Is Neal Guye your real name?
No. I started my internet career with a firm commitment to use my real name, a kind of macho/hard realism reaction to handles like "likeitorlickit69" and "Beelzebub666". But I ended up being Neal F. Guye, completely by accident. Now I have real life friends who only know me as Neal.
I started playing a card game called "Netrunner", which is set in the near future. It's based around the "cyberpunk" idea that corporations will be more important than governments, that everyone will have computers and robot parts added to themselves, and that our good virtues will be diminished by these changes. The archetype novel is "Neuromancer" by William Gibson.
In this game, there's a card called "The Fall Guy". If you're about to lose the game, you can discard The Fall Guy instead, and you don't lose. The card has a grim picture of a man in a tie, holding up his arms, with electronic crosshairs positioned over his forehead. There's a quote on the card which says, "The thing I like about you, Neal, is that you trust me."
I started writing a weekly column about the game, which can still be found at http://nealhere.com. All the other writers were using names like "Black Widow" and "Pile Driver". I wanted something funny and humble (see above) and so I decided it to be The Fall Guy. I only knew his name was Neal, so I added the "F. Guye" onto the end.
I called my column "Neal's Last Words", because the phrase "he's the last word on ..." has a very different meaning than "his last words were ...", and I thought that was funny, too. Anyway, I got some notoriety from that column, and the name stuck. I was sitting next to a couple of guys at a tournament at Seattle, and one of them said, "I heard that Neal was coming." That's when I knew it was easier to join them than fight them.
I told them that Neal was a jerk - perhaps a little mean but it was good fun at the time.
What is your MySpace address? What will you do different on your MySpace site than your Web site?
My MySpace address is http://music.myspace.com/nealssongs, because some other person already used "nealhere", which is a bummer. I don't have it nearly ready for visitors yet, so anyone who reads this and wants to visit should definitely go to http://nealhere.com.
I am *only* using MySpace because of the traffic. I recently read an unintentionally funny article which proved that MySpace doesn't have 100,000,000 active users. After some study, it seems that MySpace has *only* 40,000,000 active users. Ha ha ha! Anyway, I can't ignore that kind of exposure, no matter how much I dislike MySpace. The web design is horrible, the level of conversation is horrible, but there's just so many, many people there.
Who's Johnny Quazar?
Johnny Quazar is my cousin. You might remember the Quazar corporation which made televisions before they went out of business. My cousin was a big name in the Netrunner card game, and he took the handle as a humble joke, for the same reasons I took Neal F. Guye.
He owns a web hosting company, which can be reached at http://bitblaster.com , and he has an interesting blog at http://rwxii.com . He's also started a podcast, which can be heard at http://rwxii.com/rrr/ . He commutes more than hour to work, so he records the podcast on his drive.
He's Johnny Quazar.
Where do you turn for your creative inspiration?
The truth is sad - I write songs when things are going badly. I've made some conscious efforts to avoid that, with some success, but in a very real sense, "Rock and roll is just howling at the moon" as Kansas recorded so many years ago.
Losing someone you love, or someone you wanted to love, is a very powerful experience, despite being so awful. Music is a powerful experience as well - so I guess they go together.
I've written a fair amount of songs which are not so depressing. Sometimes I'm inspired by spiritual experiences, sometimes by chance meetings, often by women. Robin Williams has a great line in the film "Dead Poets' Society". "Why do we write poetry? To woo women!" And that's a big part of the truth.
Do you write all your own lyrics?
I do. I enjoy the instrumental part very much, but if I'm honest with myself, the lyrics are my first love and a bigger strength for me. I've been blessed to have some lifetime friends who are very skilled musicians, so the instrumental part is sometimes a collaboration. And I've gone for help when I'm lyrically stuck - but not very often.
I really admire lyricists like Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, Lyle Lovett, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Ronnie James Dio (scary but wow!), Mark Knopfler, "Fish" of Marillion, Roger Waters and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Geoff Tate of Queensryche, Roger Miller and Keith Green. I like stories, and I try to surround myself with the finest lyrics, so I don't lose my standards and end up writing "La la la I love ya la la la yeah yeah".
Do you play to an audience much?
Almost never. I do enjoy it, but I enjoy the writing and recording process even more. I'm lucky that I don't support myself through my music. That gives me the freedom to write what I want to write. I would be willing to travel, though, if any of your readers want to book me. I can promise a very unique experience, definitely not "just another show". My email is mailto:[email protected] .
