Interviewed by Sara Rademacher
Date: June 2009
Sara Rademacher: Hi Neal
Neal Middleton: How ya doiní?
Sara Rademacher: Iím good, how are you?
Neal Middleton: Pretty good, how was your day?
Sara Rademacher: It was alright, and yours?
Neal Middleton: Good, Itís nice outside today.
Sara Rademacher: Where do you live?
Neal Middleton: Salt Lake City, Utah.
Sara Rademacher: Oh youíre lucky, lucky, lucky and lucky!
Neal Middleton: Itís beautiful out here but weíve been on tour since the CD came out in January, so itís just been nonstop on the road in like pretty much every possible climate you could be through.
Sara Rademacher: You ready to go?
Neal Middleton: Yea Iím ready to start whenever; I thought we started (laughing).
Sara Rademacher: Ok. Where were you born?
Neal Middleton: I was born personally in St. Louis, Missouri and I lived there until I was about 9 years old and then we moved to Salt Lake City. My dad took a railroad job and he got transferred out here.
Sara Rademacher: Was the move hard since you were so young?
Neal Middleton: Yea, it was way hard for many reasons because you got your own friends when youíre young; first best friends that you played sports with and spend every day with, first sleepovers and everything and it was hard to just leave my friends and hard as well to come to a city that I had no idea what Mormons held against people or I didnít really know what any religion my friends were. Then I moved here and figured out real quick what religion was and what Mormons were (laughing) so that was the hardest transition for me.
Sara Rademacher: Iíve moved around a lot too, itís hard.
Neal Middleton: Yea, itís definitely hard because every community is different.
Sara Rademacher: Definitely.
Neal Middleton: And Salt Lake City is the exact opposite of St. Louis.
Sara Rademacher: Whatís your favorite childhood memory?
Neal Middleton: Church camp was fun. Thatís a hard one (though); I donít think Iíve ever been asked that before. Well, there was this one time I went on a family vacation with my whole family, me and my brother were sitting in the back seat of a two door blazer, and we went up to Canada and then came down to a place called Cannon Beach, Oregon. And Cannon Beach was like the coolest place Iíd ever been in my life. I got to like play out in the ocean, I mean I was really little at the time like 9 or 10 I think, it was right before we moved to Utah, like 10 years old maybe. That was probably my favorite childhood memory.
Sara Rademacher : ROYAL BLISS has been called the unluckiest band in rock and from what has happened itís a fair title. But, your music is still hard core amazing, how do you guys keep it together with all the bad luck youíve hit?
Neal Middleton: Umm, itís just, I donít know; it helps us stay together for one. We are firm believers in the whole Ďwhat doesnít kill you makes you strongerí theory. We are a family and itís just what we love to do (and) itís the only thing any of us have ever wanted to do is be musicians. Travel the world and tour and so there was just no other options in quitting or giving up to go into another career or even another band for that matter. It gave us/me new topics to sing about and inspired our music. It was the only way to let loose and get it off our chest; because when you go through hard times you want to talk to people about it and get it off your chest and our way to let go was to write music and record and play as many shows as we could. For me personally I never thought it wasnít going to happen and that I was going to hold it together no matter how hard it was and we did and I think it made the band a closer unit, and better friends and even a family at that point and now our chemistry and respect for each other is even stronger because we got through all the hard times.
Sara Rademacher: Your Music reflects that.
Neal Middleton: Thanks.
Sara Rademacher: How did you and the band meet and where did you get the name ROYAL BLISS from?
Neal Middleton: We met, when they already had a group in high school. And I was dating this girl who went to their high school and they went to a lot of parties with me and they never talked about their band until one night we were hanging out and they said we have a band and at the time I was playing solo at a pizza parlor. And Iíve always been interested in singing for a band and Iíve tried to sing for a few groups and it didnít work out. And they came and watched me play and after my performance they said come over and see what you think of the band. So I went over that night and we just hit it off, the chemistry was amazing and we wrote like three songs that night and the next day I quit college and cut back at work and said thatís it I was going to be a rock star and not going to worry about anything else. And the name kind of correlates with how we were at that time. We were experimenting with different drugs like acid and mushrooms and were drinking a lot and listening to SUBLIME and 3-11 and reggae music and our music at the time had that reggae rock vibe to it and BLISS came from its affiliation with the definition which means peak or euphoric experience on the peak of a hallucinogenic drug and we were just like yes awesome its totally what we want our music to be and we put ROYAL on top of it because itís the highest you could ever be. And thatís what we wanted our music to be, what we wanted people to feel when they heard our music. Wow this is so amazing and wanted them to get high off of our music.
Sara Rademacher: What was the best birthday present you ever got? And why?
Neal Middleton: I donít know. I had a lot of cool birthdays; my wife threw me a surprise birthday party and I had a lot of friends who I hadnít seen in a long time and itís nice to know that they still remember you after a long time and still care about you is better than any material possession. The X-box I got when I was 19 isnít nearly as important as the friends that I had when I was 19 still around now.
Sara Rademacher: If there was one wish you could have granted what would you wish for?
