Christopher Harold Wells is a musician well-versed in the art of blending many different genres into his sound. Born in Philadelphia by way of North Carolina, Well’s family tree has generations of musicians within it making a career in music inevitable for him. He formed his first band, the industrial rock band Peasants of the Apocalypse, at 19 and went on to perform in bands such as Apollo Heights and Lovehead and The Real. He has also had the opportunity to open for Metallica, Everclear and Def Leppard and to share the stage with Lauryn Hill, Bubba Sparxxx and Captain Kirk of The Roots, along with many other artists. His latest endeavor is his solo project The Neverlutionaries, for which he blends together his rock and roll roots with his love for blues, gospel, soul, jazz and is, at times, peppered with shoegazy and psychedelic sounds. Regarding the origin of the band name, Wells explains, “The idea is that people are so lost in modern times, with so many issues to contend with and no great source of positive energy in which to draw from, that a real and true revolution seems impossible and it may never be. Hence, The Neverlutionaries. When I came up with the name late last year, there was a palpable tension in the air in our country, like something was about to blow. And it did.” He recently released his new single “Ariana” from his upcoming self-titled album that will be released in January of 2021. “”Ariana” represents the concept of a dream mate,” says Wells. “Upon finally meeting her, what would I say? How would I feel inside at that moment and what would those feelings sound like?”. Wells recorded part of his the album at the legendary Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco alongside his friend and #1 debuting producer Jaimeson Durr. The pandemic stopped him from recording the entire album in the studio, though, and Wells completed the rest of the album’s recording while quarantining in North Carolina. Wells coordinated efforts with friends and collaborators including legendary guitarist Kenny Olson (Bootsy Collins, Steven Perkins from Jane’s Addiction, Norwood Fisher from Fishbone, fabled drummer James Gadson), San Francisco drummer/producer Chris McGrew (Pamela Parker and The Fantastic Machine, co-owner Wally’s Hydeout in Hyde Street Studios C where Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Santana, CCR and CSN&Y recorded), pianist Ryan Hickey (producer, Wally’s Hydeout), session/studio drummer Nick Baglio (Gucci Mane) and guitarist Jonnie Axtell (Psychefunkapus). The revolving cast of musicians in Wells’ orbit also includes Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboardist/former Parliament Funkadelic keyboardist Peter Keys, southern rock outlaw rapper Alexander King and the aforementioned Kenny Olson who play together in a rock funk side project called the All Time Low Stars. With plans to release a another single this month and his album in January, he has given us all plenty to look forward to! You can connect with Christopher Harold Wells and The Neverlutionaries via the following links. Photo credit: himself.
What can you tell me about your upbringing and when your love for music began? Having generations of musicians in your family tree, how did they inspire you?
Oh wow. It was…you know, history wise, my father played trumpet with W.C. Handy in a band that he came up with, who was essentially the godfather of the St Louis blues. W.C. Handy went around and would kind of hand pick a few different musicians from local schools and teach them a few of his songs and they would do, like, a concert. I think my dad played one time with him. My grandfather also played music. On the other side of my family, in my mom’s family, her grandfather …there would be old school pictures and there would always be a guitar hanging out. I don’t know. It’s really been a huge influence, because it’s literally in my blood on both sides. This isn’t something that I just happened upon one day. I’ve been a bit of a ham since I was a kid and my parents were really smart and realized they needed to get me into a lot of activities like theater. When I was growing up in Philly, we had to do at least one of these productions a year, where we would do ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, ‘West Side Story’, ‘Oklahoma’ and stuff like that. I would actually sign up for the other ones that I didn’t have to do, just because I loved doing that. My sister was a big influence, so I went from that to being turned on to a lot of soul and funk that was really prominent in the ’70s, back in the day. From there, I got into KISS and big gigantic riffs and felt something but I didn’t understand what it was. It was that thing in music, you know? It’s like the force or something (laughs). It’s like a magic when you can hear a song and it moves you and gets you and can stop you like a deer in headlights.
