Sound Waves: Deron Miller talks Horror and Rock
Deron Miller is the founder and primary songwriter of CKY. He has paved the way with melodic songwriting and thick riffs that will stay in your head for decades. Whether its CKY, World Under Blood, Foreign Objects or his current band 96 Bitter Beings...Deron never fails to deliver the goods. In fact, he goes above and beyond when making something for the dedicated fans. Today we're discussing all things rock/metal and horror!
Before we dive into music, I know you're a big horror fan. Have horror films always influenced the music you wanted to make in some capacity?
DERON: Definitely, and thank god. One of the things that made me so excited about being a rock and roll maniac and a metal head was when I realized I didn’t have to write love songs. The only topics that rock bands ever wrote about was tits, ass, pussy and beer. Blue oyster Cult taught me that rock wasn’t limited to that. Being introduced to Ozzy and Metallica confirmed it. Once I knew that an audience was open for hearing what I had to say, it was comfortable choosing the topics.
Sometimes music can represent a time in someone's life and what they're going through at the moment. In a weird way, it almost feels like time travel depending on the time and place.. Carver City is an album I cherish to this day. It was a safe space for me to escape to while I was traveling across the country at a young age to go to film school in Western PA. Carver City, to me, is the perfect CKY album. Sonically, musically and the overall theme. Can you tell us a little bit about how the album was conceived and what made you want to lean into the horror elements more than the albums previous to it?
DERON: It’s always fascinating to hear someone’s story about how an album affected them. I have feelings and stories for every single album I love and even some for ones that I don’t like. That’s one of the most interesting elements that are divisive between the creator and the listener. They never have anything in common.
Making Carver City was so much fun because there was no doubt it wasn’t going to be tense. We had broken up in 2008, but we took Roadrunner’s money and lived off of it. Paid bills and mortgages, etc. We were completely oblivious that you can’t sign a record deal, take the money and do nothing.
So I arranged to get the album done with Logan Mader using tracks that were already recorded. Some of that album was recorded in 2007 and 2008. When Chad found out through the label that I had plans to finish the album without him being involved, he went nuts.
That’s kind of what I was hoping for, because it cut through all the drama that wasn’t important and put us right back into the situation that was important: to bury the hatchets and make an album. It ended up being my favorite in a similar way that it became yours. For you It’s the soundtrack to driving to film school. For me it’s the soundtrack to burying the hatchet between brothers and coming up with a masterpiece. But one of us couldn’t hack it.
You've talked about The power of "word of mouth" being the best promotion. I would also add that physical media is still important as it ever was when it comes to promoting any art form. Could you expand upon how "word of mouth" has helped you in your career? Also, As someone who collects lots of physical media, do you see yourself ever stopping?
DERON: Sometimes I tell myself I’m taking vinyl collecting too far. Having doubles and triples of albums that have only the slightest differences. I usually think about that when I can’t think of anything I have left to buy.
Over the years there have been some people close to me that have said it’s a waste of money. But I always thank god that I have no interest in cars, sports, fashion or anything else expensive because at least buying records, if your smart, is an investment. Some people go broke after buying their “dream car” or “dream dress” because it loses all value as soon as they hand you the receipt. I’m not drawn to worthless, extravagant trinkets.
Word of mouth is important to me because it’s organic. Like probably every musician or band, I receive offers very often from some tacky internet hacks…, where the transaction is “1,000,000 clicks for $1,000”. How embarrassing to have a business that offers that. Even more embarrassing is to take them up on it. If you buy bots, clicks and streams, how the hell will you ever know who your real audience is?
Eventually all those phony numbers catch up with you when they don’t produce the results you thought they would. Keep it real.
Recently, you talked about working on film scores. What made you want to venture into that field? Do you have any influences when it comes to film composers?
Goblin in the late 70's
DERON: My buddy and I just completed our first film score job. I’m now a professional movie composer as I say, because I was paid and we finished the job. John Carpenter, Christopher Young, Harry Manfredini, Alan Howarth, Goblin. Among others, they all had a hand in influencing me to get into scoring at the same time I got into rock and metal. Movies and rock music have everything in common when one of the main focuses is on horror.
