Wednesday, January 06, 2016

5 Questions for Michael Milam of Secret Guest

If you like fun music and witty lads, go and get an ear load of Charleston’s own Secret Guest: here. I personally think 'Joker City' is bananas. Treat yourself to a nice listen. Also: I suggest making a point to catch them if you can on their first northeast tour – this January. Thanks to Sir Milam for humoring me about his time-keeping role within the band among other things.

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Of all the modern drummers in the world, which would you trust the most to give you a haircut?

Honestly, and a few of my more high-falutin' drummer friends would take issue with this, but Travis.  His own physical appearance and the band that made him famous notwithstanding, there's just something professionally perfect about him.  He started playing with Blink-182 as an impromptu fill-in while they were touring with Aquabats and he was so on the ball that he just happened to turn them into one of the biggest bands on the planet for a minute there.  When I was first playing the drums in the 10th grade, playing along to the CDs I owned was the bulk of my self-education, and I'd be lying if said there wasn't copious Blink in the mix.  Those records don't have much to offer me past the age of 14, but just based on the drums I could probably still listen to them.  Every stroke is impeccably selected for maximum impact.  He was always done recording in a day or two, and those songs would be nothing without him.  Honestly, I'll probably never understand how someone could be a drummer and not at least secretly love Travis Barker.  In any case, if he could turn a pair of broey ding-dongs like Tom and Mark into rock superstars, I'm sure he could turn my noggin into something presentable.

Runner-up if I can't afford Travis: Matt Barrick from the Walkmen.  Under-appreciated band with a seriously underrated drummer.  And they always look sharp.

And since we're here and usually no one cares, my favorite drums are on 'Rid of Me' by PJ Harvey, 'Mare Vitalis' by Appleseed Cast, and everything Jeremiah Green ever played on.

During the recording process of Secret Guest’s ‘Joker City’, did Brett Nash (a fine drummer / frontman of Secret Guest) ever tell you that you weren’t allowed to play certain kinds of beats? 

Actually, Brett seemed to like everything I came up with for the 'Joker City' songs and I don't remember him having to coach me too much.  Those six songs were all fleshed out in the practice space from the basic progressions Brett brought in, and at the risk of sounding cliche, they came together pretty organically.  Now that we've started learning song from the companion album, 'Goodnight Nothing' (which Brett performed mostly by himself), it's a different story.  There's already a precedent for what those songs sound like, so I have more constraints.  There's one song, for example (Drancy) where Brett said the drums and bass shouldn't change dynamics during the song.  That's pretty much the polar opposite of everything else about Secret Guest, but it works for that one.

Also, I don't think I'm ever gonna be in a band where nobody tells me to relax and tone it down a little at some point.  I'm a spaz.

Which band could be a better opener for Secret Guest: Devo or Ween?

I mentioned this question to the band and everyone immediately said Devo, but I have mixed feelings.  Partially it's a weird personal hang-up, because I've always felt like I'm supposed to be more into Devo than I am.  (I just realized that this interview has already turned me into a pretty uncool dude: likes Travis, doesn't like Devo. But bear with me.)  I picked up 'Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!' because I thought it was rad that they named their album after a part from one of my favorite books of all time, The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells.  I fell asleep re-reading that book on a train through the jungle in Peru and had dreams about being pursued by strange beasts of prehistory and woke up with weird scratch marks.  It's amazing.  Devo, unfortunately, was not Moreau-y at all.  More like The Island of Dr. Ramones.  The rigidity of it, the canned drumming; it's more half-Xerox machine than half-hyena.  I respect it, but it never struck a chord with me.  Ween is comparable to Secret Guest in a really roundabout way, because we tend to have a lot of twists and turns in our set and you never really know exactly what you're gonna get when you come see us.  Also, we get (half-jokingly) called a "jam band" a lot, and I always laugh but it's kind of true.  We stretch a lot of our songs out, although I'd like to think it's more Built to Spill than The String-Cheese Incident.  Brett and I used to sing that messed-up spinal meningitis song to each other a lot, too.  You know, "It really hurts, mommy.  Am I gonna die?"  Under penalty of perjury, I'm going with Ween.

Are there any other extracurricular activities that help you make more sense of your current musical path? 

I don't think I could relate drumming to any of my other artistic pursuits without making a pretty pretentious stretch.  I'm working on a book as well, but if anything, drumming is a welcome break from having to put things into words and being in my head all the time.  I don't think they have anything to do with each other.  Sentences have a rhythm, too, though, maaan... no.  Kill me.  Really, having a steady drumming gig has inspired me more in general health and self-care ways.  It can be a pretty arduous physical task, so I've started running more and trying to eat healthier and not drink so much booze.  It's nice to have reasons for self-improvement that go beyond just doing it for its own sake.  If I hit the gym and don't smoke cigarettes, I play better.  So really, exercise, diet, and temperance are my extra-curricular activities with regard to Secret Guest.

What’s on the horizon for Secret Guest? 

Whatever Brett wants!  He's spent a lot of time as a role-player in bands where other people were the band leaders.  He's great at that and we'd never want him to stop, but from the get-go we decided this project was going to be his baby.  We make an active effort to let him make all the decisions, and it's worked out so far.  We're going on our first tour at the end of this month (January), which is really exciting for me because it's something I've never had the chance to do.  That said, we're touring the northeast in late January, so we will probably all die of frostbite.  So yeah, whatever Brett wants and frostbite.  Also, we're making a music video and maybe a live album?  All the Guestheads will just have to wait and see.