Alan Wills, the founder of Deltasonic Records has died aged 52.
It was October 2001 when I first saw The Coral.
Upstairs in the original Picket they played alongside co-headliners The Music – it was a night that knocked me for six. I can barely piece together the mayhem that greeted my 21-year-old mind as a gang of kids, several years younger than myself, blitzed through a set which fused barnstorming melodies, classic West Coast vocal harmonies and tangled psychedelic instrumentation which belied their wide-eyed innocence.
With their denim, Fred Perry and corduroy threads, 60s barnets, Clarks Wallabees, whopping side burns and vintage gear they looked hip and had that gang mentality which all the best bands do – but their twisted musical charm gave them that rare stand out appeal. While Paul Duffy hopped from foot to foot thwacking his bass like he was attempting to chop it in half, Bill Ryder-Jones was stock still gently finger-picking his strat in an ill-fitting trackie. Vocalist James Skelly, meanwhile, was magnetic. They had it.
And the man who first spotted it was Alan Wills.
Wills, the former drummer with Liverpool bands Shack and Top, was attracted to The Coral by one of their early posters, designed by drummer Ian Skelly, featuring ‘their grandad’s head exploding‘. And it was Wills, together with partner Ann Heston, who would go on to shape the sounds of Merseyside for a legion of music fans.
Through their label Deltasonic they shaped the careers of The Zutons, The Dead 60s, The Sand Band, The Rascals, Candie Payne, The Basement and The Little Flames – the band that would later inspire a young Alex Turner to form Arctic Monkeys.
Deltasonic’s influence snowballed, and together with key acts The Bandits, The Stands, Tramp Attack and The Hokum Clones, the UK music press were falling over themselves for a piece of this daftly named movement coined ‘Cosmic Scouse’.
Such was the weight of Deltasonic’s presence on the UK music map – and coupled with the bands emerging from the Bandwagon scene – one fond trip to the Glastonbury Festival (2003, if memory serves correctly), saw a blisteringly hot afternoon’s performances made up almost entirely of Wills’ young guns and an assortment of other Mersey talents, as Liverpool-by-way-of-Leeds ramshacklers The Basement wellied their way through a set on the John Peel Stage before a yellow boiler-suited Zutons shimmied in the Avalon sun with Abi Harding‘s glistening sax leading a particularly raucous crowd on the Other Stage.
It was just under ten years later when I first met Alan. We’d briefly exchanged new music tips in Korova in 2003 under the orange neon glare on those TVs that dangled over the American diner booths and our paths had crossed numerous times at gigs in the years that followed but it wasn’t until 2013 that I had my first ‘proper’ sit down with Mr Deltasonic. He contacted me about a new band, and was keen to talk through ideas.
Over the course of a two hour meeting I was taken aback by the man’s insatiable love of music; he positively gushed, barely pausing for breath about his find – the ‘best new band in the world’. His heart-on-the-sleeve passion was infectious. I was buzzing off a man who buzzed off music. Every story or anecdote had a musical connection. His energy, positivity and restlessness seeped through his purple V neck knit and grabbed you round the shoulders imploring you to buy into his new music vision.
And when we were done with his next big thing on Merseyside we talked Rolling Stones, New York and The Strokes, Mo’Wax and how James Lavelle‘s label shaped his early days in forming a label, Stone Roses, Americana and The Beach Boys, long lost Deltasonic acts like The Longcut and The Suzukis (two acts I’d followed from around 2003, the latter were Deltasonic’s first album release as a fully independent record label), The Verve and Spiritualized and which bands we hoped to see in the future.
Conversation whisked from one subject to the next but always back to music – and after I insisted I must return to work, Alan insisted he walk me from Castle Street back to Old Hall Street returning to his original subject – the ‘best new band in the world’. We must have shook hands half a dozen times before Alan eventually said farewell.
Subsequent chats always followed in a similar vein. Everything revolved around music – Alan’s spirit depended upon it – and that’s why I find him so much fun to be around. He is quite simply, like us all, a music fan – but for many musicians and music fans, he made it happen.
On Thursday at around 8.30pm, Alan, 52, suffered serious head injuries while cycling along East Prescot Road, Page Moss.
Police are appealing to anyone with information to contact them on 0151 777 5747 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
This was the band Alan waxed lyrical about – The Dirty Rivers.
UPDATED: Monday May 12, 2014
Alan died tonight. His friend David Pichilingi left this tribute:
Tonight my friend died.
One of the most generous, honest and loyal people that ever walked this earth.
He had a child like, sometimes brutal honesty. His love for his family was second to none. His love for music knew no bounds.
I am proud to have walked much of the journey with him.
His death is untimely. He was not ready to go. He had so much energy and unfinished business.
He will be greatly missed by us all but none more so than Ann, Carly, Jamie and Sonny. Of course also by Joe who has been with him on most of the fantastic musical journey by his side. A true friend and ally.
Alan was a character of great substance and depth. He always had time for everyone. He always gave his opinion (even when not asked). Never with any malicious intent
We have lost a beautiful and crazy character and life will not be the same without him.
It was Al who told us the soul is an eternal entity that will live on beyond death. He said our body is just a spacesuit. When we die the spirit lives on and the spacesuit is left behind.
Alan, am left crying over your spacesuit, but I know you live on.
See you on the other side my friend .
Our thoughts go out to Ann, his family and his many friends at this time. Rest in peace, Alan, you were an inspiration to us all.