Interview with Neil Leyton; October 2003

After interrupting Neil whilst he was chatting to a fan in Nottingham Rock City (UK), I enquired if he would be willing to answer a few questions for Glitzine. Of course he obliged and well... I wish more musicians were as quick (half a day it took to get these questions back). What a star, what a pure star!!! So enjoy and get your fill of who Neil Leyton is!

Q1. Could you give us a brief introduction as to who you are, what you do, your background etc?

A1. I am primarily a rock n roll singer/songwriter. Because the music industry isn't concerned with real music anymore I also had to start my own label.

Q2. Who would you say your musical influence(s) is/are (past and present)?

A2. I grew up listening to 70s Elvis Presley… I'm into melodic rock n roll from the Stones to the Hellacopters, plus old school country, some gospel, soul music… even french folk-pop like Gainsbourg and Renaud.

Q3. You've been referred to on many an occasion as sounding (vocally) like Nick Cave. Do you find this to be an Insult or compliment?

A3. I think it's probably just a misguided reference to the fact that I am a huge Nick Cave fan; I mean, there are some songs on "Midnight Sun" where I sing in my lower vocal register but I definitely do not sound like Nick Cave. Either way, it is a compliment I suppose.

Q4. Kerrang magazine made comment that you have 'the third most irritating voice in rock', how did you feel about this? Did you get the opportunity to respond?

A4. That was in '99 when they heard my first solo album, "Secret Avenue". I didn't have to respond, because Darren Stockford, a UK independent music journalist, responded for me - he trashed their record review as rubbish. At the time I thought it was pretty funny…

Q5. Does it bother you that people remember and talk of you as 'Neil Leyton, frontman of The Conscience Pilate' first and foremost, rather than Neil Leyton, solo artist, entrepreneur and owner of Fading Ways?

A5. That really only happens in Canada. I think most of my UK fans know me primarily as an artist in my own right. Since TCP broke up I've concentrated my efforts on getting records out in Europe, because I don't think I could crack the major-label dominated Canadian market without serious amounts of cash.

Q6. I personally know why The Conscience Pilate decided to call it a day, but there will be a lot of people who don't know the reason. Could you explain why the band seemed to disappear without trace?

A6. Sure. First Edward left to pursue his photography career after we'd had some issues putting out the second record because of a bad deal we'd signed. Then Stacey Straye told me I should go solo, and quit - I found out afterwards that he'd already been in talks with Robin Black to form the original Intergalactic Rockstars. Kevin Taylor continued to drum for me occasionally until Robin told him he could no longer do so - "no side projects". So I had two choices, continue TCP with a whole new line-up, or simply go under my own name, which I did. In retrospect I'm happy I did, because really TCP was always a collaboration between me and Edward Pond.

Q7. After your departure from The Conscience Pilate, what made you decide to head down the solo career pathway?

A7. I think I've answered that already… it was sort of a default decision. Plus being a solo artist I can employ whatever friends / musicians that are available at the time for each show / recording / tour, etc… it's great and allows me much more artistic flexibility and range.

Q8. Who were your co-conspirators on 'Midnight Sun', and why did so many musicians participate in the making?

A8. I wanted many different moods and textures on that one, so from having the Aceface guys come down and be my rhythm section for the more mod/soul songs, to having Kevin, all these years later, come and drum on some stuff, Barry from Galore, Steve Payne, I mean, all these people are my friends, they were hanging around. I did invite Kevin Quain, who is one of the most talented people I know in Toronto, to come and play some piano, the squeezebox, Gene Hardy for the musical saw and the saxophone… different textures, different sounds. It's a very varied record.

Q9. What in your opinion makes a good song?

A9. Feeling. Emotion.

Q10. Do you have any opinions as to why 'Videofact' turned you down? Have you had any luck with them since?

A10. Ha ha - still no luck with VideoFact. I don't think my songs are easy to get into, they certainly don't sound like anything else on TV or commercial radio, so it's not really surprising to me that I don't get those things…

Q11. Chris Case (Bhurr Records and Manager of Crash Kelly) noted that both yourself and Sean Kelly are entrepreneurs on the Canadian music scene. Care to explain…?

A11. Not sure I can - I'm an entrepreneur in the Canadian, and international scene. Sean Kelly is not, to the best of my knowledge. He's a school teacher when he's not touring or playing guitar.

Q12. What made you decide to set up your own music label 'Fading Ways'?

A12. After TCP went through what we did with an indie label that ended up behaving like a major, I decided I was going to get things right for myself and my artist friends. Fading Ways is a very good home for artists, we don't pretend to be a star-making machine, never will be. But I work very hard at growing our artists careers in an organic, natural way.

Q13. Why do you think a lot of Canadian artists/bands tend to travel and play the UK before the U.S?

A13. It's hard to tour Canada, plus the rewards in terms of numbers of people you play to and records you sell is much smaller than in the States or UK…

Q14. Who, in your opinion are today's most underrated bands/vocalists?

A14. Lindy. He's an amazing singer, but perhaps also his own worst enemy, I'd love to see him succeed. In terms of songwriting I think Luke Haines (ex-Auteurs) is the most underrated. He's phenomenal, but so full of venom towards the industry and mankind in general that he's a complete outcast in the UK, from what I gather… Aceface I think haven't had their due yet in Toronto, watch out for their next records… a full-length mod-pop record plus a two-CD songcycle coming your way next year. Carl Nanders is a genius.

Q15. What are your plans for the rest of the year?

A15. Well, I'm working on the next Leyton record, besides running the label (new Kevin Quain live record to release soon, plus new distribution in Germany via Cargo, have to ship Ky's "doodling on jazz" and Galore's "parader" there this week) and also co-producing a new artist, a singer/songwriter by the name Jim Clements.

Q16. Any final words, insults, loving messages?

A16. Mmmm. Loved playing London with Rich Jones (Amen) and Natasha Moledina (ex-Little Hell bassist) opening for Ginger from the Wildhearts. That was definitely the highlight of my last UK tour. And meeting TV Smith, another vastly underrated songwriter and original punk from the 70s… just a brilliant person, he's friends with Rich so he came to my show at the Barfly… I've got no insults right now, just loving messages I guess. Try me back tomorrow though…

Neil has also asked me to mention that Fading Ways is re-launching its label site this November. It will be up on both and around mid-November

Interviewed by Spice D. Warlock

Visit Neil Leyton's Website

Visit the Fading Ways Website

Leyton Cover Story Link

Fading Ways Artists