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Home > All articles > OUT OUT > Out Out - interview (2008)
Out Out - interview (2008)
2008-07-12 | Katarzyna NINa Górnisiewicz and Marco Gariboldi | e-mail interview
Marco: You've had 20 years of activity since you set up "Out Out" in the late 80s. This is a great achievement for everyone in the music business, especially for an underground artist like you. It's time to sum up this period of time. Are you satisfied of what you have achieved looking back at your career?

Mark. A. Miller: Well, the only achievement, really, is that I didn't altogether quit at some point or other. Stubbornness might be at play here...

I've been tinkering with recording almost all my life, and writing songs since middle school, so to just stop seems unnatural to me. Sadly, there are tons of other things in life that take away the time I once had to devote to writing, so I just don't write as much as I used to. That's okay, though - those other things are also important aspects of my life, too. It's balancing between all these things that's the hard part. I am currently trying to swing the balance back a little to writing more music.

As far as satisfaction goes, I have to say yes. To be able to make and release music internationally in the (especially early) 90s was a privelledge - whereas now anyone can do it on the internet - but now, with the new paradigm of online distribution to still have people interested in what I do is truly an honor. I'd do it anyhow - It's almost like a compulsion or something - but to be listened to and appreciated, that's very cool.

So, to sum up 20+ years so far? I don't know - I can't imagine it going much differently. The things I did were results of choices I made based on what kind of person I am and what I felt was right. Seems pretty good to me. I just hope I can keep it going - it's fun stuff when I can get to it.

Marco: "Assumed Outrivaling" it's your second instrumental album which continues the sound developed in "Virtual Sound Images". It's seemingly influenced by your spin-off project "Acid Pirates" however it still sounds alike your old releases. What is the difference between writing an album with the lyrics and doing an instrumental one?

Mark. A. Miller: Hm. I guess not writing lyrics was liberating. I kinda ran out of things to say back in, what, 1996? Not really, but it just wasn't interesting to me anymore at that time. I started fooling around with things like more clubby sounds, and more atmospheric sounds, and over time, those two records developed - kinda in parallel, really. Yes, Assumed Outrivaling is much more in keeping with my more established sounds, but the structures and melodic ideas were approached with a deliberate attempt for more melodic motion. Whereas Virtual Sound Images was deliberately trying to almost be another "band" (and I almost released it under the Acid Pirates band name - indeed, a couple of early mixes did see the light under that name....)

Really, it was time to stop writing music for this "project", this "band" called "Out Out" and just... write. So that's what happened.
I'm excited to be writing lyrics again, though - although they are slow in coming.

Marco: Is there any greater meaning, a concept behind this release? When I look at the booklet, the tracklist looks like a riddle and you also wrote: "All characters and events portrayed in this work are fictional and the resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental". What did you mean by this?

Mark. A. Miller: Yeah, kind of. The track list, well - look closely - at all titles related to this record (and not just on this record, either.) It's not that clever - I wish I could say it was, but it's not. I can't even say it's an 100% original idea... others have done it, I'm sure.

The disclaimer? Ah, a bit of good fun. Maybe. There are a few things scattered about that add up to a little story (nothing as deep as, say, the whole Year Zero thing - which honestly, didn't have anything to do with this, by the way - I had most of the art and text done at the same time I had the art for V.S.I. finished - far before then! But when Year Zero's whole "game" was going on I was very impressed. I wish I had the time and imagination (and team of people) to pull something like that off.)

Other than that, it's what you make of it. I don't want to elaborate more for fear of ruining someone's fun.

Marco: Your skills and experience really improve the songwriting process, moreover the production is clear and professional. How long did it take you to write this new album?

Mark. A. Miller: Like I mentioned before, A.O. and V.S.I. were kind of written in the same time period. V.S.I. was started before, and finished after, A.O. - I'd say that I worked on A.O. in a concentrated period of a few months, then came back to it for a few weeks quite some time later for a kind of post-production process. Where V.S.I. was recorded and mixed one song at a time over a much longer period, then that same kind of post-production look-see happened at the end.

Marco: Maybe it's still too soon to sum up but could you tell us about your impressions on the new album promotion? Did the "free download" and "pay-what-you-want" options help increasing your popularity/sales? Is it a good way for independent artists to sell their own albums or is that just another experiment in the music business?