You've mentioned in the past that horror movies with supernatural elements don't scare you and you prefer something that COULD happen to you in real life? Is there any movie out there that got under your skin?
Michael gazes upon his victim in Halloween
DERON: It seemed like overnight when I went from being terrified of horror movies to the point where I literally couldn’t sleep up until I just enjoying the suspense and the story. Eventually I watched a film without being terrified in an unenjoyable negative way. When I first saw “Halloween” in the 80’s, it scared me but it didn’t leave a scar. I liked the jumps and the suspense. “Friday the 13th” on the other hand…was different. The killer had a motive that made you question your morals, sanity and humanity. Same goes for “Prom Night”. When a horror film, especially a slasher, is clever enough to have you questioning whether or not you side with the hero or the villain, there’s a lot to take away from those feelings. There’s a lot you can get out of that if you’re a creative person.
Black Christmas (1974)
“Strangers” scared me in the theater. The original “Candyman” scared me in the theater too. “Silent Night Deadly Night” freaked me out because again, it was an example of who do you side with; the heroes or the villain? I hadn’t seen the original “Black Christmas” until the early 90’s. I bought the VHS tape in 1997 and my girlfriend and I were scared but the last 2 minutes put it over the edge.
A supernatural film like Friday the 13th part 6: Jason Lives, or Hellraiser…they can be entertaining but I don’t see how they can be scary. They’re not possible. If something isn’t possible it can’t be intimidating.
Synergy Restored came out last November and I can tell you for me it's been on HEAVY repeat for me since the release. One thing I noticed is the songwriting for the album is one of a kind. Unique melodies with thick and hypnotising riffs which any fan of yours will instantly be familiar with. What was the first inkling that you felt this album was special during the writing/recording?
DERON: Camp Pain and Synergy Restored are milestones because I was armed with more freedom and more talent. These albums along with Galactic Prey…they would have happened anyway… but I think the focal point I was obsessed with at the time unbeknownst to me was that I needed to prove to myself and anyone that questioned it; that I was the one that came up with that sound. Do people help me achieve that sound? Of course. But they don’t have to be the same people.
Other than Rock and Metal, you've talked about liking other types of music in the past. I remember you mentioning bands like Abba, Flaming Lips, Sparks, etc...is there any other bands you gravitate towards that might not be in the same field as Rock and Metal? Whether it's older or newer bands/singers?
DERON: I like good songs. When a band has more than one good song, I become a fan of that band. I like M83, Loudon Wainwright III, etc. there’s too many to name. But most of it is old. Haven’t heard anything recently made that I like. Apparently new M83 is shit. But I have more than enough old music to love for the rest of my life. Whenever I get bored, I know how to make my own.
Now that you're officially the singer of Malevolent Creation...which I assume is a DREAM job for you. How is that process going? What should fans expect?
DERON: Well whatever the end result is. I have to do a good job. I really don’t have a choice. I’m doing it for the band because they’re my all time favorite, but I’m also doing it for Bret Hoffmann, who has never been easy to replace. So it’s intimidating, but I love that. Expect extreme brutality.
Going back to Physical Media, what is your take on the recent uptick in vinyl, CD and even some bigger bands releasing tape cassettes... Do you think its the older generation of fans clinging onto nostalgia or is there bound to be a new wave of physical media lovers?
Both. It’s an opportunity for everyone to be a part of what they missed out on; and it’s an opportunity for the older folks to tell them I told you so. In the past you've discussed the possibility of making short films, is something you still want to accomplish? On that same subject, Have you thought about directing music videos?
DERON: I had a hand in the shock and terror video but that was back when music videos made a splash. I’m working on making short films but not just directing. I’d like to wear a bunch of those hats. Working in any entertainment industry is a grind. Even more so when you're independent. What advice would you give any aspiring artist?
DERON: Look outside the box because you don’t have any other choice.
What should fans expect moving forward with 96? What would you love to accomplish in 2023?
DERON: The best or better. There’s no other answer to this question.
Be sure to buy/stream/share 96 Bitter Beings new album Synergy Restored and to check out the upcoming 2023 Synergy Destroy Rebuild Tour Dates where they will be playing the CKY classic Infiltrate.Destroy.Rebuild album in full!