You started your first band, the industrial rock band Peasants of the Apocalypse, at 19 and then performed in some other bands, such as Apollo Heights and Lovehead and The Real, exploring different genres along the way. What can you tell me about those early years of being a musician and how you’ve evolved since your first band?
Oh wow! I guess, certainly back to the thing with KISS, I’ve just always had a thing for rock and the attitude. There’s just something about it. And then there was the whole theater thing and I guess by the time I joined, or started, Peasants of the Apocalypse, all of those influences kind of melded together. We would do a ballad and then a thrash song after that and a lot of people were kind of confused (laughs). I kind of think that music should be like life. Every day is not going to be a Willie Nelson song. Every day is not going to be a Bad Brains song. Every day is not going to be a Travis Tritt song. Or a 50 Cent song. They’re all going to vary, like the tides. I’ve always been a fan of music that’s kind of able to convey that cycle within the music until it just becomes a part of your sound. It’s like “Oh, they’re trying to do their unplugged”, but it’s like no, that’s actually part of their sound. That’s something that’s led to the present time, starting when I was at Hyde Street (Studio), starting to track this record and to just make sure there was a nice balance of the light and the dark. Maybe it’s a Gemini thing. Sometimes it’s like the sun is shining and other times there’s nothing but clouds in the sky and I kind of like to write things that run the whole gamut of that. That’s just for me personally. You’ve got to love a band like Aerosmith who has their formula that works for them and they write these amazing songs that are killer. But if they all of a sudden doing like emo music or alt-country…well I guess Steven Tyler did do that, but it wasn’t the whole band…it wouldn’t fit because they’ve set a precedent of “This is our thing”.
They have a certain sound that people know them by!
Exactly. I love that part of the journey. I’ve had different times in my life, like I remember being really into Portishead and The Cure and Massive Attack and these bands that were kind of electronic and had just really spaced out guitars. There was something about that spaced out guitar that hits a chord in my soul as much as a perfectly crunchy distorted guitar strum. It makes you want to throw your hands in the air. I love to swim between both of those islands, per say.
What can you tell me about the shift in your lyrics over the years? Early on, you focused on more of an angry commentary of life’s external forces and then transitioned into more soul searching and facing within. What has that journey been like for you in your songwriting?
I think it’s just the transition that happens to most people. Hopefully in life you evolve with each passing year. For some of us it’s with each passing set of 5 years. When you’re supposed to evolve with time, different things matter to you. You know, like, back in the day when I was more like “See me! Look at me! Look at me! I’m up here! Look at me!” and now I’m like “Don’t look over here”, because you don’t necessarily need that, I don’t know, that input from people I guess when your soul is filled with something righteous in it. You don’t have to go to outside sources to get filled up. It could be anything from addictions to other bad habits, you know? I think that’s a part of a lot of people’s journey, is to kind of…how do you transition? We see a lot of people along our journeys who don’t make it. They fall by the wayside, so it’s difficult. I feel lucky because I’ve always had music to be able to document the times in my life and how I was feeling. When I go and listen to old Peasants songs, it can be a little strange sometimes, because I’ve always written stuff that was really close to my heart and close to my soul at the time, so it’s my truth. Then there are things you think you have grown from and gotten past and then you kind of relive them and go “Oh, you’re still down there. You’re just hiding.”
With regards to your band name, you have said that people are so lost in modern times, with so many issues to contend with and no real source of positive energy to draw from, that a real and true revolution seems impossible and may never be. I have heard a lot of people say that the energy right now just feels different then it has in the past. What are your thoughts on the state of things right now and taking the darkness to inspire the light?