Mark. A. Miller: It was good. I don't know if I'd do it again, though. I think I'll offer the usual free 2-minute CDBaby previews, and perhaps a full track or two, on the next record. Offering the whole thing for free just didn't seem to do much other than get a lot of mildly curious folks to check it out. But that doesn't mean that maybe if they liked it better or something, they would have bought a copy. Maybe it just didn't appeal. That's always a likelyhood with things like this, you know? But I don't see a really great ratio of free downloads translating to sales. Again, maybe the record just doesn't appeal. Or maybe now people just don't care to pay for something (albeit in better quality) if they can have it for free? Probably a little of both, I'm sure.

On the other hand, being able to control almost every aspect of my distribution has been great, and, while it's not really a profitable venture, I've been able to start supporting new releases based partly on sales of past releases. That in itself is one measure of success - and a good indicator that the time for independent artists and labels to really stand up and be noticed is now. And, importantly, to stand up and ask for the respect they deserve, too. If nothing else, my offering the album for free got a lot of people to at least have the opportunity to read some of what I have to say about respecting artists (and not trampling their rights and wishes...!)

NINa: I noticed you've been fighting against piracy very much. Now you're giving a new album for free in 128kbps but it matters it's for free. However the files pack includes a piece of information about the terms and conditions of downloading and using the mp3s. So what has changed? Do you feel that way of distribution brings more people to buy a CD eventually, pay for higher quality files or just spread the news to make you even better known around the world?

Mark. A. Miller: Yes, I am quite vocal about people not disrespecting artists by not paying for what they want to possess and enjoy. I mean, isn't it unfair to take something that someone has labored over to bring to the world, without paying for it? I actually take the most offense to this as a music listener, consumer, and record/CD collector - not as an artist or a studio engineer/producer. Because I find it scary that an artist I love listening to might have a harder time making more music because people are simply stealing their work. And most offensively, that someone somewhere thinks it's their right - and that perhaps they're doing someone a favor - by uploading someone's record without their permission. Basically, unless an artist specifically and explicitly states that they condone the sharing of their work, it's not anyone's right to assume otherwise!

Now, I released the latest record for free as an experiment. The key thing is that it's free by my choice. And it's not with out conditions - I don't want it on P2P/torrents. It's free as long as people download it from me, from my site, on my terms. All I ask, as I say on the site and in the included text file in the ZIP of the album, is respect. Respect me, and I'll respect you right back. Pretty simple thing to do for an artist who's music you're listening to, i think.

As I mentioned before, I don't think it's a particularly good means of distribution on a regular basis, actually. I don't think I'll be doing it again. People don't care about the cow if the milk is free - even if the milk is 2% and whole milk might taste a little better - they'll drink the free milk and move on. Sure, freebies might make for good promotion, but they don't necessarily make for much else. Artists spend a lot of money making music - and need to make some of it back. Just giving away music as promotion won't cut it - people are getting spoiled and are assuming all music should thusly be free. Many believe that live performances are universally lucrative ways for artists to make money - and recorded music is nothing but promotion for live music now. But I have so many issues with that notion.

First, many artists simply don't/can't/won't play live very often, or at all. Secondly, even when they do, often times the pay barely pays for their expenses (a friend in a huge-selling major-label metal band said to me a couple days ago "it's not worth it to drive a bunch of hours to play a gig for $100 - that doesn't even cover travel expenses". While I'm paraphrasing him a little the point is clear. Thirdly, people use "paying to see a band live" as a justification for not paying for (read: simply taking) their records. But really, how many shows are they seeing? Do they go to concerts for every band they download? No - that's totally impossible for a number of reasons! And even if an artist can profit from live shows, who's right is it to say that they don't deserve compensation for their recorded works as well? It's a total myth that sales of recorded music are irrelevant any more - a convenient one for people to use to feel okay about not paying for what they want to possess and enjoy, I'm afraid.

To answer your question as to what has changed? What changed with me, partly, in trying this free-version release was, well, I was sick of people telling me "this is the new way, you have to adapt or die" - so I adapted. And, frankly, the people who are telling me "adapt or die" now look more and more like people who like getting everything for nothing - and expect everything for nothing - and feel it's somehow their right to it for nothing... that they're somehow entitled. Because "that's how it is now. Get used to it."
Next time someone tells me "adapt or die" they also need to tell me how this is all supposed to work then, or keep quiet. First prize to a honestly workable solution!