Neal Middleton: One wish? If I had one wish to be granted; Awe man, you have some good questions I havenít thought about in a long time. I wish, well, thatís hard. Thatís tough because every mistake Iíve made has made me who I am. I guess I wish at this stage of my life that I was making more money so my wife wouldnít have to work and a nice safe place and the bills paid. Which is what everyone wishes nowadays; but my wish would be to have enough money so my wife wouldnít have to work and my kids could travel with me. Take the stress out of my life and pay the bills.
Sara Rademacher: Where was your favorite hangout as a kid?
Neal Middleton: As a kidÖ high school or junior high?
Sara Rademacher: Anything under the age of 17.
Neal Middleton: Coffee houses whenever I was little. Pretty much from when I was little from 15 on; 15, 16 and 17. Beans and Brews & Grounds for coffee; I spent most of my time in those two places. They were there for kids my age, who were maybe a little different. It was a place to drink coffee or play seepa or skateboard or have your own conversations instead of having adult conversations, and kick back and be yourself. Thatís what I found out here with Utah and coffee shops. Before that in my backyard was a kind of desert, a place called Big Rock, kind of back in the woods and me and my buddy would catch lizards and stuff.
Sara Rademacher: What were your favorite bands as a kid?
Neal Middleton: PEARL JAM was one of my favorites and is still one of my favorites and my all time favorites, I discovered them in junior high. And uh I loved the CRASH TEST DUMMIES believe it or not and SUBLIME and the first CD or tape I ever bought was WHITESNAKE. I loved WHITESNAKE and DEF LEPPARD; all those kinds of bands WHITESNAKE and DEF LEPPARD, GUNS Ní ROSES and in that era and when I discovered PEARL JAM in junior high I went out and tried to remember every lyric to all the songs. I really liked his voice and I loved to sing, so listening to him sing, (I) hoped one day I could sing like that.
Sara Rademacher: What are your favorite bands now?
Neal Middleton: I really like the MUSE and TWELVE STONE I like TWELVE STONE a lot and Iíve been listening to a lot of PINK FLOYD and a lot of the classics like LED ZEPPELIN and THE DOORSall those classics. And I love the new album by KINGS OF LEON and FLEET FOXES believe it or not, not total rock and roll band but I like all of the lyrics and the harmonies and the songwriting and the vocals. I listen to KINGS OF LEON and FLEET FOXES the most.
Sara Rademacher: With bands like THE BEATLES, Tina Turner, FOO FIGHTERS, and PINK FLOYD, being on Capitol Records, what was your thought of being added to that label?
Neal Middleton: It was just mind-blowing because there were so many bands that influenced me and the rest of the bands that I absolutely love and to be in the same family. I guess the Capitol Records and EMI family there are so many amazing bands it was kind of like no vindication to the point of putting it out there for 10 or 11 years and then to be added to that same roster I donít think there could be a higher group of people or bands you could be associated with and to be like I am on the same label as THE BEATLES and PINK FLOYD. I mean to me you canít get any higher.
Sara Rademacher: After falling from the balcony and almost being paralyzed has your perception of God changed?
Neal Middleton: My perception of God; Well, Iíve always had a distant relationship if you could call it that. Iíve had a lot of near death experiences in my life Iíve been stabbed, Iíve almost drowned off the Pacific Coast, Iíve been thrown out of a car at 40 miles per hour. Iíve been through a lot of things and whenever I am in those situations, I feel closer to a higher power. And yeah I guess itís a direct correlation where whenever you are in that situation and there is no one to help you; yeah I did pray in those situations. I donít believe in any one religion but I do believe in being good to people.
Sara Rademacher: I saw your YouTube music video "Drowning Neal" and I just wanted to know, was your nose burning because you were laughing so hard?
Neal Middleton: (laughing) yea I did that for a while and in that one I was on a knee board and I lost the kneeboard and was on my stomach and then I got back the kneeboard and said just pull me and I just held on to the rope and skimmed across on my stomach and I got quite a lot of water in my mouth and my stomach was pretty messed up that night from all the water I swallowed and trying to breathe and picking the wrong moments to breathe.
Sara Rademacher: It looked like fun.
Neal Middleton: Yea, it was fun it was up at Lake Tahoe.
Sara Rademacher: Iíve never been there I heard itís nice.
Neal Middleton: Lake Tahoe; itís gorgeous, the water is so clear you can see right to the bottom itís crystal clear, but yeah, that was fun, the next day was very painful though.
Sara Rademacher: I heard the vocals you did on ĎI Doí with Jon Schmidtand the song is beautiful. Did Jon ever tell you who the song was for or what it was about?
