The Bolton IRON MAIDEN – An Interview with Paul O’Neill

A while back I had written an overview of the CD releases from The Bolton Iron Maiden. The band was around in the first half of the ’70s as Iron Maiden, and by the time they’d ended another band that would become one of the biggest Heavy Metal bands of all-time had began, unknowingly, using the same name. So, the band’s drummer / singer / writer Paul O’Neill went on to release a few CDs under The Bolton Iron Maiden name, as well as a solo album. More recently he released a new album – Puppet Master : The Rise and Rise of Slick Dandy.

Iron Maiden, as they were known in the early ’70s were one of many British bands that played regularly live, and struggled for years to get to the next level – a recording contract, which would elude the band. But they did lay down a few originals in the studio at one point, and a number of their originals survived on taped live gigs, which were used for the 2005 release Maiden Flight. And aside from Steve Harris’ Iron Maiden, Paul O’Neill’s band would not be the only ones who used the name.

In this interview Paul talks about the band’s early days, recordings, the band name, the CD releases, and his latest album, among other things. It’s a fascinating look at a working band that was a part of the scene, but without making a huge impact. They are an interesting tale due to their name and timing, but would [in later years] put out some fine early ’70s hard rock, and O’Neill would go on to have a career in theater and create more music decades later. *For more info on the band and CD releases, check out the official website – http://theboltonironmaiden.com/

Enjoy!

When you guys decided on the name ‘Iron Maiden’ did it have any sort of musical intentions [ie being a heavier or darker band, etc]. And were you aware at all of anyone else using the name prior to? 

Oh yes – we wanted a STRONG heavy name from our previous name “BIRTH” Musically we wanted to be a heavy rock band similar to Cream, Free, The Who, Iron Butterfly, Mountain, Black Sabbath and the new band all the rage – Led Zeppelin.   Derek (I believe) came up with the idea for “Iron Maiden” and we loved it!

We had no idea there was anyone else using that name. We appeared in the musical papers of the time, Melody Maker, New Musical Express, Sounds etc, and it was only ever our Iron Maiden. I only discovered this other lot (from Basildon) in 2005!

One interesting but sad thing is that my wife was badly attacked and nearly murdered in May 1976. I was walking back from visiting her in the hospital one Thursday and bought the Melody Maker on the way home. I opened it up to my fave pages – the gig guide at the back – and saw Iron Maiden playing at a pub in London? I knew it could not be us. Beak at the time was ill with cancer.  I have often thought that Beak, who sadly died two months later, was the person who (according to Steve Harris) rang the pub and said “you can’t use that name – it’s already being used”. The only way I could ever find that out, would be to buy Steve a pint and ask him. Beak had a very distinctive voice, and I would be able to tell if it was him.

Another sad tale is – although (the new) Iron Maiden and Rod were VERY supportive of us, and helped me enormously, a London paper called “The Metro” came to see me for an interview, and I was telling him all about what was happening. I mentioned a famous national Paper – The Sunday Mail wanted me to “dish the dirt” on Iron Maiden, for a headline they wanted “They Stole My Name, They Stole My Fame”

I told them the name was never stolen – we were happy for the boys to use it – we had stopped playing when Beak died.

Next day – across the centre pages of the Metro was They Stole My Name, They Stole My Fame. Rod has not spoken to me since – although I did get them to print a retraction – the damage was done. So the famous phrase “any publicity is good publicity” in our case – this was a killer. They have not contacted me or allowed any contact from me since 2006. Copy of article attached.

I would still love to have the conversation with Steve!

At your site there is mention of a few of the band’s Iron Maiden opened for. Aside from The Thin Lizzy story, can you recall a few memorable gigs opening for any other ‘name bands? And would you recall the biggest show[S] you did in crowd size? [any festivals?] 

We played and opened for quite a few bands in our time playing mainly colleges.

I suppose I have to mention Judas Priest. We played with them a lot, they were good, but we thought we were better and did not like “being second on the bill” to them.

