We are very excited to offer Blow The Scene readers around the world an exclusive interview with the multifaceted Jenks Miller, founder, songwriter, and active practitioner of blackened experimental band, Horseback. Jenks has been nothing short of prolific in recent years, with several releases by his solo-turned-full-band-project, Horseback, and his country-tinged rock ensemble, Mount Moriah.
Jenks was kind enough to go in-depth with Blow The Scene by reflecting on his current Horseback releases on Relapse and Brutal Panda Records. He also shares insight into his writing and recording processes, history behind the band name, lyrics, and visual motifs, and plugs his current play-lists and present happenings on the home-front. Jenks brings Blow The Scene readers all the way up to speed with his future plans as we head into the latter part of 2012.
Without further ado, lets here from Jenks..
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions for Blow The Scene readers around the World! Let’s begin by having you introduce yourself and declare your weapons of choice with blackened ambient project, Horseback.
Hello, and thanks for conducting this interview. I’m Jenks Miller from Horseback. Live, I perform vocals and guitar. On record I do a lot of other stuff. The rest of the live band is currently John Crouch on drums, Nick Petersen on bass, and Rich James on guitar.
Joshua BTS: Horseback just released a new album, Half Blood, on Relapse Records. Bring us up to speed on this recording. When did the recording process start for this record and were these recording sessions done when you recorded your latest EP, On The Eclipse 7″ Vinyl for Brutal Panda Records? Who did you record these sessions with and are you partial to any one studio or sound engineer?
Jenks Miller: The recording process began a couple years ago when Relapse first signed Horseback. I’m nearly always working on more than one recording at a time. As I’m working, tangential ideas frequently present themselves as a by-product of intense focus. Sometimes they complement the primary project; sometimes they undermine the project and suggest new composition approaches I might explore in the future. The two tracks on the 7” came about in this manner.
Joshua BTS: Horseback hasn’t taken on too many live shows in the past. Any plans or preparations to prepare this material for a live setting?
Jenks Miller: The live band rehearses fairly regularly. We all work day-jobs and play in other touring bands, so it’s difficult to coordinate regular live shows. We usually have to wait until a festival offer comes in.
Joshua BTS: Who crafted the artwork for Half Blood? And does this design correlate with lyrics or song motifs on the record?
Jenks Miller: Denis Forkas Kostromitin, a Russian symbolist painter, did the artwork. Denis is one of my favorite contemporary artists. He’s worked with Horseback a number of times in the past, beginning in 2009 with the initial pressing of The Invisible Mountain on Utech Records. Impose Magazine recently published an article Denis wrote about his artwork for Half Blood.
Jenks Miller: No, not when I’m writing. I try to keep that part of the process open, to allow for possibilities beyond my initial impulse. However, once I reach the editing stage, I narrow the focus to give each record its own identity.
Joshua BTS: Were there any moments while writing or recording Half Blood that saw you step out of your comfort zone and try some new things?
Jenks Miller: Oh, yes. I always try to challenge myself while recording, so that my own appreciation for different musics and various performance and recording techniques can grow. Once I’ve established a certain sound, I try to upset it a bit, either in the context of a single record or in the records that follow. I think this process has a lot to do with the way I listen to records: I like to think of records as self-contained, abstract environments, either intentionally or not-so-intentionally manifested in sound. My approach as a musician and an engineer involves a conscious attempt to create and/or explore sonic environments of my own. This may sound pretentious, but I don’t mean it be: it’s truly my life’s passion.
Joshua BTS: What are some of the unique challenges you face when preparing music for Horseback as the sole creator? Any plans of expanding or getting any other full-time members on board? Is there anyone that you confide in for additional perspectives when writing and recording?
Jenks Miller: When recording, I find quasi-solo projects very liberating. In general, I don’t favor a democratic approach to art-making. I can move faster and with more precision if I’m working by myself; importantly, I don’t have to compromise with anyone else on concept or direction.
The challenges presented by this approach have more to do with my limitations as a musician. John is a world-class drummer, for example, and far better on a drum kit than I will ever be. So he plays on many of the “full band” sounding tracks. It also makes sense to have other musicians involved so we can perform live when the right opportunities arise.
Jenks Miller: A friend supplied the name. Over time, it’s taken on certain characteristics, such as a nod to both western motifs and the apocalypse riders.
Joshua BTS: Despite the fact that many of your label mates on Relapse play very heavy metal and other forms of extreme music, it seems you’ve had no trouble garnering positive reactions from fans and critics alike with a more ambient and experimental approach. Were you ever concerned that Relapse‘s market base would be far removed from your musical offerings?
Jenks Miller: No, not really. I think folks have very diverse tastes in the internet age. Today’s metal fan seems to also appreciate noise, psychedelic, hardcore, Americana or folk music, classical, etc etc. It would be very presumptuous of me to think that metal fans couldn’t also appreciate the more experimental stuff — my opinion of metal as a music genre is much higher than that. I’ve been a metal fan since I was a kid, and have no problem appreciating other genres of music. I don’t see why I should be different from anyone else in that regard.
Joshua BTS: What are some of the lyrical motifs listeners will find on Half Blood? And what, if any significance does the album title have in relation to the lyrics?
Jenks Miller: This project draws inspiration from comparative mythologists and psychonauts like Joseph Campbell, CG Jung and Alejandro Jodorowsky, and the lyrical motifs lean heavily on various world mythologies. The album title alludes to the record’s diverse inheritance, among other things.
Jenks Miller: My other band is called Mount Moriah. We play and tour more frequently than Horseback is able. My life involves a few different day jobs, a family with two wonderful dogs and a daily practice of writing and recording.
Joshua BTS: Any other bands or art projects that really have your attention right now?
Jenks Miller: Here’s some of the stuff I’ve been listening to recently: Aaron Dilloway, Jodis, Haino/Ambarchi/O’Rourke’s Imikuzushi, the new Gunn/Truscinski record on Three Lobed, the Liberteer record the guys at Relapse passed my way, Celtic Frost, a beautiful record of Don Cherry + Ed Blackwell duets called El Corazon, Katatonia’s Dance of December Souls, a lot of dub, Kate Bush.
Joshua BTS: What do you have planned for Horseback for the rest of 2012 heading into 2013?
Jenks Miller: More recording (always more recording). And hopefully a few live shows later in the fall.
Joshua BTS: Thank you kindly for taking a few moments with Blow The Scene readers from around the world, as we look forward to keeping up with your future endeavors. Any final thoughts?
Jenks Miller: Thanks!
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