The Miller Brothers and Me
Below is the opening quote from the three part story of Hags relationship with Phil Miller & Steve Miller, the renown guitarist and pianist respectively, created for ‘Phil Millers The Legacy’ site.
Part 1. Five tracks from the ‘STEVE MILLER TRIBUTE GIG 12th May 2001′
Part 2. The compete recording from ‘Steve Millers solo piano CD ‘See Here’
Part 3. The compete recording from K.Ostra’s ‘….its out there’ CD
“BELOW IS THE NEW PIECE BY HAG, specially written for our website in three parts. To give you an idea of what the piece is about I have drawn up a list of the names of the people who appear in it:
Champion Jack Dupree, Alexis Corner, Mark Hewins, Pete Lemer, Patrick Dean,The Who, Jan Dukes de Gray, Pink Floyd, Nick Griffiths, Francoise Moze, Mark Knopfler, Dire Straights, Steve Phillips, Laurie Allen, Alan Holdsworth, Roger Odell, Shakatak, Gilgamesh, Hugh Hopper, Alan Gowen, Richard Sinclair, Soft Machine, Steve Cook, Robert Plant, Pip Pyle, Elton Dean, Jim Dvorak, Fred Baker, Mark Saunders, Jack Monck, Lol Coxhill, Carol Grimes, Roy Babbington, Gong, Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, Eddie Prevost, Steve Ash, Lou Gare & Keith Rowe, Tony Moore, Nick Biggins, BJ Cole, Steve Lane, Paul Dufour, Phillipe Janoyer, Veryan Weston and Dave Hammer.
This has been re-written by Hag specifically for his website as further information came to light with further added music and pictures.
Part 1. Strange Coincidences
I first saw Steve Miller, the elder brother of Phil Miller, playing solo blues & boogie-woogie piano at a London Blues Society gig at the Conway Hall London WC1 on the 7th December 1968. He was on the same line up as Champion Jack Dupree, (1909 -1992)
‘…..a New Orleans blues and boogie-woogie pianist, a barrelhouse professor‘.
This is a testament to Steves standing at that early date. He more than held his own. A white, gently well spoken English middle/upper class young man. His playing excelled & it equalled Dupree’s in quality & authenticity. I was sitting on the front row, fresh from Leeds enjoying the bigger city at the end of my 1st term at the ‘Regent St Poly’ London UK.
To this day I can still recall his performance not only because I retained the flyer for the gig as I had asked for the chords of the song ‘Strange Rain’ (Tom Paxton 1962) which another performer had sang at the gig. I’m guessing either Gordon Smith or Dave Kelly. He kindly wrote them out on the back for me. I didn’t discover this for many years when I found the said flyer amongst my music after I had become a friend of Steve’s in the early 1980’s.
Alexis Corner was also on the same bill who greatly respected Steve’s blues piano & whom Steve performed with. Later when Steve moved into Free Jazz Steve told me Alexis did not approve.
The second time I saw Steve Miller I thought was my first. It is a strange tale of coincidences going back to my youth that brought me to the Bull & Gate public house in Kentish Town London UK around 1982 to see Phil Millers ‘In Cahoots’.
As I arrived somewhat worse for wear Steve & Mark Hewins were performing. The music was strange, very strange with Steves free form piano and Marks neck rubbing spiralling sonic accompaniment. I found it brilliant and amusing. It made me laugh out loud. There are not many kinds of music that actually make one laugh in a complimentary manner from sheer enjoyment. It was the bravado, confidence and perfect seriousness I found so amusing. Steve told me much later that he recalled that gig with somebody cackling at the back of the hall. He wasn’t offended.
My friend Peter Lemer was playing with ‘In Cahoots’ which was the reason for my presence. They weren’t bad either.
How I came to be friends with Peter Lemer is as complicated as life. It goes back to my earliest musical friendships.
I began trying to play my elder sister’s ‘Framus’ guitar in 1962 when I was 13. She didn’t mind as she only used it for posing in front of her mirror. It took me some time just to discover how it should be tuned. It was awful to play I later discovered, action dreadful, intonation bad & it didn’t stay in tune. That was all I knew when one sunny afternoon in 1973 with guests around I got up from my cushion, took it from the wall and smashed it for effect a la Townsend and Hendrix. I later discovered ‘Framus’ is a noteworthy antique German guitar maker. Yes I was also smashed & stupid.
