Lloyd Miller interview Part Two

To be brutally honest transcribing this long interview was a major job, and once I had reached the stage you’re about to read I had given up writing anything I’d said. So I don’t have my questions for Lloyds answers with this part (and I wonder how we got onto some of those subjects!) but you should get the picture. There’s a link to his (almost) full life story at the bottom of this post and it’s well worth a read..

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On becoming a Sufi Ascetic…
Did I tell you the one that my music master said? The guy who I met up with who really taught me how to play the santur. He took my instrument away and wouldn’t let me touch it until I learned the correct mallet technique, he would only let me play in his presence until I learnt a whole modal system perfect and that’s the one that’s on Gol-E Gandom, it’s a cut down version of the mode he taught me. Exactly note for note from what he taught me, not one idea of my own in there anyplace handed down from probably David in the Bible. David went to Bablylon and from there the Persians liberated Babylon, it went to the Persian empire. All of the Israelites that were living there many of them stayed, some were sent back to rebuild the temple of the one true God they believed in, just as much, maybe even more than the Jews and those were the golden days of the world when the Persian Achaemenid empire ruled and then along came the Greek creep who thought he was something, some sort of juvenile delinquent and destroyed it all. And God said in the Bible I’m going to take care of the Persians and the meek until the King of Greece comes and then I’m out of here. I don’t want to be around that guy (laughs) But actually towards the end of his life he became a Persian and almost a human being, you know he gave up some of that stuff and started fitting in but it was too late he’d already wrecked the Persian empire and bought in a bunch of goofy Greek garbage so they could never go back. Before they didn’t drink wine they drank water, and there was a lot of other sins he bought in. You know …progress. All this stuff, progress – we’re going some place. Yeah we’re going some place to the end of a cliff and we’re going to fall right down into some horrible abyss and its like hell and we’ll never come out. Some people say 2012 I don’t know if it’s that quick but it’s going to be there somewhere.

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Continuing on the Sufi Ascetic tip….
So what I was going to tell you was bout my spiritual music master. He says there’s two ways to play music you can sit here and learn note by note, and memorize it for hours and for years and years and years. You can do it that way, or there’s another way that maybe you can do it, he told because he saw that I had that possibility. He says you can polish the mirror of your soul and perfect yourself to the point that you can reflect the divine light, that is always there, to others and help them make their lives more brightened up by the divine light you’re reflecting to them. Like Jesus did for anyone that was around, even the bad guys. So he said that’s the other way of doing it and music will come straight from God to you. I guess like David did in the Bible and passed on to the Babylonians, the Persians and the rest of the Middle East. Then you can get it direct, but you have to perfect yourself, that’s the key to open the door. It’s like on a computer, if you don’t type exactly the right password you are toast. So one wrong letter in a password, a capital instead of a small letter and it wont work. That’s the same thing. So he said you have to perfect everything. So I said what does that mean? That was at a time when I had already given up all my bad habits, no alcohol, tobacoo, tea because that against Hussien, the blood of Hussein in Sufiism. He didn’t say much about coffee but I never saw him drink it, but he became a vegetarian, so did I right about the same time, we became vegetarians together. No junk food, nothing that you crave, and no intimacy with anybody outside of marriage, and only marriage if its planned. So people think this is horrible you’re giving up all your freedoms. No, you’re actually getting freedom because if you think about that, you don’t have to think who am I going to invite over to sleep over tonight? is it Sally or Sue or who? Oh and she’s mad at me, because I didn’t do this, I forgot her birthday or whatever. I’ve got find somebody, I’ve got to cruise some chick on the street, I’ve got to find somebody. Well if you don’t need anything then you’re free.

