30 Minutes with Steve Miller Page 2

Take the Gear and Run

0609_miller_web1In the same way that your Dad was the first person in your town to have a Magnacorder ... fast-forward many years later to the early 1970s in California, when you were one of the first artists to have a home recording studio. That must have been an adventure. Well, first of all, I started going to real recording studios in Texas at a very early age. And before I ever got to Capitol Records, I was Ping-Ponging between stereo tape decks to get multitrack recordings. And I'd open up guitar magazines and see things like "Hey! 16-track automated stereo blah blah blah for $1,200," and I'd just go, "God!"

Back when I was doing all that Ping-Pong stuff - when I was one of probably 100 people in the country who were interested in that, or even knew how to do it - I never in my wildest dreams thought that anybody, all around the world, would love doing this as much as I did. I'm talking 1959, '60, '61. And then the very first chance I got to buy a tape recorder, I bought a 3M 8-track and built it into a cabinet, just like my Dad did. And a great mixing-board maker, who was way ahead of everybody, built me a beautiful little portable mixing console.

I always used to say to engineers, "Listen, this is stupid, me sitting here telling you what I want you to mix for me. That's like a painter saying, 'Go mix my paint. ... No, that's not right, go mix it again.' " I said to the engineers, "Let me at this. I can do this in 30 seconds." This was just considered the most radical thing in the world - to actually let the musicians have control of their own mixes so that they could set the sound the way they wanted it.

Okay, fast-forward again to today. How does your music background jibe with today's music technology? Downloads, iPods - everything seems to be going back to lo-fi. Do you have an iPod yourself? I do - but I don't use it. It's been sitting in a bag for two years. I don't even know what's on it.

I think this is all about the arrogance of technology and those who can manipulate the marketplace. It's sad that people are walking around with these really cheap earbuds, pumping that slamming, compressed volume into their heads. They're all hurting their hearing. I've seen figures where 30 to 40 percent of people in their 20s have hearing damage already.

As for digital recording ... at first, I was fairly excited about it. But there still isn't any comparison with really good analog sound. Usually, when Capitol does its digital remastering and sends me a copy, I just call up the guy and go, "This is absurd. Take all that crap off my music." I think most CDs sound like a diamond hatchet - brittle, thin.