Patrick Dean was playing Purple Haze with his ‘Sugarloo Blues Band’ on stage in 1967 at Leeds University where he was a student when I first set eyes on him. He was dating Angela a friend of mine and shortly after that at a party at Angelas, Patrick played Jimi Hendrix’s first album fresh from the record shop booth. He had only got as far as listening to the feedback and first chord at the start of ‘Foxy Lady’ before leaving said booth to make the purchase. ‘Are You Experienced’ changed everything but that’s another story.
Patrick became a journalist for the Yorkshire Post, (see the original back liner notes for the Who album ‘Live at Leeds’), where he worked with Mark Knopfler, later of Dire Straights fame. We had a jam, me, Patrick, Mark & his friend Steve Phillips. I had by then learned to tune a guitar.
In 1973 Patrick left his wife, my same friend Angela, and his life as a journalist, to join the band ‘Jan Dukes de Grey’ who had a new contract with Panda, a management company in London. So Patrick came to stay with us, my wife Valerie and I and we both got work for and from Panda. The office was in a large flat in London’s West End, Montagu Mews. Dave Griffiths was their manager & Nick Griffiths his brother was also living there. We all became friends. Nick was then working for the BBC as a recording engineer. Hag & Patrick = Hat, with Nick Biggins watching 2nd from left
The owner of Panda management, Norman Lawrence, became the accountant for Pink Floyd around 1976. This is how Nick Griffiths applied for the job as Studio Engineer/Manager for Pink Floyd’s Britannia Road Studios then under development. The Floyd at this time were tax exiles. Nick succeeded in the appointment and put the studio together. When it was completed Nick Mason drummer of the Floyd asked him to record an album to work the studio up to a usable state. Nick Griffiths is best known for recording the kids singing ‘We don’t need no education’, the chorus in Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall part 2’ amongst other sound effects for The Wall album and engineering the subsequent tour.
Nick chose to record Peter Lemer’s band whom he had recorded at the BBC in various bands. Nick asked me to come in to meet the musicians. Well yes I would. Nick was working alone and Peter was also looking for a record cover. This is how I was introduced to Peter Lemer with Francoise Moze bass (Gong) Laurie Alan drums (who earlier had played with Steve & Phil Miller in Delivery) and later Alan Holdsworth guitar who was overdubbed onto one track.
I began photographing Peter at the grand piano at the house where he lived. The idea was to make him transparent so I photographed the piano with him naked and without him in the frame. I did experiment with using this idea for the CD cover of Peters recent release ‘Son of Local Colour, Live at the Pizza Express Soho’
(Link to the CD http://www.espdisk.com/5031.html)Peter Lemer at his piano with log 22nd May 1978
I also helped Nick by listening to the mixes he would give me on quarter inch reel to reel tape whilst I was working on the cover photo. However at that time Peter did not get a deal to release the music.
The CD ‘Peter Lemer and friends – Jet Yellow’ was finally released on 13th May 2019. It was embarrassing for me as Pete did not have any masters only some cassette copies of Nick Griffiths mixes. Nick had sadly passed in March 2005. I knew I’d had some original mixes from the 24 track but upon going through the old tapes I used on my Akai reel to reel for doing ping pong recordings of guitars I found the box but I had recorded over all the tracks. Such is fate. I did not expect to be holding masters 41 years later.Link to Peter Lemers store for ‘Jet Yellow’
It is a beautiful fine recording not touched by time. Listening to it now I am flown straight back to those days in the mid 70’s in my first darkroom in Belsize Park London NW3 working on my photographs.
This work for Peter was not wasted either as I used one as the piano shot for the inside back sleeve of Steve Millers ‘See Hear’ piano solo collection Phil released on his label Crescent Discs in 2002.See Hear piano solos CD back of cover insert1998 with Steve looking. Version not used for his ‘See Hear’ piano solo’s CD
This brings me back to why I was at The Bull and Gate witnessing Steve Miller & Mark Hewins supporting ‘In Cahoots’ in 1982. Six of us, Peter Lemer & I, with our partners, and the same Nick Griffiths, plus the bass player Steve Cook, had bought the large Glebe House situated between Spellbrook & Bishops Stortford which we were converting into four separate abodes.
