Roger Miller was asked by the Wall St. Journal to review the book “DISCORD, the STORY of NOISE” .
Link: The Wall Street Journal
Roger Miller was asked by the Wall St. Journal to review the book “DISCORD, the STORY of NOISE” .
Link: The Wall Street Journal
Mission of Burma have a pair of back to back shows this weekend that begin Friday night at The Bowery Ballroom in New York City and continue on Saturday at Harvard Square’s newest live music venue, The Sinclair. Exclamation Pony, the new project from Ryan Jarman of The Cribs and Jen Turner of Here We Go Magic, will support at The Bowery Ballroom and local Boston band, Reports, will support at The Sinclair.
In advance of Friday’s show, Roger Miller spoke to the folks at The Bowery Presents and answered a few questions for their House List Blog. Read the interview HERE, and check out a tour diary he kept from the band’s December UK/EU tour for WFUV’s The Alternate Side, HERE.
Also, this afternoon from 5:00-6:00PM, Peter Prescott will be at Boston’s WFNX for an in-studio takeover of the station’s daily Boston Accents show with Michael Marotta. Listen live online at wfnx.com to hear Pete spin tunes and talk about some of his favorite local artists. Then, tomorrow morning from 10:00-11:00AM, tune into MIT’s WMBR 88.1 FM (or listen online at wmbr.org) to hear Roger live in studio during the station’s Late Risers’ Club.
The Further Adventures of Mission of Burma:
The Final Entry, UK/EU 2012
Got to the venue early, so I decided to check out some Dutch beers. The bar had Barry White cranked, so I knew I was in the right place. Had a Westmalle Tripel, clear and very strong. Then a dubbel, darker, not as strong. Preferred the Tripel.
Later tried a Grolsch Bok – not so great, even on draft, though Grolsch has sentimental value to me (those filp-tops).
My favorite Dutch city exit name: “Wilp”.
Finally, a lame gig! This elaborate theater (state sponsored, like the festival) had a new type of monitor system we’d never seen before, and a chamber orchestral ensemble before us performed an Arvo Paart composition, then some “local” composers of varying quality. I had the feeling that we were gonna be like zoo animals on stage in a cage. Yep. At first I thought there was hope (Pete and Clint were skeptical from the get-go), but there was such minimal response. I thought Trem II would get their weed-soaked brains on our wave-length, but no: shortly after that at least half the audience had drained out. There were 10-15 or so who actually responded to the songs instead of just watching the circus animals go through their trained act. The Dutch remind me of some rich folks who never had to work for anything so they miss the moment, viewing the world merely with mild disinterest. We asked Bob how Shellac fared in the Netherlands, and he said the response was so weak that they don’t bother with Holland any more. So…. it’s not just Burma…..
But still we had a good time walking about the next day. I went to the M C Escher Museum, and who should appear in the room as I gazed at one of those mathematically hallucinatory images but Mr. C. Conley. Now we’re back in the van, rainy, on the way to Belgium.
The club in Belgium certainly feels more our style than the one last night. I suspect rock will occur.
During dinner Bob called up an incredible YouTube video of Neil Young playing “Hey hey, My My” with Devo. Boojie Boy singing lead from his crib. Bob said that “The Neil Young People” always take this video down when it gets posted, and in some ways we could see why. But after seeing it I respect him even more for going so far out on a limb.
Later, rock did indeed occur. The opening band Mocovo was quite charming, an odd blend of Joy Division and Hawkwind with great drum patterns. And this show tonight was back on track for us. Audience totally into it. (Give us Belgium over the Netherlands, please). A satisfying way to end the tour, and our second encore was a nailed version of Youth of America. Great.
Comment from an Italian who was at this show:
“Energy bursted out and lit the very attentive crowd. Some songs were not easy but it was just like Alice in Wonderland. People fell from one surprise into another, songs curved like a rollercoaster and dragged the crowd along. Mere astonishment.”
