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Topic: Rick Miller
Posted: May 15 2011 at 15:12
Canadian composer and multi-instrumentalist RICK MILLER made his debut effort as a solo artist back in 1983 with the new age production Starsong, which shifted a highly respectable 30.000 units at the time. He would follow up this venture with Windhaven in 1987, and his efforts Interstellar Passage from 1998 and the EP No Passion, No Pain from 2009 would continue exploring similar musical territories.
I got in touch with him and he patiently answered my questions.
Just to start with, please tell us more about your background and why you took up music. Which bands were you influenced by ?
I began playing on the piano in my mother’s house in my early teens. A friend of mine and I used to make recordings on an old sound on sound, reel to reel recorder. He played drums and I made all sorts of sounds on the piano, various electronic toys we had, and later on a MicroMoog that I managed to save up for. We were heavily influenced by bands such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis and Yes. Neither of us had any musical training, but we were passionate.. I must have spent at least six hours a day listening to music back then. I think Keith Emerson’s MiniMoog solo at the end of Lucky Man made me want to become a musician more than any other one thing.
This is an archive based interview also intended for the fans you get well after both you and I have passed away so let's go straight to your albums. Please give us your long or brief views on your albums, starting with.......
Starsong from 1983
This album was actually commissioned by Eli Bay who still runs a company in Toronto called “The Relaxation Response.” Starsong is strictly electronic, relaxation music. Not Prog at all. Distribution was picked up by Vital Body Marketing in New York and the cassette sold very well all over the world. At least 30000 copies. I had it remastered in 2000 and I still sell a few CDs on my own website. The music was created with an array of vintage keyboards. A Mellotron, Roland Vocorder Plus, Sequential Circuits Pro One, MicroMoog, Roland JX3P.
Interstellar Passage from 1998
A collection of more electronic, relaxation type music recorded between 1983 and 1998. Some of the pieces have been used in various commercial AV productions over the years.
The One from 2003
This was my first attempt at Progressive Rock. I was learning my way in the recording studio with instruments other than synthesizers. Most of the sounds on this CD were midi based aside from the vocals and guitars of course. Only about half of the songs turned out to be Prog songs and I was never totally pleased with the production, so I only had it for sale online for a limited time. I did have the fortune of knowing several singers in the area, so there are some great vocal performances on The One. Especially Julie Leahy on “I’m Alive.”
Dreamtigers from 2004
The first of my CDs that actually turned out to be a Prog CD. The sounds are much more developed than anything I had done previously and the music was much darker. I finally convinced myself that I could write lyrics by now and I even sang a small part in one song. Kristina Vowles did an excellent job on the rest of the vocals. Her childlike voice against the brooding musical background gave the whole CD a weird kind of contrast that doesn’t exist in any of my other CDs. I also used a lot more musicians. Barry Haggarty, who is one of this country’s top session guitar players did a great job along with Sarah Young on flute and my friend Will on drums. Released privately by me in 2004 and re-issued by MALS in 2010.
The End of Days from 2006
This was the first album that I sang on. For years before, I had always used other people’s vocals, but this time is was just me, and I think the effect was positive. Although I didn’t have the range of some other singers, there was a masculine edge now to my music that I liked. The overall effect was an album that was even darker sounding than Dreamtigers, but also containing a heavy edge to it. I felt both the songwriting and the production was getting better with each album. Released privately by me in 2006 and re-issued by MALS in 2010.
Angel of My Soul from 2008
With Angel Of My Soul, I believe my songwriting and production continued to improve, but there was now an element of passion in the songs that perhaps was lacking in previous CDs. I remember writing and recording songs like “For The Love Of You” and “Footprints In The Snow” and thinking to myself.. “I really have put something of me into this song.” This entire album I believe reeks with emotion, laid overtop of a brooding, dark atmosphere. Probably the most “Pink Floydish” of all my CDs. Released privately by me in 2008 and re-issued by MALS in 2010.
Falling Through Rainbows from 2009
I have to say that I believe this is my best album. I think that this was the first time that I actually came close to doing exactly what I set out to do with an album. The songwriting, singing, musicianship, production are all at the highest level I have achieved. The CD was picked up and distributed by Unicorn Digital and although it didn’t sell a million copies, I am really happy with it. It is the kind of music that I like to listen to. Dark, brooding, but with plenty of melody. Barry Haggarty’s guitar sounds are very “Dave Gilmourish” and the singing turned out sounding a lot like the Moody Blues. I also started using a cello player, Mateusz Swoboda who I believe adds a real melancholy edge to things.
In the Shadows from 2011
This album has a range of material on it. “A Promise Worth Making” and “The Fall of Uqbar” are probably two of the most Proglike songs I’ve ever recorded, while “Angel Eyes” and “The Last Night” are really folk songs. I find as I get older, I am more drawn to singer, songwriter, folk type music, and that is perhaps why there is more of it on this CD than any other. The lyrics are more personal, and the musicianship is a little more refined overall. Plenty of melancholy cello from Mateusz Swoboda on this as well as some fine guitar work from Barry Haggarty and flutework by Sarah Young.
How would you describe your development from your first album to the most recent one ?
As this interview is for a Prog Website, I will answer this question for my Prog albums only. From “The One” to “In The Shadows,” my CDs have changed dramatically. The performances as well as the production are much more refined and professional. I find that as an artist, the most important thing to can achieve is to do what you really want to do. That may sound easy, but it’s not. When you sit down to create something, you need to keep your focus and don’t compromise. This to me is what I think I have achieved in my later albums that perhaps I didn’t achieve to the same degree in my early ones.
How would you describe your music ?
I feel that the music I create is the music that I would like to listen to. I like rich sounding music, with deep, dark haunting melodies that stick with you. I don’t need to be barraged by heavy guitars or constant changes in tempo. There is no “heavy metal” or “jazz fusion” in my music. I am a romantic and I like and make music that appeals to the heart more so than the head. I realize this isn’t mainstream Progressive Rock, but it’s what I like. I once read a review of one of my CDs where my style was described as “old school melancholy.” I agree completely.
You have worked in a recording studio and released eight albums. What is your experiences with the music industry ?
The music industry that I knew when I first started bears little resemblance to the industry today. In the 80s, if you wanted to record your own music, you needed a lot of money. Home studios simply didn’t exist like they do today. Of course it was a lot easier to be heard by people in the business back then though. There were actually plenty of record companies and if you had talent and you really worked at it, there were opportunities. Today, mainstream music is run by four large multinational companies that are more concerned about the bottom line than the music itself. If it wasn’t for the spread of Indie music on the internet, the music industry may well have been killed off completely by now as an artform. I have dealt with both Unicorn Digital and MALS and have had only positive experiences with both. I don’t think anybody in the Indie music business is getting rich, but at least artists are doing what they want to do, and primarily because of the internet, they are being heard.
What is your current status and do you have any plans for this year and beyond ?
I haven’t recorded anything for at least six months now, although I have produced my son Kane’s first CD entitled, Dreamtime. It is mostly folk music, but there are a few of what I like to call “Prog” twists to it. He has it posted on Bandcamp, and it is really doing well considering he has basically no promotion other than word of mouth. I have no plans to record anything in the foreseeable future, but who knows what moods may strike.
Is music your main occupation in life or do you have a “normal” job too ?
I have no desire to lead the life of a starving artist, so yes, I have a daytime job too.
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview ?
I would only like to say thanks to Prog Archives for providing a forum for artists and listeners to connect like this.
Thank you to Rick Miller for this interview
Edited by toroddfuglesteg - May 16 2011 at 12:55
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