Steve Cooke realised after moving into Glebe that he used to rehearse there around 1971 with the band CMU which contained Roger Odell on drums who went on to form Shakatak in 1980. Steve later joined Gilgamesh which Peter Lemer, Hugh Hopper, Alan Gowen & Richard Sinclair also performed with amongst others. Steve Cook became a member of Soft Machine in 1976.
It was Nick Griffiths who had found Glebe House as he had lived on Hobbs Cross Road as a child, the opposite end from All Saints Church where Steve Miller had his workshop. (Just a few more coincidences). Glebe House needed woodwork so we employed Steve Miller in 1983 to build our kitchen. He carried out work for all the households at Glebe House, Peter, Nick and Steve Cooke. This is how I became friends with Steve Miller. He came around to give a quote. We talked about music almost immediately having seen him perform with the great Mark Hewins.
I had continued to play with Patrick Dean down the years but he had now moved back north to Leeds. We had a great musical rapport based around improvisation. I loved improvising, being in the moment. Listening rather than thinking about what you’re playing. It was thus great to find somebody who just wanted to play and was local. It wasn’t long after that first meeting before I entered All Saints Church near Old Harlow where Steve had his workshop when we went to see our Iroko kitchen coming to life. I still have elements of this same kitchen in my present kitchen, bathroom & a coffee table top 40 years later.Steve working on our kitchen at All Saints with Min on our first visit in 1983
Steve was not only a craftsman of the piano he carried this over into his woodwork where he made his living. He rejected power tools and modern methods. He embraced traditional skills of sharp hand tools, no screws no glue just perfect joints & wedges. He practiced this to the extent of renovating ancient barns restoring them to their original form. Steve Miller at his bench 1983 I recently asked a local carpenter to join two of the rescued Iroko boards to create the coffee table. Upon collection he said.
‘A real craftsman made these boards, joined in the correct traditional manner of reversing the grain with a hard wood tongue inserted into the joint so the boards always remain flat’.
I then mentioned to him the same craftsman had a band with Robert Plant before Led Zeppelin. He looked up at me, mouth open then looked down and gave the newly joined boards a stroke.Steve plays,with Min and Gillie (then known as Ishbe) 1983
My visits to All Saints became a regular event. We played, we talked, we smoked, we drank coffee. The Miller’s father was a coffee importer and coffee was part of the ritual. To this day Steve taught me how to make coffee with nothing more than a pot and hot water. He also taught me how to make music seriously. He didn’t appreciate me slipping into amusing little riffs, rhythms or nursery rhyme’s randomly. Steve would stop on play back. Yes these were recorded on cassette as part of the ritual. Then explain this wasn’t appropriate. ‘This is serious music and should be treated as such’. It was OK for me to be amused as part of the audience but not as the performer.
There became a desire to have a night with Steve. It crept up as a need to play. The gaps were irregular, from weeks to months, though never years. Sometimes at Glebe, sometimes at All Saints. Children for both of us arrived so demands on time and perspectives changed but always the need to play remained.All Saints Church L to R Nick Biggins, Charlie Martinez, Steve Lane, Steve Miller, Hag 1990’s
Steve and I made a cassette collection recorded from 1992 to the end of 1995 called Pantheist Dreams in my basement at Glebe with Steve playing synthesiser and one track on piano recorded at ‘The Premises’ in Hackney, London, near Phil Miller’s home.
This friendship expanded to include Phil as I went to more In Cahoots gigs. He often visited Glebe House to work on arrangements with Peter Lemer & the whole band for various things. I would peer out of my window and see Herm photographing all of In Cahoots with Pip Elton Jim & Fred.
STEVE MILLER TRIBUTE GIG 12th May 2001
Phil Miller /guitar, Lol Coxhill /sax, Mark Hewins /guitar, Hag /guitar, Pete Lemer /piano, Dave Hammond /percussion & vibraphone, Steve Ash /Bass, Paul Dufour /drums, Arranged by Hag.
Recorded by Steve Lane using a ‘Soundfield’ microphone. This records the space in the room from one point in four tracks; Up, down, left and right. Steve then mixed these four tracks live to stereo. You can find these recording in the links above & at the top of this page.
