Hi! I’m Gordon McNeil!
In 2014, I was touring with the world’s leading Queen Tribute band “One Night Of Queen” fronted by Gary Mullen (winner of TV show Stars In Their Eyes) It was touring pretty much for a full year with the odd week off here and there. It was an amazing experience; playing Queen songs all over the world in arenas and large theatres to thousands of people each night whilst being paid for it – it was truly amazing.
This year (naturally) I got the opportunity to play drums with Natalia Posnova and The St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra at some European Arena shows performing her “Queen Rhapsody Show’. It was always a dream of mine to play with a real orchestra with a conductor – it was everything I expected and more!
So let’s start at the beginning, and I mean very beginning!
Being born on the day that Michael Jacksons “Thriller” Album was number 1 in almost every country on planet earth (and is still to this day the biggest selling album of all time!), I believe it was written in the stars that I would someday be involved in music.
Hello everyone , my name is Gordon McNeil – here’s my story … so far…
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, a lot of my earliest musical memories was watching Dire Straits videos at home. Music was always a feature of the household and I can remember watching “Alchemy Live” VHS many times as a young toddler.
That being said, I actually didn’t really start getting “into” performing music until I was 15/16 years old at high school.
Strangely though, I did have a brief encounter on a drum kit at a holiday resort in Tunisia with my family when I was just 12 years old.
My cousin Garry and I entered a talent show and it was just the 2 of us, I jumped behind the big shiny drum kit and my cousin sang and played tambourine. We performed “Wonderwall” by Oasis and won the talent show! – We got a bottle of Coke each as our prize!
To this day I always wonder though – why did I gravitate to the drums?… I never had any previous knowledge or experience with a drum kit, but for some reason I found myself sat behind this monster kit with toms and cymbals for days at this talent show.
I’ll never forget that moment, all the people cheering for us… bless!
Fast forward to high school as a 15 year old, the first instrument I picked up was the bass guitar, and the first songs I remember learning were “Come As You Are” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” though soon after, I again was drawn to this thing they call a drum kit – i guess, i was on my way!
Being from the UK, Oasis where a massive band at the time, and I was in love. I remember giving up my normal football playing routine at interval and lunch times just to jump into the drum room to play along my favourite Oasis songs. In particular, I remember trying to learn the drum fill Alan White plays in the middle of “Don’t Look Back In Anger” … I would not leave until I figured it out!
I got into a school band at the time “Pacific Blue”, a band put together by our music department to take part in a workshop hosted by legendary Scottish singer/song writer David Scott. We were asked to write a song and perform a cover version with 1 weeks notice.
We did it! This was my first ever gig – Adelaide’s auditorium in Glasgow. Soon after – I got the bug to keep going!
After high school, I found myself playing in about 12 bands at the same time! I wanted to play all the time, any genre, I just wanted to play.
The more bands I played in, the more people I met (I was a big believer that networking was as important than the playing itself)
Before I knew it as an 18 year old, I got asked to audition for a well known Blues Rock band called “Roost”. This was my first ever audition and I strangely – I wasn’t nervous at all. They had all the drummers audition on rotation. I remember they had some technically gifted drummers come in, I even knew some of the guys – It was some serious competition!
That night, I got the call – “Gordon, The band felt you had the your groove down and you were the most solid drummer there, we want to offer you the job!”
I became their drummer full time for a good few years touring the UK playing the Blues/Rock circuit.
Round about that time, I met John Kerr – owner of Glasgow music venue “Jaspers”. I was in his venue with one of my other bands.
I don’t know why, but one day, he just looked up at me and said – “Gordon – Big guy, I really like you, I love your enthusiasm – do you want to work for me?”
I said “Doing what?” (expecting to be asked to pull pints or something)
He replied “I need a sound guy for our gigs”
I said “I’ve never done sound before and I wouldn’t know how to work your desk”
He said ‘you can learn, the first gig is on Friday, are you up for it?”
I agreed to do it!
So, John saw my enthusiasm as a youngster and gave me a chance to learn “sound’ working with bands and being in a live music environment. I guess you could say he was my first role model when it came to the “sound” aspect of music.
I worked as Jaspers Front Of House engineer for about 2 years before John decided to sell up and move on.
The new owner James “H” Hirshall asked me if I would consider working for him as he rebranded the club by the name of “Rockers”.
I worked there under “H” for about 5/6 years. I really owe a lot to him and his wife Tara, because, whenever I would tour with any of the bands I was in (which at times could be for weeks on end) they would always say that my job was always there for me when I come back off the road. They single handedly gave me a sense of “security” and encouraged me to spread my wings and play drums for the biggest bands going at the time. I have never publicly thanked the Hirshall family, (until now) but I believe their support led to the many opportunities I gained and in some ways where I am today.
