Friday, March 21, 2008

Howlin Rain Review

Oops. I've been slacking this week. Took a trip to Eugene, Portland, Olympia, and Seattle for a bit of record shopping and some much needed spring break. Record hunting treated me well: Heldon, Hawkwind, Robert Calvert, Deodato, Billy Cobham, and Tangerine Dream were among the highlights.

Anyhow, people I talked to on my journey seem to be pretty jazzed about the new Howlin Rain, and I think it's for good reason. You can read all about it here in the North Coast Journal. Being that there are three Humboldt natives in the band, I shot some questions to Ethan Miller in hopes of spicing up the review, and he came through with some interesting stuff. His thoughts are below.

On the differences between the debut and Magnificent Fiend

Yeah the keys make a huge difference. Playing with Joel in the last year and a half I have fallen totally in love with the piano and keyed instruments again. The range and detail and power is enormous of this type of instrument. The first album was made in a very short time with a very small budget and whole lot of whiskey and chance. This album I wrote the hell out of it for about a year or so before the new band even started rehearsing it. I took my time to make sure we had what I wanted with the sound and quality of the record too. It wasn't so much a smash and grab as they say in the burglary business.

On the impression that Howlin Rain is simply a side project to Comets on Fire…

I never envisioned it to be a one release band. I think because Comets was such a known entity to the underground and indie world that folks just thought it was a side project. But really I developed it to be something I could really focus on and dump my main energies into.

On his influences and inspiration for writing the new album…

At the time that I was really heavily writing and then throughout the recording I was really deep into Mahavishnu Orchestra, Paul Simon (still crazy era), Miles Davis (fusion era), Delaney and Bonnie, a book called Perdido St. Station by China Mieville, Richard and Linda Thompson, Cormac McCarthy's No Country and The Road, short stories of Clifford D. Simak, The Melvins, Popol Vuh, Moorcock's Dancers At the End of Time trilogy, Scientist, Lee Scratch Perry, Arik Roper's artwork, Michael Mann's Miami Vice, Steely Dan's Aja album, Rollin's era Black Flag, Leslie West and Mountain, Gal Costa, The Groundhogs---it goes on forever. I have a rabid and eclectic appetite these days for music and I get obsessed with sounds and bands and albums and dive deep very quickly with them and then move on, it's just they way it goes for me for better or for worse. This was probably my heavy rotation for a month or so a year ago. Best I can remember.

On his relationship to his native Humboldt…

Humboldt is a very unique place. It has a unique and intense resonance and I have tried to fuse elements of its resonance into some of the Howlin Rain vibe---that mix of beauty and mystery and darkness. I have deep feelings of both connection and disconnection to Humboldt. My parents and a lot of old friends are there so a huge part of my heart is there. It is a place I have run to and run from at different points in my life. It is not a place where you can belong as an outsider and yet it's arms are always open if you are willing to stay. I am an outsider now but I still have these deep roots to the place and its resonance hangs around my head and heart still sometimes.

Finally, here's a video from the band's recent in store performance at Amoeba Records.

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