Alex Neilson is an English drummer, percussionist and singer who is based in Glasgow. He has performed alongside a large number of bands and artists including Jandek, Richard Youngs, The One Ensemble Of Daniel Padden, Ashtray Navigations, Bonnie Prince Billy and Six Organs of Admittance, but he is perhaps most well known for his band Trembling Bells.
Alex sings on the Liles track ‘Milky Maidenhead’ which can be downloaded here MILKY.
Photo by Emmett Kelly.
1.) WHICH RECORD HAS HAD THE MOST PROFOUND INFLUENCE ON YOU?
I would probably have to say “Trout Mask Replica” by Captain Beefheart. I used to hear it wafting from the bathroom at home in Leeds while my older brother, Oliver, would be burning incense and reading poetry while taking a leisurely bath. All of which I took as grave personal insults and would kick on the door and shout at him for the sheer audacity of the unimaginable hippy nonsense he was indulging in (I was a bit of a jock around the age of 13). Eventually the music seeped into my skin and I ended having an equally extreme response to it but in the opposite direction. I became obsessed with it. It ruined other albums for me because nothing else seemed to contain a scintilla of the same raw imagination. It recuperates new meaning every time I listen to it because there are so many ideas writhing beneath its surface; mutant blues hollers, Joycean sexualised nursery rhymes, proto-punk/ neo-dada scatological skits, beyond-psychedelic buzz saw riffs and some of my favourite drumming ever.
2.) HOW MANY HOURS DO YOU SPEND A WEEK RECORDING/PLAYING/CREATING?
Approximately 126.375. I am compulsively creative and tend to push myself very hard into painful places, humiliating places.
3.) WHICH OF YOUR OWN CREATIONS IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
I’m pretty confident that that is still to come, but perhaps the first Trembling Bells album since it was my first attempt at song writing? The sense that I could condense all my passions and perceptions into a measurable thing was a massive creative breakthrough for me, because it enabled me to harvest my own mind and anything around me as potential source material. Suddenly the whole word shimmered with possibility. It is a profoundly joyful state of receptivity to be in.
4.) WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST REGRET?
Ooh, tough one. Regret is a constant companion. Guilt and shame are abiding emotions that are good creative propellers if you can get far enough inside and recognise poetic significances in them. That’s the only way for me to look at it, otherwise I would drown. If pushed, I would say not having the mental/ emotional strength to make my last relationship work. Also, missing my older brother’s wedding in Japan.
5.) WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
I swim and sauna every day which has replaced the industrial-quantity weed habit I developed through my teens and early 20’s. I just started jogging too, which is fun. I like to cook and drink red wine. I’m a massive cinephile so I try to watch as many films as possible. If I’m on tour I love to visit cathedrals. But generally I don’t enjoy relaxing all that much.
6.) OTHER THAN FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHAT IS YOUR MOST CHERISHED POSSESSION?
I have a first edition of the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs which is signed by some of the brightest stars in folk music’s firmament- such as Anne Briggs, Shirley Collins, Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy, Mike Heron, Sheila Stewart and many more. The fondest possessions in my flat are a sketch by Lucy Stein and a large stained glass window.
7.) TELL ME THREE OF YOUR HEROES/HEROINES?
Ovid, Eric Cantona, Dennis Potter.
8.) WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?
Most likely Carbeth. But I have profound romantic attachments to Yorkshire, Oxford, Cornwall, Sussex, the Costa Blanca and Italy.
9.) IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE YOUR ART WHAT OCCUPATION DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE DOING?
As I said, I am compulsively creative and I need art to rationalize the vertiginous immensities and vampiric immaturities that continually strain for dominion over my personality. If I stopped then I would just be left with the unresolved personality crises. Otherwise, I would like to learn more languages, be a stained glass window maker and be a great cook because I think they are incredibly valuable life skills.
10.) IF THERE IS ONE THING THAT YOU WOULD WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT YOU HAVE NEVER CONVEYED IN AN INTERVIEW BEFORE WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
I originally came from Jamaica – http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/leeds/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8399000/8399416.stm