oasis' 2000 album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, he was originally paid the wage of a touring musician – about £85 a night. As the token Southerner, Bell is the butt of many jokes. On stage, during the Familiar to Millions album, in response to the arguing chants of "Noel" and "Liam", Noel Gallagher appealed for the crowds to "fuck all that 'Noel' and 'Liam' shit. Can I have everybody singing 'Who the fuck is Andy Bell?'". He did however subsequently say, "Ah, sorry, man!", before adding to a member of the audience, "I dunno what you're laughing at; who are you, you cunt?". Bandmates have also nicknamed him "Wing Commander Bell" - a further nod to the fact that he doesn't fit in with the stereotypical Northern beginnings of the band.
Since joining Oasis Andy Bell has regularly made songwriting contributions to band with his first being the guitar based instrumental A Quick Peep appearing on the 2002 Oasis album Heathen Chemistry together with his song Thank You For The Good Times being used as a B-side to the Stop Crying Your Heart Out single, again in 2002. Thank You For The Good Times was originally to be included on Heathen Chemistry but Noel Gallagher chose to include A Quick Peep instead because I [Noel Gallagher] felt 'A Quick Peep' said more about him as a songwriter Andy Bell has also said When I wrote "Thank You..." it sounded like "We All Need Someone To Lead Them" by The Rolling Stones. When we started playing it together though it started to sound like "Some Might Say" - I never meant it to be a "Some Might Say" copy but that's what it is! For the band's next album, 2005's Don't Believe The Truth, Bell contributed album opener Turn Up The Sun , which was written in a forest near his Swedish home on his own in the middle of the night and was often used as the show opener on the 2005/6 tour to support the album. In addition track nine Keep The Dream Alive is penned by Bell.
On the new Oasis album Dig Out Your Soul, to which Andy Bell contributes bass, electric guitar, keyboards and tambourine, he has provided the song 'The Nature Of Reality' which appears as track number ten. Interestingly, he doesn't feature at all on the track 'The Nature Of Reality', explaining "I taught Noel [Gallagher] the guitar parts and then let him roll with it. Gem [Archer] played bass on it. I wanted to make sure that it sounded right in the control room where it was being played".
In addition to being a songwriter and musician, Bell has for a number of years actively been involved in record production. He receives co-production credit for both albums recorded by Hurricane#1- the eponymous Hurricane#1 and Only The Strongest Will Survive In addition Bell has undertaken third party prodction work on an ad-hoc basis for The Kynd for whom in 1996 he produced their debut single Egotripper. Bell undertook production duties for the fith studio album Fear & Love by Swedish band Weeping Willows released in 2007 Weeping Willows has always drawn upon early Roy Orbison and The Smiths as their main influences. On Fear & Love Bell brought some English folk music influences, and a some 1960s styled British Invasion sounds. The album was more or less recorded live in the studio, by playing the songs until the band got them right with minimal digital post production. Weeping Willows last two albums relied on a lot of post-production and remix styled studio techniques. Scandinavian music critics have given the album a warm welcome and compared some songs to The Coral, The Verve, Talk Talk and Oasis.
Solo Activities and Projects
Bell has been good friends with Magnus Carlson, the lead singer in Swedish band, Weeping Willows, together they have embarked on some musical projects. The two run and DJ at the club, Bangers ’n’ Mash. Bell, also undertakes occasional DJ sets in UK clubs, for example, 'This Feeling' night club night in London In 2003 Bell collaborated with the Stockholm based Irish-Swedish electronica/acid house duo, DK7, by providing guitar on the tracks “Heart Like a Demon” and “White Shadow” for their Disarmed album. During the autumn of 2006 Carlson and Bell teamed up (with Janne Schaffer) and performed at an event dedicated to the late 1970s singer-songwriter, Ted Gärdestad. In addition to his role as producerBell played a number of instruments on eight of the twelve tracks on the 2007 album Fear & Love by Weeping Willows ranging from glockenspiel, piano to guitar. He has also performed solo gigs at smaller Swedish summer festivals including the 2006'Fest-i-val' in UmeåSweden In July 2007Bell appeared with friend and former fellow Ride member Mark Gardener onstage with Californian rock band The Brian Jonestown Massacre at the Oxford 'Truck' Music Festival On December 19, 2007 Bell joined Weeping Willows on stage for an event called “An Evening With Weeping Willows At Chinateatern” He lined up with other prominent guests such as The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ Martin Hederos, Echo & The Bunnymen vocalist Ian McCulloch and Jens Lekman. In 2008, Bell appeared on the album of the Swedish based band The Most. He played guitar and supplied the vocals for their song "Now I Feel". Bell has on several occasions stated his intention to record and release a solo album in the future. I will get around to it, it’s just waiting for the songs to turn up that suit my voice. I’ve got one so far, give me about five years and I’ll have an album’s worth.