Happy Russian Wilds Day! That’s right our own San Francisco Peninsula psychedelic rock outfit Howlin Rain has released their bluesy and directionless fifth album to the masses. I say directionless because if you listen to Phantom In The Valley, you’ll find enough genres to keep you listening on repeat. Singer Ethan Miller rages with mystical power and lifting soulfulness as the band is shaken alive with razor sharp and ramblin’ sonic venom and dead-on jazz-like surgery. Russian Wilds is sweet harmonies and dynamite wailing pulled from a fragile web into a adamantium-strong weave; the barrage of guitars in howling pulls and even some salsa dance mixed in (yes, they pull it off well); the lowdown is still as tough and devilish as you’d expect from these guys.
You can purchase Russian Wilds today! Click here.
See Howlin Rain’s Record Release Show at The Independent on Saturday, February 18th.
This week we have singer/guitarist Ethan Miller answer the Kuestionnaire. Let me tell you something; we have been doing this feature for over 4 years now and this has to be one of my favorites. Read through the whole thing. Ethan is a very fascinating man.
1. Could you state your name and what you do in the band?
Ethan Miller, Singer, guitarist.
2. How would you describe your sound?
Galilean Telescopic with elements of blues, uppers, liquor store soul, bongsploitation, sci-fxploitation, Russian and western literature elements, bar band style. Structurally white with a lot of moving black parts. Lots of hair not always in the right place, someone on youtube commented that “now I know what band the homeless guys ended up in” while in the video I’m wearing a fucking 3 piece suit and perhaps that may be an accurate description of our “sound”.
3. What is your favorite local band?
Currently “Date Palms”.
4. Any concerts that blew your mind recently?
don’t know if this counts but watching the reformed original Guided By voices rip it up on letterman, falling down on their ass, looking drunk and high in 6 different ways, everyone playing beautifully like transcendental shit, and to top it off Letterman, who usually can at least put on the host face afterward and say “wow, you guys are great!” came out after the band was done and all he could say was how pretty the drummers rented drums were and that he hoped the bass player wouldn’t sue for falling straight down on his ass while high stepping and rocking too hard wasted…Dave looked like he was trying to choke down a tepid dog turd after hearing GBV. Fucking glorious. Does that count for a concert? not sure. Otherwise I haven’t been out to a ton of gigs lately.
5. Any non-musical influences you would like to mention?
Sure! all of em! Food, architecture, literature, sex, booze, drugs, love, Lotto, cinema, rancheros, et al!
6. If your music was to be the theme of a film/TV show, what would it be?
It would be awesome to do a trashy 50s scratchy singles score for a John Waters film.
7. What musician/artist would you like to collaborate with for a day?
I have recently collaborated with Luther Dickinson in recording and performance and in a separate session with Six Organs of Admittance on his new album. Those were both incredibly fulfilling experiences, challenging and fun and very different music that was made.
8. What is the album you listen to on a cold rainy day?
Eddie Harris “Come On Down”
9. List four songs you would listen to on a roadtrip?
1. “untitled” (the 2nd song) by Lost Aaraaff off of the album Lost Aaraaff.
2. Box Of Rain by the Dead off American Beauty.
3. Thank Christ for the Bomb by the Ground hogs off same album.
4. Pots on, Gas on High by John Lee Hooker off of Endless Boogie LP.
10. Where do you see yourselves in 7 years?
hard one. Can’t say. I think anyone who answers this question is totally fucking delusional. Not one of us knows where we are going. We only know where we are trying to go and most of us are delusional about that too.
11. What is the last book you read?
Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren.
12. Is image a factor in music or is it a waste of time?
As long as you can see em with your eyes it’s always a factor. We have eyes that connect to our brains through receptors and then form initial impressions and then intellectual breakdowns of those impressions as a follow up. Of course it’s a factor! you can’t turn that shit off! But is it a waste of time? hard to say—sometimes performers put a constructed image out there and it’s really powerful and becomes something illuminating and influential over our culture—Little Richard, Madonna, Alice Cooper etc. In indie music the constructed image is often more humorous because it’s often based off an anti-image or the image of not caring about image–it creates a kind of room full of mirrors. Indie bands in short sleeve plaid cowboy shirts (every band that can’t afford tailored shit has these shirts in their closet or on their bedroom floor in piles–even mine (every band I’ve ever been in)). These shirts were everywhere in 2011 (make that the last decade). It’s like the indie dude equivalent to when valley chicks wear Ugs or something–it’s like “I’m comfortable, I’m casual, I don’t have to deal with fashion (too much) today, I’m just hear for a latte and shopping, fuck off.” Good stuff. Portlandia seems to be documenting the indie fashion anti-fashion thing quite poignantly at the moment. For me image is important now. The balder I go on top the longer my beard and hair grows and the fancier I dress. I’m into suits now but as time goes on it will just turn into raw silk robes. As a public man gets older I believe it’s important to almost over-enhance his masculine and his feminine characteristics, like many of the dominating male animals do in nature, flamboyant masculinity with a quasi pool hall criminal edge to the outfits–this will keep you unique looking and also work obsessively at staying in shape–bone thin and athletically primed, so that you can shame beautiful youth around you who have beer bellies and are slowed down by weed and their constant ecstasy hard-ons and ennui.
13. Any embarrassing moments on stage you would like to share?
I often go into a semi-fugue state on stage and drool can come out of my mouth, sweat everywhere, pee stains, hard nipples etc without me knowing it’s happening so it’s tough to embarrass someone like that right? but malfunctions are embarrassing. I was asked to sit in on an encore song with Chris Robinson Brotherhood last year in Oakland and after they played two sets I finally got up there and my guitar wasn’t really working when I tried to plug it in. The crowd applauded for me when Chris introduced me and I took the stage for the most part his crowd didn’t really know who I was and once I started hollering back ups out of key into the mic totally flustered that my guitar wasn’t making any noise and the crowd was kind of standing there with their heads cocked and a funny look on their face. Not ideal. But I did redeem myself months later at another encore in Big Sur with CRB, same song, sang great, guitar worked, played awesome, jammed out. It’s the jesus thing. It’s all good to eat a shit sandwich as long as you get a chance to get back up out of the grave and have a real ham and mustard sandwich sometime later. Redeemed!
14. Any favorite tour locations?
15. Lastly, what is your present state of mind?