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Hero Worship

(Interview With Neil Phillips Taken From Black Velvet 40 - May 2004)

By Suzi Hamilton

B*MOVIE HEROES are one of the UK's best young rock bands. Why? Because they work their butts into the ground giving fans a 110% performance at every single gig. Their tour schedules are unrelenting while their influences range from Elvis Costello to The Clash, which clearly infiltrates their own unique sound.







Neil Phillips at just 26 years old is the oldest member of the band and already a seasoned musician. He was a guitarist in Danny McCormack's successful rock band The Yo-Yo's. Neil recalls how that came about.
"Me and Scott, the drummer from B*Movie, went down to London. We were finally getting our arses into gear, going round labels and gigs with demo tapes. We were walking round Camden market and bumped into Chris McCormack. Chris had recently been in the music press because he'd started his own label. We decided to give him a tape. Didn't think anything about it for a couple of weeks. Then one day I was upstairs in my bedroom at home, when I got a call from Chris."

That phone call was a huge turning point for Neil, which lead him to audition for the position as a guitarist with The Yo-Yo's. The audition also heralded an amazing coincidental meeting between himself and former B*Movie Heroes guitarist Dean after two years apart.
"We got chatting and ended up doing a couple of gigs… then I came down and joined The Yo-Yo's."
Neil's time in The Yo-Yo's was a memorable and happy learning experience. He built up a strong and loyal fan base, which stood him in good stead for his first love, the B*Movie Heroes.
"I had a good core following of people from The Yo-Yo's who came to see us from day one and that's still growing."
When broached on whether he would ever go back to The Yo-Yo's Neil remains philosophical.
"To be honest I don't think I will… but never say never. Maybe in the future for a couple of one-off gigs. But this was my band before The Yo-Yo's… I wouldn't swap being in The Yo-Yo's for the world, because for me that was my university to learn the trade and I learned off three of the best people you can learn off."
It's a lesser known fact that a very young Mr. Phillips also auditioned for The Wildhearts.
"It was ironic really because I auditioned for The Wildhearts when I was only 17. This was when Jef (Streatfield) joined them. They didn't know how old I was… I was way too young. I didn't actually play a note that day because Rich Battersby had to go to hospital, so I was just sitting around drinking with Danny and Jef."

Neil's hometown is Worcester in the Midlands. His upbringing was what you would describe as normal family life, even down to going to football matches with his dad to see West Bromwich Albion, something he's still passionate about this day. He's not the only talented member of the family either; his older brother is a stand up comedian.
Neil recalls his teen years growing up in Worcester.
"It's like most towns really, you don't notice the music scene until you start playing in bands yourself… hanging round the music shops and rehearsal studios. There's a lot of talent in Worcester, but there's this small town mentality that thinks big labels are going to come and see them… it just isn't going to happen. You have to stretch your horizons a little bit."
Neil was always very ambitious acquiring his first guitar at 16 by hard graft, working part time on a fruit and veg stall motivated by his dream to start his own band.
"I worked all weekend to buy my mate's cousin's guitar off him for 60 quid. It was called a Rockster. It came with a little free battery powered amp, lead and plectrum. At that time I stopped going out… just used to sit in with a friend who bought a guitar at the same time, learning Black Sabbath songs… then I was hooked!"

With a lot of enthusiasm and rock 'n' roll pulsing through his veins, it wasn't long before Neil played his first gig in a band called You Don't Care.
"There used to be this great old venue in Worcester called The Northwick Theatre. Hendrix actually played there. It was a really great scene on Friday and Saturday nights. My first gig was with a band called You Don't Care. I didn't name the band!" he laughs. "It was an awful name. We did three numbers of our own and a ton Guns 'N' Roses covers."
From then on Neil knew he wanted to be a professional musician. Infused with serious intent for success, he joined a performing arts course at the local college in Kidderminster where he met the other members of B*Movie Heroes.
"All the other musicians were into jazz playing crazy chords… we were the ones playing AC/DC songs and got told to tone it down!"

Those early college days are a happy, but distant memory now for Neil and the other members of the band. But those formative days also played a major part in building a very strong bond between the lads in B*Movie Heroes, a bond that has held them together through some tough times particularly financially. Recently the band had just a fiver a day to survive on during their rigorous touring schedule.

Neil admits originally he did dream of ultimate fame. But age and experience has taught him what is really important.
"My expectations changed the older I got. I've basically been touring non-stop since I was 20, in various bands and when I joined The Yo-Yo's. When I first started out I obviously thought, "Yeah, I want fame like Bon Jovi," and to be in the biggest band in the world. But the older I get… I love this romantic idea of being a songwriter, travelling the country, playing my songs, making enough to live comfortably… Just to enjoy what I love doing."
To find out more about B*Movie Heroes and buy a copy of their excellent debut album 'Anthems For The Underdog' reviewed in issue 38 of Black Velvet, log on to the band's website: www.bmovieheroes.co.uk where you will find some free sample tracks to download and a comprehensive guide to the band.



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