Below are the guides/arrangements I wrote
(Parts 2 & 3 below. Still Under Construction)
Part 2. Making Music
Over the years Steve Miller began introducing me to other musicians and I once brought my old friend who started me on this path, Patrick Dean. It was a satisfying evening. One of the earliest meetings at All Saints Church was with the drummer Mark Saunders who I recorded with Steve & Phil and earlier with Jack Monk with whom we recorded four sessions in 1993 between March to May.
I was not aware at that time of Steve & Jacks’ rich history. In 1966 Phil & Steve had founded the ‘Bruno’s Blues Band’ with Phil’s school friend drummer Pip Pyle and Jack Monk on bass. The band gigged around London for a few years. In 1968, saxophonist Lol Coxhill joined them, and the band’s name was changed to ‘Steve Miller’s Delivery’. In 1969, the band teamed up with blues singer Carol Grimes and the bassist Roy Babbington replaced Jack. They then recorded ‘Fool Meeting’. Later Pip Pyle left to join Gong and was replaced by Laurie Alan who later left to also join Gong. When Delivery disbanded Steve joined Caravan & Phil went on to found Matching Mole with Robert Wyatt and Dave Sinclair.
Robert Wyatt was a founding member of Soft Machine and had left the band as it veered away from vocals towards Jazz, Jazz Fusion or Jazz Rock as it is now known. He called the band Matching Mole as the joke o f an english pronunciation of the french for Soft Machine, Machine Molle. In 1972 a new Delivery line-up was assembled with the Miller brothers, Pip Pyle and Richard Sinclair on bass & vocals then Steve Millers bandmate in Caravan. They played a few live shows later that year but with Dave Sinclair on keyboards replacing Steve Miller. They then changed the name to ‘Hatfield and the North’. Their first gig under that name was on the 17th November 1972. On this occasion, Hatfield were appearing, along with several obscure artists at a benefit concert for Radical Alternatives to Prison at London’s Imperial College, in what was hoped to be the first in a series of fundraising concerts for RAP. I knew that Phil had been in ‘Hatfield and the North’ but had no idea of the other history.
One time at All Saints when Jack Monk came and played he turned to me and said. ‘You thought that was in Am didn’t you?’ ‘Yes’ I confessed, he was correct. ‘It was actually in D’ Jack said. Not in a dismissive way. Just gently communicating by way of information. I felt somewhat silly but was greatly impressed with Jack’s listening skills, pitch and of course his fine qualities as a Bass player. No singing was involved. Looking back now it may have been something they both had played in their shared rich history. This is probably exaggerated in my memory. I can remember feeling uncomfortable with my playing and not being sure about the key. It all goes back to my mother who loved singing. ‘Just move your lips but don’t sing, you’re tone deaf’. She told me in church as a child.
All the years I played with Steve I can hardly ever recall discussing a key! The rule in Free playing seemed to be the obvious, ‘If you want to know the key you shouldn’t be there’.
Since I first wrote this memory a few months ago Herm has found a cassette marked ‘Steve, Hag and Jack at the church 21/03/93’ I was surprised by this as I hadn’t recalled at all recording with Jack. Now investigating my diary has revealed that we recorded together four times, as I mentioned, this being the first and part of the second. I discovered I have all the original cassettes and have re-mastered this recording..…
(The music to be added but is available here)
I guess I had recalled the ‘key’ story as I had written it up in my diary. These are my diary entries for these two dates…
21/03/1993 ‘Jam with Steve and Jack the bass player, pleasant play but didn’t like my sound or the cold in Steve’s church. ‘
1/04/1993 ‘Jam in SJH….. with Steve Jack & Hag It was fun – but Jack has already mentioned ‘Gigs’!……I told him I’d never done it in front of [paying] people. Still I’m open to the idea. But their [sic] was the Am/D controversy-where they played in D & I played in Am & never changed – Jack ticked me off, most politely, but I felt like I’d been told off -a new experience in music! anyway we’ve moved onwards a bit and here we go playing it in the basement. Lets stick one together. V. nearly fell down the basement hatch!’
