Friday, September 03, 2004

Scott Miller: every day is just one long day here.

There are a few people that come to mind that embody the idea I have of Sacramento. Scott is definitely one of them. If Sac had it's own money, Scott would be on the one dollar bill. He was in Nar, one of my favorite Sacramento bands of all time (in fact doing this interview made me think about how much I miss Nar) and he's currently in the world famous band the bananas and in the elusive yet great bright ideas. Scott is always down for a good time, whether that means being number one riverdog or hosting the best party of the year at christmas. Reading over this interview, I think that it came out a bit negative (which is partly due to the negative slant I gave some of the questions), and I don't think that really captures Scott's attitude towards Sac, but in the last few years Sacramento has been like that old friend that's fucking up really bad but that you still love and can have a great time with occasionally. We're at the crossroads where that old friend can clean up his act or fuck us over one too many times and then we snap and try to kill the mayor. I think I took that metaphor too far. Anyway, here's Scott...

Were you born and raised in Sacramento?
Yep…that’s all I can say about that.

O.k. Interview over. So where you born? What neighborhood did you grow up in ?
I was born at Sutter General and grew up in Old Land Park, by Riverside.

What was it like growing up in Sacramento?
At first, when you’re a kid it feels like just growing up anywhere, I don’t know, I enjoyed my schools and stuff. The kids I went to preschool with I pretty much graduated high school with. That really made an impact on me, having friends for a long time.

What high school?

What was the first band that you were ever in?
I was in a band called R.M.A.B.

What does that stand for?
It’s a secret!

Sorry! That was me and Ed and then Jason D. joined and then we changed the name to the Janked and our friend Tim started playing bass and it became more of a band. Before it was a band where we’d write lyrics and say, “ok, go!” and we’d just play one snare drum and an acoustic guitar and it wasn’t really a band but we recorded all of it, (laughing) so I guess it’s kind of a band now. But the Janked was the first band I was in that tried to write songs and I just sang in that band. We were kinda goth-y.

What were the venues where you saw shows back in the day?
I think the Oasis ballroom was where I saw my first local show but that wasn’t until I was sixteen. And that was, what, the Toy Dolls I think? I never thought about Sacramento as being that musical of a place. I guess when I was in high school we were like, “well, we’ll move to San Francisco when we graduate cuz that’s where there’s shows”. Like I never really realized what was going on - I knew who the Earwigs were - and that was the only local band who I knew, and I didn’t know of any venues, although it turned out there actually were clubs - the Oasis Ballroom and Club Can’t-Tell, and that was basically it before the Cattle Club.

I used to totally buy into the whole Loft vs. the Cattle Club thing, and I was totally on the Cattle Club side and I thought the Loft was all dumpster-diving snobs or something so I was wondering what your early perspective was on all that?
I feel like I’m lucky because I missed it in a way. Because, I mean when Nar first started we didn’t have anywhere to play so we just played parking garage shows, which I’m sure you know about to some degree and then we started getting Cattle Club shows because Jerry Perry heard us or something and put us on a show so our Cattle Club shows were pretty well-attended. We actually, for a year, had a somewhat legitimate following, and we thought “oh we’re like this local band that people know about”, but then Jerry Perry just kinda stopped calling us because it was like, styles were changing or whatever. And that’s when Ironsides started doing more shows and someone was like , “look there’s all these bands that the Cattle Club won’t book anymore that want shows so why don’t you do them”. And around then the Loft was starting as well. The Loft was one of those things that started where I was like, “Oh great. It’s about time someplace like this came around” but I never really saw it as a rivalry, I think as much as some other people did, probably because I’m older. Although I do recognize that that was the best place to play because it subtracted that quality of someone in charge or someplace where you had to say, “oh hey, sorry we’re late”, or “did we sound ok?” or something like that. Though I guess Ironsides was even like that in the beginning.

Off the top of your head, can you think of a memorable show?
Well…I don’t know… I can think of the shows that might look good on paper.

Not necessarily that.
My favorite show that we ever played in Sacramento was at a party that was at Tim White and Tim Foster’s at the Pet and Puppy center because we didn’t know we were gonna be playing. There were other bands playing and we were all there so they just asked us if we wanted to play. That’s when I realized how much I psych myself out for playing, and how much of the time, like a day, or two days before, or even the day after, was taken up by going “oh, did we play ok?” or “are we going to play ok?”. Just being able to spontaneously get up there and play I felt like we were so into it and I know a lot of people that think that was one of our best shows.
What bands have you been in?
I don’t know

You can’t think of them?
Yeah, look at Dave Smith’s list.

Ok, I’ll reference it.
What are some bad things about playing in a band in Sacramento?
My initial response is “oh god there’s a lot”, but I mean I really, I don’t know. The lack of a venue is the biggest. As a band, you can pretty much adapt to any venue you’re playing at, but I feel like for the audience there’s not a good place. Where people go, and feel comfortable and excited, and that’s sort of more important to me that the audience wants to see a show. And again that’s why the Loft was good because people just felt at home there. Even a place like the Distillery, we’ll play there because we’ll get paid, and people are mellow there but when I look out when we’re playing people are just kinda standing there. It’s not like they’re necessarily bored, they just don’t look like they wanna be there. That’s my main complaint about clubs, is that they don’t take the audience into consideration – what makes them comfortable and makes them want to get into it.

Which is not a five band show that starts at midnight.
Yeah, or employees that are assholes or bouncers that tell you you can’t do something. There’s this idea that goes along with punk or rock that things are going to get out of control, which they don’t really. But there are all these people who assume that’s what’s gonna happen. Just like a place like Ironsides or, not to foster the you know, True Love “battle” but I mean I was amazed when I went to see a show there just how many rules there were, like “you have to buy this amount of drinks” or “you can’t go here” or “sit down”. Do this, do that. It surprised me. I think that small things like that make a big difference, but that’s the main thing for me. And there’s kind of a missing generation. It seems like everyone’s either 21 or 31 right now, that’s an exaggeration but there does seem to be something missing. A lot of people didn’t come up for a while and that sort of killed off a lot of enthusiasm, I think. There are people like Marie and Charles, but there are not a whole lot of people that age that are in bands or doing something.

What’s your favorite Sacramento neighborhood?
I like the old area of downtown, where the numbers and letters get smaller. I mean, I have a fondness for Old Land Park because it’s where I grew up but I don’t think I’d really want to live there now. I don’t know, a lot of downtown I really like. I’ve never lived smack in the middle like Capitol and 21st, I’ve always thought that would be cool. I like a lot of it. Where I live, which is just in to East Sac, I like it but I do have to always ride just a little bit further than I’d like to.

The drawbacks and non-drawbacks about being single in Sacramento or the dating scene.
The drawback is that there just aren’t that many people around that I don’t know that look interesting. Not saying that you shouldn’t go out with someone that you know, because that’s awesome too. But you wanna get excited like when you first fell in love with somebody. It’s hard when it’s someone that you already know all about. Then again, I’m single partially by choice. I like not having to think about someone else all the time. I pretty much retreat in to my own little world when I’m on my own &, while that’s obviously not always the greatest cuz it gets lonely, I do tend to get more done at those times. I’m also just picky - I guess I’m holding out for that perfect mixture of dorky & cool – someone who doesn’t have to go to Lipstick every week but still understands why the Bananas are good. Cuz I don’t wanna have to explain the whole deal, “well, I’m in a band and we get drunk and we play these shows but we don’t get paid” You know I just don’t want to explain that, you know, “You do what?”

I think it’s really hard to date in Sac and that’s just why we date people we already know, but when you’ve exhausted that…
People age really slowly here because of things like that. I know very few people who have gotten swept up into moving in together and going off and getting married. I’m a little bit older than a lot of people but not that much. Even old man Soriano is just finally coming around and he met a girl in San Francisco. In some ways I like that every day is just one long day here.

(laugh) That’s a quote! Do you seriously think about moving, if so where?
My biggest regret in Sacramento is that I didn’t listen to everybody six or seven years ago and move to Portland. No just kidding, and buy a house.

No shit!
I really wish that I had known that. Because Sacramento is a great place to stay. People bitch when they visit and they say that there’s nothing to do and they’re right. But living, here I really like. I do wish that I had a place for all my shit and that I could just go off and do things. I was just in New York hanging out with Chaffin and it was fun but we did the same things we do here. You know we rode around and drank brews and listened to music, cracked each other up and went to some shows. It was more glamorous, a little bit, but by the end of the week he was just kinda looking at me like, “there’s nothing else to do”, you know. I like going to museums and shit like that but it doesn’t really define a place for me. I wish Sac had a little more of that, but I don’t need a lot of it. I just like to travel. I’d like to leave for a year, but I don’t think of specific places where I want to go for a year, I just wanna go around. That’s really vague. That’s a classic Sacramento answer.

