Dr Neal Spowage is a musician and artist based in Leicester, UK.
He was born in the northern UK steel town of Scunthorpe, where he lived and worked until 1997. He was well known in the local music scene working with the likes of Duncan Chapman and Steve Bird and playing guitar and drums in many local bands and ensembles including The Beadles, Enchanting Alice, Mothers Fury and Speed Needle. He was a regular ‘carpet sitter’ at the Baths Hall indie rock disco and at the now famous Lincoln Imp venue. He was also involved in producing a fanzine for The Beadles.
In 1997-98, he spent a year in Derby studying his Art Foundation before moving on to Leicester to study a BA in Multimedia Design where he took great interest in human-machine interaction and sound design. He began to DJ on the local indie and goth scene under the pseudonym of DJ Lostlittlerobot and ran a LGBTQ friendly indie/goth night called the Psycho Candy Club with fellow DJ Flowersdie (Jeremy Wiltshire). The night ran for four-ish years (2003-2007-ish) in various venues, finishing with a 2 ½ year stint at the legendary but now defunct Leicester venue ‘The Attic’ on Free Lane. Around this time Neal also DJ’d at the more ‘Rocky’ Merciless Retribution club night and played synths (namely his trusty Emu Orbit) in local electro band Conspiracy who released a single Electric Bitch. A fetish video was filmed for this track in The Attic but the band drifted apart and the footage was never edited to completion.
In 2006 Neal joined Post Punk Goth band The Screaming Banshee Aircrew within days of them finalising the mix on their second album ‘When All is Said and Done’. This led to him finding himself in the bizarre situation of being included on the artwork and member roster of said album without ever having played on note on the recording. This is where Neal took on the moniker of NealUnreal as his rockstar name, and by 2009 Neal had co-written, co-produced and appeared on the recording of their third album SUGAR (Produced and engineered by Jim Spencer at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire), which was released on the Resurrection Records label. The band split in 2010 leaving a raft of unrecorded songs for a never to be produced fourth album that now only exist on youtube fan recordings of their final shows.
Immediately after the Screaming Banshee Aircrew disbanded in 2010, Neal joined the Nottingham based indie band Luxury Stranger and toured with them across Europe supporting the Chameleons Vox. The touring schedule was merciless and Neal found he had to choose between Luxury Stranger and his experimental work. In the summer of 2011 Neal arranged to meet Choreographer/Dancer Danai Pappa at the BEAM festival at Brunel University. This meeting expedited his departure from Luxury Stranger and they have since developed a long term working relationship and still create performances together, most recently on their collaboration Ariel Ariel in 2018.
While in the Screaming Banshee Aircrew, Neal was studying his Masters, then PhD in Electronic Music Performance at De Montfort University under Simon Emmerson and John Richards. This led to him join the university experimental music group, The Dirty Electronics Ensemble, in 2007, with which he still works and performs.
During his time in various bands and ensembles, Neal has supported and worked with many musicians, choreographers and artists including Michele Danjoux, Anat Ben David (Chicks On Speed), Mark Wastell, Audrey Riley (Virginia Astley band/Test Dept/Gavin Bryars) Ania Sadkowska, Joanna Moy (March Violets), Merzbow, Antonio De La Fe, The Agony Art Collective, Jan Jun, Duncan Chapman, Anna Meredith, Chris Carter (Throbbing Gristle), Craig Vear (Wolfgang Press/Renegade Soundwave), Rolf Ghelar (Karlheinz Stochausen) and Jim Spence (Johnny Marr/The Cribs/Black Grape) .
He has also presented his experimental solo work and papers at numerous conferences including Noisefloor (2019) Staffordshire University, Sonorities (2018) Belfast Queens, ISSTA (2017) in Dundalk, Sounding Out the Space (2017) in Dublin, Art and Sound (2017) in Leicester, BEAM Festival Brunel University (2011), Sound and Music Computing Conference Copenhagen (2012) and Fascinate Falmouth Conference (2013).
He has had an article published in Organised Sound (2018) and papers published at New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference Brisbane (2016), New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference Pittsburgh (2009) and some of his instruments appear in the Nic Collins book Handmade Electronic Music (2009) 2nd Edition. He has been a resident artist at STEIM, Amsterdam (2010), been a visiting researcher at Newcastle Culture Lab (2011) and given artist talks and seminars at STEIM (2011), UEA Norwich (2009) and Bournemouth University (2012).