NINa: Digital Rights Management - DRM. Isn't it a perfect tool to protect the copyrighted music against the piracy?

Mark. A. Miller: DRM is crap. Sorry, that's how I feel. All copy protection can be broken, and is broken. Blu-Ray was broken in days. Days.
People will steal if they feel they're somehow entitled to the content for free. They will justify it a hundred ways to Sunday to make it seem okay. DRM is nothing more than a challenge to them to break, so really, it's pointless. It really only stops honest people from using the content in legal ways for themselves. Like someone once said, "locks keep honest people out". Dishonest people smash the window and help themselves. Or smash the window for others to help themselves - that's how I feel about uploaders.

Marco: In the "Breathing Again E.P." you have collaborated with a director/producer Shane Cole for a purpose of the two videos "Duchess" and "And Give Lustrous Aim". How was this collaboration born? Do you have any other plans for the future in that matter? Is there any chance you'd write a soundtrack for one of Cole’s projects? Did you collaborate both on writing the script as well or was it totally his creation?

Mark. A. Miller: Shane approached me a few years ago, wanting to do a video for "Duchess". I said sure, and he sent me a rough cut, which I really thought was cool. And the final cut was even cooler. I've nothing to do with the writing or direction - it's all his vision. He's a fan - one of my few, treasured fans (you all rock, by the way) and just wanted to put some of his images to my music. A bigger honor would be hard to find. I then got him A.O. to possibly use for the extra features section on he and his brother's horror film shorts DVD "Visions Of Horror Vol. 1" - they used three tracks - and he surprised me - totally out of the blue - with the "And Give Lustrous Aim" video. He had a casting call, a crew, the works, to do that video. I cannot be more honored again. Everyone who likes my stuff, and especially who likes his videos, needs to find a way to support him and his brother's endeavors. If you like horror films, buy their DVD, or tell friends who like horror. Check out their other stuff.
www.maskedfilms.com is a good place to start.
I might, and I hope I can, do some soundtrack work for them in the future. It would be really cool.

NINa: Out Out is one of not many bands of the early 90s which survived on the scene till now. 20 years brought a big collection of the songs and.. there's an idea of a tribute album now. What do you think about that?

Mark. A. Miller: It's wild. A huge fan, now a friend, Joshua Morgan (he runs the MySpace "Out Out Cyber Street Team" page when he has time, thank you Josh!) had the idea. He's been approaching artists - even some outside the "scene" but bands I work with and have long-term relationships with - to do it. It's a little weird to even know about it, to know friends might be involved in such a thing, so I'm trying to stay out of the loop on this one. It would seem really bizarre to be involved, you know? But I'm honored, and can't wait to hear people play some of my songs better than I ever could.

Marco: Nine Inch Nails have a remix website where everyone can download some of the songs (in various formats: Logic, live, wave) and remix them. I think it’s a very interesting promotion channel and a good way to interact with their fans because it lets everyone (bands, professionals, DJs, ordinary people) be a part of the project. What do you think about it?

Mark. A. Miller: I love the idea. It's gutsy (and brave) to release all the naked tracks for a record like that. Not sure if I'd want some of my multitracks hitting the open market! Yikes! But it's cool. I may do that for a song or two on the next record, if I feel confident enough.
It's a lovely way to get fans not only involved in the creative process, but to give them a glimpse of the "exploded view" of the machinery of a song. I think we'll see that happen more in the future. Todd Rundgren kinda did this sort of thing with an interactive CD in the early 90s... he planted the seeds early. Kinda lame that Radiohead made people pay to do it recently. But people paid, so more power to them in that regard, I guess.

Marco: You've released a lot of B-sides, remix, demos like Anthology and Demobox with a care about the packages as well these years. Do you have any of your live show archived too? Is there any DVD planned?

Mark. A. Miller: Sadly, there's little live show documentation that sounds any good. (I've got the one Hi-8 camera of the show that the live "Blacklist" video is from, but that's one of the best tracks... ("Duchess" was also pretty well played and captured - I might pop that on YouTube sometime, too.)) I have one other complete audio-only recording of another show from that time period, but it sounds like ass. Stereo mics back by the sound board. Not good. If I can clean it up it might be a good freebie, perhaps.
Sadly, I just wasn't thinking long-term when we were doing those shows.