The very first open air gig we did was in Queens Park in Bolton. They had an old bandstand in the park and they used it for the first time for pop and rock music. It was about 1968 or 69. The main band had a magnetic magical lead singer – his name was Freddie Mercury!! The name of the band was Ibex (there is an article on our Facebook page ) https://www.facebook.com/theboltonnews/photos/a.190634877684580/2352381964843183/

Procul Harum at Salford College was a great night – we got there as they were sound checking and they were playing a reggae version of “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. Mick Grabham was the guitarist that night. Years later – I met Mick who was playing with Don Airey (now Deep Purple)  at a local pub where Don lives. We stood at the bar chatting and the subject of the reggae version came up and I (reluctantly) told him my band name – It was always awkward – because IM were SO famous – it always sounded like I was making a story up. No one knew we existed. However, Mick choked on his drink when I told him, and said – “Ahhh The Iron Maiden from Manchester!” I said “yes” had he went on to tell me – he and the others from the band, knowing that we played a support gig with them in the early ’70’s – went one night to see them (Iron Maiden) play. Went backstage after and said “Hi Guys it’s Procul Harum – we’ve come to see you” – They were met with blank stares!

Mick told me they couldn’t believe “we” (actually Steve’s band) didn’t remember them. Now he knew why – and phoned Gary and the guys from the pub we were in to let them know.

Supertramp. Another gig at Manchester uni. The band were a three piece when we first met them – at Manchester, they were a five piece and wow! what a band – no wonder they went on to super stardom.

The Groundhogs. We loved the Groundhogs and at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton we were very pleased to be playing support for the Groundhogs – only problem was one of our best numbers was “Cherry Red” by the Groundhogs. We had to take a chance and play it BEFORE they played it again!

A good thing too, because when it came to doing the covers album Boulton Flies Again I had to contact Tony McPhee, to allow us to use “Cherry Red” on the Album. He not only remembered us, but told me I was singing all the wrong words to the song! He corrected my lyrics, and let us use “Cherry Red” with no fee whilst it was generating charity money for Cancer. Then to top that – Tony and his missus actually SOLD copies of Boulton Flies Again at gigs they did in 2007/8. A proper gent and a REAL rock and roller! (if you listen to Cherry Red on BFA album, you can hear me trying to correct the incorrect vocal line. Tony wrote it about a hot blooded love affair – I thought I was singing about murdering your girlfriend.

UFO – a great heavy band – we played with them at the Drill Hall Bolton. (see notes on SAG)

Bloodwyn Pig at Manchester Uni. It was a real highlight to meet Mick Abrahams – he was a hero from Jethro Tull, who we all admired.

Solution (they were a Dutch band –  friends of Focus) We played support for Solution at BIT (Bolton Institute of Technology) in Bolton, They were on tour at the time. They rolled  up with no gear, and had to use ours. We stayed in touch for quite a long time. Wonderful band and brilliant musicians. Tommy Barlage the saxophonist wrote the tune “Divergence” which became “Tommy” on Moving Waves for Focus. I met them a few weeks later in a café in Manchester – where they were support band for my hero’s – Gentle Giant.

Caravan – at Mr Smiths in Manchester. Brilliant band – Loved the song “If I could do it again, I’d do it all over you”

David Bowie – we were not actually a warm up band – we played the famous Magic Village in Manchester and finished about 11. From then and through the night, artistes who were about would call in and just play. About 2am – a guy came in. We had no idea who it was – he sat crossed legged and played an acoustic and sang with no PA. We heard the song “The Man Who Sold The World” – but had no clue who this was until we heard the album!!!

Cozy Powell and Bedlam. We opened for Bedlam at BIT . Our claim to fame is that we were louder than them! That was important to us at the time! Cozy had a kit twice the size of mine, played it beyond my dreams – but I was louder!

Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come – at Bolton Technical College – a gig not to be missed, Arthur was using a Bentley drum machine – it shorted and gave him a bad electrical shock – ended up Derek and a few others taking him to Bolton Royal Infirmary.

We topped the bill at the Moss Bank Park Festival in Bolton in about 1973. It was Bolton’s first real outdoor festival. Around 5000 attended.

Blackfoot Sue – at Salford Technical college. Great band. Sacked a roadie for talking to us too much!

Mungo Jerry – strange gig – another that sacked their roadie – we ended up taking him home, feeding him and getting him on a train the next day!

Trapeze – One of our fave bands. We saw them a few times and loved the first album – before we only played originals –  we always opened with “Black Cloud”. However we never played with them sadly.

I know there are more – but Derek has the memory – mine is not the best – so sorry if I have missed anyone.

