The divide between artist and audience has seemingly become thinner than ever thanks to the advent of social media and similar ways in which technology has enabled people to communicate more readily. Following this line of thinking, ReGen correspondent Gabe Wilkinson presents The 6ix List – a series of three questions, each with six answers, posed to select artists in an effort to allow you, the audience, to peer into the minds of those who create music in our scene.
For our first entry in this new feature, Gabe spoke with Mark Alan Miller of the trailblazing industrial act Out Out. Miller gives us some insights into his latest musical creation, Ridotto, before jumping headfirst into The 6ix List…
Tell us a bit about your new release, where can we find it and what are you most proud of with it?
Miller: The new album, Ridotto is, in a way, an extension of Virtual Sound Images, in such that I wanted to return to the more danceable vibe on that record. However, it is also deliberately less ‘playful’ and, notably, also a vocal record, where VSI mainly used found voices as the ‘vocals’ in most cases.
I think what I’m most proud of on this record is that I had a concept (which, actually, I can trace back to ideas from the early 2000s that led to Breathing Again and the lyrics to ‘Like William Tell’) and when I decided it was the time to try out this concept, it all fell into place with an ease that I don’t always have when writing. Part of the concept, aside from it being largely a danceable record, was the integration of vocals in a way that might resemble song structure in a traditional sense, but also serve in a way as another element like the many synths, weaving in and around the beats. And of course, it is designed to be listened to all at once, or at least one half at a time, as all the songs transition one into the next, with the exception of the ‘side break’ between the fourth and fifth songs.
The CD is available through Storming the Base and on the Out Out Bandcamp page, and digitally through all the usual outlets.
Also, the latest single, ‘Gift Horse’ dropped yesterday and is available on Bandcamp.
The 6ix List
6 favorite artists/bands/musicians
Miller: This list is everchanging in some ways, so I’ll go with some of the usual suspects.
- XTC – Simply one of the best bands ever in terms of songwriting, musicianship, and sheer quality of output. Some of the band’s B-sides are better than most bands’ singles.
- Cabaret Voltaire – Particularly the Some Bizarre era stuff, early to mid ’80s, for their fusing a kind of funk into the more experimental sounds of their early work; a big early influence on me.
- Todd Rundgren – Not that every record he does I love, but when he’s on, he’s really on. From the early ’70s material to the more recent State album, he’s constantly changing and evolving, and often innovating.
- Fluke – If there ever was a ‘techno’ band that managed to stretch out into deeper territory, it’s Fluke (Underworld, whom I’m only a little familiar with, seem to share some of those sensibilities). The vocals and lyrics are generally really smart and cool, and – particularly the later records – and some superior sound design.
- Laika – Because, damn, that band can make odd time signatures so groovy. And I love Margaret Fiedler’s lyrics and voice.
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Mostly the band’s work up through the mid ’80s, but particularly those early records got so much play growing up.
Other mentions: Shriekback, Bauhaus/Tones on Tail/Love and Rockets, Japan/David Sylvian, early-to-mid period MINISTRY (and all those side projects!), Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Gary Numan, The Human League, Tackhead, Skinny Puppy, early Thompson Twins, Roy Finch, The Dark, Kissed Air, Comsat Angels, The Smiths, Art of Noise, Severed Heads, Talking Heads, Blancmange, and on and on and on, as the music of our youth is always a huge influence.
6 favorite albums
Miller: I’ll stick with ones from the 6 artists above.
- XTC – English Settlement (1982). While not always my favorite from this band (The Big Express or Black Sea are often rivals, as are several others), this is the album that really introduced me to XTC. It’s just a marvel of songwriting and performance, and some really fantastic production and drum sounds.
- Cabaret Voltaire – Micro-Phonies (1984). Well, ‘Do Right’ and ‘Sensoria’ pretty much opened my ears up to a new way of thinking what dance music instrumentation might be. And a pretty singular vocal style. The whole album really covers a lot of ground, even though it sounds perhaps simplistic on the face of it.
- Todd Rundgren – I’ll go with A Wizard, a True Star (1973), even though almost any of the first five solo records could work. But this one is just so far out, so stylistically diverse (blue eyed soul, proto-punk, prog, and more all in one hour of nonstop weirdness and catchy shit) that I’ll pick it.
- Fluke – I’ll go with OTO (1995) for this. I picked it up in a cassette dollar bin way back after seeing ‘Atom Bomb’ on MTV’s AMP show (which really got my attention) and found that it didn’t actually sound anything like ‘Atom Bomb.’ But, after a couple listens, it sunk in deep. Really clever stuff, and looking at the liner notes and seeing Barry Andrews (of Shriekback) had co-produced it, it was like ‘ah, of course.’
- Laika – Wherever I Am, I Am What Is Missing (2003). It doesn’t get much better than this; so groovy, amazing textures, great vocals, and not a dud on it. I guess it is trip-hop for lack of a category (showing that genres sometimes confuse me), but it’s just kind of a perfect record.
- OMD – Dazzle Ships (1983). The perfect marriage of experimentation (‘Time Zones’ – shortwave clocks from around the world, in sync… so cool) and great pop songs.
6 inspirations outside of music
- I’m hardly an avid reader – somewhat dyslexic, so I’m slow – but certain books over the years have instilled a visual aesthetic quality. William Gibson comes to mind, but I guess that’s kind of obvious?
- Graphic design – especially album cover design – has always fascinated me. Sometimes when a label gets it together to have an identity, that’s what really grabs me. Nettwerk, Factory, 4AD, WaxTrax!; they all have at least had stretches of really amazing art that let you know not only something about the music contained within (or had the appropriate mystery), but also the aesthetic of those at the label as well.
- Well, it’s related to music, but the awareness that all sounds can be musical, for the most part, given a context. I first started noticing that when I was a kid, thinking, ‘Was that a synthesizer making that noise? Where did that noise come from? Did someone record it? How did they record it?’ My eldest brother taught me to use a reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was four-years-old, so I started getting some clues as to how some of this stuff works pretty early on. By late grade school, I’d already fiddled around with basic editing and tape loops and stuff.
- Perhaps not so uniquely, movies and TV can inspire, but I think it’s when I see a concept that really flows from start to finish that I get a resonance. If you’ve ever seen Green Wing, it’s a good example of this – two seasons, only a handful of episodes each, and when you hit the last episode, it just feels perfectly timed to finish. Also, if it weren’t for The Conversation, Finched might never have been written.
- My studio and the enthusiasm of the people I work with. Now, yes, that’s generally musical, but I mean in terms of inspiration, seeing someone get to put their ideas, the sounds in their head, down to ‘tape,’ and the (hopefully, and thankfully often) satisfaction they have. I feel it too. And my business partner in the studio, Justin Pizzoferrato is such a huge talent, so that rubs off on me every day.
- For the better part of the last decade, I’ve been the graphic design/layout person for my wife’s arts and literary journal Meat For Tea. When I joined the team (often, just the two of us), it was a 40-50 page magazine. Now it’s usually closer to 120 pages, every three months, and we produce a release show at my studio (and the brewery next door) featuring art, short films, spoken word, live music, and sometimes other kinds of performances. That’s every three months as well. That kind of dedication and rigor – that my wife has, to do this without fail – is an inspiration.
Also, a bonus mention would be my son – watching him expand and grow as a creative person in his own right is amazing. He’s turned into quite the writer.
Storming the Base
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Meat For Tea
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Gabe Wilkinson (Microwaved)