I was talking w/one of the club people about beer after the set, praising the Duvel (I actually managed to make a pun in Dutch during the set when I said “Danku Duvel”. heh…. people even laughed!). He said “Have you tried the Westmalle Tripel?” and I said “yes, better then the Dubbel.” He agreed. Then he recommended a local brewerie – but I no longer recall the odd name – he said “just tell the bar-tender you want “The Parrot”. And sure enough, it was quite good, in that Belgian direction.
The wonderful rising at 5:30am (after konking out around 1am) did not produce excessive verbosity on the drive, but nonetheless we attained the Brussels airport with mild amusement. After saying goodbye to Alesh we navigated the lines, boarded the flight, flew, and now have THREE WONDERFUL HOURS to enjoy the Dublin airport! All right! They do have the free WiFi here, and decent food. So we should survive our stay and board the plane to BOS without incident. Usually there is a Western head-wind going back to the US of A, so I’m planning to roll down the window and fly a kite I bought in Den Haag. A guy’s gotta get his fun where he can find it.
My book on this tour (when my brain was up for reading) is Virginia Woolf’s OLRANDO. I was gonna ask everyone what they were reading when we were in the van, but I just never got to it. Bad documentarian: ought to be removed from the job.
But I’m the one who does it, and the pay doesn’t encourage anyone else to take it over, so….. uh…… maybe babble to you-all again the next time we play a series of shows.
Drive to Berlin from Vienna, through the Czech Republic, Alesh’s home-country (incidentally, Alesh does a stunning Borat imitation). Totally snowy-white country-side.
For my part, down-time in the van allows me to correct string parts for my composition “Vines For Music” (for prepared piano, 2 ‘cellos and 2 violas). And to re-write the percussion part for “Music for 3 percussionists, 2 string trios and electric organ” so that percussionists can actually read the damn thing. Of course this was in the down time when my brain was working well, which admittedly, was not often in our sleep-deprived travels… Clint thought I was composing while listening to punk rock, but not really – this is mostly mechanical work.
Alesh does this kind of driving and road management for bands as part of his living. He has told us stories many crazy stories of being on the road w/bands. I said to him: “It must be weird because we’re so normal.” He said “With you guys it’s like a vacation.”
OK. 2 accidents on the road to Berlin, so it took 11 hours instead of 9 and we didn’t arrive in time for soundcheck. Quick dinner, very fun opening band (Delta Love), and with just a line-check, everything was on “Go.” Packed house, and I was thinking “Berlin – they’ll probably be too cool to like us. FINALLY we’ll have a bad gig…” Nope, not at all. Rippin’ set. Bob said it was the best sound in the house on the entire tour (because we didn’t have a sound-check?).
Which brings up how Burma works: At the last three gigs (Balogna, Zagreb, Vien) we were the only band playing and had a fine relaxing soundcheck. Every one of those shows had something odd to drag it back a bit. In Berlin (and also Zurich), we had no soundcheck, had to hurry on, and had no idea how people would react. And those were the best two gigs on the continent so far. I guess it fits our haphazard way of moving forward – the less we know, the less planning we do, the better things are. Wakt.
Eating breakfast in the pub where I went out last night w/Alesh and his friend Anka to have a couple Lagavulin 16′s and get my clothes drenched in cigarette smoke. No smoke now, excellent hi-quality breakfast ingredients. Mild reggae on the stereo. Could be a lot worse!
So we get to sight-see in Berlin. Go to the Brandenberg Gate which separated East and West Berlin. Bob and Pete and I were there in 1989 on that Euro-tour (V.Suns/NoMan), and it was a very different scene then, 3 weeks after the wall came down. It had been ecstatic partying and release. Now, crossing the Gate to the “eastern” side there was a guy in a Micky Mouse costume, a Darth Vadar costumed person, etc. Yipes. Was the Starbucks really a good thing?
Then we went to the Holocaust Memorial. Really amazing, simple, deep. (see photo). Finally, after odd circular drivings looking for a sweatshirt for Pete (his got melted on a stage light in Vien), we ended up at the Ramones Museum. At first we thought it was too silly to go there, but it was actually quite cool with artifacts galore.
