Lisbon-born singer, songwriter, rock n’roll guitar player, amateur producer & indie label entrepreneur: Neil Leyton became familiar with the stage while living in Canada in the 1990’s, where he fronted Toronto’s glam godfathers The Conscience Pilate, after starting out on bass with psychedelic art-rockers Passion’d Flower.
He launched his solo career in 1998 with the release of the critically acclaimed “Secret Avenue” album, throwing himself simultaneously into his music as well as running Fading Ways Music, his Canadian indie label. His second album, “…from the brighter side of her Midnight Sun“, was released in the UK via the ChangesOne label in 2003 and in Canada via Scratch Records and Distribution, harnessing critical acclaim throughout all of Fading Ways Music’s distributed territories.
In 2004 Leyton’s label, Fading Ways, embraced Creative Commons licenses, endorsing file-sharing and cultural freedom while most of the music industry launched reactionary lawsuits against so-called “pirates”.
“Blacklight Skies“, a compilation featuring tracks from both albums and several Leyton EPs, was released in 2005 by Fading Ways Music UK and the German label Supermusic, with some excellent record reviews and radio airplay.
The FW Finland label released a 7″ split of two Leyton tracks from the Dead Fashion Brigade EP, recorded and co-produced with Rich Jones (ex-Amen, ex-Black Halos) and Ginger (Wildhearts); b/w Finland’s Turku Romantic Movement, who had also backed Leyton on tour in Finland, Slovenia, Austria and Germany.
The Betrayal of the Self, Leyton’s third self-produced album, followed the Dead Fashion Brigade EP in 2006 via FW UK and Feedback Boogie Records (Sweden). Recorded in Stockholm at Acetone studios and featuring Leyton’s new Sweden-based backing unit, The Ghosts, this album proved to be his most immediate, urgent, and politicized release thus far, captivating reviewers from Finland, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, the Netherlands, the UK and Canada – selling units as far wide as Japan.
In 2010 Neil Leyton released “Elite Nylon“, a 3-part album (or 3 maxi-EPs if you will), which he compiled from several recording sessions since 2007. The digital edition is a selection of the best tracks, following the advice of fellow songwriter Jim Clements, while the fanclub limited edition CD version featured the full sessions: “The Madness of Normality” would have been the sequel to “Betrayal of the Self”, recorded in Sweden; “So Not Alone” would have been a duets album tracked between London, Stockholm and the road; and “The Leyton Rifles” a power trio affair recorded in Germany.
That same year saw the release of the vinyl 7″ The Point, a side-project with Nicke Andersson. Leyton also collaborated with Nicke Andersson’s Imperial State Electric project, writing the lyrics for the song “Deja Vu” and joining ISE on tour in Spain opening for Kiss, plus playing the Azkena Rock Festival and ISE’s Peace & Love Festival appearance back in Sweden.
In 2013, Leyton released a compilation of early recording sessions from Toronto in the early to mid 1990’s, titled “Studio 92“. In 2014 he launched a new project with Micke Ghost, titled Lusitanian Ghosts, and released the single “Blossom”. The project has, as a concept, the utilization, in a rock n roll setting, of traditional portuguese regional guitars on the verge of extinction, some of which Leyton inherited from his grand-father Mestre Adelino Leitão and others, like the Amarantina, newly re-made by APC Instruments in Braga.
In 2016, Leyton got back together with Edward Pond for a one-off reunion show of The Conscience Pilate in Toronto, celebrating 20 years since their “Living in a Movie Scene” CD; and also re-issued a 20-track anniversary edition of “The Betrayal of the Self – 10th Anniversary Edition”. He is said to be working on new material, whether solo, with Lusitanian Ghosts, or The Conscience Pilate… so the rumour goes…
Here’s what some people have written:
“Leyton has it: the Songs, the tendency, the voice. A new filming of Velvet Goldmine should line up shortly, and Blacklight Skies would be the better soundtrack, with all its seventies influences from Roxy Music to the Rolling Stones, from David Bowie to the MC5.” – Steffen Greiner, Echoes Online, Germany
“Leyton’s got a wonderful voice (channelling Nick Cave’s sinister whisper on one track and Jeff Buckley’s chilling warble on another), and his songwriting skills prove more than worthy of any delusions of grandeur.” –Sarah Liss, NOW Magazine
“This album changes color and mood every three minutes or so. No sooner does that mercurial pop song fade but Leyton has switched to a rootsy tearjerker; draws the last remaining punk fibers from his skinny frame; loses himself in a rant about capitalism; creates an asphyxiating atmosphere with soundscapes or has his entire circle of friends roaring along with him. Anyone who’s human would yield in a moment and put his shopping list in order: water, bread and Neil Leyton.
