Mission statements

By CARLY CARIOLI  |  May 24, 2006

While DJ Zeppo Ramone (Kates’ assistant and former WERS DJ Marc Donohue) blasted a Buzzcocks song, Miller leaned in and asked a bystander, “How much do you know about Roxy Music?” Not enough, replied the student. “Brian Eno got his start with Roxy, and they were the first rock band to use tape loops,” Miller said. “That’s where Burma got it from -- somewhat indirectly, but that’s where it came from, that’s the history. So that’s why I’m playing them first.”

“Also,” he contintued, “Roxy had this thing where they were the only thing going in rock and roll from about ’72 to ’74, but then they fucked up just right before punk hit, so they never really got the credit they deserved.”

The student suggested the same thing could be said for Burma. “It’s possible,” Miller smiled, arching an eyebrow. “But I don’t know anything about that band.”

Kates was still working his way through The Obliterati’s final song, “Nancy Reagan’s Head.” “In the middle section,” Miller recalled, “Clint plays this instrument, I can’t remember what it’s called -- it’s like a mellotron, it’s got a men’s chorus on it -- and he couldn’t get it right. It sounded like the men couldn’t hit the note. And Clint said, ‘Roger, you play it.’ Now, I could play it right, but it would sound too correct. I could play it right but it would sound wrong.”

With The Obliterati out of the way, Miller took over the decks. After his Roxy Music track, he cued up the Girls’ Live at the Rat. “The Girls were the first band I saw in Boston,” Miller said, “and when I saw them I thought, ‘I’m in the right place.’”

No New McCarthy Era
STAGE MAINSTAY: Hanging on the Enormous Room door.

Burma was due to ship out to England the next day to play a gig alongside the reformed Dinosaur Jr. at All Tomorrow’s Parties, and then, a few days after that, to play with Broken Social Scene. “You and Clint gonna go for a swim again?” Tom Keilty, the former Globe critic, asked Kates. “Maybe,” Kates smiled. It emerged that during their last trip to ATP, Kates and Conley had taken a dip in the English Channel. Across the hall, Miller filled Prescott in on their latest foreign-policy plans. “We were talking about having J Mascis sit in on the Roxy Music cover, so Mark’s talking to Mascis’s people,” Miller said. He laughed. “Our people are talking to Mascis’s people. We’ll probably never talk to Mascis.” Prescott, ever the straight man: “I didn’t know I had  any people.”

While the Girls were screeching along and driving out the amateurs in the audience, Prescott began thumbing through a backpack full of vinyl, pulling out four records: Big Black’s Racer X, Public Enemy’s Apocalypse 91 . . . The Enemy Srikes Black, Killing Joke’s Killing Joke, and an LP by the Scottish post-punk group the Fire Engines. (An astute listener might have noticed that two of Prescott’s four selections featured a machine for a drummer, plus a third whose drumming influenced many subsequent groups to switch from drummers to machines.) Miller, at the turntables, changed gears and threw on a Missy Elliott track. “I love Missy Elliott,” he said. “She and Timbaland, it’s really the two of them together. A girlfriend turned me on to them. I don’t know if you know my group Binary System, but we do a cover of ‘Scream.’ It’s pretty intense.” He’s been working his way back through the Missy Elliott catalogue, and has found Timbaland’s productions rubbing off on his own compositions for the next Binary System album. “It caused me to rethink all sorts of stuff. Irrational production techniques. There’s nothing verite about it.”

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