Interview with Milo (8-15-03)
By Ronnie

When I first met Milo, what struck me was his slight resemblance to Pauly Shore - he could pass for his younger brother. But unlike Pauly, Milo is no flake. We sat down before one of his shows to talk about his music and his attitudes towards making music.

Right: Milo

E.C.: My first question, have you not played live much with a group before?

Milo: I've done parties, open mikes and basement jam sessions. I guess the most people that I've played in public with at one time is like a trio. But like an 'open mike night' and just did a couple of songs.

E.C.: So, is this band tonight the people on the record?

Milo: This band is mostly the people on the record. It was originally planned to be the people on the record. But the drummer on the record is in North Carolina for a family reunion. The singer on the record - she quite after the last rehearsal (laughs), so we got a new girl singer who just picked up a copy of the CD on Tuesday and she said, "I'll see you at 10:30 on Friday". She said, "give me the disc on Tuesday and I'll have the songs down by Friday" (laughs).

E.C.: There isn't much bio information on your website…tell me a little bit about how long you have been playing, your influences, etc.

Milo: I've been doing home recording since about '98. And put out two cassettes. Then I put out my first CD, "Smell The Parade", which was on CDR. I folded the paper, I mean it looked like a CD, but I folded the covers myself. There are maybe 300 copies in existence. And the tapes are maybe 100 copies; they went to friends and stuff like that. It made it as far as like Vietnam.

E.C.: Really?!

Milo: Yeah, because I have friends in different places. (laughs) There's not many of them, but they are all over the world.

This is the first one [DARKSIDE OF THE RUMOURS] that's like not on CDR.

E.C.: It's mastered and everything….

Milo: Actually, the CDR was mastered by the same guy who did this one. But, this is the first on a regular CD.

E.C.: What's the deal with the zucchini [on the cover of the CD]? Was it like a take-off on the Velvet Underground?

Milo: Yeah, I was trying to make the best album ever made and so I figured that if I drew as many references on like the best albums of all time, it might bring me some good luck. So "Dark Side of the Moon", Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" and the Velvet Underground "Nico" album. And then at the end is a little extra part where cars go by and birds chirping. "Pet Sounds" they have a train going by and a dog barking - so I got cars going by and birds chirping. Not that these albums are influences…those are just albums that are always on 'top 100 all time' lists. They would be good luck charms for me. (laughs) So, that's why the zucchini.

E.C.: I didn't know if it was a Spinal Tap reference, since they've got the cucumber incident…

Milo: Somebody said that to me, "this looks like a combination between Velvet Underground and Spinal Tap." And Spinal Tap is cool, so I don't mind.

E.C.: Tell me about the songwriting - you have a couple of outside songwriters, how did that come about? Was it people you knew? I know James Richard Oliver, he also writes for EAR CANDY.

Milo: He's great, I love his stuff. I found out about him through the lo-fi, home-taper scene on the internet. I found out about his music, and I really dig his music. I heard that song ["Jesus Loves Me Why Can't You?"] and I really wanted to do a version of it. So, I asked him if I could and he said, "sure".

The first song ["Happy World"] is by Shari Elf, a very happy girl from Kansas. She has a great album called, "Forcing Goodness Upon You", and it's always really cheerful stuff. She has one album, it's the same thing, home recorded album. And her whole thing is like she's…and it's kinda the opposite of mine…she's cheerful and happy all the time. All her songs are about positive thinking and stuff like that, and I just took the happy song and gave it a dark arrangement. Hers sounds nothing like that. And the J. R. song, his version is electric and mine is kinda more acoustic. I tried to put a different spin on and still be true to the song, cause they are both great songs.

E.C.: Your songs…there is some interesting song subjects like on "Maggie's Tale"…

Milo: A true story! People don't listen to the end, because they think the dog got killed. Actually it's a happy story, one of my happiest songs. Because it had a happy ending. You just have to wait for it. I really did have this dog, and she had a little stub of a tail. When you came home and she didn't have a tail, she'd just shake her whole butt, because there was no tail. She lived a happy life…but it was true.

E.C.: My favorite song on the new CD is "Work", because I can really identify with that song. Because I'm at a day job that I really fucking hate right now [thankfully no longer there!]. In fact I was listening to it on the way to work the other day and it was playing when I pulled into the parking lot. (laughs) I was like, "hmmmm, is this telling me something?"

Milo: Well, that's from another true story. Actually, on that one, it just came to me while I was at work. I was actually driving back to work and it just popped into my head. But when I recording it, I wanted to give it a sound…like Merle Haggard's "Working Man's Blues". And there's the sound of someone hitting a pipe or something and it just sounds like work. I wanted to try and do something that did the same thing. Obviously it's the same subject matter as "Working Man's Blues" or "Take This Job and Shove It". I just like the way he did it, where it was about work and you hear this monotonous "clank, clank, clank" - and it just like fit perfectly.

E.C.: I noticed definitely some country influences on a lot of your songs…

Milo: Well, I lived in Nashville for 5 years. And I heard a lot of good music there. Really bizarre shit that was somehow country based at the same time. There were these little dive honky-tonks that they played in and you heard some great music. Even growing up, my dad's two favorites of all time was Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. So I always heard it, like my whole life.


E.C.: Do you consider yourself avante garde? One of my favorite songs of yours is "Minimalist"…that almost reminds me of Yoko.

