Dream Giver - Simple Minds Online Unofficially Mick MacNeil - Evening Times Interview

Former Simple Minds keyboard player, Mick MacNeil, re-launches musical career with an album of songs on his own web page

Mick Nets some new gold dreams

By Fraser Middleton

Mick MacNeil had the pop world at his fingertips a decaded ago.

In late 1989, the Simple Minds keyboard player and co-songwriter had just celebrated the band's fourth consecutive number one album and first cahrt topping single in the UK. The Glasgow group were at the height of their power. The MacNeil walked out.

Now after more than 10 years, he has returned to the music scene with a double album of solo material. The project, entitled People - Places - Things, was launched on MacNeil's Internet site after fans bombarded the web page he established last year. "I couldn't believe the amount of people who wanted to hear what I had been doing," he smiles.

The CDs of instrumental mood music combine new technology with roots music sounds. "The albums are a representation of what I've done in the past few years," explains 41-year old MacNeil, who owns a recording studio near Charing Cross. The complex was designed in 1995 by Ron McCulloch, the man responsible for the look of Glasgow clubs like The Tunnel.

"I basically picked through all the material I've compiled and selected the most appropriate tracks." Given the instrumental nature of nearly all the recording, MacNeil's work has no obviously commercial outlet in a pop music sense. Instead, the majority of the 27 tracks sound suited to marriage with a visual medium - some thing MacNeil is keen to pursue.

He has already provided soundtracks for a couple of short films and his most recent commercial commission saw him teaming up with Eddi Reader for the recent ScotRail advert. "Eddi just sang Sentimental Journey down the phone to me and I did the rest," he laughs. "I don't think she even got out of her pyjamas! I would love to get into writing and recording film music. It's a hard business but I'd love the opportunity."

MacNeil is a great admirer of Reader and other distinctive female vocalists, whom he feels can 'make a good song great.' In 1994, Mick made a love comeback by touring with Chrissie Hynde - former wife of Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr - and The Pretenders. However, he regrets not working with two other female greats - Annie Lennox and Kate Bush.

MacNeil's decision to walk out on Simple Minds in late 1989 astonished the music world and the band's legions of fans. MacNeil was not merely a hired keyboard player byt had played an integral songwriting role. "I just got tired of the whole business," states Mick flatly. "I'd just got married and bought a house in Ireland and when Jim said we were heading to Amsterdam to write new material I knew in my heart I wouldn't be going with them. In retrospect, if we'd all taken a year off I might still be in the band to this day." Mick's marriage to Hannah didn't survive the 90s but he is the proud father of two sons aged nine and six. Living out of the spotlight after the split form the band was easy for MacNeil who never considered himself very famous in the first place. "I didn't look on the band as that big, which is crazy when you consider we'd just clocked up our fourth album in a row at number one! At the time, I was always just looking at the next challenge. For me personally, though, it wasn't too hard to drop out of sight."

MacNeil's biggest regret of the last decade was the wall of silence which developed between himself and Charlie Burchill, his closest pal in Simple Minds. "After I left we didn't speak until a couple of years ago, when the band were appearing on the National Lottery show and invited me down to stay with them. It was quite emotional seeing them again and especially good to bury the hatchet with Charlie."

MacNeil and Jim Kerr have been in contact in recent months and there is a strong possiblity the old bandmates will team up again soon. "Nothing has been set in stone, however, but hopefully something will come off."

Although he severed his physical ties with the band in 1989, Simple Minds still play an important role in MacNeil's lie. He admits the publishing royalties he receives from the hit songs he co-wrote during the 80s have enabled him to avoid "picking up the tools" during the past decade. "I've been very lucky to do what I've wanted to do for years without being under financial pressure."

Interview by Fraser Middleton
The Evening Times, Friday, March 31st, 2000

back to news