Interview with Jimmy Miller Part 3 of 3
What city are you based out of? If you travel a lot for gigs, how important of a factor is this? I’ve seen many bands where the members all live in different states but get together before a tour to put things together.
We’re based out of Orlando, Florida. If you travel a lot, you can live anywhere, but our band is half traveling and half local gigs, so it’s good that we live somewhat near each other.
How did you get in to the line of work you’re in? Backing up original artists from the 1950s and 60s seems like a very specific area of music.
Our guitarist, Bruce Wallace, is Mr. Network of Orlando. He’s the guy everyone calls when they’re looking for musicians because he knows everyone. He was already well-entrenched in the oldies scene, and I was playing in a house band with him at a local joint, and he got a call from Rocky And The Rollers’ drummer, Gerry “Rocky” Seader, who was looking for a bassist to play oldies shows. Bruce recommended me, and a few years later when we needed a new guitarist, I returned the favor.
Now that you’re ‘in’ the scene, what is the process from phone call to gig? Like traveling – do you tend to stay local or do you travel nationally or even internationally?
We’ll go anywhere people want us, including international travel. The process from phone call to gig varies. Some acts we work with we already know their show so I’ll just show up that day and do a soundcheck and show, and some acts might require a little prep time, especially if we have to sing harmonies.
How much gear do you bring with you when you fly?
I try to travel light, but invariably I end up bringing way too much stuff. A bass, a spare set of strings, a little Hartke pocket tuner, a couple cables. I recently got an A-Designs REDDI tube DI, and I’m going to attempt take it on all my trips now. If our band is playing by ourselves, I bring a Line 6 wireless so I can have free reign of the stage. I try to keep pedals to a minimum, but I like to at least have some overdrive available so I usually bring a Tech 21 VT Bass Deluxe. We rent an upright, amps, drums and keyboards when we travel.
If you’re limited in what you can bring, what is on your ‘must-have’ gear list?
If I pared down to what I consider my bare necessities, it would be a bass, a tuner, a couple cables, the REDDI, and/or the VT Deluxe. I’m a big Ampeg tube amp nut and I don’t like most DI’s, and the REDDI is the only DI I’ve plugged into that can truly hang with an SVT’s clean sound on its own terms. The REDDI’s rather big so if space and weight are at a premium I’ll just bring the VT Deluxe (and I usually bring it for overdrive anyway), but the REDDI is so good that I’ll usually figure out a way to bring it. Honestly, I could just show up empty-handed and rent a bass and amp and use whatever DI they have, but I prefer being in my comfort zone as much as possible when I’m playing, and I like to have some control over how my bass sound gets sent to the PA.
Do you get the music ahead of time?
Sometimes, sometimes not. If they don’t send us anything, we might try to find their hits on Youtube or maybe a recent performance with another band, but you can’t always rely on that. Sometimes they’ve changed their songs considerably from the original versions, sometimes those other bands they’re working with aren’t playing what they want to hear, sometimes they have a lot of other songs they’re doing besides their hits. So in those situations it comes down to sight reading.
What level of reading and/or sight reading is expected?
You don’t have to be the world’s greatest sight reader, but you need to be decent. Most of the charts we get aren’t too challenging to sight read, but some are. At the very least, you need to be able to sight read chord charts and simple notation, and you need the ability to work out quickly the stuff you can’t sight read.
How much rehearsing is done? Do you run the whole show or just work on spots such as transitions?
If it’s someone whose music we all know well, we’ll just do a soundcheck and go over any sound and lighting cues that the tech staff needs to know. If it’s someone we know but haven’t played their show in a while, we’ll just work on spots or do the first verse/chorus to get the tempos right. But we always fully rehearse the acts we don’t work with very often just to make sure there are no surprises.
Do you play arco at all? If so, or you a German or French player? Why?
I wish I played arco. I have a German bow, but in my hands it might as well be a chainsaw. I would like to rectify that soon, but I need to get off my lazy butt and take some classical lessons.
Would you mind sharing a funny or crazy gig story?
Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, January 2001 with Bowzer’s Rock And Roll Party, a giant oldies show with 12 different artists and we backed them all. It’s a show we’ve done at least once a year ever since, but this was our first time there and it was sold out. We were to open the show with a song by ourselves that our then-guitarist sang lead on.
We’re a pretty high energy band, and we hop and dance around a bit, and at the beginning of the song, I ran up to the front of the stage and did a big Pete Townshend leap into the air. When I came down, my feet went out from under me, I landed square on my tailbone on my way to being laid out flat on my back, and my bass made a loud “CLAAAAANNNNGGG!” As I’m struggling to get up, I see myself on the two giant TV screens on either side of the stage. I get up and we finish the song, and my tailbone is killing me and I can barely walk. Our guitarist walks over to me after the song, and I, like an idiot, think he’s going to ask me if I’m OK. As deadly serious as I’ve ever seen him, he says, “Hey ***hole, why’d you **** up my song?”
I replied just as seriously, “Because I hate you and I wanted to ruin your big moment.”