Years of Wrong Impressions: A Scott Miller Memorial
"Scott and I have known each other since second grade. We were in bands together in high school. Our first bands were in eighth grade, I think. We didn't do much more than play in the bedroom." - Jozef Becker, 1993
Rest in peace.
I first heard Scott Miller's band, Game Theory, the summer after my first year of college. Driving around the hometown from which I'd finally escaped the previous year, I heard a song that was half Let's Active, half Big Star. The chorus was huge and melodic; the lyrics were about turning 24 and still being insecure about your place in life. I was an instant convert. Later I bought Real Nighttime, the album from which "24" came. It was endlessly melodic, wide-eyed, a little arrogant. The combination of self-assured, huge power-pop hooks and insecure lyrics was irresistible. It is still my favorite Game Theory album decades later.
"I was doing music so far back that I don't remember starting. I remember singing into a tape recorder before I knew how to play anything. I got some kids together in the neighborhood to pretend we were the Monkees. But it was completely unclear to us that we weren't sounding exactly like the Monkees' records while we were doing this. We simply were the Monkees." - Scott Miller, 1993
In 1993, I interviewed Miller when his next band, the Loud Family, came to New York City. Along with Becker, his drummer and childhood friend, we spent about an hour chatting in the old Knitting Factory on Houston Street. I had been obsessively listening to the Loud Family's debut LP, Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things, for most of that year. It was a continuation of Game Theory's brainy power-pop sound, but slightly harder and more brittle. So it was with more than a little trepidation that I introduced myself at the Knitting Factory. To my surprise, he not only remembered a brief conversation we had at a Loud Family show a few months earlier, but he also remembered the fanzine I gave him. Our interview was engaging and thought-provoking, and I was proud to run it several months later in my next issue. We spoke a few more times at Loud Family shows, and he always remembered me and always took the time to chat for a minute or two.
"Everyone's kind of an idiot when they're an adolescent. But I have this gleaming record of it because I used to make tapes. So there's this record of my adolescent psyche and it's just...painfully obvious what an egotistical, self-absorbed creep I was. Kind of a liar, too. There were all these songs about my experiences with women when I was fourteen years old and a real, real virgin." - Scott Miller, 1993
In 2000 the Loud Family did a short West Coast tour. The band played in Seattle, where I lived at the time, at a club called Graceland. Before the show, several of us from the Loud-Fans mailing list got together for drinks. Some of our crew had flown out from Boston to see the band on this Northwest leg. Miller actually joined us at our table, and other members of the band came and went. I don't remember chatting much, but I was impressed by the fact that he'd chosen to spend his off-hours at a gathering of fans. It said a lot about his generosity and his appreciation for the limited audience who'd taken his music to heart.
But here's the thing: if you look around the Internet, you'll see that almost everyone has a similar story.