Van listening driving half-way to Holland: Converge. Dillinger Escape Plan. This hyper-metal music is pretty interesting, but the vocals always sound like we are watching the Exorcist. Why haven’t any of those bands tried a Dean Martin-style vocalist? That might make produce interesting result.
Hannover Vietnamese dinner was quite good, relaxing night off. Were not attacked by Fellini characters.
The further adventures of Mission of Burma:
Mon. Dec.10/Tues. Dec.11:
Back to those fucking Euro-skinny beds. My feet hung over the foot zone. I’m pretty sure Italians are the same basic type of homo sapien as myself, and probably reach
Today, Electric Ladyland while we travel through the low Croatian mountains and into Slovenia, past Neanderthal remains in the hills. Jimi’s winding guitar solos suited the highways rounded turns and mountain passes.
The Arena club is one of those Euro-Art complexes. Unfortunately the PA ain’t up yet, so we’re sequestered in the “dressing room” which requires a goodly walk in the well below zero weather. Should be great after the show in sweat. At least the WiFi is pretty good.
Later:Well, another well-attended show. Very dark in the lighting department, but this is Austria after all. Vacu-Trem working again (must’ve been the odd Croatian electricity that shafted it last night). Very enthusiastic crowd. AOK.
The further adventures of Mission of Burma.
Sun., Dec.9: Bologna, IT
Listened to Louie C. K. shows in the van on numerous occasions – generally I can’t tolerate comics, but there is something in his over-the-toppity that seriously amuses us all. Heard “Slip it In” (Black Flag) today. Early punk singles. Rolling Stones greatest hits (stopping mercifully by 1971). Alesh hit some nice ambient tracks as we went over the Alps to Italy from Zurich. Later audio included Buzzcocks w/Devoto. Now Lemmy is singing (sic) – just the sound of his voice makes one happy. The Alps are, indeed, amazing to view.
We arrive in Bologna, IT, at the Locomotiv Club (after some perambulations trying to find the entry to it). Extremely nice guys, hospitality superb. We’re the only band tonight. They took us out to a classic Italian dinner.
But like all classic Italian dinners (in my understanding), it went on and on with new plates. etc. We realized that we had less than an hour to be on stage and the last plate had just arrived.
We just finished the set list back at the club, and our hosts come in and ask “are you done digesting?” Well, no, not really…..
This was one of those “so calm and relaxing” type of gigs that we had odd problems, never really got going in our opinion. 2 or 3 songs good, then lose it a bit. Then 2 or 3 good, lose it a bit. Etc. Crowd wasn’t wild but they were all there to see us, which again, always takes us by surprise.
At any rate, we didn’t feel like we really got to where we were supposed to be, but back at the merch. table the crowd was wildly enthusiastic and in a purchasing mood. So all in all, a pretty damn good night, especially for our first ever gig in Italy. What a funny world… who would’ve thought 15 years ago?
Festival in Zurich, with plenty of snow on the ground. The hotel actually has room to move around, which is, after the Ibis Budget Hotels, quite a relief. (water splashed from the sink would hit the pillow of one of those Ibis beds).
Well, we were pretty sure this was gonna be a No-Go gig: it was set up to be a disaster. The opening bands were all very mellow and “emotional” in a way that we aren’t. Just felt like this was gonna be like Utrecht in 2003. But, no! We opened with Fell into the Water and people were totally into it. Despite the fact that almost no one there knew any of our songs. As Clint pointed out, their reaction was the same to Comes Undone as it was to Revolver (it ain’t common that we play those opening Revolver chords and the audience just looks hopeful at us: “Gee, I hope this is a good song.”). We had to come back and play two encores (in this case Fate and Class War) and we could’ve played more. We were quite surprised really. Perhaps it is a virtue of ours to expect nothing (they say pessimists are generally more accurate than optimists).
Later at the merch table a gal came up and said “I’d never heard of you guys before tonight – where have you been all my life?” and bought 2 CDs. Well, the world has certainly changed over time.
Damn – the house manager even did our laundry while we sound-checked. So we can live another week! (this is the half-way point of the tour). Yeah, talk about rock: I walk out of the club with a bag of laundry in my hand as Jimmy and I walk the few blocks to the hotel in the snow.