Milo: I try NOT to be…I want it to be stuff that people like. I don't wanna be avante garde in like that it's just too freaky for people to listen to. I mean, why do it then. I want to make music that people like.

When I write songs, its not like I sit down to 'write songs'. Its either I'm driving in the car or I'm taking a shower or I just woke up and I kinda dreamed it. And it comes to me pretty much in full, like the whole song. I don't just sit down and write….it's just the whole thing…it must be going in there somehow. But I'm not really conscious of it, it just pops out all at once. Just like pours out. So, it's not consciously trying to sound like this or sound like that. It is what it is.

Like in Creative Loafing it said it had "dark comedic conceits". And I think 'conceits' means like 'pretentious'. I mean it makes me laugh and sometimes it makes other people laugh. Its based on like sorrow and misfortune and so the motivating force behind it…like my worst moments - I'll write a song about whatever pathetic thing is going on in my life. But it will be funny and it will make me laugh, even though everything else is just miserable at the moment. Like the song "Misery" - I'm miserable and I write a song about being miserable that I thought was funny. It made me laugh. Laughter and sadness are not pretentious things by nature…they can't be.

E.C.: Some of it almost reminds me of the Springsteen album, "Nebraska"…

Milo: YES! I'm so glad that you picked up on that because there's one song, "The Ballad of Earl and Elektra". I was doing that and I using like a high mountain kinda tenor voice and the drummer said you should do like a Bruce Springsteen thing. So, I actually went out and bought "Nebraska" to like figure out how to do this song and make the song work.

E.C.: But yours is like a tongue-in-cheek "Nebraska" because to me, "Nebraska" is just too damn depressing. I've only listened to my copy maybe two times.

Milo: Mostly I try and write funny songs. I mean I could be really depressed when I'm writing. Not necessarily, but sometimes I am. But, still I want the songs to be funny. I don't like want people to listen to it and slash their wrists, I want them to listen to it and laugh.

But definitely the "Nebraska" thing. I mean I didn't have that Springsteen album, and that was the one that the sound would have worked for that. And I bought the album and I realized, you know, this is just like all the lo-fi shit that's going on. He did that with a little home recorder. Just like two guitars, harmonica and a vocal. And you can hear the tape humm in the background. It's like home recording shit going on and I thought it was so cool. And so listened to it over and over again and tried to do a Bruce Springsteen impersonation for that song, just to make that song work, because it wasn't working at it needed something.

And actually I'll do that sometimes, I'll have a song written. And because I've never heard anyone sing it before because I wrote it…it's hard to sing. Because, if you like hear a Rolling Stones song you can sing it because remember hearing it on the radio and you know how it goes. You write your own song and it's hard to sing because you don't have it in your head - you don't have like a tape playing of it in your head. So a lot of times, if I'm stuck and I cant come up with a vocal for a song, I'll say, "how would Merle Haggard do this one?" Or "how would Bruce Springsteen do this one?" And I'll actually do an impersonation of someone so that I can make that song work. It's not that it's always made to be an impersonation of that person…is just that when I put all the other tracks down and it was time to put the vocal on…and I'm like, "how am I going to do the vocal?" I'll think "well get Willy Nelson in here, he'll do the vocal!". (laughs)

E.C.: Your voice is very distinctive…

Milo: It's funny because when I do cover songs, I have to capo everything up because I can't sing in the low keys. But it's just like the frequencies…it's a weird thing that I cant sing low notes, but when I sing mid-rangy notes they sound like frequencies.

E.C.: You told me what you listened to growing up, but what do you listen to now? That you find interesting…

Milo: Well….what I listen to now… different styles of music, not one particular thing. I like the Flaming Lips right now, I've been listening to that a little bit.

You know it's hard to think of what I've been listening to, because I've been listening to this shit because I'm trying to rehearse for the show. So, I'm listening to it over and over again so that I don't forget the words and remember where all the changes are. (laughs) So, I haven't been listening to anybody else's music! (laughs)

E.C.: What are your plans for playing live in the future? Just the Atlanta area?

Milo: I don't know, we'll see how tonight goes. Because doing a band is a new experience for me. I had my idea of how I wanted it to go and really sparse arrangements here, we're all going to be very restrained - a little bit of this and a little bit of harmonica over here. Just kinda sparse arrangements, a lot of interesting stuff just floating in and out of empty space right? And as soon as you hit the first beat, everyone's playing all at once, from the first note to the last. So, that went out the window. And then they had a mutiny, that they informed me of tonight. Because I was going to have it where we start as a trio, then another gets on stage, then another until the whole bands up there. And have some songs where there are different combinations, some songs with just me and the harmonica player. Different combinations so that it wouldn't be the same sound all the time. But they informed me tonight that they're all playing on every song. (laughs) So they mutinied, so my dictatorship didn't last too long. They had a coup, so now I'm just the front man!

E.C.: Tell me about

Milo: It was basically to put this stuff…to have a home for this music. And I have another guy on there, Joel Tuttle. He plays here pretty regular and I produced his record which…I think he's really good. So this is the third record I've made on gloomytunes. "Smell The Parade" was the first album, then Joe Tuttle's, then this is the third one.

I would like to make enough money off this album to do another one without going broke. I mean that's a luxury, cause it cost money to do this shit. But, if it pays for itself, then I can do another one. If it doesn't pay for itself, my bank account's getting kinda low and I may have to retire from it. (laughs) But that's it, that's my goal. That's like having your hobby, you're thing that you do, paying for itself.