Neil Carter is without doubt one of the most respected musicians in the UK, his time with the seminal Wild Horses, as a member of legends UFO and as right-hand man to Gary Moore is just scratching the surface of his hugely impressive career.
Having been involved in music professionally since the tender age of 17, he’s went on to contributing to some of the finest rock albums of the 1980’s, starting with the Wild Horses debut, three albums with Phil Mogg’s gang and four studio releases with the Belfast guitar wizard, along with several live albums. Not only a brilliant keyboard player and no slouch as a six stringer, his co-writing prowess producing material ranging from the sublime ‘Empty Rooms’ to the all-out rocker ‘Thunder Rising’, both with Moore.
Giving up the wild rock and roll lifestyle at age 30, he went into the world of music academia as a woodwind teacher and examiner but was lured back into the fold just over a decade later to rejoin his old friend Gary, working together until the guitarist’s tragic death in 2011.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqXkFbOe8bQ&w=560&h=315]
He headed back into school-work until another untimely passing, this time of Paul Raymond in April 2019, whereupon he got the call to rejoin UFO for their ‘Last Orders’ tour and which has seen him playing across Europe and onto the United States with the band. Always the true gentleman and consummate professional, we chatted to the ever friendly and charming Mr Carter to see how he was faring in the current climate.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
Pretty good! It was rather an abrupt end of activities but we could see it coming and we’re glad to finish our US tour safely. For me it hasn’t been trauma but I do miss our band and playing live.
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
I live in Spain and lockdown was pretty brutal. We were confined to the house completely for two months so I started to do some writing and tried to keep playing every day to stay busy.
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
No online shows but I did a ‘Zoom meeting’ for UFO fans which was really enjoyable.
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
It’s been a case of ‘remote writing’ with some fellow band mates which is kind of frustrating and slows the process somewhat. You just wish you could get together and ‘bash’ out the ideas in a rehearsal room!
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
Yes. I am in daily contact with Phil Mogg and have regular chats with the other guys. It’s a sort of comfort as we are pretty close as a band.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne1VUKsok0c&w=560&h=315]
What plans have you had to change this year?
Every gig post March has been rescheduled for 2021. We had a lot booked and the impact has been felt by everyone.
What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas recently – 229 people in a 1,100 seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs as has just been announced by Live Nation?
It’s a positive interim measure and I applaud the idea.
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
My main worry is the survival of the venues especially smaller clubs. And, the impact this will have financially on the road crews and associated personnel.
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
My hope is that a vaccine will be developed quickly meaning the industry can get back on its feet without having to change significantly.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83oO3xwPg4M&w=560&h=315]
How can people support you during this time?
For me personally I am not worried but I hope once we get back out playing people will support us and just enjoy the UFO experience again.
Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM