“On Your Own” : A Conversation With worrieabousatan’s Gavin Miller

The last time I spoke to Gavin Miller of worriedaboutsatan was back in 2017. It wasn’t long after the electronic duo released their album Blank Tape. Back in 2017 the band was a duo which included Miller and Thomas Ragsdale, and they’d been writing and recording together since the early 2000s. At that point they had amassed quite a body of work that spanned ambient, post-rock, and spectral electronica.

Well as Nilsson once sang, “One is the loneliest number”, but it doesn’t mean the show doesn’t go on. Miller and Ragsdale released Revenant back in 2019, then Ragsdale left to start his own label and do his own thing. This left Miller as the sole member of worriedaboutsatan. He didn’t waste any time turning worriedaboutsatan into a proper solo project, releasing new music throughout 2019 and 2020. worriedaboutsatan just released a brand new long player called Providence and it’s pretty amazing. Gavin Miller is pushing the band into newer directions, while still remaining true to the band’s origins.

I sat down and talked with Gavin about the transition from duo to solo artist, the new record, and the process of bringing worriedaboutsatan back to the stage. We also discuss new music on the horizon.

J. Hubner: So it’s been a little over four years since we spoke. It was a little after the release of ‘Blank Tape’. Things have changed quite a bit in the world of worriedaboutsatan. Catch me up.

Gavin Miller: Oh yeah, I remember that! Well after Blank Tape, the band was sort of plodding on nicely – we did quite a few festivals and tours around that time, and put out some records too. Then, the band became just me, and then I had to move house (I ended up doing it twice in about 6 months – not ideal!), so it sort of knocked me sideways a little. For a while I didn’t know if I wanted to keep the band going, but I’m glad I decided to carry on, and I started making records again, and hitting up some old friends to put them out. Mike at n5MD was really nice, and agreed to release Time Lapse on his label, which marked the first time I’d worked with a label in a long time. Him doing that really gave me that extra impetus to keep this thing going, so I’m grateful he was there for that!

J. Hubner: Going from a duo to a solo project, what has been the biggest shift for you creatively? Do you find yourself getting more work done or do you miss having someone to bounce ideas off of?

Gavin Miller: Yeah, obviously it’s kinda weird at first- going from making music together for 13 or so years to doing these records on your own was really disorientating. I’d been doing solo records on and off for a while, but I’d always tried to make an effort to have them sound quite different to satan, so that was always just a fun little thing I did in tandem with the band. Moving from that to being the main focal point and only entity behind the band and the profile, it was really daunting. The band did start as a solo project, but that was only for about 6 months before it became a duo, so I’d not done this sort of thing before. I had a lot of anxiety about how people would take to it, how I’d play it live, how would I make records, what would they sound like, etc. It is strange not to bounce ideas off another person, but I suppose like all things it’s a double edged sword – I get more done, as I don’t have to run anything by anyone else, but at the same time it does get a bit lonely, and your vision for things kinda gets a bit narrowed, so sometimes it’s nice to have that extra voice to snap you out of it. For now though, it’s all good – the only thing left to try is the live stuff, and that’s to come – I’ve been hard at work trying to make that sound good, and very different to what the band used to do!

J. Hubner: You’ve just released worriedaboutsatan’s newest album ‘Providence’. It sounds and feels more honed in. It’s sparse, but still vast in scope. What was the process of making the album like? There’s spiritual connotations to the word, as well as practical ones. What’s the meaning in regards to the record?

Gavin Miller: The album sort of stumbled together as a record. As soon as I’d finished Time Lapse, I set to work on some more stuff – just doodling to keep busy really, but I quickly amassed quite a nice little body of work, so I started to flesh it out, and I got ideas about how it would all flow and how it should all fit together. I’d been approached to submit some ambient techno stuff to a label I was talking to for a bit, so some of the tracks came out of those sessions (they didn’t use any in the end) and some were re-tooled from them. There’s a really funny version of ‘Für Immer’ as a techno track, and it sounds like absolute garbage – I had no idea what I was going for with it, but I slowed it down and stripped everything out of it, and it started to take shape more as a slow burning post rock thing, which is how it ended up on the album. With the title, I just really liked the word to be honest. It’s such a pretty thing to say, and it’s connotations with the spiritual side of things give it an extra layer of beauty. It’s not a comment on any of that kinda stuff, I’m not religious myself, but I do like the way it looks and feels when put with the record.

J. Hubner: I like the word providence as well, in terms of time and preparation. Speaking of time, we had quite a bit of it last year to ourselves alone in our homes. How did you fare over the 2020 lockdown? Was some of it spent working on the album? Did you read any good books? Enjoy any movies? Take up any new hobbies?

Gavin Miller: Lockdown was really strange at first – I think the reality of not being able to play gigs, or even see them, didn’t hit for a while. Providence was already finished at that point, but with no football season either, I thought I might as well hunker down and start making some more music! I got a good double album’s worth of stuff done, which is coming out soon-ish I think (I hope!) Books wise, I’m quite a slow reader, but did manage to finish up Jeffrey Boakye’s Hold Tight,
which is a great compendium of early grime and UK urban music, and I also made a start on Stephen Morris from New Order’s 2nd lot of memoirs – the first one was so good, and this new one’s really cool too. He’s a great writer. As for movies, it’s weird – I’ve not really been in the mood for much heavy stuff, so aside from shows like Dark, which I got seriously addicted to, I’ve mostly been watching comedies or stuff on Rifftrax (the guys from Mystery Science Theatre 3000’s new
thing) – just stuff to lighten up with a little.