I have been impressed by how your voice sounds so different in different songs. Is that >something you've worked on or it did it just come to you naturally?
I've done some acting in my community theaters. Singing a song is like being in a play for me. Sometimest the character is just like the real me - that makes it easy. Other times, the character is very different, and I have to take on a whole different personality to make it work. I used to love doing funny voices when I was a child (and I still do, which says something about my growth), and I was on the speech team back in high school, where funny voices were an asset.
In a song like "What the Poet Said," I overdubbed the voice of Buzzard, and I tried to make it sound as much like his real voice as I could. Other times, I just try to use volume and tone. I've had a little training in singing, which might be hard to believe, but simply moving the sound to the back of the throat, or up into the nose, says a whole lot about the feelings we're expressing. If your lover is whispering in your ear, he better not be talking through his nose - he'll end up sleeping on the couch. But if a lawyer uses that same husky voice in court, he's going to lose his job. He has to speak clearly, and probably much more of a nasal sound.
It's something desperately missing from most of the new music I hear today. People are literally screaming at the top of their lungs about how beautiful flowers are. The only vocal changes are added afterword - making someone sound like they're on a very cheap radio, or something similar. I like those electronic effects on a voice, but the prime communication of singing is a *human* one. It can't be replaced by any amount of electronic gear.
A teacher of mine once told me that singing is just "speaking on pitch", and I never forgot that. I don't meet strangers by screaming at the top of my lungs, "I AM NEAL, NICE TO MEET YOU!". But a lot of artists do that now.
Is music your full-time job?
No. I have degrees in Physics and Education, and I've done a variety of different jobs. A large variety. I've been very blessed. I'm actually thinking about going to some kind of Christian seminary, but the life of a pastor might not be my calling. Still pondering my options at age 39, which is a little odd.
My last "straight" job was a temporary one, teaching physics at our local community college.
Judging from titles alone, without listening at all, my favorite title is "I've Been Bad." How important do you think titles are to songs?
They used to be a lot more important than they currently are. Songs today have titles like "Forever in Shadow" and "wut u meen 2 me". They don't draw anyone in. You have to tease people a little with the title. Give them a sense that there's something more there which is well worth hearing. "Ur My 1" doesn't do that for me.
I read an interview once with an artist who took lessons from Paul Simon. He wrote something like, "I'm learning to write songs." Paul Simon corrected him, "Fill in the blanks! How about, 'I'm sitting at the piano with Paul Simon in New York City'?" And that's the key, getting the details which make it all come alive.
Some great titles are, "Al Bowley's in Heaven", "Baker Street", "Tom Ames' Prayer", "My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died", "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?", "All You Zombies", things like that (You can find all those on your favorite file-sharing network).They definitely make me want to hear what the artist is hinting at.
If you were to write a song named "Everything and Nothing," what would it be about?
Well, it's interesting that you ask! I just spent some time listening to a lot of MySpace artists, and wrote a semi-angry and not-too-polished (yet) song about how everything sounds the same. Perhaps I'm changing your title to "Everything *is* Nothing". Do you want to read it? You do? Great!
You All Gave Up
© 2006 Neal F. Guye
Clear Channel stole your radio
You didn't even call the cops
Nashville stole your steel guitar
and Yani took your double-stops
Your record contract is a joke
You paid for everything
A couple guys in narrow ties
Are stealing every word you sing
What have you got against a song with real soul?
Your latest tune is karaoke of your second-latest tune
And what have you got against the tuba?
You all gave up on thinking before you sing
You all gave up on wondering if you're saying anything
You all gave up on making something no one's ever heard
You all gave up on freedom for the mooing of the herd
Save me from musical repetition
Save me from recycled sonic waste
Save me from anti-personal art perdition
Take me to the heart of someone who has a face
And what have you got against the cabasa?
And what have you got against the vibra-slap?
And why do you war against your unique self?
You all gave up on being something special
You all gave up on trying to contribute something new
You all gave up on working to carve out an unknown trail
And now you've killed your sense of what is real and what is true
Take me to the face of someone who has a heart
It's a little angrier than I want it to be, but hopefully I can tone it down and get my message out.
What songs or songwriters do you feel most shaped who you are today? What would I have found in your cassette case carrier in high school? (I can assume this since we are near the same age!) What's in the iPod now?