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Not sure quite how we got here but this is Lloyd on being a Mormon and misconceptions about the Church’s attitude towards homosexuality…
I’m part of the Mormon Church and a lot of gay people think the Mormons hate them and that’s not true. We just ask of them what we ask of ourselves, which is to be celibate. There’s nothing wrong with that there’s a lot of very cool gay guys who aren’t with anybody and aren’t doing anything at all and they’ve forgotten about that part and they’re just working in the arts or theatre or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with them they are totally acceptable, it’s the practice of stuff that can become attachment and can end up being slavery that they need to get away from.
On modern music (again)….
People are being musically starved and that why I’m trying to occasionally give people a drink of coconut juice or wheatgrass through this music, but because it’s bitter and kind of tastes funny no one wants to know about it. We need something different, we have enough of that (modern music) I don’t care whether its Bach or some syrupy Sinatra, I’ll take anything over that. Maybe that’s the trick that God is showing us letting the devil have the music industry for a couple of decades. Alright guys, you can see what would happen if he takes over, go ahead and listen to this and now we’re going to have something that’s not that and see if you can tell the difference. Maybe we wont hear it till after Jesus returns.
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On furthering Oriental Jazz etc…..
72 years! The first two I probably didn’t know what was happening, to try and get something a little different happening, but its only gotten worse. I think I was more successful in the ‘50s than I am now. I tried to get people to check out some of this stuff like Ravi Shankar or anything, Japanese Noh Music. Me and Tony Scott played together and hung out together in Italy for a month or two, we did our Eastern stuff separately, but we finally met up, which was great. We were going to do an album together, but most of these guys are dead and I’m still alive.
Did you find you were lumped in with exotica back in those days?
Its sort of like a crowded place, a tube station or whatever and someone walks by you and it’s half kangaroo and its half human, but its real, its isn’t like a costume or something, it’s something that really happened, someone got mixed up with a kangaroo the DNA has got mixed up or whatever. And it walks by you, and smiles at you and waves it’s paw, but it’s a real person. You would just ignore that, it would be too weird to even admit, almost everybody in that train station would turn aside say they didn’t see that. It’s too weird to even acknowledge it exists. Well that’s what happened to me in the Inter Collegiate Jazz Festival National final is St Louis, the judges just didn’t even admit that they had seen it. Some of the winners went to the judges saying that guy was amazing, he played seven different instruments in one ten minute slot, and he played them all to perfection and he played all these musical styles and sang these different ways and you guys didn’t even see that, and they just sort of crouched. They just couldn’t admit it, because it didn’t fit any category. It was supposed to be the vocal category, I sang all the pieces but I was playing instruments and singing in Persian and Indian and scat singing so fast they couldn’t hear the notes going by, because I figured out how to do that. So I didn’t win anything because they couldn’t admit it had happened. John S Wilson who was a famous jazz writer for the NY Times and wrote books on jazz and stuff, probably the most after Leonard Feathers. He was there and didn’t write about anything else except me. So I got a piece that I’ll never top in the NY Time, the head of the Jazz studies Department at the University waved it at me and said you’ll never get another article like that!

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So you weren’t even really acknowledged?
Well they didn’t see me but I’ve been unseen my whole life I’m used to it. Its kind of nice to be in disguise, incognito, walking around nobody will ever know me and I don’t care if they ever do.
It must surely be gratifying to be getting the recognition and credit for you music that is obviously going on now?
Well maybe when I die off they can add to my gravestone. PHD that’s the only thing its good for, it looks good on a gravestone Then after that they can say ‘finally made it, two days before he died’. I’ll be invited to tour Asia, and wont be able to do it because I’m frozen in some nursing home. I probably wont do that, I’ll probably die like other health food people , a surfboarding accident, a board hits me on the head or playing too loud on a clarinet in a parade or something!
In the interests of not making this a veritable novella I haven’t included all of Lloyd’s bugbears and mini-rants that came up, but here’s just one that I can’t really argue with…
Do you have those cars..you know ..you’re at the stoplights. I kind of wish we could use some of those cars with the big speakers as target practice for bazookas. It’s the only thing that makes me angry, I’m a pretty mellow guy but when I hear that think, its not even hearing it you feel it, it hurts your internal organs, you want to just assassinate someone you know.

For more on Lloyd his life story ‘Sufi, Saint & Swinger’ can be read online. It’s a fascinating wild read that documents his teenage tearaway years and ending up in a mental institution, how he came perilously close to being lobotomized, his time in Iran, his battles and triumphs at various places of learning, his Mormonism and heaps more. Trust me you’ll learn something but you’ll need a bit of time…it’s extensive!

Follow this link to cop an mp3 from the wonderful album below featuring Lloyd and The Heliocentrics. You’ll need to register with your email address but it’s Strut so it’s not like you’re signing up to Beelzebub or anything.
Check the previous post for links to buy…. and follow’ em for deep audio satisfaction and enlightenment.
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Huge thanks to Lloyd for being so generous with his time and providing me with more info, music and DVDs than I could possibly have ever wished for. Also large gratitudinal tidings to Marty from Border for setting this all up, and the wonderful Trevor Reekie who did the interview before me and obviously put Lloyd in a great frame of mind (not included in my transcript is Llloyd’s suggestion that he’s going to form a band with himself, Trevor & me. As I told him … he’s onto a winner with Trev who can spank that axe real nice… but for me..probably the triangle or a washboard and limited duties!)
And if you made it this far and read it all….respect. There should be some sort of prize!

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