30 Minutes with Steve Miller

Time keeps on slippin' indeed: It's been three decades since the release of the Steve Miller Band's hit-parade masterpiece, Fly Like an Eagle. To celebrate, Capitol has just issued a 30th Anniversary Special Limited Edition, with a remastered CD and a bonus DVD that includes demos, a documentary, a 2005 concert, and the entire album in 5.1-channel surround sound. Miller talks about the journey from Magnacorder to multichannel music - a revolution that, to hear him tell it, has finally set him free.

The first thing that viewers see when they cue up the documentary on the new edition of Fly Like an Eagle is you flicking on the power switch of a McIntosh power amp ... and a turntable going on ... and a needle dropping on a vinyl record. Then later, you're talking about your Dad's Magnacorder. So it seems to me that you didn't just grow up with music; you grew up with music technology, didn't you? Yeah, I was very, very fortunate. My Dad was always into recording. The first thing I remember was a wire recorder - and what a mess it was. I think I screwed up one of the spools. I was about 4 years old.

This was in the 1940s. I was born in '43, so by '46, '47, the end of the war, we had the Webcor wire recorder and my Dad was making recordings. And then the Magnacorder showed up, and that was just, like, the coolest piece of gear. My Dad was probably the only guy in Milwaukee who had one. It probably cost as much as a car.

So my Dad started going around and recording people, and one of the first acts he did was Les Paul and Mary Ford. They were rehearsing in Milwaukee - but rather than go to a rehearsal hall and play for nothing, they were doing six weeks at Jimmy Fazio's supper club to warm things up before going to New York. My Dad went over to Les and said, "Hey, can I record you?" Les said, "Yeah!" My Dad was also, oddly enough, into Plexiglas, and he made Plexiglas guitar picks and pick guards for Les. So the two of them were instant friends, and my Dad became the Best Man at Les and Mary's wedding.

I was watching things like my Dad running the tape fast and then playing it back at normal speed so that Les's guitar would sound like a bass ... and I was hearing Mary singing harmony with herself ... and I got the whole thing, right then and there.

We were radio nuts, too. And we always had records. We were playing records all the time. When we moved to Texas, my Dad got a Heathkit and built a beautiful stereo system that he laid in a lovely walnut case. And he built his own speaker cabinets.

So from a very early age, you developed an appreciation for the idea of sound quality. From Day 1, yeah, that's true.