Neil Taylor interview

Neil Taylor interview

Neil Taylor has played guitar with everyone. He started off with Tears for Fears (including that solo in Everybody Wants To Rule The World), and has sinced played for Peter Gabriel, Tina Turner, Van Morrison, Morrissey, Rod Stewart and a whole bunch more. He also has a successful career as a solo artist writing with Steve Torch (Cher, Hall and Oates). We caught up with Neil as he prepared for a forthcoming tour...

[MPS]
You have worked with some of the most influential musicians of the last 30 years, do any of these experiences stand out for you?

[NT]
Yes there are many, but playing three nights at Knebworth with Robbie Williams stands out. I think there were around 120000 people per night. You couldn't see anything apart from a sea of people. The atmosphere was electric and there was so much energy on stage - especially on the first night.

[MPS]
Who did you feel most at home playing for?

[NT]
I'm going to have to say Robbie Williams again… I was heavily involved playing guitars on his albums: “Sing While You're Winning” and “Escapolgy”. so performing my own parts on stage was of great satisfaction to me. His music fitted my style at the time. It also felt like I'd arrived at my destination in terms of being a creative session player. We had a lot of fun too.

[MPS]
You've been involved with a huge range of musical activities, what kind of work do you get the most satisfaction out of?

[NT]
I enjoy the whole recording process as long as I can be creative. TV work is generally very boring, too much sitting around all day. I enjoy touring when you get treated well. I couldn't sleep on the tour bus for instance anymore; It's exciting & fun if you're young, but every artist seems to be cutting back financially over the past 10 or so years.

[MPS]
Can you pick out a favourite gig?

[NT]
I was asked to play with my band in Kiev Ukraine just 3 weeks before the revolution took place in Euromaiden. I never thought I would ever perform a bigger show than with RW at Knebworth, especially with my own band, but there were almost 500000 people in the square that night. We went on stage at 3am New Years day!

[MPS]
Having played for other artists for so many years, what was it that inspired you to start working on solo projects?

[NT]
Before becoming a hired hand, I fronted my own bands in Bristol. It's funny how you never choose your path but I decided I just wanted to do something for myself. I always had the urge to release my own records but lacked the confidence to sing for many years. I just thought if I don't do this now I never will. I wish I’d done it many years ago. All I ever wanted was to be part of a band, and if I'm honest I never felt 100% at home with the session path.

[MPS]
You've released four solo albums since 2010, how would you say your work has evolved over the last ten years?

[NT]
I always ponder on every song; “Is it too pop? Or should I do more solos? Is it to too long?” Ha ha, to me I'm just evolving, not going with any fads and obviously very influenced by the music I grew up with. My first album “No Self Control” I was finding my feet & voice again. The song “Walk Away” was the last song to be recorded and was when I realised I found my voice again. Steve Torch, my songwriting partner, had to almost forced me to sing it. Glad he did.

The second album “Chasing Butterflies” was acoustic, and made to play at shows but my label wanted to release it. The third album “No God Like Rock n Roll” was a natural progression from “No Self Control” and was more rock than pop. “Silverwing”, another acoustic album was on the back of the success of “Chasing Butterflies” and my first album without a label - the most enjoyable album to make!

Now I'm just about to release 'Come Out Of The silence', my fifth album. It's been a long time in the making, most songs were written with Steve Torch before he passed away. This album is Steve's legacy and a testimony to what an amazing songwriting talent he was.

I will be taking a different path on my sixth album; it will be a blues/rock album but won't be a twelve bar blues album. I already have the title for it and just need to record two more tracks!

[MPS]
Who would you count among your musical influences?

[NT]
Marc Bolan & T.Rex initially. The first album I ever bought was “Sergeant Pepper's” by The Beatles but that night I went to my cousins and he had Electric Warrior by T.Rex. I got my Dad to exchange it the very next day. I was an avid fan of TOTP's, and one night Status Quo came on with Caroline; I was amazed by their look & the wall of sound. That single had such amazing energy. I bought denims the next day and followed them for many years until punk came along, then everything went out the window. Guitarist wise I always love Ritchie Blackmore's playing; the Deep Purple album “Made In Japan” is breathtaking, his playing is full of class and energy. I've often tried to play the solo on the live version of “Child In Time” but could never quite get all of it. It's astounding.

[MPS]
If you could go back to any musical era what would it be?

[NT]
Ha ha I think I just answered that question; the 60's & 70's for sure. There is nothing new anymore, it's all been done. I mainly listen to the music I grew up with.

[MPS]
What was your first guitar?

[NT]
A Gold & Black Shaftesbury Les Paul. I still play it, it sounds amazing and has a certain quality to it; a very distinct sound. I've taken this guitar on tour and guitar techs always say it's a plank of wood, but it’s a great plank of wood.

[MPS]
What guitars are you playing at the moment?

[NT]
I still play my Fender Strat which my parents bought me in the 70's from Biggles Music in Bristol, and a lovely white 60's reissue Strat which I use live with my band on most of the songs. I also use my maroon Les Paul which I used in the Robbie Williams days (the neck has come off twice… I tripped over it in rehearsals but still plays great). I use an Ozark Dobro for a lot of my recordings through a 15 watt Marshall; it covers so many bases. Acoustics: I have an old Jumbo Yamaha and a Taylor 614E.

[MPS]
Tell us about your Riverside and DIG; what made you chose them?

[NT]
Wow, the Riverside is the best distortion pedal in the classic sense I've ever come across. It's great for the big rock guitar sounds and is very versatile. Usually overdrive/distortion pedals sound clanky with arpeggios, but the Riverside works great. It's very smooth & warm sounding; I love the favourite switch, which means you crank it a few more db for solos. I use it all the time.

The DIG ticks all the boxes for me as a delay pedal, it's clean sounding and I like having the choice of one or two different delays. I have four Strymon pedals on my board and I'm amazed there is no hiss going on.

[MPS]
What else do you have on your pedalboard?

[NT]
Strymon Flint, OB1 Clean Boost Compressor and the Boss CS3 Compressor/Sustainer. The clean boost is quite subtle and the Boss isn't! The tuner I use is the PolyTune 3 by TC Electronics.

[MPS]
Is there anything you have parted with that you really miss?

[NT]
Yes I had a 63 strat that I sold back in the 90's… I think it's somewhere in Japan now

[MPS]
Can you think of anything that really changed things for you?

[NT]
I've owned a Marshall TSL 2000 since the late 90's; 3 channels clean crunch and lead each having there own set of controls, I have always used this live much to the annoyance of the sound engineer (normally the cab is off or under the stage!) For recording I've been using a BlackStar HT20 combo which just sounds great when you put a mic to it.

[MPS]
Is there any advice you can offer to people starting out on their musical journeys?

[NT]
As a guitarist I have always been a great believer in individuality. I'm mainly self taught and not great with the theory side. I think this has sustained my career as a creative guitarist over the last three decades. What I'm trying to say is it's not all about theory and how fast you can play. You can't tell many guitar players apart these days so try & be different. Good timing is also very important. This applies to any instrument.


Neil’s new album is available to buy now:
Itunes 
Apple Music 

Find out more about what Neil's up to:
Website 
Facebook artist page 
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(Photography credit: Dan Schneider)

 

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