I think for me, it’s…there are negative connotations that come with revolt. Even the word in itself and the language and the way the letters are put together-REVOLT. But, like, the ‘neverlution’…I don’t know. We live in a really curious age where people are really either connected and on a oneness trip or totally not. And you can see this thing happening even in the transition of your friends in life, especially during political things and during these times. I’ve had some interesting things on social media and people saying things you don’t realize you’re going to say. It’s kind of far out but you just have to focus on enlightening people. But I can understand when people get upset after they try to enlighten and no one enlightens and so you have to try shock and awe. Unfortunately, some people do that and it gets them in trouble. But, these are unprecedented times and it’s like trying to figure out how to play a new game that you’ve never played before, with tools that you’re used to but you’ve never played this game you have to win. It’s crazy and very different. I’ve tried to take this time to really delve into myself and dig deep into myself as a person and maybe tend to a couple of gardens that have grown and have gotten too overgrown (laughs). Looking deep enough to kind of take advantage of this time. I know some people who are just freaked the hell out. I was too for the first few months, and then I got to a point around my birthday and said “You know what? You can either live in fear or you can live in life”. I don’t want to live in fear because that’s not a life. I don’t want to exist. I’ve never been one for just existing and doing what’s expected for the sake of making a game or something or making something outside of yourself happy. It has to be about your happiness and what makes it work for you.
I read that you have also done music for tv and movies. What can you tell me about that aspect of your career and how you came to write music for tv and movies, as well?
It was more, kind of, a few years back. I had the opportunity…you know I know a lot of people in the business and hear of people looking for certain pieces of work for certain projects, and made a submission and got something like ‘All My Children’ or something like that. The movie stuff was more like some kind of independent stuff I did in North Carolina, but never really did too much. I liked that whole experience of being able to look at a scene and, you get your input from the director of course and what they are looking for, what kind of vibe or feel, but you kind of have to get into their mind and see what kind of music would go with it, like should it be an acoustic thing or a full orchestra with violin notes to make it really intense. That whole process was completely different than mine, which was always getting into a room with a bunch of dudes or whoever and cranking out some tunes and seeing what we come up with. Then it got to the point where there are always going to be people that are a bit more motivated to get things done in the proper way, compared to people that want to do things in their own time. I got to a point where I just started learning how to play all of the instruments myself and I found it was a great way to demo stuff to show other people and really got into it. Even now, even with the new record, I have a couple of folks in there helping me, but the majority of it is, except for the drums…I had my buddy Chris McGrew, who is one of the producers at Hyde Street Studios…and a few other musicians, I did most of it myself. Certain projects that I’ve worked on with other people, you come into the project and are like “Ok. It’s the 3 of us. You write that part and you write that part and you write that part”. Sometimes, if everybody is not on that creative flow, that synch is off and inevitably someone else will have to end up dictating how it goes, if you want to have a productive session. But I like it. I love it. And what’s really great now is that I was so lucky to have one of my good friends Jaimeson Durr, who produced Sammy Hagar’s record last, I think May, in 2019 that went to #1 on Billboard, and has worked with Joe Satriani and all kinds of folks, on the album. Music is such an energy thing for me. I played in bands with guys who were the most amazing musicians but were just complete assholes, and it just took the love out of the music and it didn’t make it fun. But Jaimeson is such the opposite of that. He’s such a kind, nice person that kind of gets where I’m coming from musically. I can send him essentially my botched up mixes of songs and just send him the files and he’ll send back something just amazing. So I can kind of focus on more of the writing aspects, rather than getting a mix right. That all takes a lot of time. It’s so nice to have someone, especially a friend, who gets where you’re going. Most people would be like “Well why don’t you make them all rock songs?” or “Why don’t you make them all pop songs?”, but he gets where I’m going. It’s a blessing.
What was it like for you to start the recording process for your upcoming album in the studio, but due to the pandemic having to finish it at home? Was was the process like for you to have to make that transition?
