SfB’s two-part interview feature with Amebix concludes here with Stig Miller discussing the band’s influential past and what hopefully lies ahead. Be sure to read the first installment of this revealing interview feature here.
Where does Amebix stand now, and what’s the potential for new Amebix music in the future?
I don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, we’re on hiatus because we’re using Roy now, and Roy has his other commitments and things he has to do. Which, in some ways, it’s great having someone on board who’s a professional, and that pushed in another kind of direction working with someone who’s worked with so many bands. Obviously it was a good thing and also it brought a certain element to it that we really didn’t have before, which was something I found a bit difficult to deal with, really.
Basically, I’d like to do Amebix again. I really would like to do it again, but at the moment I’m not in any huge hurry, and I think I’ll give it a little bit of time, so I can kind of kid myself that the last few years have been fun and just romanticize the whole thing later on. [Laughs] You give it a little bit of time, and you think ‘Oh, those days weren’t really so bad, were they?’ [Laughs] The with Amebix is that you can’t go into this without everyone being on the same page. You can’t really come into it unless you’re all feeling that you wanna be in the same space together and do this thing. I can’t sit in a band and make music with someone that doesn’t want to sit there and make music with me. How are you gonna get that flow going? You need that.
When you’re making music, you’re exposing a part of yourself, and you have to be among friends when you’re doing that. It’s not something you can just go and do in front of anyone. You have to be in a room full of people that you trust and that you like being with. This is just a result of interference that’s coming from outside the band, and I think if we actually all got together and sat down and talked about things, then we could probably sort everything out.
So it’s probably safe to assume that you wouldn’t be creating any new Amebix material without Rob?
Oh absolutely not. I wouldn’t dream of it. I wouldn’t even consider it. Absolutely not.
Well, let’s talk about you guys sitting in a room and writing for Amebix all those years ago. What did that process look like, and did that original source of boredom and poverty or disillusionment and angst change for you guys as the band progressed throughout the years?
In those earlier days from ’79 to sort of ’87 I knew that people liked us, and I knew that we had something special and something that other people didn’t have, but I think people believed in what we were doing. But I never did this for fame or adulation or any of those things. We did it to make something out of nothing, to make imagination a reality. But yeah, I watch a lot of bands now and obviously my financial situation has changed very little even since those days, so things are pretty much the same for me in that way. I’ve got a roof over my head, and that’s about it.
I guess I don’t have quite as much of the existential angst I had as an eighteen year old, but that is still in me, and it hasn’t gone away. I still feel angry about the world and angry about the political situation, particularly in this country, even if I don’t get involved with the politics. This is the time of just complete corporate domination of every single attribute and piece of life. It’s a monopolization of everything, and yeah, I get angsty about that. As far my brother, he lives in a different environment than I do, and his life is very different. This is the thing we both have in common with each other is making this music together from two different walks of life.
Does that “corporate avoidance” seem even more impossible now than it was even twenty or thirty years ago?
You can’t avoid it altogether, because they’ve monopolized it completely. Me and my girlfriend were talking about this, and we were going to the shops, and I was thinking: ‘I really wanna buy some coffee, but I really don’t wanna buy that brand,’ but it’s the cheapest fucking brand. I hate supporting these fucking people, but I want some coffee. [Laughs] And that’s how it is, isn’t it? You might hate supporting these people, but you want some coffee at the end of the day.
I watch bands that are fucking heavy metal bands from LA or whatever, and you’re thinking while these guys are sitting there singing songs about poverty and desperation and all this shit: ‘You’re all fucking loaded! What the fuck are you talking about?’ [Laughs] It’s a funny thing and an audience can and always eventually will see through this thing. You can’t be going on stage talking about starving and being fucking hungry when you’re fine.
Are there bands you see in heavy or punk music today that you see kind of moving the genre forward or at least creating interesting and compelling music?
Yeah, there are a few. I still really like what Neurosis are doing. Neurosis, at least in a way, kind of had the same situation happen to them as we did with gaining acceptance and becoming part of the heavy metal scene. I mean, we never set out to become part of the heavy metal scene in any way. I mean, heavy metal didn’t really even exist as a common phrase when we first started doing this. Heavy metal was never the genre that I expected to even up in because it was all about whittling guitar solos and so on. But, the whole thing has changed round.
