Ben Miller/degeneration & Phantom Pilots – April 30th

From 1969 to 1971 (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Ben played guitar in Sproton Layer, a psychedelic rock quartet with brothers’ Roger (Mission Of Burma, Binary System, Alloy Orchestra) and Laurence (Destroy All Monsters, Larynx Zillion’s Novelty Shop, Mr. Laurence). With all band members still in High School, Sproton Layer opened up for Commander Cody & The Lost Planet Airmen and Carnal Kitchen (led by sax player Andy Mackay). Sproton Layer was described as “Syd Barrett fronting Cream” in “Our Band Could Be Your Life”, a book by Michael Azzarad.

In 1974, the Miller brothers formed The Fourth World Quartet with Jack Waterstone. Instrumentation was Piano, Bass Clarinet, Saxophones and electric guitar; a blend of 20th Century composition andfree improvisation. In 1975, Roger was replaced by composer/pianist Denman Maroney.

From 1976-78, Empool, led by twin brother Laurence, was a creative workshop ensemble that seemed to be in a constant state of transformation. A website and CD release is imminent.

Also in 1976, Ben and Lar joined up with Cary Loren‘s Destroy All Monsters. In 1977, as their second incarnation, Ron Asheton (The Stooges) and Michael Davis (The MC5) joined the party, and for the next two years this Ann Arbor/Detroit based punk band pumped out a haphazard wall of sound opening up for Sonic Rendezvous, Pere Ubu, The Ramones, Devo, Lydia Lunch, Suicide, The Romantics, The Stranglers, and others. Lar and Ben left the band late 1978 due to creative differences. The band continued as a quartet until 1985.

Ben’s Destroy All Monsters interview Apr. 2004

While not as well known as the Stooges or the MC5, Destroy All Monsters were another Ann Arbor band whose influence far outstretched its life as an active band. Combining art punk, free jazz, garge rock and lead singer Niagara’s histrionics, Destroy All Monsters were the hidden link between the Velvet Underground and no-wave bands like Sonic Youth.
Josh Steichmann ANN ARBOR CURRENT Sept. 2004

In the early ’80s, Ben and Laurence formed many Ann Arbor avant rock bands; The Same Band , The Other Band , Low Income Zone, Radio Silence, and Nonfiction. Nonfiction being the most well known opened up for The Replacements, Lydia Lunch, Mission of Burma and others. Their 1984 release “Walking Sideways, Talking Backwards” included Ben’s arrangement of Laurie Anderson’s O-Superman! Nonfiction disbanded in 1985.

In 1982, Ben formed GKW with language artist Robert Currie. Originally this was a seven-piece garage artrock band with two rhythm sections. Its members came and went as did its creative focus. In 1985, GKW disbanded and reformed as a duet basing their sound more on minimalism. They played infrequently with little regard to audience attendance. In 1991, actors/directors Linda Kendall and Peter Knox joined up honing a performance art sensibility until the group finally disbanded in 1994. GKW’s highlights were opening up for the Ann Arbor 16mm Film Festival, presenting workshops on collaboration at Columbia College Chicago and participating in a performance art weekend gig at Focus Gallery, Detroit, juried by Laurie Anderson. The group concentrated on prepared guitars, stereo tape loops, analog synths, and other outmoded technologies during the decade’s rise of digital fanaticism. GKW produced six cassette releases. A CD Box collection is in consideration.

M3 is a recording-only project with Miller brothers Laurence, Roger and Ben. Being that no brother lives in the same state, this long-distance collaboration is infrequent at best. Since 1989, they have released two very different CDs; self-titled and “Unearthing”. M3’s third CD is in the recording process (Mar. 2010) and a live show @ The Nervous Center, Chicago (2001) is in consideration.

Ben played prepared stereo guitar for Chicago’s Dirty Old Man River from 1997 through 2000, and can be heard on both The Saddest Movie Screen and Ageless.

Phantom Pilots are Joe Plessas (Bedouins, Quartet Trio, Birds Anonymous) and Rob Coye (Grisly Fiction, Quartet Trio, Small Girl Boils Water). Their first flight was August 2006. Their (rare) gigs are electric guitar recitals. Both Rob and Joe are pedal pushers. Joe trumps with his ‘Mountain of Mayhem’ set up. Both Pilots are e-bow certified. Many of the recorded tunes were spot-composed after pressing the record button. (Is it still improv once it’s recorded?) The sound is Fripp and Eno-ish, with a touch of John Fahey, and a nod each to pre-‘Dark Side’ Pink FLoyd and a Genesis tune called “Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats”. Phantom Pilots have two albums out, ‘Due to Multiple Consecutive Bummers…’, and ‘Touch the Wall Keep Moving’. They are available at cdBaby, iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon MP3.

Show starts @ 8:30

$5-$10 Donation

One Response to “Ben Miller/degeneration & Phantom Pilots – April 30th”

  1. […] Metropolis Underground: From 1969 to 1971 (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Ben played guitar in Sproton Layer, a psychedelic rock […]

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