Neil grew up in Rockland MA(insert big Rockland shout out) where he first picked up a guitar. He grew up surrounded by music. His mother and father played together in the bluegrass band Woodsmoke, and his father David now plays mandolin in the Bluegrass band Harvest, and guitar in the blues-rock band Red White and Blues. "It is kind of surprising how old I was before I really got into music. I think it was one of those things where since my parents were doing it, it wasn't cool. They also never forced me into piano lessons or anything I didn't want to do, which I appreciated. Although looking back maybe I wish they had." Neil first picked up a guitar when he was in high school.
His first project was with a high school friend who also had just picked up the guitar. As you can imagine the project never took off. "I think there are some tapes out there that I really hope never surface." Neil later teamed up with drummer Kristian Hermansen. The two played with various people under different names, most notably Dolemite, with bassist Kevin Brown.
After high school Neil enrolled at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he teamed up with a pair of singers in an alt rock band(the band was originally titled nevermore, but the name was taken). "This was my first experience with 'difference in musical opinion.' Its hard enough to deal with one singer let alone two(laughs). But really, we all brought such different ideas to the table that I don't think there was a single one of us who was playing what we wanted." It was shortly after this that Neil met Dan Gaspar. The two immediately struck a friendship and began writing material together. This project was titled club 20.
After a few extra semesters both graduated Umass and Neil remained in Western MA to begin a career with General electric. It was soon after that Dan began playing shows under the name Downfall Road. He asked Neil to sit in on a few shows and the two began collaborating again. Neil combines the acoustic bluegrass style of his father with a strong heavy metal shred influence. His sound fits perfectly with the unique acoustic metal of Downfall Road.
What got you into the guitar?
The chicks!(laughs) No seriously though I was listening to a lot of music, a big metal fan, and I was watching my dad play. So, I thought, I wanna do that. Picked it up and haven't put it down since.
Why just acoustic?
It's the instrument I grew up with, such a natural sound. I feel like if we plugged in then we would be just another band, but nobody is doing riff based acoustic rock. As popular as acoustic rock is, there really isn't all that much out there. At least as far as heavy shit.
What musician do you admire most?
What are some of your biggest influences?
Oh, my dad definitely. He's one of the best guitarists I've ever heard. As for other guitarists there's too many to name. Among a few Randy Rhodes, Slash, John Petrucci. Chris Olivia Is definitely a huge influence as well. He is easily the most underrated guitarist ever. (Note to consumer: If you think I can actually play like these guys then your expletive nuts)
What is your favorite album/song/guitar solo?
Favorite album would have to be Savatage's Streets. Definitely the most emotional metal album on the market. Favorite song? That depends on the day.
What advice would you give to kids just starting to play?
Stick with it. It sucks at first, but it can be real rewarding.
You can contact Neil at: Neil@DownfallRoad.com
For more info on Neil check out: Neil on MySpace