MOJO20.COM

AN INTERVIEW WITH…SCOTT MILLER (DRY THE RIVER)

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Dry The River were an incredible band who I had the pleasure of seeing live a fair few times. I still revisit their albums to this day as I find the music so soothing and just a perfect soundtrack to my evening following a long day at work. Unfortunately, the band decided to call time in 2015. I recently spoke to guitarist Scott Miller to try and find out why and to see what he’d been up to since the split. Turns out, he’s been rather busy and still producing brilliant music…

First things first, I need to know…is there any scope for the band getting back together in the future following your 2015 split?
Yes, I was expecting this question… It’s a tough one to answer. I tried my best to be very open with my feelings at the time of the split. It was heartbreaking and to me felt like giving up on my dream job. I loved every minute of my time playing and touring with Dry the River and wanted desperately for the band to continue playing. If the chance to work together again under that name came about, I would be absolutely game. Unfortunately I don’t know if I could say the same for the rest of the band. Everyone has gone on to do other things with their lives. At this time there is no talk of any reunion or anything. That said, we are all still friends on good terms, there was no falling out over this. And we are all still working on various music endeavours. So the chance for cross over or collaborations between some or all of us are not totally unrealistic. 

What’s/what was the writing process of the band?
In days of the formation of Dry the River and before we recorded Shallow Bed, Peter had written a lot of acoustic songs. He would bring them to us and we would write our parts but really all the lyrics and main melody lines were from him. But they were really stripped down, just acoustic guitar and vocal. So it was when we got in a room together and Matt would write electric guitar parts and Jon and I would build rhythm section parts around what was written. As the band progressed when work began on the second album the writing process became more collaborative. Still, songs would begin with Matt and Peter working together to nail down a rough idea and structure and then the rest of us would come in and write parts to what they’d come up with. Then, of course there’s the odd part or section that would just come from playing the songs live. New ideas or ways of doing things would come about over the course of playing songs a lot of time. 

How did the band come about?
God, it’s been a long time I can barely remember the beginning! I was introduced to Peter by drummer Jon, who I grew up with, and had played in various bands with as kids and in the years before DtR formed. He and Peter met in a studio down in Devon while both there working on separate projects. We’ve all played music for most of our lives in various bands but somehow we all ended up coming together. It was originally just a collection of acoustic songs Peter had written and wanted to add more instrumentation to. We got in a room and learned the songs/worked out parts and it sounded cool. Seemed like the obvious thing to do to stick at it and see where it went.  

Any plans to release a solo album?
Haha! Well, I’d love to be able to do that. But I am not a lyricist. I don’t have the way with words Peter does. I’ve been working on all sorts of solo and collaborative projects but not a solo album as such. I did write and self produce a set of 10 songs for a project I call Prime Ulysses, using audio samples from the 1987 cartoon Ulysses 31. 

I had all these song ideas and riffs and I recently set up a little home studio so recorded everything I had. But as I couldn’t write any lyrics the songs got a to a point but I couldn’t really complete them. I had the idea to use samples while watching the cartoon. The dialogue is written by French writers and then translated to English so the phrasing always seems really weird and awkward. It just seemed hilarious to me. Then, on top of that, the visuals of the cartoon were so incredible I figured I’d edit down little videos for each song. But having done ten songs and videos I think I’ve done as much as I want to with that. All of them are up on YouTube and I’m looking at getting them on Spotify or available for download as audio. 

The recent covers you’ve done on your YouTube channel are brilliant. How do you choose what songs to cover?
I had a lot of fun doing the Prime Ulysses project. Not just the recording and musical side but also editing the videos, something I’d never done before. So I wanted more ways to be able to share my music and play with making little videos. I figured doing some covers and making little videos to go with them would be fun. I’ve been teaching myself piano over the past year so had the idea of keeping the covers to mostly piano and vocal. Rather than doing songs that are originally written on piano I wanted to do more rock songs or guitar based songs and transcribe them on piano, kinda as a learning exercise, kinda cos I thought it’d make an interesting cover. So I was doing that on a few tracks, just songs that I love (i have a couple more I’ve been working on that are unfinished). 

