An Interview With Steve Neville
You’ll know his name, you’ll have seen his buzzers, but here’s to betting you’ve never seen him...
It’s sorted,” shouts Rob as he slams the phone down and jumps from his chair. “We’ve got an interview lined-up with Neville,” he concludes. And from there it began. We have all seen his buzzers, plenty of us use them, and now we’re going to meet the great man who actually makes these wonderful toys. It’s a fascinating one: the now ‘great’ Steve Neville buzzer is so straightforward. It has an on-off switch, a latching LED and a roller. They are the size of a matchbox, and come in one colour, so what is the country’s obsession with these electronic gadgets? We guess ‘culty’, but only the main man will know. We’ve met up with him in his workshop just outside of Yateley where’s he’s kicking back and revealing all about the buzzers, his stainless and a great number of funny stories to the magazine that loves him..
Footnote: This article was originally featured in issue 26 of CARPology (May 2006), and is being rerun as part of our 200 Issues celebrations.
Steve, let’s not mince our words here – you are world famous for your superb stainless and buzzers, but when did it all start?
“I first started it all when I was about 18. I was an apprentice in Farnborough and you just couldn’t get any fishing kit anywhere. Basically you had to make all your own stuff in those days. I had access to stainless steel so I started making banksticks and buzzer bars for my own fishing. Back then everything was made of aluminium and Gardner Tackle was the first company to make this sort of stuff at that time. Mates saw my kit on the bank and wanted me to make a few bits for them and it just snowballed on from there.”
Damn right it has! The term ‘Stevie Neville buzzers’ could quite possibly be the most used phase on the bank, so how did the buzzers come about?
“Well this is a bit contentious. I first made them in 1984; in fact, Chris Ball has the first signed prototypes. Then I got sued by Dellareed. Do you remember them? They made Optonics. That went on for about three years, going through the court system – high court in fact, then they dropped the case against me. What they tried to do was to invent the wheel, but that had already been done by cavemen! I never mass-produced them to be honest; they were handmade made from Perspex. The rest is history!”
Why do you think they are so culty?
“Probably because they are not that readily available. It’s the old adage: people want what they can’t get. The other thing is, and I’m not blowing my own trumpet, they are very reliable and they work in the rain, and they bleep, that is all you need.”
I can vouch for that. I’ve had a set for bloody years and they’ve not gone wrong. Lets be honest, your buzzers seem to be more popular in the Yateley area, why is that?
“I think it is down to me being a local boy. I never really advertised them anywhere and they were not available in shops until recent years. When it first started it was just word of mouth and they were seen locally on the bank and sold to people I knew. I’m just trying to think which was the first shop to stock them… Tackle Up in Fleet I think. Then it went on from there.”
They are incredibly popular with the ‘stars’. I know Tel, Nige, Mike Winstone… they all use them. How long does it take you to produce a buzzer from scratch?
“Every single one is handmade by me. I would say probably a good half an hour or so. There are loads of fiddly bits; it’s not just a case of sticking them together. That’s why they are popular, they don’t fold up on you. I’m blowing my own trumpet again!”
Not at all Steve. So how many buzzers are you producing a year?
“It has got to be over 1,000 now! Probably up to 1,200. When I first started I was only doing about 10-20 every one-to-two months. These were made from the Perspex – a real labour of love they were! Again, word gets about and more and more people hear about them. I was fishing with Pete Springate and Dave Merriot and people like that from the old days, we all had them. In fact, the first bit of press on them was published in one of Jim Gibbinson’s books. That was in the late eighties.”
Do you still produce the stainless steel versions?
“No, I sold those on to Kevin Nash about four years ago now.”
They look like a right bit of kit! What about custom stainless, do you still do all that?
“That is what I am about, so “yes” is the answer. This is how I started and I haven’t stopped making it for the punters. People phone me up and request a four-inch bank rest because companies don’t make them as standard. So this is still the bulk of my business – one-offs. As long as you have the money, I can do anything!”
Steve, you also make indicators, can you tell us about them?
“What do you need to know? Funnily enough, I have just introduced a black version – this is the main body I am talking about now. The reason behind this is visual at night. Believe it or not, the isotope kicks off the black and is far brighter. I make all the components for the indicators in house too. A one man band!”
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