What do you get when you cross the likes of the band Nirvana, Weezer, Foo Fighters, and Korn with North American music fans? The band members of Biffy Clyro are hoping it is world dominating success, and with the release of their 4th album, Puzzle, nominated best album of the year, it is looking like that may indeed by the case. From a band who calls themselves “the best band in the world”, it should come as no surprise that they were once a impoverished Scottish garage band by the name of Screwfish. This was back in the mid 90’s when singer Simon Neil and the Johnson twins, Ben and James, hung their kilt to dry in two of the roughest towns in Scotland, Ayr and Kilmarnock. Just last year a young man was killed around their old neighborhood with a screwdriver for refusing to let a few blocs take a swig from his partially filled wine bottle.
No, the members of Biffy Clyro have certainly had no overnight success and they couldn’t be happier about it. They credit much of their style and one-of-a-kind sound to all those fast food burgers and cheap hotels they had to run through to get where they are today. To give you an idea of their story so far, the trio met in high school back in 1995 and did not release their first single until 1999, which was called, “Iname”. The band grew in popularity in the U.K. for the next three years and finally released their debut album, Blackened Sky, to be followed up with The Vertigo of Bliss in 2003 and Infinity Land in 2004. Due to a legal struggle with their original label, the band was put on a leave of absence for a long stint while trying complete their signing with 14th Floor Records (home to David Gray). After completing their signing in 2006, it wasn’t until the spring of 2007 that they completed their fourth album, Puzzle, that has since leaped to the top of the U.K. Charts.
We were able to speak with Simon as he settled back home to prepare for his wedding plans this 2008. He was anxious to be coming off a European tour and ready to set to work on the next album:
Eric J: What are you going to be up to for the next few months now that your tour is over?
Simon N: “We are off tour properly for the first time since March, so it takes a while to get back into the swing of real life. We have an amazing time on tour but nothing beats the feeling of being home for a couple of weeks. I only ever write songs at home so that’s my favorite thing to do. it’s my favorite part of making a record.”
EJ: Tell us what you were like growing up, Simon?
Simon: “I was a normal, shy kid. My life changed when i discovered music as it became the only thing I was interested in. When I was about 11 years old, a mate and I dressed up head to toe in G’N’R (Guns and Roses) gear to watch one of their gigs on TV because we were too young to go and see them, but worshiped everything they did. In fact, I think I’m the only person on earth still excited about Chinese Democracy (their newest album).”
EJ: What are a few of your favorite tattoo’s?
Simon: “I always get tattooed by Kevin Younger in Glasgow. I really trust him. My favorite tattoos are my Christ of Saint George on the Cross by Dali and my two headed baby. I love weird and interesting tattoos. I only a few of my own that have deep meaning to me, but I’m going to keep them secret.”
EJ: Could you give us a sense as to what the two-headed baby and Christ of Saint George represent?
Simon: “I am not a religious person but religion fascinates me. I love the story of the bible and of Jesus in particular. I love the way Dali chose to create a new way of looking at Christ on the cross which to me highlights that religion is totally dependent on someone’s interpretation of the writings. The two headed baby is a grotesque image of an innocent soul. My fiance’s sister had identical twins just before I got the tattoo done and they were hugely premature, so they were on life support machines for 2 months. The tattoo felt like a good way to remember and be thankful that they are now healthy young girls.”
EJ: What does the flaming eight and heart on your left arm represent?
Simon: “The flaming eight is actually a sideways infinity sign. The heart and the infinity were on our artwork for our third album, Infinity Land. It’s from a surreal painting of a gas masked Mickey Mouse wearing a Nazi-esque outfit with two angels flanking him on either side. it was painted especially for the album by our friend Chris who studied my lyrics and song titles to come up with a series of pieces. I love it when people have to interpret my lyrics and create a visual form. It’s something I’m not very good at, but appreciate very much.”
EJ: I love the quote on your left hip, “Keep on dreaming boy, cause when you stop dreaming it’s time to die.” What is the context of that saying?
Simon: “The lyrics on my hip are from a Blind Melon song called “Change”. It sums up a lot of things for me especially as I’m getting older. Being in a band can be hard work and it helps to remind me during hard times to remember my dreams and hopes. I’ve loved blind melon since I was about 13 years old and these lyrics by Shannon Hoon have always meant so much to me.”
EJ: Do you have any future plans for tattoo’s?
Simon: “I am having a Da Vinci self portrait done next week by Kevin. I’m getting it on my stomach, which’ll be nice and sore. I also love the Darren Aronofsky movie and comic book “The Fountain” which connected with me in a deep way, so I’m intending on getting some work from the comic book done to remind me how lucky I am to have a partner I’d die for.”
EJ: That’s beautiful; are there any thoughts as to what the art will look like?
Simon: “The main character in the fountain loses the love of his life, drinks from the tree of life, and spends the rest of time trying to be with his love. In the comic there are a series of 3 images of the man’s face as he finally dies and moves on to another world hopefully to be with the love of his life forever, and that’s the three drawings I’m going to get on my right arm.”
EJ: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap this up?
Simon: “I can sum myself up by telling you my new years’ resolution; I’m going to stop being so polite to everyone all the time. Make of that what you will. Thank you kind sir.”
(Originally Featured in Walking Canvas Magazine)