I am referring to my hatch to the stairs down to the basement at Glebe House where my studio and darkroom were. I guess we adjourned there due to the cold at Steve’s All Saint Church workshop in the winter within which Steve had a small shed where we could retire to get warm in winter. In one of these recording I am heard saying ‘I can’t feel my fingers’.
By 1994 Eddie Prevost would occasionally play with us and a local bass player Steve Ash, though not often at the same time. Eddie Prevost was the drummer/percussionist who co-founded AMM, the experimental improvisation group with Lou Gare & Keith Rowe in 1965 and was then still active.
Steve had released his double vinyl album ‘Millers Tale, Steve Miller Trio meets Lol Coxhill’ with Tony Moore on bass & Eddie Prevost drums from a live concert on 11th November 1985 also at the Bull & Gate Kentish Town.
On 16/03/1994 we appeared in a short ‘Slot’ for the cable network ‘Wire TV’ videoed at All Saints. It consisted of a short intro piece, interviews with Steve & Eddie and an Outro. The mix is rather poor the piano being mostly drowned out by the other instruments. This could be considered the first incarnation of K.Ostra. It is available on You Tube and here via Phil Millers Legacy site
By 1996 we added another bass player on our regular Thursday night meetings at All Saints Church, Nick Biggins, who’s daughter attended the same school as Steve’s daughter in Sawbridgeworth.
Steve Miller must have been happy with our playing as he invited me to do a gig with him at ‘St Johns Ark’ Old Harlow, an arts & music venue where Steve regularly performed, often with his brother Phil & Lol Coxhill. He loved the sound of that baby grand piano in an excellent converted church acoustic setting. We titled the gig ‘May the Fourth be with You’. You guessed it, on 4th May 1996. The band was augmented with a group of seasoned players well above my pay grade.
This was billed as Steve Miller, keyboards. Eddie Prevost, drums. With guests BJ Cole, Pedal Steel guitar, Nick Biggins, bass, and Hag, guitar. No rehearsals or anything of course.
We played in various formations from the complete quintet to duos. Steve Miller was in charge. Eventually he asked me to do a duo with Eddie, a great opportunity. I walked over and picked up my guitar next to Eddie. He had started playing when I noted that my guitar was not plugged in and as Steve Lane was recording I was so scared not to make any unwanted noise I just sat there with my guitar on my lap, just me and Eddie, waiting for a suitable gap but none arrived and thus I did not play a note. Seems silly now, just nerves.
I can still recall the fear & now at last I have confessed all. Listening now, Eddie Prevost’s drum solo is impressive. There is nothing I could or want to add. My just being there makes this my first but not last Cage-ian performance.
Eddie Prevost Drum Solo
This was my first ever paying gig, with an audience, at the age of 57! Later Steve told me Eddie had said. ‘If Hag doesn’t want to play what’s he doing there?’ I communicated all this to Eddie on the 24th anniversary of the event and confessed all. He was pleased to hear from me but did not recall the gig, fortunately for me.
Steve Miller & Hags duet at the 1996 gig ‘May the Fourth be with You!’
I however had caught the bug, my diary entry simply reading ‘Great gig (in the end) My first after all these years! – I want more.’
The next gig Steve asked me to play he was performing with his brother Phil who would arrive by train with his guitar over his shoulder and his Amp on a 2 wheeled trolly, with his calm persona and a happy beaming smile. I cannot recall if Phil knew Steve had asked me to play. I guess not as Steve had a bit of a Miles Davies approach to band members in that he liked to surprise them to illicit more edgy performances. I knew Phil well by now and we were comfortable with each other. I think it was the first time we had played but I was aware then that I was playing with two guys who had been doing this since they were teenagers, over 30 years ago. Despite my initial nerves I settled in with Phil quite happily. I recall it being a dramatic, exciting night with some thrilling trades with Phil. Unfortunately it was not recorded. Unusual for us.
Many years later talking to Phil on the phone towards the end of his time discussing music and musicians he payed me the greatest of compliments for a musician of his quality standing and respect.
‘You know Hag whilst playing with you and Steve I often used to think what am I doing here, Hag is doing everything that is required’.
It was in late 1996 K.Ostra began to coalesce.
By then we asked both bass players, Steve Ash and Nick Biggins to join us for our Thursday evening meetings. This worked well as they were both very experienced players but with different sounds and styles. It melded well expanding the sounds.