That’s what I think. Cuz basically you do the same shit everywhere, and it’s whether you know people someplace or not.
It’s almost like there’s more of an embarassment of living in Sac than there is a dislike of living in Sac. Everyone feels like they should leave and if they haven’t left….

I’ve gotten over that personally. I don’t feel like that anymore.
I mean, even our dogs in SF, like Margaux or Jenny or something. It’s almost like they’re glad they moved and they’re happier when they come back and visit because they don’t have to think about it - they left.

They come back every weekend though!
Or what the chkchkchk dudes did, I mean they were smart, but they did it Sac-style, they did it as a gang. If ten of my friends were gonna move somewhere, I’d go. I wish people were in a state of mind to do that. I’m never gonna start bands that I’m as into somewhere else. Or meet people. I have friends all over the place just from touring. And I could definitely live in New York for a couple of months, but whatever, my life isn’t gonna change that dramatically unless I meet a rich woman or something.

Favorite restaurant?
That’s sort of like the biggest complaint of everyone. I like the Waterboy a lot, that’s somewhere I go with my mom. Where do I eat? I go to the Black Cat a lot.

You do?

I only ate there once and it was gross.
I like it. I generally go out to eat by myself a lot, so I take that into consideration. If I can sit somewhere and read or if it doesn’t seem like a “just one?” type of thing. I go to Morelia’s on the K street mall all the time. There’s not a whole lot of places.

You have to go out into the suburbs.
Definitely. When I was going out with Lisa we ate the best food of my entire life because we were driving out into the burbs all the time. And that made me realize that it really just is the downtown where there’s no good food.

Where’s your favorite thrift store?
I guess it changes. I like the Salvation Army off of Stockton by Florin.

The secret one.
Yeah, I like that one. There’s only a few I hate. I hate Next Time - I never find anything there. And I hate that Deseret by Skip’s.

More recent changes in Sac and how do you feel about them as far as your future living here?
Everyone I know is of the opinion that all the changes that are being made are bad. It’s so expensive and the kinds of people that are around these days are just more shitty. I moved downtown in ’86 and it seemed so cool to me. It was like, “wow, I haven’t been downtown except to go to church”, and it just seemed so sweet. I thought of it in my mind as hip but it was never like, “oh, that bohemian area”. Through the nineties it got categorized as that. And now there’s so many - I don’t even want to call them yuppies. There’s not even a word for them anymore. It’s just Paragary’s people. They’re all around now. What you could call the Bohemian feel of downtown is just not there anymore but there’s nowhere else to go. In a bigger place that’s more connected, there’s just sort of a natural migration. Here, downtown is kinda it - you can see people going like, “well, maybe oak park, or maybe del paso heights” but I don’t know that those neighborhoods have the same appeal. Basically, it’s getting so expensive but it doesn’t merit being that expensive. Like there’s a house that I saw in your neighborhood today and I’d kinda like to live in a house again someday and it was $1600 and it was shitty! That’s what makes me sad about it. If I don’t feel at home in Sacramento I’m fucked because it’s the only place I’ve ever felt at home. Those qualities, you know, they do worry me.

Favorite band in Sac now and all time?
I don’t have a favorite right now. Not one that stands out. There are about five that I like equally. I really like the Knightmares. I feel like every time I see them they sound different but they always like the Knightmares. I think Knock Knock is really rad. I like the Feeling, except when they sound like a Harlow’s band, like 10% of the time.

Do you want me to cut that out?
(laughing) No, I don’t care. I was at Ironsides and they played this song and I saw all the Harlow’s girls that were bored and waiting for them to finish start dancing. I like Daisy Spot a lot, although they never play. I thought Lyme Regis was really good although I’ve only seen them once. It’s not like hoppin’ in the way I would like it to be, but I’m as much a part of that problem as anyone else. The bands I start never get it together to play. As far as all time favorites, it’s hard to say. When the Pretty Girls first started I was really into them. I’ve always thought Daisy Spot was awesome. At every point since I’ve lived here there’s always some band I’m amped on. Oh the Four Eyes. The Four Eyes are the best band.

OK, I usually close up with asking about thoughts on the Kings or predictions for the Kings this season.
I think like everyone else, I’m worried about it. At the beginning of the last season everyone was like, “they’re gonna fuckin’ suck” and watching the first game got me so high because everyone was playing really well, so I have this hope that we’re going to watch the first game this year and they’re gonna kick ass. I haven’t lost the fever, well I’ve lost it a little bit, my fever went down a degree.

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