It was one of these survival kind of things. This guy at Polychromatic Records and I had a plan of when we wanted to put stuff out and when stuff needed to be done, to make sure all of our ducks were in a row. It just made sense to have to figure out a plan to plow through it. Luckily enough, I was able to get ahold of some really cool equipment through this company called Audient that make these interfaces, and I even did a little commercial…well, not a commercial. They featured my story on their website, which was kind of cool. I would love it if I had gotten to finish the album at Hyde Street Studios, in those hallowed halls, with Jaimeson behind the board and McGrew behind the drums and whoever else was going to kick in for the day and just knock it out there. It’s two different schools of thought when you’re the engineer and then when you’re the artist. Sometimes it’s easy to second guess yourself…and third and fourth and fifth guess and sixth guess (laughs). I’ve developed a pretty good little process I call the goosebump rule. During a take, sometimes you get goosebumps and that’s the cosmos’s way of saying “Alright. That’s it. You’re on it.” And it might not be perfect. Like, you can go back and listen to Zeppelin records and Page wasn’t technically proficient. You couldn’t sit there and have him play with a metronome. He wasn’t one of those guys. It was about feel, and sometimes if a note is a little off, it gives a little character to it and makes it cool. There is a fine line though (laughs).
What can you tell me about your new single “Ariana” and the idea behind the concept in the song of a dream mate?
I just, you know, love is at the core of everything that we are. It’s how our parents made us. There was some love involved, or we’d like to hope so (laughs). At the end of the day, I’ve come very close to having some love stuff happen but I think I loved my craft more, kind of selfishly. It’s easier to kind of dream about things, like “What would this feel like?” or “What would this sound like?”. At the beginning of it I’m using this guitar thing called an EBow that sits on opposite strings and vibrates the string in between and makes it oscillate and sound like a keyboard. The Cars used it on “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”. I used that just to kind of set a really interesting mood. That’s the thing I love about music, about how a song can take you somewhere. Especially now. I knew this was going to be the first or second song that was going to come off the record, but I wanted to just make sure. I thought it was a nice, easy, loving song about just dreaming, because we’re all dreaming right now (laughs). Like is all of this shit really happening? Somedays I wake up and it’s like it seems normal. I was watching a football game the other day and was like “Wow. This is just like normal”, but then I looked and they showed the stands and nobody was in them. Really weird! I’m kind of freaked out again (laughs)! Thanks camera 5 (laughs)! But it’s one of things where you have to acclimate. It’s all about survival, and with some people who are super, super social, I can see why they’re having a really hard time right now. You have people who are kind of refusing to adhere to things.
I told my mom the other day that it’s times like these that I’m glad I’m an introvert because staying in hasn’t been too hard!
That’s kind of the way I am. I have a creative mind, so I have a lot more fun hanging out by myself and I’m a pretty good cook, so I don’t really have to transition. That’s like something else I love to do. It’s the same kind of creative place. Instead of notes, you have temperatures and textures and things that are salty or sweet. It translates.
You will be coming out with a video soon for “Ariana”. What can you tell me about the video?
It’s going to be a surprise. It’s going to be really cool. I’ll let you know that. I finished up my scenes, actually, this week and had to go kind of rogue style because of the omnipresent Covid situation.
I imagine it’s tough to shoot music videos right now!
Yeah. I hear a lot of people in Hollywood are going back to doing productions but they are, like, these socially distanced productions. But you’re missing the interactions. Some things you can do it.
What can you tell me about the artwork for the single? It’s cool artwork!
Originally the artwork that I was going to do for the record and the single…I kind of like to do a conceptual thing…it started out as like a picture of a bird wing or something, laying on the ground. Then I was like “No, that won’t really work”. So then I just started conceptualizing this futuristic love thing, like if the Jetsons had like a club where Mrs Jetson could have taken Mr Jetson, like a romantic jazz spot. That would be the song they would play. It’s like that whole futuristic thing. There are interesting little things in the art if you look closely.
There do seem to be overlaps in the artwork.
Overlaps and there might be a spaceship in there.
You might see something different each time you look at it.
Exactly. And I’m trying to do something conceptually with all of the art so it kind of ties in. You know, just something different. I’m over the period of just sticking my face on a cover. Nobody wants to see all that (laughs).
Something more abstract!
Yeah. Like, let people sing. The thing I loved about being a kid and growing up on records and CDs was looking at the artwork while listening to the music.