Neal Middleton: Yea, it was for his wife, for maybe the ten year anniversary? He wrote it with a partner, Peter Brine hold and itís a really funny story because he is a really strong LDS musician and he had came in the studio and at the time we recorded it I was a studio manager where he recorded the album and I had dreadlocks and all sorts of piercings and everything else and I was just like, let me try it out Iíd love to sing it and he always thought I was joking and it was kind of a standing joke because he couldnít get anyone to sing it and they tried flying someone in and finally the producer is like no, no, no he can really sing give him a shot and I hadnít heard the song or seen any of the lyrics and I said Iíd sing it any style I just love to sing. He went in and started playing it and hands me the lyrics and he didnít really tell me where to go with it, he just started playing and the producer hit record for the hell of it and I went through the song; we pretty much kept that entire take and it was just kind of one of those moments like wow its perfect. It meshed the genre flowed away. And itís funny because I still do the song with him randomly at different shows around Utah like at BYU. The first time I sang down there I had to put my dreadlocks up in a bun on the top of my head and they almost didnít let me in to the concert hall because I looked like I didnít belong there. Jon had to come to the front and escort me in because they wouldnít let me in because they didnít think I was singing there. It was a crossover for me because here is this kid in dreadlocks and piercings in a LDS Mormon based school singing a heartfelt song and so people could see the side of rocker non Mormon kid in a better light. Walking in I got a harsh greeting and as soon as the song was done they wanted autographs and to shake hands and it was good because they got to meet me and I got to meet them when ordinarily we would have never met and its good because I got to meet some good people and they got to meet me and were friendly with someone who looked like me not so scary not so weird and I continue to sing that song with him because I love singing that song.
Sara Rademacher: Your "Save Me" Video was intense and I just wondered where you got the inspiration for it and for "Devils and Angels"; another amazing song?
Neal Middleton: Well "Save Me" we were on tour and we were discussing doing a video and how we wanted to do it and the label we were working with at the time, which is a subsidiary of Capitol and EMI, suggested the guy that did the video which you kind of see clips on MySpace and YouTube of videos he did with puppets and I was like wow, really cool really different. and we didnít want to do the same old thing a video of us playing in front of a bunch of people, you know the video that has been done a million times over and over. Iím like if we want to do a video it had to be original and different and not just the band acting like weíre singing and everything else. So I was just like. I told them to send the CD to him to see if he liked it and if he was inspired by it and sure enough he loved the song and he kind of had some different ideas not necessarily what the song is about but I like that there was a different viewpoint from how other people may have perceived the song. And I was like sweet, if heís inspired, let him go for it and let him write up a story line and come up with his own ideas and it was cool because we could still go on tour and we didnít have to be in it and when we saw it we were like cool, itís really different and we werenít expecting that. We had our few suggestions but other than that it was mostly him. We didnít care because we donít make videos, we make music and sometimes it doesnít go hand in hand. Itís a different art form and for us it was like awesome we were like completely psyched because you watch it the first time and youíre like what the hell is that and then you watch it a second time and third and fourth and fifth and it took me until like the tenth time before I was like this is cool. So we didnít have much influence, except from our song, on the guy that did it. But, itís how others perceive our music.
Sara Rademacher: It was an interesting way to take the song because I didnít take it that way.
Neal Middleton: Neither did I but so many people came up to us and told me so many different things that the video meant to them, and Iím just like sweet and I want people to think and the lyrics and video make the people think and if they make their own judgment and whatever my lyrics mean to them, then thatís fine because when you hear what the lyrics mean to the singer and the writer, it takes away from your point of view and I just want them to get whatever out of my lyrics that they can.
And "Devils and Angels" it just came out one day it was just an inspiration to stay away from all of that so I could spend more time with my girlfriend at the time and now itís kind of the same affiliation with my wife and itís the whole everyone has their demons or bad habits they have and that song is basically was just me deciding to either drink all night or spend time with the girl I love and I continue to struggle with it. That song was my baby when I wrote it. When I first wrote it we were reggae and it never stuck but I stuck with it and when we went acoustic it got played and thatís sort of a dark one for me because it was me admitting that I had a problem.
Sara Rademacher: I guess everyone has them.
Neal Middleton: Yea and it ranges so much for people like shopping or drugs or booze or texting or video games or some dumb little thing that takes them away from important time with family and friends and they canít help it. And they just have to choose-do I really want to play this video game or go for a walk with my family. Do I want to go to the mall for four hours or do I want to spend time with my family?
Sara Rademacher: Did you ever have to pay five dollars for the beer?
Neal Middleton: No, No I did not. I donít remember a lot of that night but I did not pay for the beer. Actually she hadnít bought the beer someone else had bought the beer and given it to me. And she was just teasing me and she got caught because someone came up to me and said I bought the beer you can have it.
Sara Rademacher: Do you have anything to say in closing?
Neal Middleton: I donít know. Every striving musician out there make sure you love it and are doing it for the right reasons. And the right reason is because you love it, not for fame or money or rock star lifestyle or girls. Do it for the music. I think in the recent, bands lost focus on what real music is about, its suppose to come from the heart and they get put in the grinder and they canít handle it and they want it for those wrong reasons, they get those wrong reasons it destroys them and those who they love. If youíre going to be a musician do it because you love music and also respect the battles and though it sounds like fun its only 2 hours of fun and a lot of time away from family and itís hard.
Sara Rademacher: Sorry this took so long Neal!! :)