Marco: Is there any chance to see you and Vein Cage on tour? Something like "The Valkyries Tour"? A small tour (maybe 3 weeks?) in clubs, playing together on stage with new and old songs?

Mark. A. Miller: I don't know. Peter is trying to gear up for playing live Vein Cage in some form or other as I type - I would love to see him do it, too. I certainly am not gonna play live for A.O. or V.S.I.... (I don't wanna just 'laptop' it on stage - I don't think it's really cool to be doing more than what could be checking email on stage, honestly.) But perhaps if the new record, when it's written, shapes up in the right way, I might do a live thing too. Doing a double-bill with Vein Cage would be a no-brainer. But I have to be honest, it's not highly probable. And even if it did happen, it would be scattered mini-tour weekends, probably mostly northeast/east-coast USA, and doubtful much beyond that. But I'd love to at least hit the west coast and some spots in-between (Michigan has a ton of people who still listen to Out Out, apparently, for example.) And as much as that is dreaming, getting onto another continent is even more a dream. It's just so expensive and time-consuming! Sadly.

NINa: In the video for 'Learning English In N.Y.C.' you were driving a car somewhere. Where was the area located you were driving through?

Mark. A. Miller: Ha! I set the camera up in the front seat of my old car in the parking lot of my old studio building in Hadley, Massachusetts, hit play, and set out heading for Northampton. Made it about 3/4 of the way on back roads by the time the song (playing at 1/2 speed) was over. Spot the moment where I passed a police car and thought they might have seen the camera and were going to pull me over. All one take, one shot - no edits - sped back up to normal speed.

NINa: Do you enjoy driving a car at all? How about the gas prices in the USA these days?

Mark. A. Miller: I do like driving, actually. I get to listen to more records in the car than anywhere else. And it's a good thing I like driving. We're a minimum of 15-20 minutes one-way from almost anything where we live now. And with my son, we've got lots to do.
Gas prices suck - it's total collusion on the part of the oil companies (raise prices due to claimed "production and crude oil costs" then show record profits? What lying scum. And, coincidence that our government is currently run by big oil good-ol' boys? I think not. This is exactly what they wanted, and in under 8 years, they got it. The rich keep getting richer on the backs of literally everyone else.) But, frankly, we deserve to have it slap us in the face as a culture. America needed to wake up from it's "luxury" fat-ass SUV driving selfish dream... Boink! What do you know? People are looking into more economical, smaller vehicles again... sheesh.

NINa: There's some fresh movement bringing such new bands like Rabbit Junk, Cyanotic, Circkus of Dead Squirrels or Moshpit to the industrial music scene. They mix drum'n'bass with old school industrial but also add more noise or so called 'glitches' to their songs. Is it already a revolution or just the introduction to something bigger incoming?

Mark. A. Miller: I think at this point there is no revolution, there is no something bigger coming. It's all steady evolution. Pop will, does, and has thoroughly eaten itself. Now it's back to good writing, good production. Screw gimmicks - just give us good, and good-sounding, music. If there is a revolution, something bigger, we won't know it until it's on top of us. The people doing it won't even know it. It will just happen. Could be fun. We'll talk about it after the wave crests.

Marco: At what degree have you been involved to HOINH project? Did you produce/mix/edit/write any songs in particular or were you just a supervisor?

Mark. A. Miller: HAH! HOINH! Well, as you all probably know - it's a bunch of us on a music forum having a laugh, and finding that what came of it didn't suck like we thought it would. I am no more important than anyone else involved. I just took on the role of "curator" for the "album" - collecting the files in one place to be made into an "album". There are others who collect the songs for things like MusicNation.com... people randomly submit "art" - which I also collect for the "album art". If seems a second record is gonna happen, crazily enough - with tracks on MySpace already! I did contribute a thing to the first record - maybe two - I'm not telling. And one for the second record. See if you can spot my finger smudges.


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No two people in this band like exactly the same music, so we've got influences coming in from a fairly wide spectrum of musical styles. It can make it difficult sometimes to easily write music together, but when it works it WORKS! Improvisation has been and will continue to be massively important to how we write songs. Promonium Jesters (2008)
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