Any favorite tales of any crazy gigs / onstage moments? 

I really do need Derek here. There were many crazy nights, and some not so savory things that went on backstage. At one club, where the guy in charge was not very nice, and withheld our money, our then lead singer Tony Fearn, decided to relieve himself in the bingo machine just before he was about to use it!

Another crazy night was in Newcastle, where we doubled. We played a club 7-10, then went on to a nightclub in the centre of Newcastle between 12am and 2am. When we had finished setting up, they pulled down some mesh netting. We had no idea why, until we started playing. At the first chord a shower of Newcastle Brown Ale bottles rained down on the stage. Memorable night in that we didn’t die!

Another time when we were getting really popular and filling colleges by ourselves, I decided to alter my drum solo.

I always played a solo during the final song “Maiden Flight”, after rattling round on the kit for a few minutes, I used to turn round and play two glockenspiels and wood blocks. I decided it would be great if Dylan the roadie would load up the top of the wood blocks with beer bottles and a hammer. After playing the wood blocks I picked up the hammer and just smashed every bottle in sight. Needless to say – they audience and the band were sprayed in blood – great time!

Our local gig was the BIT. In 1975 we played it for the last time. A highlight of my life was our Roadie Dylan, bringing me out of the dressing room, and taking me to a window, where you could see hundreds of people queuing around the building. He said –“the gig is full – this lot are only hoping to get in” Magic!

What were you guys listening to during the early ’70s – any band’s you admired or hoped to be in the same sorta category as [musically]?  

I loved Cream, Ginger was a bit of a hero of mine, Gentle Giant, The Nice, and of course The Beatles! Very into progressive rock I have the first Yes album bought in 1969 and loved them since, also ELP, Genesis King Crimson.. In fact – the BIM track “Cracked Path” title came from a King Crimson track “Confusion” the line went “Confusion will be my epitaph as I walk a cracked and broken path”  (Pete Sinfield lyrics)

Beak loved John Mayall,  Eric Clapton, esp. the Layla Album and really any true bluesmen.

Derek was into US Rock – Mountain, New Riders, Grateful Dead, Spirit.

We all really got into a new band called Wishbone Ash. They used two guitars in harmony. We all loved the sound – especially Beak who wanted to introduce a second guitarist to play harmonies with. The track “Crawl Crawl Nighttime” from Maiden Flight was where he was headed. Derek and I both thought two guitars was a bit old hat – oh dear – how wrong could we be!! The new IM have bloody THREE!

You had the one brush with Tony Iommi, regarding [hopefully] managing the band. Did you ever hear from him again or anyone else who might’ve taken on the band? 

Sadly no. It was Tony and a guy called Norman Hood who were coming to watch us, but no, we didn’t hear from them again. We had one guy who tried to manage us, but kept booking pop music venues – he didn’t understand Rock music at all. He didn’t last!

Was Iron Maiden a full time gig? How often did you guys play? and did you have regular venues and/or travel much around the country [or UK]? 

It was a full time gig for a while.  Derek always refused to give up his job as a telephone engineer. When Derek left and was replaced by Noel Pemberton Billing it did become full time.

Just before Derek left, he had an idea we should have a “spin off” band, playing only 1950’s rock and roll. We were called Teenagers In Love, (Piccy attached) and actually began to be more popular than Iron Maiden. So we made it pay by working two bands at the same time. We took on a pianist called Alan Wickam, and a brilliant lead singer called Paul Neon.

We did have quite a lot of regular venues – mainly the college circuit in the UK – not much in Wales, and we always seemed to be playing in the lake district in England and southern Scotland. We often played down south – but never London itself. I remember meeting three young lads in the South, who heard we may be breaking up – by this time Beak was not well, and we were so busy with Teenagers – IM was taking a back seat. They asked if they could use the name Iron Maiden. We were OK with that. I often wonder who those three lads were?

Again I would love to speak to Steve over a pint about that

What were the circumstances of the band’s one [and only?] studio session to lay down the 4 songs? Was there any other studio attempts [even before the band changed the name from Birth?]  

Sadly nothing of Birth exists on tape. But I do have a recording of us when we were called “Ways N’ Means” from about 1967. We were all still learning to play. Fun to listen to now.

With Iron Maiden, we were looking to get a recording contract – but having no manager we tried to do it ourselves. Our Agent at the time was William Leyland – a well known agent in the North of England, and he had a new studio in the town of Farnworth near to Bolton. So we asked to use that and went in for two days, and recorded the 4 tracks. The idea was one of us was going to make copies of the tapes and send them to record companies. I don’t even know if anyone sent them off? If it did happen, I think Derek would have done that, but as history shows – nothing came of it.

We also (after Derek left) went to the same studio and recorded two tracks with Teenagers In Love.

Quite nice recordings of 20 Flight Rock (Eddie Cochran) and the song “Teenager In Love” but we changed it to “Teenagers In Love” to fit the band.

The songs you did record – why did you pick those 4, particularly if “Maiden Flight” was not included? [or was it not written at the time?] 

I recall I wrote “Maiden Flight” after the session so missed out. The four tracks were our favorites at the time.

What inspired the band’s sci-fi lycal ideas, like time travel? [any particular tv shows, books…?] 

We all seemed to love Si-Fi. Our stage show had an 8mm projector showing old B/W horror and Si-Fi movies. I think we were all inspired by 2001 A Space Odyssey, The Day the Earth Stood Still and even Star Trek. I was mainly the lyricist, and so it was my love of Arthur C Clarke and his contemporaries that started the SiFi theme. A story by Clifford D Simak was the inspiration for ‘Maiden Flight”.

As for the live tracks and the CD of Covers — can you tell me about how you came about to get those so many years later? can you tell me a bit about the fan who would save the shows, and how you went about ‘recovering’ the recordings for release? 

That’s a big question Kevin! From very early on being called Iron Maiden, David Southworth – known to us all as SAG, was our No.1 fan. He followed us everywhere. What we didn’t know, he filmed us on his super 8 camera and also recorded every gig he came to on his Alba Cassette recorder. By some miracle, this little recorder (which I now have in my Studio) had a “Limiter” on it, so although we were incredibly loud as a band, this little cassette captured about 8 whole gigs. Roadie Paul Hampson brought a reel to reel tape deck to an early gig where we did mostly covers, and we used a lot of those tracks for Boulton Flies Again.

Aint you Commin Home Babe” (Bloodwyn Pig) and “Fresh Garbage” (Spirit) were favorite tracks, and I thought lost. But when I decided to try to create Maiden Flight – I invited Sag and Paul Hampson to my place to stay a few days and listen to the tapes. Sag rolled up with a VERY old tape which had on those two tracks. It was recorded at a gig we did with UFO at the Drill Hall in Bolton, and the place was large and rang like a bell.

When it came to Sag talking me into creating a “Covers” album, his request was “Cherry Red”, “Fresh Garbage” and “Aint you Commin Home Babe”

I thought it impossible with the state of the sound. A large echoing venue, Sag at the back of the hall with the tape recorder hanging round his neck.. and dancing! But  a mastering studio SRT in St.Ives took the task on, and managed to reduce the ringing on the empty sounding tape, and I then eq’d it to try and bring some sound back.

I admit Boulton Flies Again is really only for the fans, but I still sell an amazing amount of them. Only yesterday I had an order from Birmingham, Alabama for all four of my albums!! Gobsmacked to say the least. “Thunderbuck Ram” from BFA is the highest earning track from streaming?

So Sag and Paul were the catalyst to allow an actual album rather than a 4 track EP.

I carefully transferred the cassettes and the one reel to reel tape onto a computer programme called Magix which allowed me to remove squeeks and blips, then transferred the magix files onto Logic pro7.

In some cases – It was like a little miracle, The vocals were always way in the background, so I was able to double track my vocals, add a bit of reverb and it worked! On Life span we only had two recording – two weeks apart and in two different gigs. The first – Beak had drank a few beers and played the riff wrong – the one two weeks later, I managed to cut the correct guitar riff and paste it on to the first take – different venue, different sound, but it worked. I was falling in love with computer recording.

I mixed all the tracks myself to save costs and then had the albums mastered at SRT Studio – the same one that rescued the two badly recorded tracks.

I would have loved to re-record all the material and the tracks we never actually played live (we had a song called “Running Free” – how weird is that?) but time and cost was prohibitive and would not have made much for the two charities.

I think the album paid for itself in the first couple of months and has since (because of Downloads and streaming) generated income for the charities for over 15 years.

Of the original material – what were crowd favorites in the band’s live set, and what were a few of your own to play [or that you felt had the most promise]?

The crowd always loved “Cracked Path” and “Crawl Crawl Nighttime”. My favorite tracks are “Life Span” – especially my daughters’ backing vocals – which they came up with. I wanted humming – they thought differently, and they were right. “A Place Of My Own” I loved too because it really just rocked along. Beaks guitar playing was wonderful – we were a three piece band – and the way Beak filled everything in – we didn’t need any one else.

Can you tell me a bit about Ian Boulton Smith as far as a guitar player [recall who he was a fan of?], a bandmate, and friend? 

Beak became a friend first. We were total opposites  he was 6’6”, I was 5’6” for a start. He looked great on stage with his long blond hair; he always looked like a rock star. He also was an amazing guitarist and a lovely person to write with.

His tastes were different too. He loved the Blues and in particular John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. I was into the Beatles, but he really opened my eyes to rock and the blues. I totally changed my tastes after I met Beak and Derek –  we were all influencing each other. Derek was really into American rock.

As a guitar player, Beak, at that time was second to none. His playing, especially his fills, were amazing. For a three piece we could fill any venue with a great rock sound, and it was Beak who was the basis of it all. He never left a space – it was always filled with either rock solid chord work or sensitive fills. As a writer, he came up with amazing chord sequences, riffs to die for and rocking solos.

As a friend you could wish for no more. Fair to a fault, he would always forgive my exuberant ways and frolics – he was a very gentle soul who thought I was rather an unkempt wild thing (he was probably right) but I learned a lot from him – tolerance, gentleness and humour.

What did you do in the years after Iron Maiden disbanding? Was there any other regular playing bands? any invitations or auditions to join any other established bands? 

Sadly – things sort of went to ratshit when Ian died. Sue my wife was just recovering from an horrendous attack by a madman, who got a life sentence for his attack. When my mother died the same year – I wanted to get out of Bolton – so did Sue.

We received an invitation from a ’50s rock and roll band called Sun Session – an Elvis band obviously.  The band was fronted by Paul Neon who was with me in Teenagers In Love.

They were playing the London RnR circuit, and needed a drummer. So – we left Bolton and moved to Cambridgeshire, where we still live.

I sort of became a “50s Rock and Roll” drummer and was recruited by various bands in the ’80s – nothing of note, but, for one band – “Red Hot” we had to audition a guitarist.

It was very difficult to find the right guy for ’50s music, and we were just about to give up when we got a call from the advert in the Melody Maker. A guy known only as “Len” wanted to audition. I said we had just about given up, but if he wanted to call round to my studio the next night we would give him a listen.

“Len” showed up and was remarkable. We took him on and he was with us about 4 years before we discovered he was Lenny Davidson from the Dave Clarke 5. We had no idea!

We worked together for many years and Len and his wife Linda live literally around the corner.  We both began teaching music at the Huntingdon College. I taught Drums and Keyboard – Len taught electric and classical Guitar

Len features as guitarist on my album “Totally Swept Away”

Can you touch on the idea and process of putting together the first CD in 2005? As well as your connection to Rod Smallwood and Steve Harris Iron Maiden? [did you get to meet up or hear from Steve?] 

As I mentioned earlier – I haven’t met Steve. I met Adrian and tour manager David, but never Steve.

Putting the CD together was Sue’s idea. In 2005 she came in the studio and said – “do you know it will be 30 years next year that Beak died. Why not do a CD of your Iron Maiden and let Beak’s family have a copy, and our kids will be able to hear what  you were like”

I have a great friend – Rob Harris who is also a guitarist (Jamiroquai). He sold me the Apple Computer and programme I needed to make the album. He also spent over 3 days teaching me how to use it. Rob mentioned that, if I was going to put out a CD, I must get the new IMs OK to do it. I was very reluctant, because I thought they would just tell me to “sod off” – which would be very hurtful to Beak and his memory. Rob and I have a mutual friend – Don Airey who played on an Iron Maiden LP (7th son I think). Don advised me to contact Rod Smallwood. So I sent an e-mail to Sanctuary – and immediately got an email back from their legal Dept.

They were very nice, I was surprised and pleased. They said Rod was happy, and not only could I do the album, but when it was finished, he would advertise it on the IM website. This was great news.

