For the majority of his career, Argentinean-born guitarist Dominic Miller has offered his immense talent in support of other artists. Probably best known as “Sting’s Guitarist”, a title he bears proudly, Miller’s unique sound can also be found intertwined among the work of artists such as Phil Collins, Level 42, The Pretenders, Chris Botti, The Chieftains and even the Backstreet Boys, to name but a few. Even with constant demands on his time and talent, Miller manages to find a few moments for his own solo efforts. His latest CD, November, is his eighth solo release and offers fans a decidedly different side of Dominic Miller.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Miller by phone during a Sting tour stop in St. Louis.
How did the decision to make the shift into an instrumental format come about?
I like the contrast of working, what is arguably, one of the best day jobs in the world and then doing something that is the exact opposite of that, which is just instrumental music. I don’t want to compete with the day job, if you see what I mean. One of the rewards of working with so many great artists, like Sting, is that I have the ability to do records like the one I just did, without worrying about sales. I have the luxury of not having to answer to any marketing or anyone else’s expectations. So, really I just do what I like and what I like is influenced by the music I listened to when I was growing up, particularly in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s.
Was it difficult to compose new songs without lyrics to fill in the voids?
Oh definitely, in a way yeah, but for me instrumental music has a dialog of its own; it has a kind of narrative. I think that, in a way, instrumental music says more than lyrics. You just have to listen to really good classical music to see what I mean about that. But really, I don’t have anything to say on paper, as a lyricist. I can’t convert my thoughts into words, I mean, I like to write essays and letters to my friends, but I can’t write lyrics. I don’t have anything to say, besides, why would you want to listen to anything I have to say? (laughing)
You don’t seem to have any problem converting your thoughts on Twitter. (laughing)
On no, Twitter is great. (laughing) That’s the beauty of Twitter, you’ve only got so many characters, and then it’s done.
To record this album, you asked the musicians involved to put aside their personalities and “…let the tunes play themselves!” What kind of reaction did you get at first?
(laughing) They looked at me rather curiously. I mean, I told them the opposite of what most producers would tell them. Most producers would say, hey, I just want you to be yourself, man; just do your thing. I told them, guys, just stick to the script and I don’t want you to be yourselves. But in a way, I wanted the composition to be the star of the album. Not my playing or their playing. For solos, I hired musicians and told them that all I want you to do is what you believe, just do what you think, first impression. It was my first shot at producing a record in this way and I think we got what I wanted. It happened really quickly, over only a four day period.
Yeah, I read that the entire project only took a few weeks. Was it really that easy?
I think that it’s easy to make a record if you know what it is that you want to do. It’s about focus. I know people who can stay in the studio for months and months, grinding out these amazing arrangements and songs, but perhaps the reason it takes so long is that they really don’t have a direction. I think that once you have your direction, you just join the dots. It’s almost like creating a scene in a play. I knew what the scene was; I just needed to write the script.
For a CD that was created so quickly, I am quite impressed with the quality of the performance. Especially since you didn’t want to use ProTools or other studio tricks to clean up the work.
Well sure, I’ve got a good phone book, good musicians. There are actually some mistakes if you wanted to really analyze it, some tuning issues and there’s some tempo issues. But, what the fuck? The stuff I listened to when I was growing up had all kinds of mistakes, but they gel. The ProTools generation has just ruined everything, ‘cause everything is like perfect now. Imperfection is what makes something beautiful. It’s the contrast of perfection and imperfection that makes something work.
November is a decided departure from your previous work. Are you happy with the results?
Yeah, exactly. An album should just document where you are right now. You don’t need to take two years making an album. Nobody needs that anymore.