Or reading the lyric sheets and booklets that were included with the album!
Yeah! That’s a part of the experience that I think nowadays, especially with album art and stuff, everything looks the same and nobody…and I’m not saying I’m just so original. I just wanted something interesting for people to look at. We pressed some actual record albums, some vinyl, and to have it all blown up would be even cooler. That’s something that people can really be like “Hey, what’s going on?” and with the next record do something kind of similar, so that it engages people’s minds. People’s minds need to be engaged and sometimes prodded because I think that lack of thought and creative thought can turn us into robots. But not us! We’re not robots!
What can people expect from the rest of the album? Is there a certain theme or sound throughout?
There are definitely a lot of different sounds and textures. My voice is kind of the continuative thing that pulls everything together and the textures swirl around it. There’s stuff on there that’s ballady, that I’m playing piano on and singing. Something that would make Elton John weep if he gave a damn. I’m just joking (laughs). There’s other stuff that’s really big and crunchy and riff oriented and kind of intense. There’s like a little trippy, little mystical, psychedelic vibe that kind of runs throughout it. I guess that’s the sound. After leaving Philadelphia, we moved to Virginia and I went to a gospel church down there and got into seeing these amazing singers sing every week. I actually sang in a couple of choirs, too. That definitely has an effect. It’s interesting. I always get compared to Living Colour and Prince and King’s X and Lenny Kravitz, but there’s one thing that people don’t understand. All those people grew up where? In the gospel church. And it’s going to kind of leak into your music. People also get lazy and it’s easy to take those terms. I guess to others, it sounds different than it sounds to yourself. I kind of just think I sound like me. There are always going to be influences, but I think my voice hopefully just sounds like my voice.
And I guess if you are staying true to yourself and those are your influences, then that’s the sound that’s going to come out.
Right. Right. And I have so many, and I’ve done a lot of stuff that’s been just, like, acoustic stuff and then I have some stuff that’s electronica. I had a couple of songs playing in Belgium a couple of years ago and a guy at the Hard Rock in Vegas was spinning a couple of my songs so it kind of goes all over the place. It’s like how you’re feeling. I feel consistently like the same kind of dude but there was just different textures to it.
What’s next for you? Do you have anything exciting coming up?
I guess, touring-wise and stuff like that, I’m just kind of playing it by ear. Once this situation has some kind of handle upon it where people can make plans in safety and not in fear, we’ll figure that out. There are a few little online things and the video comes out at the end of this month. The next single comes out I think in the middle of November and the album comes out on the 21st of January. I’m just really excited because as a musician I’m really hard on myself, because when you’ve invested a lot of time you shouldn’t just rest on your laurels and be pleased with mediocrity. I can’t do it because I didn’t come from mediocrity. My people always told me “You can do whatever you want to do, but just do your best and make us proud.” It’s always a work in progress. I just want to get the music out there and let people feel it and hope it moves people. I actually had a buddy of mine who I have known for quite a few years, and I played him this song of mine back in the day when we were like at a party or something. I was like “I just wrote this! Check this song out!”. I ended up playing it yesterday online for a program I was doing and he was going through some stuff in his life and was in an interesting place. He just happened to see that I was going to be doing this thing and clicked in and said that the first song I played was that song. He called me and was very moved and very emotional and thanking me. It was really probably one of the most beautiful things that has ever happened to me. Sometimes you wonder “Is it really good or am I just thinking it’s good and people are just being nice to me?”. You never know and it’s just so nice to get such a positive reaction from anything. You can’t buy that. I didn’t know what to say. It was just, like, one of these moments that you always remember and always hold onto because it was real. I was like, “Ok. I guess this is what I’m supposed to be doing”. I didn’t know where his mindset was. He could have been sadder than I knew at that point. Who knows what people are going through? Just to entertain and give light. That’s what it’s about. We need light workers and we need them to shine and emit, because with a lot of light, the darkness doesn’t have a chance.