The further adventures of Mission of Burma.
Fri, Dec. 7th: Channel crossing + Reims, Fr.
We drive to the Ferry in Dover and boat across to Calais, FR. Drive some more. After we checked into the hotel outside of Reims, we wisely decided to go into town for dinner and possible sight-seeing….
It’s France, after all, so we had a totally pleasant dinner with a bottle of wine (even if we were put upstairs to keep the American riff-raff away from the regular diners and Clint had to pester to get a garcon).
Afterwards we went downstairs to pay and that’s when things took a turn for the weird. As I was pleasantly watching Jimmy hand over a credit card I felt a knock on my back and now there was a shattered egg on the floor by my feet that someone had clearly just thrown. And what I took to be a waiter was suddenly in my face speaking very fast excessively chipper English. I was certain I’d been assaulted, and this guy was yelling, and no one could figure out why an egg would come flying out of the kitchen at me. As we tried to get out in the tumult, they unlocked the door for us – why was the door locked anyways? I was last in line, with this crazy guy barking at me, and they locked and barred the door again! Get me out of here! They blocked the way for the guy, but I managed to squeeze out through a door-crack. We deduced he must have stiffed ‘em on the bill, and one of the chefs chucked an egg at him, not aiming at me (it didn’t actually hit me, it was the guy who slammed my back at that moment).
But these concluding thoughts happened much later, because as soon as we walked out the door there was a 7.5/8.5 foot tall man/woman with a fiercely malicious gleam in his/her eye. (I later thought the torso was normal so there must’ve been stilts involved, but it was pointed out that the knees bent at the correct place, posture-perfect). She harassed Alesh (our driver) with some verbiage he chose not to respond to. Somewhat below this demonic visage was a very very very small human dressed in a santa outfit, with white whiskers sticking out at all angles from his face, a garden gnome brought to life. Clint, to distract himself from The Tall One, turns to Santa and says “Hey St. Nick!” to which St. Nick turns his face, sayeth not a word and scampers off in the opposite direction. It’s midnight, and there is no one else on the street but us and this assortment of Fellini characters. The Tall One follows us for a bit but we managed to disengage, and headed down a dark alley.
Around a corner appeared the stunning vision of the Reims Cathedral (begun in the late 1200′s). Really stunning. Tall, very. Layer upon layer. Even Bob was pretty impressed, and he is even more averse to organized religion than I am. It made me think that before the Renaissance and the advent of science, this was all people had. Just as Bob was ready to dismiss this collection of smoothed rock, demons, saints and madonnas, the light-show came on. First they projected an exact photo of the cathedral onto the cathedral, which ramped up the layered effect many more notches, like some eye-ball hallucination variant from many years ago. None of us could move, affixed to the scene. Then the computer-graphics “painted” the arcs and pillars one by one, showing off the math of the construction. Even Bob bought into this aspect, the Golden Mean and all that. More image morphing until finally it became more of a modern art piece, and by then we were satiated.
All in all, a very needed and rather perfect night off from rock clubs.
The further adventures of Mission of Burma.
Thur. Dec. 6th: London
Pete didn’t sleep much last night, so he climbed onto the ledge in the back and was gone for some hours on this long drive to London. Serious snow-storm south of Glasgow- couldn’t even see the hillsides. Calmer now – just the usual dreary rainy English day (mild irony….. i think…..).
This is totally insane: the London club (BIRTHDAYS) is a dead ringer for The Underground, where we were sort of a house band in 1979/early 1980 in BOS. Small room (we could’ve sold it out twice was the word around the club), and the “dressing room” is a corridor where two people can’t pass (just like The Underground). Nowhere to escape to. Fire Records (our pretty great new London label) people want to talk to us (do we want to talk w/anyone after 8 hours in the van with too little sleep?) and we’re all trying to find somewhere to escape to. Rick Harte is here, good talks, and after a pint I’m up for actual speech and everyone from Fire is totally cool.