Steve Lane, who had met Nick Griffiths when they both worked for Pink Floyd had become interested in recording Steve and us and became a regular member.
I had always encouraged Steve Miller to consider making a set of solo piano pieces. He didn’t need any accompaniment. Much as I enjoyed making music with him he always flew without a parachute and would soar solo. From 26/08/96 to 18/08/97 Steve’s Miller & Lane recorded the tracks for his solo piano collection ‘See Hear’ at St Johns Ark Old Harlow. I had the honour of attending all the recordings and powerful they were as Steve set off from silence and moved through his own spaces he formed moulded and conjured in that air.The original road scene used on Steves ‘See Hear’ Solo piano cover without the clouds and the colour tint used on the sleeve. A combination print made from a road near Death Valley, California, USA and in the Canary Islands clouds rolling over mountains near the summit of Mount Teide Tenerife Spain.
Towards the end of 1997 it was Steve Lane, yes we had three Steve’s, who suggested a drummer he knew who may be interested. So at the next meeting Paul Dufour arrived tentatively with some percussion and a minimum kit of a snare, high hat and cymbal. He slipped in well, clearly for him too, as at the following meeting he arrived with his full kit and the percussionist Phillipe Janoyer creating the final sextet line up. It was a great feeling and from that point Thursday’s became band night. We were all interested in the same thing. Making coherent freely improvised music.
Sadly it was around this time that Steve Miller recognised he was not well. That dance began for him through differing moves finalising with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 1998.
On the evening of 14th May 1998 we had a K.Ostra rehearsal as we tried to do every Thursday.
I wrote….. ‘A sombre night at K.ostra. But some good music played’. I am sure the sombre comment referred to Steve at this time as we were all well aware of his medical situation. Steve Lane recorded all these rehearsals on DAT. There is a recording by Steve Lane at St Johns Ark in Old Harlow earlier that day with Phil Miller as Steve Miller loved that baby grand so much.
(You can listen to the recording here)
This I am assuming was a rehearsal for their forthcoming gig at The Vortex on 28th June 1998 with Carol Grimes, Lol Coxhill, Fred Baker & Pip Pyle. Almost the original ‘Delivery.’ This would be Steve Miller’s last public performance.
Steve Lane had been recording Steve Miller at various performances & our sessions at All Saints with his Soundfield microphone which records the whole space in multiple directions. We decided to record the band using this mike whilst also close miking all the instruments so it could be mixed down from 8 tracks. This was set up for Friday 31st July 1998 in the evening at St Johns Ark so Steve Miller could use the baby grand and his Synthesiser keyboard. We all arrived except Phillipe Janoyer who couldn’t make it. Steve Miller arrived late. Things were beginning to get difficult for him. He had also invited another guitarist, Mark Hewins, a seasoned professional of many talents, the guitarist I first saw Steve playing with all those years earlier. He hadn’t let me know. As I mentioned above that old surprise trick to illicit unexpected performances.
I admit I was put out with these changes as we were supposed to be recording our sound and I had gone to great lengths to arrange this. It was a difficult set up with people being late and equipment failures but we did eventually get going. After all that and my disgruntled state it was a very satisfying set. To play with Mark was a delight and always has been as we have become good friends playing together on numerous occasions since.
Gathering at Steve Lane’s to listen to the recording was always a nervous event but this, recorded more carefully than at our usual band nights was exciting with two guitars. I recall the band blending well. I remember the excitement. I only heard it the once as we resolved to try again with Phillipe present which became the K.Ostra ‘….its out there’ recording. The Mark Hewins session was never mixed down from the eight track and that master was lost somewhere sometime well into the 2000’s. I still live in the hope of it turning up.
From this recording we were all excited and were planning ahead with creating a set of music for performances. This entailed having a new premise. We began rehearsing beginnings & endings so we all knew where to start and where we were going. What happened in between was just that. What happened. We took this seriously to the extent of hiring a rehearsal studio warm enough for Steve Miller, for us to work out the parts, formulate keys, scales, rhythms and time. Now we would all know where we were when the show began. This was in preparation for our first gig on 27/11/97 at St johns Ark Old Harlow. The set list was carefully arranged beginning with a drum/percussion solo by Paul & Phillipe.
