Paul O'Neill
Paul O'Neill

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 my subconscious.

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 people.

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.