But then with the Regina Spektor one, that song actually has always been a favourite of mine. I know it’s already a piano song but I just couldn’t resist having a go at it 🙂


Who are your music inspirations?
Wow, a tough question to answer. They’re very diverse for sure. I can go from listening to some pretty brutal heavy metal one minute and be listening to classical the next. 

What current bands are you listening to?
I really listen to all sorts. Today I put on Curtis Mayfield when I woke up, to brighten up this dreary Tuesday. But just as I’m writing this I’m actually listening to Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear album. Then I spent my youth listening to punk and metal so I still have a huge love for a lot of that style of music. I love the more prog or ‘tech’ side of that stuff like Sikth, Tesseract, Scale the Summit, and Meshuggah and older forms of the same, King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, to name a few. Then obviously my years of playing softer music with Dry the River rubbed off on me. I love stuff like The National, Death Cab, Sigur Ros, loads of post rock, in the Explosions in the Sky style. Basically, a lot of music that I started listening to a while ago and havent much moved on. Ooh, one more recent artist I’ve been loving is this guy D.D.dumbo. And Banfi, some good friends of mine are making some incredible music and will have their debut album out later this year.

If you weren’t in the music business, what would you want to be doing?
Well, to be honest, I’m not sure I really can claim to be ‘in the music business’ anymore. Before DtR got into a position where we could go full time I was a web developer. I’d been doing that as a job while music was my hobby for some years. So, when the day came that DtR could no longer cover the cost of my rent I went back to freelancing doing that. Currently I work in advertising building those annoying banner ads you see when you’re browsing online. It’s ok tho, I don’t mind the work. It’s not the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of travelling from city to city, country to country, playing concerts and partying every night, but it’s ok. And it affords me to be able to do more with my time outside of work. Suddenly, rather than having literally no money, as most musicians at the level we were at can attest to, I now have a little bit of funds in my bank. This has allowed me to buy a keyboard, a computer, a microphone, none of which I could afford to own my own before. It may seem ridiculous that as a professional musician in a band playing huge stages at Glastonbury and Reading Festival and touring all over the world, couldn’t afford to own those things, but that’s the sad state of the music industry. We were all totally broke! If something we wanted to do wouldn’t turn a profit, it couldn’t be done. I think some people still have that misconception that musicians are doing pretty well. We were always dressed in nice new clothes and stuff, but that was all given to us by clothing companies to promote their brands. We didn’t actually have any money to buy things. 

What have you been up to since DTR split?
Aside from earning my living now working as a web developer, I’ve been doing all sorts of musical things. Jon and I both joined Primitai when DtR split. My brother has been the singer in that band for some years and they had a couple of members leave so the timing was perfect. It’s a lot of fun, kinda Iron Maiden-esque style. We do a couple of gigs a month at the moment and are working on an album to be released next year. Then I do my best to always be creating my own music. I now have a library of classical style pieces, some of which I post on my SoundCloud page. I’ve also been commissioned to do a couple of compositions for videos and adverts. I’ve got the Prime Ulysses songs and this new series of cover songs I’m working on for my own YouTube channel. Then as well as all that, I’m keeping my ear to the ground to get involved with other friends and musicians projects. I’d love to get involved in another touring project because I really miss the touring lifestyle and I think the place I feel most at home as a musician is on a stage in front of an audience. 

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hmmmm, I don’t know honestly. I barely think more than a week or two ahead at the moment. I just take things day by day and see what comes. One thing is for sure, I will still be playing and making music. It’s something I’ve always done and I always will. Whether or not any one will be listening to it is another question, but I’ll keep making it regardless because it’s therapeutic and sometimes cathartic for me to create music. I love it.

Scott Miller (@scottoftheriver) was speaking to Mojo20’s Robert Smith (@robertmsmith)

Cheers mate, hope I didn’t go overboard! Here’s a couple of links to some of the things I mentioned:

My YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYp5Yil1T5vPJCLULRxgbkQ

All 10 Prime Ulysses songs/videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha8o_dfKBa8&list=PL1qVXFGbQD4eZJgBHsKRtMqal_qtsBW1D

My SoundCloud, with all the Prime Ulysses tracks and a bunch of my classical compositions:

https://soundcloud.com/scottoftheriver

Primitai:

https://www.facebook.com/primitai/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/ScottOfTheRiver

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