J. Hubner: You mentioned ‘Für Immer’, which is one of my favorite tracks on the new album. I have to confess, I was sort of hoping for an ambient, post-rock NEU! cover.  What’s your process when sitting down to write? Do you start out creating soundscapes? Or is it more traditional like on guitar or piano? 

Gavin Miller: haha- it’s funny you mention that NEU! track, as I had it in my head when I decided to call it that. I really like NEU!, but my Fur Immer sadly has nothing to do with theirs haha! It was mainly because a little while ago, my dad discovered he had this sort-of secret side of the family which originated in Dresden, but came over to the north of England to work in the mills and heavy industry we had here. Thought I’d give my ancestors a little shout out 🙂 When writing, I don’t really have anything set out at first. Sometimes I’ll just mess about on guitar and find a nice riff, so I’ll record it and build everything out of that, or sometimes it’ll be a little fragment of audio which I’ll like, so will try and build a track out of that. Although sometimes I’ll just have an idea in my head, which will be like ‘right, I really want to make a song that sounds like HTRK, but more ambient – how would that sound?’ and I’ll just go from there with some synth, or a little beat or something. I sort of flip between those various methods each time, mainly due to boredom, but sometimes it’ll be because it feels nice to just break out of whatever I did last time.

J. Hubner: You said you were working on the “live” aspect of worriedaboutsatan. Can you give me an idea of what that might look like? Putting together a full band? Creating some kind of multi-media visuals to go along with the music? 

Gavin Miller: Ah the live thing! well, at the moment, it’ll be just me, surrounded by equipment, shuttling between it all whilst I frantically loop it. I’ve been working on a set for what feels like ages now, and it started life as me playing over loops in garageband on an ipad, but I eventually felt that doing that was a bit boring and didn’t lend itself particularly well to improvisation, so I ditched it and had a little think. I’d also been doing these livestreams on instagram during the lockdown, which was just me looping guitars and stuff, just keeping it all quite quiet and ambient, which I really enjoyed, but knew it wasn’t really a ‘satan’ set I could do live at a gig or whatever. So I steadily built up around that to what it is now – I bought a drum machine, I cracked out an old synth to do the basslines, and I’ve just added another smaller synth to flesh out the sound a
little more – it does these bouncy arpeggios which sound really cool! It makes all the old songs I’m playing sound brand new too, so it’s had quite an impact. I liked the idea of taking it all hardware too, and not wanting to use laptops (mine’s too old to use like that anyway) and stuff. Visuals wise, I haven’t quite got that together yet. I want something fairly immersive, and maybe not just ‘oh he’s playing a film of weird shit in the background whilst he plays’ – y’know, something a bit more than that. I’m sure I’ll get something together before too long!

J. Hubner: Ha! Everybody loves weird shit in the background!  Well, you’ve made a hell of an album with ‘Providence’ and it sounds like you’re on track to bring worriedaboutsatan back to the stage in a unique and exciting way. What’s the rest of 2021 looking like for Gavin Miller? Can you tell us anything about the double album? 

Gavin Miller: haha yeah, and god knows satan has done enough of that in the past! 

Thanks for the kind words on Providence – 2021 is shaping up to be a fairly busy year, even if touring is still unavailable for the first half of it at least. I’ve got so many records and things in the pipeline, it’s knowing where to start! Things I’d sent to labels ages ago are now only seeing the light of day because of covid disruption, and obviously as I can’t tour anything, I’ve just been making more and more music, so it’s all piling up in this beautiful little mess of a schedule!

The double album is a strange one. I made it when I first moved to this new house I’m currently in. It was sunny (a rare thing for this part of the world), and I was bored, so I just sat and made all this stuff. Some of it is quite sedate, more guitar based, and some is a bit more experimental and electronic. It kinda all fits though, so it’s not like a wild ride of disparate genres or anything! I wanted to do something a little different with them, so I’m doing them as sort of mixes instead of albums – they’re coming out as 1 track CDs, but made up of different songs, all sequenced together. I got the idea from that album ‘My Sister = My Clock’ by dEUS. They’re the Belgian band I took the satan name from (track 3 on their EP ‘Theme From Turnpike’ is called ‘Worried About Satan’), but basically they had loads of unfinished material from their first album, and their label wanted something to tide over fans until their second, so they took all the scraps they had, and put them all together as 1 giant track and interspersed it with weird field recordings of them on tour, or them in the studio. It’s really mad, and not massively listenable, but it’s an interesting curio nonetheless. I basically wanted to copy that, but make it more like you were listening to scraps of fully formed satan songs, all sandwiched together with a purpose. In fact, I remembered after all this dEUS stuff that one of my other favourite bands, Underworld, did a similar thing with their ‘Riverrun’ series (this being my favourite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxK7AyNMUBQ) -which is all floaty ambience, gently shifting from one tune to another over 30 minutes. That was more what I wanted these things to sound like, but maybe they’re a perfect mix of the two approaches!

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