Bid, formally of The Monochrome Set and now the main force behind Scarlet’s Well, is one of the most enigmatic and eclectic musicians today. While The Monochrome Set was more indie guitar pop, Scarlet’s Well is a literate and magical project about remote land, during distant time. While all the songs are written by Bid, very young women sing most of the vocals; in fact, each song features a different female vocalist.
All of the Scarlet’s Well albums take place in the land of Mousseron, a mysterious place of ghosts, incantations, spirits, and fantasy. The first two LPs, “Strange Letters” and “The Isle Of The Blue Flowers”, all have marvellous string arrangements, unique instruments, with themes of hauntings, dragons, pirates, spells, and more.
Recently, the third LP in the series, “Alice In The Underworld”, has been released by Siesta Records (out of Spain). It could easily be the soundtrack to “The Lord Of The Rings” films, and it’s obvious that Bid’s imagination is limitless. The fourth LP has just been recorded and the magic continues to grow.
PIXELSURGEON: What goes on?
BID: I finished the fourth Scarlet’s Well album about three weeks ago, and I’m now shopping. Siesta seems to like it, but I don’t know when it’ll be scheduled.
Your last album is called “Alice In The Underworld”. Tell us about it?
Well, it is just the third one. It is about the characters going back to the village via the Underworld.
What is the meaning behind the title?
Alice is one of the singers. She and the girls of the second album went to a Caribbean island on a pirate ship in the footsteps of Lord Fishgarlic. This brought them to a temple, which they entered and that led into the Underworld. It is the sort of Hell of Greek tradition and they got back to their village, Mousseron. You got me all confused!
Do you have a favorite song on “Alice In The Underworld”?
No. I really do like them all. Anyway, they get changed in the recording, by the girls’ voices, etc.
How did you meet the female singers?
Lester Square is an art teacher, at the time of the first album, he was at a girl’s school, where the first and second album singers came from. The third album’s singers were from a public school [a public school in the UK is a private school in the US], where he moved on to.
Each song almost has a different singer, unlike the typical group. Was this something that you planned or just happened?
No, it was planned. I wanted the feeling of a musical, rather than of a band, though I’ve ended up using Alice on four and Zarif on three albums. I just like the variety, and it gives me more leeway as to the subject matter of the lyrics.
As an musician, who were some of your major influences?
Purely as a musician, I’d say Jimi Hendrix, blues artists from the 1920s like Blind Willie McTell, Ry Cooder, Carlos Santana, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper.
How did you get the name Scarlet’s Well? What does it mean?
Well, the idea was to base this thing in a fictitious village, Mousseron, probably in south west England, though it could be in Brittany or Normandy. The place names in Dorset are rather odd (French, Latin, etc.), and there are a lot of wells in Cornwall. I don’t know! I just thought of the name, did a quick search in Google, and there you have it. Although, I searched again a few months later, and found a real Scarlet’s Well in Cornwall, I think, some sort of old magic well there.
What happened to Florence?
Lester accidentally told four new girls that they could sing on the album, though I’m not complaining. So, there was no room for her on that one since I already had six! She sings on the latest.
“Who else sings on the fourth Scarlet’s Well album?
Actually, I sing five, Alice two, Zarif two, and Florence one. So now, it sounds like a band but I wanted to sing more, for a change, and another girl blew me out anyway. Surprising how many girls aren’t interested in singing on an album, blimey!
Do you go into the studio with pre-written themes and lyrics or do you hear the music first and write then and there?
All of the lyrics and a lot of the music is written before recording, but the music and arrangements do change. According to what happens, what new instruments Toby, the studio owner and co-producer, has bought on his travels, whether or not the vocals are working for a particular singer on a song, etc.
Why did you choose Siesta Records?
We both just sort of stumbled across each other. I was scheduled to produce an album for Mike Alway, financed by a Japanese company, and due to be licensed by Siesta in Europe, but the deal fell through. So, while I was sipping my tea, I asked them if they wanted to do a new project with me. They said, “Please, please, let us go, we’ll do anything”.
Will you ever go with a US label?
Hah! Well, I don’t know, but I’ve never been asked. Until they get bored, I’ll stay with Siesta for Scarlet’s Well, though.
You use exotic instruments. What ones? Which is your favorite?
I haven’t got one. On this album, I used: a small sitar, God! I’ve forgotten the name! Saff? No, Ziff? Well anyway, it’s a 7-string Middle-Eastern instrument, mandolin, ukulele, bazouki, they’re all interesting, but I couldn’t write on them. The guitar has a wider backing range.
What is the meaning behind the name, Bid?
I’ll never tell anyone that!
How did The Monochrome Set form?
Lester had left the Ants, and we somehow got back in contact with each other, and formed a band. Then we just filled the spaces in.
Why did The Monochrome Set end?
Like anyone, you reach the limits of what you can do with that particular line-up. I don’t mean technical limits, but the “compromise” limits. You’ve done all you can in the field available. Some people don’t mind this and they repeat what they’ve always done, and it’s not a bad thing, but we got bored.
What is your favorite album by The Monochrome Set?
I don’t know. It’s been a few years since I’ve listened.
Do you still speak to the members of The Monochrome Set?
Yes, not often, but still friendly. Andy still lives quite close by.
How is Toby Robinson a help to you?
He’s a great person to work with, especially if you want to be creative in the studio. He is a fountain of ideas.
What is your involvement with The Barry Gemso Experience?
I just did a duet on one of the songs with Kazmi. I didn’t work on them otherwise, it was all Toby and Orson. He’s now moved to Canada, and is a border guard.
Why do the spirits haunt Ruby Auburn?
They’re not haunting, they’re just hanging around.
What is your relationship to Fosca?
We’re just good friends. I’ve never met Dickon. In fact, I did ask him to write a song for this album, but he did a runner! He’s not got back, the evil ungallant.
Who is Hesperus?
It’s the name of the ship that features on three of the albums.
Are you married? Involved?
What are you live shows like?
We haven’t done any so far. I hope to do so soon.
What artist would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I’d like Clint Eastwood to sing on the next album. I like his voice.
What LP or CD has been in your turntable or your player recently?
Fats Waller, Hot Club de France.
What are some major misconceptions that you think people have of Bid? Scarlet’s Well?
Everything! Well… I fucking hope so, anyway.
Where did you grow up? In one phrase or sentence can you describe what was it like grow up?
Calcutta. I didn’t like being.
What is the biggest mistake you made in your career?
Signing to Warners.
Do you wish to be buried or cremated?
I would say buried, but I fear I’ll be dug up to make way for a motorway
What do you want on your gravestone?
Nothing. Life goes on, and when I die it will be as if I never existed.
What are some future collaborations that we should look out for?
Oh, I’ll be doing some, but you may not know it’s me. I could go to prison.
What is the fourth LP going to be like? What will the name be?
“The Dream Spider Of The Laughing Horse”. It’s a group of people singing songs in an inn on the outskirts of Mousseron, telling tall tales, etc. It will be more psychedelic.
Any final words for the people who will be reading this?
Why aren’t you wanking? It’s the internet, for Christ’s sake! Let’s Go!