Former blues wonderboy Oli Brown didn't touch his guitar for a year: now he's back, and things are very different

Oli Brown & The Dead Collective standing by the sea
(Image credit: Black Feather Music)

It’s fair to say that Oli Brown’s career hasn’t quite followed the trajectory many expected. Having released his blues debut album Open Road in 2008, six years later he took a hard-left with alt.rock noiseniks RavenEye, but seemed broken by the business when that band split after making a dream start supporting Kiss, Aerosmith and Slash. 

Thankfully Brown is back on top with his hard-edged, prog-tinged new band Oli Brown & The Dead Collective, and also has a burgeoning jewellery business.


How pleased are you with your new Prologue EP? 

I’m really happy with it. I’ve been sitting on it for quite some time, debating whether or not I really want to go back into the whole music thing again. A couple of years ago, unfortunately I realised music was taking precedence over my mental health. I had to step away and re-evaluate everything. 

You’ve said that these lyrics came from “traumatic experiences”. 

Yeah. I can only talk loosely about them, out of respect for other people. RavenEye’s demise was devastating because it was my heart and soul. I was also in a situation in my personal life that was causing more damage to my mental health and it pushed me over the edge. I had a bad episode and realised I needed help. I found an incredible therapist, and slowly recognised that doing anything with music was just dragging me further down that hole.

What was your next move? 

The only thing that saved me was staying at our drummer Wayne Proctor’s house for a year while I recuperated. I had nowhere to live and I didn’t have any money. My jewellery business [Black Feather Design] wasn’t meant to be as serious as this. It was just meant to take care of me when I was sleeping in Wayne’s spare room. But it kept on growing. Now, we’ve made five pieces for Bloodstock.

Did you keep up playing guitar during that lost year? 

No, it just sat in the corner. I didn’t touch it at all. I just didn’t have any desire to. Writing my own songs or playing for my own pleasure just didn’t exist. 

From the title, Your Love sounds like a romantic song. But it’s really not. 

Yeah, the first line is: ‘Your love is a noose around my neck.’ Usually when I write songs, I sing gibberish over the melody, but my subconscious does the groundwork. That was the first thing that came out. It was like: ‘Okay, this isn’t a nice song…’ 

What was the turning point that brought you back to music? 

Releasing Haunted last year was the catalyst. That song is really personal, and the reaction was wonderful. We played live to find our feet as a band, but I was still apprehensive before the shows because I just felt there was so much riding on it. But when we released the Prelude EP earlier this year it was like: ‘Okay, people still care…’ 

You’ve described the vibe of the EP as Pink Floyd-meets-Soundgarden

That’s bang on the money for me. With Pink Floyd there was fearlessness with their soundscapes, but we also have that slightly more biting edge, which is where the Soundgarden influence comes into play. We want the shows to be heavily atmospheric. It’s about letting the soundscapes engulf you.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.