A head full of music | Neil Halstead

High-calibre ‘shoegaze’ singer-songwriter Neil Halstead will be performing on the island early next month. TEODOR RELJIC speaks to the British musician about his eclectic array of influences and reuniting with his fellow musicians from Slowdive – a legendary post-rock band that helped define the shoegaze sound

Neil Halstead:
Neil Halstead: "The most natural way to create songs is to delve a little into everything"

As perhaps one of the defining acts of the ‘shoe gaze’ movement, how would you define the genre, and its history… as well as your place in it?

Gosh… I’m not sure I would define it really… Slowdive were grouped in with a bunch of bands but I suppose we always felt that we were just making our own kind of music, which was atmospheric, sometimes instrumental, sometimes psychedelic, sometimes very noisy. We were making post-rock music before they coined the term and I suppose we influenced bands like Mogwai and Sigur Ros.

We in turn were super influenced by Sonic Youth, The Cocteau Twins, Ar Kane, Pink Floyd, Can, Brian Eno, The Nuggets Collections, and the like. We would do shows with our friends in Ride and Chapterhouse, Swervedriver, The Telescopes… I guess we all shared similar influences, particularly the sixties garage and psychedelic ones, and grew up in the same area so I think that was partly why initially we were all grouped together.

From moody, atmospheric music to songs that incorporate country elements… in terms of commercial appeal it appears as though you tend to take the path of most resistance, not to mention that you boast an eclectic streak. How do you balance these varied influences in terms of your song-writing process, and what kind of approach do you take to the commercial side of things?

Well, I like all kinds of music and like to explore those influences so for me it seems the most natural way to create songs is to delve a little into everything.

What has the reunion with Slowdive been like? 

It’s been a lot of fun, and been lovely to renew those relationships with everyone in the band… you know, we were kids when we did this first time round and although we kept in touch, and would see each other over the last 20 years… actually being all together and touring again has been a great way to renew those friendships.

Are you looking forward to performing in Malta?

Absolutely! Not been to Malta before, so I will be doing some tourist stuff, and super looking forward to playing a show.

What’s next for you?

I’m bouncing around working on stuff for the new Slowdive record, as well a solo record and material for a new Black Hearted brother album. My head is full of music right now!

Neil Halstead will be performing at the Salesians Theatre, Howard Street, Sliema on October 2. He will be supported by local folk-pop act Stalko. Doors open at 19:45. Tickets are at €16 and €20. Bookings: www.ticketline.com.mt. The concert is organised by HairyAmp