I received an e-mail back from their lawyer, who gave me details and said we would like you to change the name to “1970 to 1976 The Bolton Iron Maiden” – on three lines so it would still read Iron Maiden, but would avoid confusion for their fans. I was more than happy – after all it was their songs and talent that got them where they are – not our name!

From that grew an album, and we also managed on the 30th anniversary of his death, to do a re-union gig in Bolton in memory of Beak and to launch Maiden Flight and to raise funds for our Cancer charities. Dan Collins was playing guitar for me that night.

I called the night “the Bimmie” (The Bolton Iron Maiden Major Imbibing Event). We have since had a few “mini Bimmies” at the Olde Man and Sythe pub in Bolton.

Where did the story for Puppet Master come from [inspiration, ideas…]? And can you tell me a bit about how it went from a story to a full blown album idea? 

When I first moved to Cambridgeshire, I wrote a song called “Life Is A Circus”. This would be about 1979. I then had an idea I would like to write a story of a boy who lived in a circus and was about to become a performer. This idea has floated round my head for YEARS. I then worked with Rob Harris. He would come and play guitar for me on various tracks and musicals I composed. Eventually – the circus idea became about the manager we never found as Iron Maiden, and would we have sold our souls to get to the top? The song “Maiden Flight” should have been carried on – I always wanted to write more about the Time Traveller and his faithful mute friend (a dog) – from that I formulated another SiFi song (Time Traveller – which is based on the Maiden Flight riff) and a SiFi album!

Can you tell me a bit about the players or it and why former BIM bandmembers didn’t appear? 

I really wanted Derek and Noel to play. Derek lives 200 miles to the north and is not in the best of health, has no idea how to use a computer or record parts – so although I wanted him on the album – we had no resources to be able to record him. Noel lives 200 miles to the south, and is not good on staying in touch. Again I wanted Noel to play guitar (he switched from bass), another problem is Derek does not get on with Noel (a problem from many years ago) , so really using the originals was not going to happen. I have two good friends who were willing to come to me once a week and work on the songs I’d written – Martin Low (Guitar) and Garry Cutress (bass). Both are nice players and fitted in with me well.

As much as I could (time and opportunity willing) I would get Rob Harris on the recordings. Many of the songs featured Rob, when he used to use my studio, so I tried to continue that as much as possible. If you have heard Rob on Jamiroquai recordings and the work he has done with Don, you will understand why I wanted him! Rob is the backbone of the whole album.

I used to teach Don Airey’s son drumkit. He always said – if you need anything – I’ll do it for you. So when I needed a red hot moog solo – I rolled up to his place one Thursday morning in between Deep Purple gigs, and he took 20 minutes to do it for me (“Slick Dandy”). Don is one of those lovely guys who everyone likes the minute you meet him.

I had to use Rachael and Victoria on backing – cause they are just really Good!!!

Two other friends – Brian Sage from my days with a ’50s Rock and Roll band played sax for me, and Nick Hill – a local jazz trumpet player who also works with Don on his jazz gigs played trumpet for me.

What is your connection to Don Airey and how you got him involved? 

I met Don through Nick Hill the trumpet player. Once you meet Don, you don’t forget him. Nor does he forget you! As I said – through Nick – I started to teach Don’s youngest son drums, and he said he owed me a favor!

I’ve done a couple of local gigs with Don, he is lovely – but scary – because he is such an immaculate player –  if you make a mistake – one look and you fry on the spot!

Were the characters in Puppet Master inspired by any real people you know? Is any of it autobiographical or inspired by your own circumstances? 

Yes indeed – I based some of the characters on real people. Wally Lemland the Agent working for Matthew L Fox – is based on Agent William Leyland, Matthew L Fox is simply the fox from Pinnoccio! The Sad Old Clown is my Granddad – John Feeney – stage name Tom E Sloan. The Ukrainian trapeze artist is Giant Jannkho is an anagram for Jonathan King – who let me down on my first songwriting contract with Chapple Music. The song “Rock and Roll Star” and “Gone Are The Days” are autobiographical.

As an album, it really needs to be listened to in full, as opposed to individual tracks. But, what are some of your favorites pieces / tracks from it? 

I love “Slick Dandy”, “Help Me Forgive Christina” and “Rock and Roll Star”.

