Interview: Neil Brocklebank

Dan McAvinchey: Neil, when did music first attract your interest and attention?

Neil Brocklebank: As an in object of sheer inspiration the guitar has always offered me so many emotions. Those moments when you stand on stage and deliver the greatest song or solo of your life, to the times when you record something which you know is special - somehow it doesn`t matter if you`re the only person who ever hears it. I was just a kid, and I remember getting so into this Beatles record which my uncle had given me - songs like "Day Tripper" and "A Hard Days Night" just had some deep appeal for me. Not long after that the same uncle gave me my first guitar, a beat up twelve string which I found impossible to tune. Nevertheless I couldn`t put it down, I was hooked, from The Beatles to AC/DC and beyond the stars!

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little bit about your guitars and other musical gear.

Neil Brocklebank: You know I have this Rg 540 PII which is my best buddy if you like; I put in some serious woodshedding on that particular guitar and you know, nothing else ever feels quite the same. I am hoping however that something very intriguing may be on the horizon. I`ve been approached by a new UK guitar company with a view to creating a new Brocklebank signature model which will give me scope to dream up the ultimate rock monster of a guitar. I have deviant plans for my new partner in crime and I`m sworn to secrecy - keep a look out on my web site and the mags for more clues!

As far as gear goes I just abuse whatever is lying around at the time, I prefer to take different amps into the studio if I`m recording. Promiscuity is an aspect of being creative for me, I never expect one piece of kit to do everything - if I want a big Fender valve sound then I find one. When I play live, it`s a bit of a different story. I have a couple of floor boards which I`ve had modified due to the pedals falling off and they work fine for me. I prefer to keep it simple when I`m on stage, I`m not someone who likes to use racks of gear - far too high maintenance. I like my mind to be on the playing not the technology.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you striving to achieve musically?

Neil Brocklebank: You can imagine the journey into the afterlife, when you reach the end of that long trip downstairs and Lucifer opens that rusty night club door - I`d like my music on in the background. Groovin`.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you feel you get more from an artistic perspective by releasing instrumental music, as opposed to hooking up with a vocalist?

Neil Brocklebank: Not really, I just found it a lot easier not to actually have to look for a vocalist, and besides, the ones I`ve worked with just turned out to be such twats. Anyhow, my next record will have a far greater vocal content and I will undertake the job personally, thus alleviating the need for the aforementioned.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you feel are some of the general pitfalls with the kind of label deals being offered to musicians today?

Neil Brocklebank: You know I`m no expert in this field, but I`ll give you my opinion. Beware the label that doesn`t care about music; by that I mean games companies who see you as a way of marketing their product - if nothing else you`ll be appalled at their choice of album cover. I remember some friends of mine signed to one such label, the bassist told me he walked out of their initial meeting and the band split the next day. So the wrong deal can end many years of ball breaking hard work. As musicians we always get the shit end of the stick, you can argue it`s our own fault and i`d probably agree with you - generally record labels know musicians want a deal and don`t care about anything else. Venues know you just want to play at any cost. Beware, everyone will make money before you the musician - get legal advice before you sign up, be strong, do it yourself if you can. Good luck!

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little but about your current musical projects, and what you have planned for the future.

Neil Brocklebank: I kinda just woke up and 'smelled the coffee.' I feel a real need to get out there and play. I`ve spent a lot of time and energy furthering myself out in cyberland but I`m really an 'on stage' kinda guy at heart so that`s what I`m doing right now. People have a lot to say about the way I play - good and bad - so it`s time to venture out of hyperspace and into the real world. Isn`t it wonderful the things you can do to a guitar on stage and get away with?

I should be doing some shows in the U.S in the new year, I`m looking forward to that, getting out there and seeing the American crowds gives me a blast.

My next project is on going as we speak. It is, of course, my new record. I`ve been writing for some time now and it`s starting to take shape nicely. As I said earlier, it has more vocal content so i`m looking to cross over a little into the mainstream.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel about the current crop of guitar-oriented magazines and how they are currently covering instrumental music?

Neil Brocklebank: It`s a difficult question to answer because I can only really comment on the UK mags. You know, there isn`t really much of a scene over here and we the Brits have a hard time supporting we the Brits, if you know what I mean. There`s plenty of coverage of American players like Vai and Satriani, which you would expect, but not much of anything else - it tends to be gear and guitar reviews.

I think the problem is failed guitarists tend to write for guitar mags, not that there`s anything wrong in that alone. But you have to remember the guy interviewing you, deep down would rather you were interviewing him. Guitar playing is such a sport and no one wants to be toppled, even if they never made it onto the podium. Hey I just thought, it`s a good job - we don`t get tested for drugs.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you now find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician and running your own label?

Neil Brocklebank: The disadvantages are that you have to finance everything yourself, and oh boy that ain't easy. Also every aspect of every thing is down to you and your band or management - I mean everything, from getting endorsements to booking gigs to recording and coming up with the concepts for all your marketing and strategies.

The advantages are that you get to do what you think is right and not what someone else thinks is right for you. Of course you could be wrong, I have been many times. Also, if you do make money it`s yours and you could get to work with great people like you guys at Guitar Nine, true believers who will become your chariot!

Dan McAvinchey: Can you share any marketing or promotion tips for musicians about to release their first independent record?

Neil Brocklebank: Find someone to distribute it for you, spend money on marketing and packaging as well as recording. Doesn`t matter how good it sounds if no one knows you exist! Endorsement deals are great if you can get them - advertising is expensive and this can be a great way of not paying for it. Of course, you can take out full page ads in magazines and then go bust. This also gets you out of paying for advertising, although it doesn`t help if you want them to do an article on you next month.

Remember, if you look like everyone else, how do you stand out? Don`t rely on your technique to get you noticed, it won`t. Your songs might, but you`ve got to get people interested enough to listen to you in the first place. No one is going to say how ordinary you look - if people say you look a complete twat, at least it`s debate.

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Dan McAvinchey: What do you see yourself doing in five or ten years time?

Neil Brocklebank: I`ll either be on-stage playing to shitloads of guitar fans, or rocking backwards and forwards in front of a secure window somewhere. Hey, either way I`m rocking!

Dan McAvinchey: If you could collaborate with any guitarist in the world on one recording project, who would it be?

Neil Brocklebank: I think it would probably be Vai, that way I could poison him in the studio and take over the world! (joke) No it would have to be Angus Young, the reason I rock - I`d love to do some Lizzy style guitar band. I've always loved his sound and style - just true, no bullshit, rock `n` roll - and we should all remember, this business is full of bullshitters, so beware!

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Neil Brocklebank is the UK`s highest flying no nonesense rock player. Brash and forthright he spells out the truth of his success in no uncertain terms.
He has also created an independant record label (MSP Records) that has grown in stature over the last four years releasing and distribting his acclaimed instrumental "Audio Violence" album. Brocklebank is now all set to release his long awaited vocal based follow up.

Dan McAvinchey touched base with Neil, as he tells of his early influences, his attitudes, likes and dislikes of the music world.