We’re in a situation where the kind of grittier elements we did as punk bands are now assimilated into heavy metal and even big horrible corporate rock bands, to a certain extent. There’s some awful shit out there playing generic types of heavy metal riffs behind it. There’s a lot of it. But I like some newer bands like Neurosis, and I like some of this more ambient stuff, too, like Cult of Luna. I get to hear some really good fucking music, and there’s a lot of good stuff, but there just isn’t really a kind of big philosophy behind it or anything else. I don’t know. I can’t be sure. There are a lot of good bands out there still.
You mentioned Neurosis, and obviously those guys have mentioned Amebix specifically as an influence. And there’s many more, countless more in heavy music who hold you guys in high regard. What is it about heavy music, or that fringe music that speaks to that ever-growing audience it seems to be getting over the last few years?
I think if it’s really moving people, that’s great. I couldn’t really say, though. I’ve always been interested in kind of dark landscapes with music. And the fact that I’ve always felt an affinity with that kind of thing. I think music should have a certain kind of mood – a melancholy to it. I mean, that’s something that’s always appealed to me – that melancholy in music or a feeling of loss. It’s a very difficult thing to explain. It’s that wanting something that you can’t actually see – a craving, a longing – that’s what I think good music should bring in you, this kind of longing feeling. I don’t know. It’s difficult to put into words, but yeah.
I like to make up riffs that are kind of sad but also uplifiting at the same time, and I know when I’ve got a riff like that. I kind of know in myself that that riff makes me feel that way, and it makes other people feel the same way as me, so it puts them on the same page emotionally as me, which is one of the good things that I like about music. Because I don’t have the word. I can just put the music out there and people will know where I’m coming from. People will know what I’m saying. It’s my way of talking to people.
I’ve always thought of punk as being that conversation between actual people. How do you see punk music now? Is punk dead? Has it changed?
It depends if punk is what we’re calling a musical form. For me, punk was never about playing super fast music or this way or that. You could have a punk classical orchestra if you had the right personalities involved with it. I think it’s more down to personal integrity, really, and self-belief and sticking by what you believe in the face of overwhelming odds. These days that temptation to suck corporate cock is just everywhere. It’s a difficult thing to try and protect yourself against this. But for me, I think it was important for Amebix to try and protect themselves from the onslaught of corporate bullshit that’s out there. It’s never a good thing to bring an outside party into that decision making nucleus of a band, and that’s one big, big, issue I have right now.
It definitely seems like the internet and social media have at least allowed that artistic freedom and autonomy to flourish in many ways outside the corporate spectrum. You can keep the integrity and still be successful.
You can, absolutely. There’s really no reason to be going to bigger record companies at all now in this day and age. I mean, sure, if you want to make a packaged product or something special for people to buy as a solid item, but as for downloads and all the rest of it, there is absolutely no point whatsoever in going to any third party for that. You can sit at home and do that. I’ve learned such a lot about all this in such a short time.
I’ve had to sort of cram my head. And now when I do my stuff I haven’t had to go through any third parties to do that, so at the moment I’m just working on my own things. Amebix was and is a personal thing for me. It’s about doing something together, and that’s what was so special about it for me and my brother. It was the fact that we had both lived completely different lives, and we have this thing in common between us.
What was the difference between your walk of life versus that of Rob?
I was more involved with criminality, drugs, things like that which my brother was smart enough not to get involved with quite as much as I did. He managed to get his life together, and I’ve only recently started to get my life together. [Laughs] It’s all good. I have a roof over my head, and I’m in a happy relationship. I don’t have a lot, but then I don’t really fucking need a lot. I don’t want for a lot of things. I could probably do for some better equipment or things but other than that, I’m quite happy.
What are you currently up to now ? Are you creating some music on your own?
Oh yeah, yeah. I’m teaching myself Logic. I did have a ProTool rig,but I got a new computer, so I couldn’t afford to go to the latest five hunded quid ProTools download. So I got this Logic studio, and I’m having a lot of fun learning how to use it. It’s gonna take me a while to get my head completely around it, but I’m getting pretty good. I can basically record and do basic recording. I’m just experimenting, really. It’s a different thing making music on your own. It’s a completely different thing to do. I’m finding it kind of difficult to make music on your own, but I’m enjoying it.
Thanks to Stig for his time.
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