You recorded Puppet Master at your own studio over a number of years!? And how did you manage to wind up having it mixed & mastered at Abbey Road?

Being a rock drummer for many years, my hearing is on the way out.  I worked on an album with my friend Paul Neon, just before he passed away from cancer in 2017/8. I sent the album to be mastered, and my mastering engineer said – “I could have been quicker, bit the mix was not very good!” – I mixed it! Oops So I thought I ought to see if I could find a mixing engineer who would not cost the earth.

I googled Mixing engineers – and alphabetically – Abbey Road came up first. I laughingly said to Sue – Im going to call them – just to see what they say. I started by saying “Do you work with nobodies?”

The lady laughed and said “We are a business – of course we do” She said I would have to send a sample of my material in – and the engineers would decide if they wanted to do it. Fortunately Toby Hulbert said he would love to mix it.

So I asked the cost – she said its £600 a day. I jumped for joy. I had saved over £800 so I could afford it and said yes! I send in my tracks and a few days later Toby called to discuss it with me. Then I had the real shock – they mixed only ONE track a day – and I had 18 tracks. So what I thought was only £600 was 600 x 18 = quite a few shillings to say the least.

Toby was very kind and in the end squeezed a lot more than one track a day for me, so it didn’t quite break the bank, but just the fact of being a Abbey Road – as a performer / client was absolutely magic. They also allow guests – so most of my family accompanied me for the days I worked there. The mix was immaculate. And the Mastering Engineer loved doing it too!

You [Paul] also did a solo album in 2009. Can you touch on this, as well as any other recording projects you may have been involved in or in the works? 

You mean Totally Swept Away. This came about because my Dad told me the story of the Loss of The Birkenhead – a steamship which sank with the loss of 600 soldiers lives. I had to write a song about it and in true O’Neill fashion started to write more and more about the sea. It ended up as 15 songs about various aspects of the sea. Because of the topic of the songs there is a lot of folk influence in the songs. I have often played in Folk Rock bands and appreciate the music.

I am a big fan of Gentle Giant, and their first producer Tony Visconti. My dream was to have him produce this album for me. So on a whim, I looked him up on the internet and found an e-mail address. I contacted him and told him the story, and sent some MP3s, and to my shock – he replied and was interested in doing it.

However, his manager then contacted me and in a voice that sounded like someone from the mafia, he said, “you come through me, and no one else – I’ll decide who does what” Scarred me to death – didn’t hear from Mr Visconti after that. I hope I didn’t get him into trouble. But…..What a producer!

I have also written four musicals, two on my own –

Days In Glass Cages – a children’s story about insects and living in harmony with one another, and The Art Of Living Apart – a musical about the re-introduction of the death penalty in England – and one man being framed for murder will be the first recipient.

And I’ve co-written another two musicals – “Toys” and “Cloud Cuckoos”, with local writer Jenny Brench

I’ve been Musical Director for various things in the local Priory Centre in town.

I’m currently writing and recording songs about my own childhood and family members. I doubt this will be more than something shared with my family.

What are the other former members of BIM up to? Did anyone else go on to future bands or recordings? And have you all kept in touch? 

We are all in touch. Noel lives in the deep south of the UK, buys and sells guitars and plays locally in bands. His neighbor is Jerry Dorsey from Mungo Jerry.

Derek still lives in Bolton with his son Tom, not played since the Bimmie in 2006, but still has the gear. We are talking about getting the Bolton Iron Maiden out on the road to promote the new album.

Dylan the roadie lives in Bolton with his daughter and has written a few items for our website “Memories” page

Terry (Gearie) has moved back from Dubai where he was director of the Energy Council and is happily retired with his wife Hazel in Kent. I am godfather to his daughter Bethany

Roadie Paul Hampson still grows his own weed – oh no sorry, he runs a garden nursery and lives in Preston. He lives with his wife and two grown up daughters.

Links:

http://theboltonironmaiden.com/

http://paultjoneill.com/

http://www.ironmaidencommentary.com/?url=tbim

https://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/st-neots-man-donated-album-sales-7835390

https://music.apple.com/us/artist/the-bolton-iron-maiden/200817448

KJ, 08 / ’21

One thought on “The Bolton IRON MAIDEN – An Interview with Paul O’Neill”

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