In 2008 I decided to form my own band “GoGoBot”. We started as a duo (Marko Kelly singer/guitarist with me on drums)
Soon after touring with hit band “Glasvegas”, we decided to recruit a 3rd member to play bass. Her name is Rosie McClune.
As we got this lineup together, we rented out an old railway arch under neath Glasgow Central Station.
We bought all the timber and glass to build our own control room and booth, though soon after we realised we didn’t have much money left to buy “studio equipment”!
Luckily, I managed to get a Digidesign 002 with Protools and some non expensive microphones.
For the first year of our life, we would write every day. We would start at 9am and finish at 6pm (just in time for me to do my shift in Rockers)
We wrote and demo’d around 75 songs in that time with the idea to shop them to labels and management.
We got interest from a management company in London who asked us if we were “playing in London anytime soon?”
I replied “no, but we have our own recording studio with a sofa and a kettle if you want to come up, we will play you some songs in our live room and we can drink tea afterwards”
1 week later, they flew up from London and we signed with them!
Looking back, I think I might have been a bit bold to ask a London based company to come to us, but I believed in what we did and I was confident it would all work out. You don’t ask you don’t get.
Soon after we signed to Grizzly Entertainment , we released 6 singles, 6 music videos with tours and support slots (including Rhianna, Calvin Harris,JLS,Olly Murs, Simple Minds)
In 2012 I decided to start my own record label. (Toy Town Records) I was very passionate and keen to promote what i did as a producer / mixer, but I didn’t have much of a CV on that front except from my own band GoGoBot. So my thinking was, if I signed artists and made records for them, I could then showcase my skills whilst at the same time, help the artists to grow and develop.
Since i started the label, I signed 10 acts with some success stories along the way…
1 artist “Maeve O’Boyle” I got to perform for the Obamas at The Whitehouse in Washington DC.She also sang for the Pope too!
I also produced/wrote and mixed for Hip/Hop artist “Scope”. His single “Lovestruck” went in at number 9 on the UK itunes chart until a certain Eminem (feat. Rhianna) knocked us off after a week with “Monster”!
It was good company to be in for sure!
Scopes album “Enjoy The Movie” got to number 34 on the iTunes album chart, some of those songs got featured on TV too.
All in all , the record lable side of music was lots of fun though very time consuming as it was just me on my own doing all the recording, mixing, mastering, press stuff, promoting and radio plugging for all my artists. In fact, one time I even flew to Ibiza just to shoot a music video with my own hand held Sony camera. I stayed in a dirty 2 star hotel. When filming, sometimes, it was so hot, the camera would overheat and not work! I also had to buy tin foil and get cardboard boxes to make a contrapion that would shine more light into the artists face. This was the video that got to number 9 in the UK iTunes charts! It was all me – total DIY!
For now (6 years later) I consider the label to be “asleep” as I focus on other things.
Though, in September 2015, Melodie, my daughter was born and my outlook with many things in life changed.
In 2016, I stopped touring completely and opened up my own studio where I live on the farm.I figured this was the best way for me to be creative (musically speaking) whilst being close to my Melodie everyday. I had people say I was crazy leaving such a gig, touring the world etc… but for me it was a no brainer – an easy decision.
The studio is called “Toy Town Recording & Mixing Services” and I installed an SSL4000 console in it, with Protools, a Yamaha C3 Grand Piano, Drums, Guitars, Basses, and all the other bits n bobs needed to make music in a recording studio.
I work with clients from anywhere in the world. I can mix a client one day from America and then produce a band from the UK here at the studio the next. It varies.
I also do drum sessions for artists too! Live drums recorded through an SSL4000 has proven to be a successful thing here for me.
To wrap up my little blog here, I would like to thank Warren Huart for giving me the opportunity to share a little bit of my story with all the friends of Produce Like A Pro. As it stands at the moment, I have played in 48 countries around the world, I have my own studio and have dipped my toes in various other musical ventures as I mentioned above. I believe I am truly blessed so far, but its important to say, I never once came from any sort of money, wealth or anything like that. I had no connections in the music industry what so ever. Everything to this point (I believe) is about working hard and being a nice person along the way. I believe we can ALL do this. I believe also having people like Warren in the world is also a blessing. When Warren shares his knowledge with us all, it is worth its weight in gold, and with this, we should take little pieces here and there and use it to inspire ourselves and others too!
As finish my last words here on the blog, I look down fondly to my old Digidesign 002 which I got in my first studio back in 2008.
I kept it as a keep sake, a reminder of how I got my first record deal.
Wether its a 002, an SSL4000, an iPad, a MacBook, or an iPhone… in many ways, it doesn’t really matter, the creativity starts within, so pick up your guitar, bass, piano or whatever instrument you play and let it all out!
Music is beautiful – let it be heard!