After reviewing Neal's fantastic new album "?", I decided to do an interview with the master himself. A few days later, he phoned me at home.
Hi Neal. I'm Marc. It's nice to talk to you.
It's is nice to be talked to. How are you doin'?
I'm fine. Neal, I just have written a review of "?". I really really love this record. For me it is the best of your solo albums, it is nearly on one level with my Spock's Beard favorites. I wonder whether it is something special for you, too, or is it just another record?
Oh well, I love it, but I love them all. They are all special to me. They are like children. "One" still has a special place in my heart, and I wonder if that is because I never toured that album. I don't know if it is just the record itself, but I still find myself drawn to listen to "One" more than to the others. I know some other people think it was a disappointment, but to me "One" is still very great.
For me it was very easy to get into the music of "?", at the first listening session I got completely consumed by it. Normally you need a few times more to reach this. I wonder what is the reason for this? I have the impression that the songwriting and recording must somehow have been an easy flow to you and your mates. Do you agree?
Yes it did flow very easily. If you have a look at my website, I think last February, I posted something about having a real flood of ideas. The whole "?" album poured out in about a week.
In a week???!!!!
Yeah, I wrote it in a week. The recordings took a while longer, about two months.
Did Mike had to pay again for some of his ideas to remain on the record?
Oh yeah, the 50 Dollar drum-fill
No, we didn't have any bargaining on this one.
Did your way of/to "work" change since you left Spock's Beard? What are the differences?
It is nice to be able to stay home. But I miss the guys. We were a great band, and I miss them personally. The recording process is better. I always loved the recordings with Spock's, but it was hard, 'cause I always had to fly out there, and had to stay with everybody while they did their parts. This sometimes was hard, but sometimes it was very great, too. That's the difference, I would say.
"?" is extremely spiritual. Your sounds create an awing feeling of sublimity. I find this fact extremely remarkable, for I am not in the least a religious person, but you make me feel what your imagination of the divine could be, as if I would be able to look through your eyes. Do you want to show your personal picture of God? Are you a medium for your religious believes? What are you trying to transfer through your music?
Oh, I'd love to show God, not only my picture. One of the things that I am trying to do on these albums is, to try to put into music what it is like to feel the holy spirit, and what it is like to be in Christ. Examples for this are "Inside His Presence", or "Entrance", (sings) "Let the unclean ones come into the gate", it is a kind of triumph. It is difficult to put into music. And on "One" I was trying to do that as well. The beginning is supposed to be like God and the heavens before creation. The orchester slows up, he begins to create. I try to show the joy of it. So I always try to put those things across. If you get a chance, man, get a bible and go through the scriptures in the album notes. There is a lot of really cool stuff in there. Check it out, man.
Does it matter to you, whether your fans are religious or not?
No, it doesn't matter to me. No, it is great to talk to people that kind of know what you are talking about, or people that are christians, but you know, Jesus didn't do that. He went and talked to everybody. He not only went in the churches, but he also went to other public places. He talked to people who didn't know anything about God. And so, I am, too, for everybody.
Was there any negative feedback from people who do not like your religious lyrics? Maybe from old Spock's Beard fans?
Oh sure, there was always that. But I knew that was coming, that was kind of part of it.
Were those people really angry about you, were they insulting?
Most people have been very kind. It's been amazing, actually, how good things have gone, really outstanding I think. I'm surprised, when I decided to really come out as a christian, and quit the band, and make these God orientated records, my wife and I were ready to put it all on the altar. We were ready to loose everything, but we had to do what we feel in our hearts. I'm thrilled, people have been very supportive and kind.
Do you have any intentions to influence your fans towards christianity?
Oh sure. I am hoping to reach people. I hope that God, through these albums, will do a work in people's hearts. Music can bypass the brain and go right to the heart. Sometimes people have told me that they have been listening to my albums, and they started to crying and don't know why. And I feel like that God is working in people's hearts, he's kind of softening their hearts.
Once again you have very great musicians on your record. How did Steve Hackett join in your team?
I talked to Thomas Waber, who runs Inside Out Europe. (Both, Neal and Steve, have a deal with Inside Out.) Thomas gave me Steve Hackett's Manager's number. I never actually met Steve. I only had contact to his manager via email. And so I emailed him the music, and he returned Steve's recordings. In a way this was a little disappointing, but it was also kind of cool.
Alan joined you on "?". Many of your fans are very happy about this. Why didn't he join in earlier? Was there bad blood between you?
Well, there had been a little tense between us for a while, after the break up. I don't think it was bad blood, it was just that we didn't feel very comfortable. Sometimes it takes a little while, you know? It is somewhat like a divorce. There was grief, and we had our moments. So it took a little time, but now it is very nice to be with him, and to work with him again. Now things are good.
And I wonder what your relationship to the other Spock's Beard members look like? Are you still friends, do you stay in regular contact?
Yeah, we do. We phone and tell each other what is going on. I talk to Dave, pretty regulary. I talk to all the guys.
Did you listen to the new Spock's Beard records? What do you think of them?
Yeah. I really liked some things. On "Feel Euphoria" "East Of Eden, West Of Memhis" was cool, and on "Octane" the whole "A Flash Before My Eyes" was very cool, too. I think they are doing great. I am very happy for them.
Any chances for a reunion of any kind, maybe as a project or something?
You know, I never say never about anything. My life is the Lord. So whatever he wants I will be doing. And if he wants it, I will do it.
I just have learned that there is a third Morse-brother, called Richard, and that he lives in Germany. Can you tell us something about him?
Oh, how much time you got?
How much you wanne know? Ok, he is my oldest brother. He is a great guy and a incredibly talented, a very gifted songwriter. He's got an album that is coming out in a month, or a month and a half. He is spelling his name with "y", so that people can find him on the Internet: RYCHYRD.
(Did I understand Neal the right way??? I found no hp of Richard, and even this spelling did no help. There is a link on the Spock's Beard homepage, but this link doen't work. If you wanna know more about Richard, try: http://people.freenet.de/2000-songs/press.htm.)
I played keyboards and guitars on most of his albums. His new album is really good.
Do you know the "Healing Colors Of Morse"- 4-cd- bootleg- box?
No. What is that?
It is a very great box, made by a fan of yours. It contains stuff of your "Nick An Neal"-tour, a Spock's Beard live-gig of 1998, Transatlantic live stuff, and "Snow" unplugged rehearsals. There is obviously much love behind this box. I don't think that there are many copies of this fine piece. I wonder, what is your opinion of such bootlegs?
In general it's violating the law. Selling stuff that doesn't belong to you is a little weird. But on the other hand these things often come from people who just love the music, and they just wanna share it, and usually don't charge very much. So I see both sides of it, and I am not very worried about it. Sounds like an interesting bootleg, I think, I want to have a copy of it. Can you send me one?
Ehm, well, why not. I will send you a copy. So, what are your future plans? Will we soon see you again on tour? Are there any recordings on the horizon?
Oh, I am recording some christmas music right now. And I am writing on some new things, I don't know exactly to where it is going. It is too soon to tell. And as far touring, I am planning about it. We will see what happens.
Dear Neal. I finished all my questions. Thank you very much for the interview. I hope we all will enjoy much more of your beautiful records and shows. Stay on well.
Thank you. I appriciate you encouragement. God bless you.