Neil Billinness is a musician who likes to do things his way. He writes, records and produces his own unique style of electronic music and, preferring a more ‘organic’ sound that’s not too polished, his songs are not mastered. Neil, who lives in Rosyth, England, started writing songs as a teenager, when he was inspired by 80’s artists Howard Jones, OMD, The Human League, Tears For Fears, David Bowie, Prince, Madonna, and even ABBA (all artists I also happen to love). His grandparents bought him his first keyboard, which was the impetus he needed to channel that creative inspiration.
Neil spent some time as a member of the bands Turbo and Ebon Night beginning in high school. He states that while he enjoyed those stints, the songs and styles he wanted to write were not always well-received by other band members, which frustrated his creative energies. For many years while building a career, he put his music on the back burner, but starting around 2011, he took up songwriting again in earnest, seemingly making up for lost time. He set up a home studio and embraced sequencing, sampling and programming, rather than playing everything manually, which has helped him produce music more easily. Still, Neil says he’s “a perfectionist when it comes to recording and writes and records at a pace that would make Kate Bush look prolific.” (Neil also has a wicked sense of humor.)
Neil established an independent label NeRo Music with his late partner Robert, who he says was a continual inspiration to his songwriting, and an honest critic. Neil’s debut single “Passing Thoughts” was released in January 2016 and, tragically, Robert passed away suddenly the day after the song was released. The song calls to mind the sounds of OMD and New Order, with sharp, chiming synths and a strong pulsating beat. Neil’s vocals have a hazy, otherworldly quality as he sings “So many memories, so many fears. A bunch of photographs from through the years. I’d like to see you once again. So I could show you just how much I’ve changed.”
His wonderful follow up single “Discotheque” was a newly recorded version of the song that reached number one on the Unsigned Top Chart in late Dec 2015-early Jan 2016. This incredibly catchy EDM track, about escaping the cares and worries of everyday life and letting loose at the disco, features lush synths set to a hypnotic dance beat that aims straight for the hips. The colorful and stylish psychedelic-looking video was produced by mixing video clips of Neil’s family and friends dancing to the song with live footage of him singing it.
Neil has a strong love for Science Fiction films, which has also greatly influenced his music. Many of his songs fuse mysterious, otherworldly Sci-fi synths with EDM grooves to create really compelling instrumental music. He released some of his new and earlier recorded tracks on a few EP’s, including A New Direction, Just Me, the song Do It All Again, which includes three remixes, and the three-part song Phase Three. A New Direction and Phase Three are the most futuristic-sounding collections of his songs. Their tracks are very Sci-fi, with computerized voices talking over highly synthesized instrumentals. “The Vision” from A New Direction has a great dance beat vibe that reminds me a bit of Madonna’s “Vogue.”
Just Me features four ambient instrumental tracks, one for each season. My favorite is “Autumn” with it’s complex, multi-textured synth arrangement that contrasts between the upbeat sounds of summer’s last gasp and the brooding approach of winter.
Despite the setbacks of Robert’s death and some health issues this year, Neil is working on producing a full album which will contain his two singles along with a number of re-recorded older songs. He hopes to release the album, which will be dedicated to Robert, early in 2017. Follow Neil on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to his YouTube channel. Stream his music on Soundcloud and Spotify, and purchase on iTunes or Amazon.