Mick MacNeil is generally known as the quiet man of Simple Minds and he hates doing interviews.
Mick was born on the faraway Isle Of Barra (which is up north somewhere), and indeed the name "MacNeil" is unique
to that small plot of land in the north sea.
As a result, Mick could only speak Gaelic when his family moved to Glasgow."I couldnae speak English when I first
started school," he claims. "Well I could a wee bit, but it was really bad. Now I canna speak English or Gaelic."
Don't let him fool you, though. Behind his self-effacing exterior lies a cool and subtle operator (could you look as calm
as that onstage?), and his guileful mastery of the modern electronic keyboard is frequently rewarded by phone calls from journalists
from technical music magazines ringing up begging for interviews. These are often dismiised with curt one-word answers.
Mick's musical skills were brought out by his mother, who insisted that he followed in the footsteps of his
elder brothers and sisters and enrolled him in a music school when he was 10. Here, Mick learned to play the
accordion and alos picked up a sound knowledge of musical theory.
"Every year they gave you tests and all that," he recalls. "You got certificates and entered competitions and won medals. They gave you
enough work that you had to practise at lease an hour a day to keep up."
"I did that from when I was 10 to when I was 16 or 17. Then I got a Korg synthesiser and took it from there."
Mick formed a band with his drum-playing brother when he was 16, and they played cabaret clubs, weddings, social
functions and the like, mainly to earn some money to buy new equipment. "We just went around social clubs doing old Drifters songs
and all that," he remembers with a shudder. "I got really tired of it and I was either gonna just wrap it or do something
I'd never done before."
Luckily he met Messrs Burchill and
Kerr in the formative stages of Simple Minds and got hired pronto. "It was really good 'cos
they'd just play and you had to play what was in your head, y'know, and I'd never done that."
"Up to that point I hadn't been into music outside of Highland music and all that, so I never watched 'Top Of The Pops' or
anything and I never listened to the radio and I didnae know who did what. It was funny 'cos everybody'd say the keyboards were just
like the stuff from Magazine and Ultravox and all that, and I'd never heard their records or
Nowadays, of course, Mick himself is used as a reference point for other keyboards players. Move over
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Mick MacNeil (born 20/7/58). Just because Mick doesn't say very much, don't assume there isn't a great deal
going on in his head. Without any fuss whatsoever, he's gradually carved out for himself a distinctive niche in a world overflowing
with synthesizer players His subtly-blended tonal washes often work on a near-subliminal level, giving Simple Minds sound
that strange but distinctive resonance.
He also has an impressive capacity for severe partying, but he's so quiet
people tend not to notice. Has been known to listen to classical music and hates talking about his equipment.
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