– Helmut Boeijen, Oor Magazine, Netherlands
“This one had me playing air guitar within the first minute as it launched into action with the riffed out bluesy rock’n’roll and the
“Rocks Off” energy the Stones used to open their landmark Exile on Main St. — an ass kick of a way to get things going. Leyton’s glam rock past as front man for Toronto’s the Conscience Pilate injects an extra shot of attitude but he knows when to tone it down. This disc kept surprising me; one minute the Jagger esque “Angie” like ballad “To Jay 17,” the next the bouncy “Newspaper Memories,” but keeping the whole album together is a raunchy 1970’s Rolling Stones brilliance and
a sparkling clarity of songwriting genius. – Coreen Wolanski, Exclaim! Magazine, Canada
“I’m in love, and my significant other has that sarcastic jealousy thing going in response. “This album is so much fun,” I told him. “I love this Neil kid!” To which he replied, with pre school surliness, “Why don’t you marry him, then?” Personally, I think he was just threatened by Leyton’s darkly enigmatic good looks and history in the notable glam/rock band The Conscience Pilate. In any case, his jealousy was a charade sustainable only until he heard From the Brighter Side of Her Midnight Sun. Now we’re both in love. And this isn’t just the early stages of puppy love, either; Neil and I are in it for the long haul.
– Melissa Amos, Splendid Magazine, USA.
“There are some tracks (on the Midnight Sun album) where Neil sounds like At The Drive-In (the politically fueled “The Fading Ways Manifesto”). He then, somehow, follows up that track with a latin piece called “Sangue Latino”. He can easily go from an aggressive style to a sweet melody not only during the length of the album but sometimes within the course of a song. This introduction to the artist shows that he is extremely diverse in his musical endeavors. Not only is Neil an established musician, he has also started a label called Fading Ways. – Dennis Scanland, Music Emissions
“Part Rolling Stones, part Zeppelin but at all times cleverly mixing strong pop hooks with a thoughtful and slightly dark overhead. For an album with so many tracks, seventeen in total, it skips along at a fast pace thanks to several punchy radio ready tracks like ‘Whispers’, ‘Once Upon a Yesterday’ and ‘Nine’. At times a thinking man’s rock record and at others just a dirty bar rock and roll album.” – Rob Lane, Trashpit Magazine UK
“To say that Neil Leyton represents the more subdued side of rock & roll would be an inaccuracy. Above all what strikes me is Leyton’s brilliant control of dynamics. With an unusually expressive vocal quality, Leyton is able to shift mood almost seamlessly, as epitomised by opening track, ‘Whispers’. Meanwhile, in ‘(I Miss the Times) When the Russians Were Coming’, his voice ascends to a genuinely terrifying shriek at the end. Overall, this is more than just a collection of songs – by the time you reach final track and album highlight, ‘Twilight of the Gods’, you really feel that you have travelled somewhere. Comparisons with Jeff Buckley are perhaps inevitable, but on this record Leyton has undeniably placed the stamp of his own
unique artistry.” – Drowned in Sound, UK
COMMENTS FROM GERMAN RADIO:
Radio Dortmund 91.2, Dortmund
„An artist who shows what he´s able to do, who doesn’t let himself be produced too nice and who plays wonderful guitars.”
Radio Rheinwelle, Wiesbaden
„We´re absolutely enthusiastic about the album and played one track every day on our midday show!”
RBB Radio Eins, Berlin
“Wow, that was the surprise of the week! Very interesting artist. I played Paint The White House Black as the opener for my show – Radio Affair – on 13th June, more plays to come soon.”
University Radio, Berlin
“Surprising and wonderful album, the organ parts are dirty and brilliant!”
University Radio, Jena
“Unbelievable album with lots and lots of styles on it. We took the title track for our rotation-list.”