K.Ostra Gig. St johns Ark 27/11/97 (music to be added)
The next session at St Johns Ark was 11th October on a sunny Sunday afternoon with the light streaming through the stained glass windows. It was a much more relaxed session. Everybody arrived on time and the sound check and balancing went well. So well that the opening track on Steve Millers K.Ostra ‘….its out there’ is actually the piano sound set up as Steve plays some good old boogie piano as the band gently joins in. This was a rare thing for him to then play but still wonderful. The session is exactly what is recorded on the CD in that order. A very satisfying result. Sadly time overtook us.
Tragically in 8 weeks and 3 days Steve Miller, at such a young age, would be gone. There was no reflection of Steve’s health in his performance that day. There was a certain energy present.
My memory fails me on how this happened but a small part of these recordings was sent out into deep space forming examples of terrestrial music with other examples on an unmanned space mission. I think it was something Steve Ash arranged.
Veryan Weston is a pianist that Steve had spoken about with great respect. They occupied the same musical orbits. Clearly the feeling was mutual as understanding Steve’s situation Veryan had been in touch and arranged with Steve to record another set of solo piano pieces in his studio on his piano. These were the final pieces Steve Miller recorded. I have never heard these recordings. His health then deteriorated rapidly as Steve Miller departed his mortal coil on December 9th 1998.
Part 3. Too sad to call.
Steve Miller’s death was of course tragic for Phil, Min his wife and Stephanie his young daughter. I can recall the moment I was told he had died and I just collapsed in tears. Steve was my first close friend who had moved on to a better place in my lifetime. I knew, as he was for those family and friends of course irreplaceable.
Phil Miller wrote for the liner notes of the IN CAHOOTS ‘Out of the Blue’ CD released in March 2000.
‘Over the past three years since the release of PARALLEL, amongst the various compositions I have written, has emerged a strong contingent with a distinctive blues influence. With several of these pieces completed it seemed to me that they would be best served if I put them together in a suite. With this in mind I wrote the remaining compositions trying to contrast and complement the existing pieces.’
Whilst Phil was writing these it coincided with the re-release of the DELIVERY album ‘A Fools Meeting’ echoing the strong blues influence of that original band of Steve & Phil and hence the title ‘Out of the Blue’. Phil dedicated this CD to his brother Steve. He asked if he could use one of my images for the cover for which I was more than happy to oblige. Asking what my fee would be I replied. ‘My first guitar lesson’. Phil was 53 days older than me so after 38 years of playing I thought it was time to have some instruction from an elder master. I recall having that lesson at Colverstone Crescent but not what we did except that Phil took it seriously in offering me instruction.
On May 12th 2001 with Phil’s assistance the remaining members of K.Ostra, Hag guitar, Steve Ash bass and Paul Dufour drums, Nick Biggins having moved to Scotland and Phillipe Janoyer returning to France, organized a tribute concert in memory of Steve Miller at St Johns Ark in Old Harlow.. To quote the flyer. ‘Plus esteemed augmentation from- Peter Lemer piano, Mark Hewins guitar, Lol Coxhill sax, Phil Miller guitar and Dave Hammer vibraphone & percussion.’
Yes quite a line up out of respect for Steve Miller. Yes three guitars but we were all very familiar with each others abilities. It wasn’t a competition.
Myself, Peter Lemer, Paul Dufour and Steve Ash had a rehearsal for the tunes we were thinking of playing. I then took the risk, with such an esteemed list of improvisors, to write a kind of set list with outline arrangements. This was met with some amusement by the other players when I handed them around.
Some were vague such as the first tune ‘Free Up for Steve’ which became a 13′ 8” performance. Next a composition by myself. Then there was a liberal interpretation of Brahms Lullaby. Two of Peter Lemer’s and a kind of John Scofield’s Groan Man. Blue Monk, two other free pieces and an Andrew Hill. An eclectic mix which of course the assembled musicians took great liberties with in following my arrangements in the spirit of Steve Miller. It was a great evening.
Phil Miller released K. Ostra’s ‘…its out there’ and Steve Millers ‘See Here’ collection of piano solos both from the St Johns Ark recordings on his Crescent Discs label in 2002.
