Whatever happened to the British guitar hero? There was a time when these small isles produced some of the highest regarded guitar players in the world. Sure, we still have most of them: Marvin, Page, Clapton, May, Townsend to name but a few. But most of them are in semi retirement, having given their all for Queen, Country & Rock 'N Roll. The modern breed are quite different with only really Matt Bellamy of Muse and Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro as anything that could be compared to the greats. The modern British guitar player is quite a different beast preferring textures and effects or acoustic guitars to the raging riffs and solos of the past, with a considerable degree of success and aptitude it must be said.
But... Where are the players who take this distinctly British approach, but also play with the precision and mastery of the instrument to rival what those guys across the Atlantic are doing?
Enter Neil Eynon. Aiming to fill the gap between the great American guitar technicians and the more textural approach from Britain, Neil is taking instrumental rock in new, possibly quirky directions. Hailing from Milton Keynes, England, work on his self produced début album is progressing at a rapid pace with some of the songs already in place.
"2013 was supposed to be a Psycho Mojo year."
says Neil. Psycho Mojo is the classic/alt rock band Neil has played in for the last 6 years.
"We had had some really great feedback about our original songs and due to a number of factors playing covers in empty pubs was becoming totally demoralising, so we had decided to focus on getting better gigs as a support act playing our original brand of rock".
However, in January 2013 disaster struck, Andy Bryson, the lead singer and bass player suffered a brain aneurysm. He has survived and is recovering remarkably well, after only six months he is able to play bass and sing, although not physically capable of working on band material.
"We had to re-evaluate everything that we were doing and planning. I wanted to continue doing live work and I have a friend who owns a couple of restaurants, one of them has a stage and he puts on live acts. Obviously, the Psycho Mojo set was not suitable for dinner entertainment so I was going to play instrumentals to backing tracks. To make it interesting I came up with this concept of doing a revue type show where I would examine rock guitar through the ages, starting in the 50s then into the 60's with surf rock and through to the modern era with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani."
However, while putting together this show something unexpected happened.
"I wanted to include a couple of my own instrumentals I had written and recorded years ago, but I didn't have the backing track for one of them, so I decided to use my home recording set up to rerecord the backing track."
This song was "Playing in the cold" the original version can still be found on Neil's old myspace profile.
"While redoing the backing track I was amazed at the quality of the results I was getting with practically free software, so I ended up rerecording the whole song".
Using the open source DAW Reaper and a handful of free VST plugins Neil set about recording, mixing and producing the song.
"It really made me think about my playing and what I was trying to say with this song. Just through the process of creating this one song I learnt so much about the process of being an artist and the more technical side, it was amazing. I learnt how the production can bring out the essence of the song as much as the playing does. With this song I really wanted to conjure up the wonder of a child playing in the snow in winter, which in the UK is an exception rather than a norm. But the act of revisiting this one song opened the flood gates somewhat!"
Neil then started to come up with new song ideas and got bitten by the writing/composing bug.
"It was late spring early summer and I felt I really wanted to have a feel good, windows wound down old school rocker. So I wrote "Days of summer". The backing track came together really quickly and then it was all about the melody. I originally wanted something with a break that had very abrupt stops in it. Something similar to the end of the rap in Jessie J's "Pricetag". My daughter had recently discovered this song and we were playing it in the car everyday on the way to nursery. I couldn't get that to quite work but I came up with these 11th arpeggios, reminiscent of the chorus of Satriani's "Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing". I had to practice these a lot in order to be able to record them!"
So with more song ideas and confidence in delivering quality results Neil has set out to bring back the British guitar hero.
"I am not an out and out shredder by any means. I can play quite fast at times and have a good understanding of theory but I am really as interested in the composition as the playing. If I had the capability I would write for an orchestra but I am a guitar player so I write for guitar."