Paul O'Neill … its all in the blend….
My journey into Music has been a varied one. I was dispatched
off to a crusty old piano teacher at age 10 and I struggled
on for another 6 years taking grade exams and studying theory.
At the same time I was soaking up music from my elder sister's
music collection and some songs really stuck with me. I particularly
remember being especially fond of "Queen Bitch" by David Bowie.
I loved the punch of Mick Ronson's guitar and the groove of
the song. My dad liked musicals and classical so I guess that
that along with my sisters' piano pieces (she's miles better
than me) was all sinking in and finding a home somewhere in
Music would often have a very powerful effect on me. I didn't
understand this until much later when I read an interview with
Steve Hackett. He mentioned how certain songs would make him
embarrassed and to "feel naked" and unable to look at other
people when they played. That was exactly the same for me. I
now put this down to a combination of sound texture, tone and
melody that resonate with something deep inside. For me, that's
the ultimate musical goal and something to aim for whenever
creating new material.
Fast forward to 1980 and that amazing day when Genesis' "Seconds
Out" worked its magic on me and I knew things would never
be the same again. Shortly after this my piano teacher then
threw me out when I started trying to play in my own style and
"failing to follow the music as written," which is something
I have been proud to do ever since. I soon realised that piano
lessons may have given me some technique but sod all else when
it comes to playing rock or pop so I re-taught myself the chords
and structures I needed and went off in search of like minded
The usual stumbling attempts were made to form a band at school
and at further education. Some bands I played in sounded good
and some didn't, but along the way I found I could work with
others and make some interesting noises. There are still fragments
of these experiments here and there in the Strangefish sound.
Despite my best efforts to avoid it I found myself in Strangefish
in 1989. I thought I was through with bands but was repeatedly
nagged into joining. Once in, it was easy to stay and the rest
is outlined in our band biog.
Being the keyboard player is often regarded as the least cool
role in a band. Guitar and Bass players can strut around and
put their feet on the monitors, singers can focus the bands
energy and drummers get to hit things and make a lot of noise.
But don't be so quick to write off the keyboard player as we
get to do all manner of things that no else can. We can be a
full orchestra, a choir, a piano, an organ, players of weird
noises and solos just as evocative as any guitarist. Yes, we
are somewhat static but hey at least we get to sit in the best
seat in the house and watch all the fun… and after all, where
would prog be without the keys?
As mentioned earlier it's the blend of interesting sounds with
melody that gets the goose-bumps going. I'm a particular fan
of combining guitar with keys so it's always a pleasure to be
rattling off the same notes as Bob whilst backing up the song
with the left hand. With this in mind I'm pleased to be the
owner of a new Kurzweil synth that will keep me busy for many
years to come. This instrument has already transformed some
older Strangefish material and will support the sound-scapes
for whatever we produce in future.