Paul Newnan’s review of these CDs
It has been a great honour and privilege to have known played & performed with both Steve & Phil and all the other wonderful musicians I have met through this relationship. I am ever surprised that many were and still are willing to play music with me.
Phil and Herm did make the journey into the deepest Fens to visit me around this time. I remember Phil banking up with coal on the open fire saying ‘That will keep it going’ and cosy we were. I also appreciated his compliments about a track from a collection I had made in the 90’s of my own compositions I called ‘Music for metaphysical lovers’ called ‘Funky takes & Funky gives’ which included his brother Steve Miller on Electric piano. Listen here……
Funky takes & Funky gives
There is of course another person only mentioned briefly in the above tract but who was ever present. She still is to this day pivotal in supporting Phil Millers’ music. She told me many years ago, whilst talking about Phil’s early career, that when she moved to her spacious flat in Dalston in 1980, she and Phil decided to join forces and started living together. With Steve’s help they sound-proofed one of the rooms to use as a music studio and from then on Phil spent most of his time in there writing his music. When he formed his band they used the flat for rehearsals. He recorded there, started the record label there. The flat became the hub for Phil’s music.
Well that certainly paid dividends not just for Phil but to all those who love the music he created and all those touched by such a creative force. I am of course talking of Herm.
When Phil’s life was approaching the end I did manage to visit him before I was due to go into hospital for my second new hip. What a moving meeting, how strong he was towards what he knew he was facing just as his brother Steve had been. Impressive as ever.
Below is the letter I wrote to Herm explaining why I was not able to attend his funeral which sums up my feelings for both Phil & Herm.
Dear Herm, I am thinking of you and your family sending you love and strength at this difficult time. You were inseparable and Phil’s rock. He only ever spoke of you in terms of the love and care you both shared. Yours is a jewel of a loving relationship. I was so moved and honoured to have seen you both just a few weeks ago. It was with saddened heart that I heard the news. How amazing Phil was both in that meeting and the conversations we have had recently and of course all the rest. He appreciated his life both creatively as a musician and with you. He considered himself a lucky man to have been able to do what he loved doing and spending that time with someone he loved. I need not stress the gifts he gave the world and the influence he had on so many people. He was truly a gentleman first. Always respectful and kind in his praise of others whilst exhibiting a true modesty towards his own exceptional talents. He consistently expressed a positive outlook on his current difficulties and the life you both led. Impressive without shirking the reality of his position and caring for those around him.
Phil was a fine appreciative friend and again I am honoured to have known him and Steve, played with him and Steve and having contributed photographically to In Cahoots.
Sadly I am unable to attend the ceremony on Saturday. I want to express to you how I feel and offer my deepest condolences. I have found a way with the help of Pete Lemer to be there but upon discussion with my nurse it would be reckless of me to attempt such a long day in my current position despite my healing well.
I will be present in spirit with you all as Phil will always live in our hearts.
Wishing you peace
25 October 2017
Herm is still doing amazing things supporting Phil’s’ music. Namely creating this rich gift and giving it freely for all to enjoy. Phil Miller-The Legacy.
I also photographed Steve as a model.
Firstly for the image below, linked here, photographed on 08/03/1988 commissioned by ‘The Telegraph Magazine. Steves eye remains.
Below is the portrait of Steve I took from this photograph.I was not concerned with his face just the hood when I made the picture. In 2002 I used this portrait on the back of Steves ‘See Hear’ Solo Piano CD as described on the above link.
Secondly as part of the book ‘Understanding Dreams’ (New Holland Publishers UK Ltd) for which I was commissioned to contribute numerous illustrations. This was in retrospect portentous. They were all to illustrate dreams of course.
Completely beyond my choice were three pictures I was asked to make which perfectly illustrated Steve Millers final journey.
The shoot was 19th April 1998 before he was diagnosed though he was aware that he was not well. The 1st as a marked man bearing the imprint of a cross.The second was a recreation of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ as a Scottish farmer. The realisation of Steves situation.The third as flying away into a psychedelic heaven. By the time the book was published in 1999 Steve had died.
Myself, Steve Lane and Nick Biggins would also like to remember Phillipe Janoyer who was the next to leave us a few years after Steve Miller followed by Steve Ash a few years ago and now Paul Dufour in October 2020. May they be at peace.