While I was sitting in a far corner of the club sipping a beer (nowhere else to escape to), I noticed an unusually well-dressed couple leaning against the wall who finally sat down next to me. He says to me: “Are you into Mission of Burma?” Hmmm, how to answer? Finally, after some obvious time-consuming pondering, I say “Yes, I’m into Mission of Burma.” He says “How did you get into them?” I says “I know them pretty well.” He gets excited and asks more. I says “When I talk to the guitarist, it’s like I’m talking to myself.” HIs enthusiasm is not dimmed. Finally, as I haven’t managed to drive him off with my abstractions, I admit I’m me (whatever that is…..). He remains excited, and I have to talk rather than sit in quiet and sip my beer. We hear later that the singer from Franz Ferdinand was at the show, and Clint thought that person was so out of place in the club that it was probably he with whom i spoke. Beats me. He was a nice guy, whoever he was.
Set was a total ripper, in your face kinda thing (now that I’ve talked w/Pete and Clint, the sonic confusion of low-end roar onstage made them wonder how it really sounded). Ended with Youth of America (Wipers) which did the job (Rick H. singled it out as a highlight). Must’ve at least been OK, ‘cuz when the head of your label (in this case James of Fire Records) says “I could’ve watched you guys until 3 am!” (the show ended by 11pm) at least you know it’s unlikely you’ll get fired in a couple days… We are working, after all. This ain’t no picnic.
We’re all very very very very glad that we have a day off tomorrow: 5 gigs in a row with never enough sleep. Well fukit, we’re in a goddam rock band – what should we expect?
Just recalled that a gal at the end of the night in Leeds was totally enthusiastic after the show, looking slightly of out of place. She said she only likes Beyonce and the like, but now was a Burma fan as well. Ummmm, that makes sense?
The Further Adventures of Mission of Burma.
Days 3-5, Leeds, Bristol + Glasgow.
Monday Dec. 3:
On the road again.
Driving north – they say it’s gonna get colder. Strange, even in Europe when you go north it gets colder. That isn’t just an American phenomena.
The club in Leeds, the Brudenell Social Club, was great. Sofas in the main room, outdoor picnic tables, etc. After I requested “some proper beer” instead of the COORS LIGHT they had in our fridge, things improved (A Scottish IPA called PUNK IPA). Bilge Pump was a very interesting classic Leeds’ sounding band. (though none of them had heard of the FAST compilation). Fun night, great people. Our set had some odd technical problems and it never really got going in our opinion, but the crowd enjoyed it. Drew Millward, who did the London poster based on a Burmese postage stamp, dropped some posters off for us. While I was selling merch. at the end of the night he brought me a shot of Laphroaig – a very nice way to smooth out the night’s end.
The hotel room at the Ibis was so small that one couldn’t close the door without moving a bed, not to mention the odd post-Man Who Fell to Earth bathrooms. But we all slept well and left a bit earlier to get to Glasgow, a def. interesting city. Bit of snow on the ground driving up – hell, you’d think it was VT or something…….
Listening to Cheap Trick and Czech bands (our driver, Alesh’s, home country) in the van and discussing, with much fervor, the quality of the sacks we each brought in from our road stop to serve as trash bags for the van. “How’d you get a clear sack?” Etc….. The excitement of the road, whew! Almost too much…..
Nice hills developing outside, dusted w/snow. Heading into Scotland.
Mono club in Glasgow. Great joint – one wing is a record store, another wing is nothing but fanzines (and an incredible variety at that). the main room is a vegan restaurant. They fed us and it was the best meal we’ve had so far (and none of us are vegetarian).
Excellent night. Two solid opening bands, the 2nd one ——- was an all-girl band straight out of 1977. Very charming. We were back on track tonight. The main thing seems to be to rip everything open in the first 4 or 5 songs – after that, if we do the correct ripping, anything can follow and it will work. We managed this quite well tonight.
Interesting hotel with spiral stairs in a rock tower. We all had little billets for sleeping, but at least in the room I was this night (with Jimmy’s “Wave Machine” roaring) we all got a good sleep.