I listed a lot of them above, but I left out a few, as well. One of them is Rik Emmett, the main writer in the 80's band "Triumph". I later had some email exchanges with him which were very disappointing, but he hugely influenced my ideas of what a great song is. I'm also indebted to Rush, the Modern Jazz Quartet, even Louis Armstrong. I was lucky to grow up in a home where a lot of traditional church music was being played live. I don't think my songs sound like traditional church music, but that music has a complexity and depth which I totally respect. The people who wrote that music were feeling it with every fiber of their being. Even if the listener totally rejects the viewpoint, they can't reject the sincerity and soul.
In high school, I was listening to all the artists I listed above, plus some Camel (with Phil Collins), Genesis, Yes, a lot of progressive rock. I also liked ballads, and any song with great lyrics. I didn't buy my first LP until I was about 15 years old, so I got a very late start on popular music. And I never had a cassette carrier.
For me, music was really something I *did* more than I collected. I wrote my first song when I was 13, and I never really stopped. I'm forever in debt to my mother, who endured hours of piano noise as I tried to figure out how it all fits together.
Are you single?
I'm not married, but I have a very serious girlfriend who means the world to me. At my age, never divorced, marriage is a bit scary, but there's a good chance we'll tie the knot in the next few years.
What is your favorite color?
Purple. I drive a purple Trans Am, which is probably a cultural faux pas on many, many levels. But I love purple. My sunglasses have purple lenses. I own a lot of purple shirts.
What is your favorite junk food?
I've been diabetic since I was five years old, so I honestly don't eat enough junk food to really qualify. I have a weakness for peanut butter cookies. I really like peanut butter. I really like Heath candy bars, too.
If you went to the crossroads, whose talent would you like to steal?
I'd be able to play guitar like Richard Thompson, write lyrics like Steve Earle, and play piano like Elton John. Too bad I only have one soul to trade in! Crossroads with Ralph Macchio is a movie which everyone should see, The Karate Kid never got close to the quality of that movie, before or after.
What did you want to be when you were little?
A computer programmer. I had a bowl haircut and black plastic glasses. Luckily I didn't get what I wanted! I have done some professional programming, but it's not my real "career". My brother is a doctor of computer science, and he was born to do his job. I am a little envious of people who have obviously found their place in life. My father was a surgeon and he was the same way, doing exactly what he was meant to do.
Would you rather be smarter or sexier?
I would rather be more meek. That's my biggest shortcoming, and I would give anything to beat it. If I must choose between the two options you give, I would be smarter. I like being sexy, but I think it would give me more trouble than pleasure, in the long run. The short run could be pretty awesome, though! Ha ha ha.
If you wrote a song about your hair, what would it be called?
"Do You Wanna Be Hitler or Jesus?" Hopefully self-explanatory, in light of the question.
What's your idea of romantic music?
It has to tease me - I'm probably too intellectual in that preference. For women, the simple sound of the singer's voice is the main ingredient, which is why Barry White can curl their toes, even though he's not really saying anything. Women are much more stimulated by sounds than men. So for me, the words have to be suggestive and clever and *hint* at a world of delight.
What's the strangest thing I'd find in your refrigerator right now?
Bachelors' refrigerators aren't very interesting, unless you're interested in shelves that need to be wiped down. I've got some Garlic Jack cheese in there, that's some good stuff!
Women would be surprised that you find this attractive...
Breasts. HA HA HA! Just kidding. For me, it's a "natural" woman. I much prefer a flat chest to a rubber one. I much prefer no makeup to heavy makeup. I think there are many women who lack confidence in the natural beauty God gave them. They do crazy, expensive, time-consuming things which only cover up the *real* woman - and most real woman are very attractive.
Having said that, I do appreciate some shaving and hair-washing and the basics of Western civilization.
Who's the sexiest woman of all times?
I guess it would have to be either Helen of Troy, or Cleopatra. Huge, epic wars were fought over their affections. That's a kind of "practical" answer. I do find Thora Birch just about irresistible, and my girlfriend looks a lot like her - if that tells you anything.
(By the way, "I've Been Bad" was still my favorite song.) ;)
Glad you like it! I set out with a very specific idea of that song, and it came out just as I imagined. That's a very satisfying time in life - when I have a concept and I turn it into a reality.
If you want to sing it karaoke-style, I can send you the instrumental version and you can record yourself over the top. Great gift for any lovers in your life!
If you would like to be interviewed for E&N Interviews, just let me know at [email protected].