The Alternative Christmas Message – Miles Perhower

As a special festive treat i’m going to present to you all a lovely piece of rock journalism, which hopefully will be the first in a new series showcasing the best of the new underground/overground in blue. And as we’re all winding down and getting a bit merry at silly times of the day, here’s a right treat for you…

Followers of the underground music scene in Birmingham and the West Midlands will remember  Miles Perhower, the bandleader of Miss Halliwell, who during the 2000s built up quite the reputation on the live music circuit, including supporting The Fall at the Birmingham Barfly in 2007. Following that, Miss Halliwell released two EPs “Imp-Imperfection” and “Predateoralbumlaunchparty” and released their debut long player “Die! Son! Die” in 2009 through Elementary Recordings, complete with an accompanying full length film, featuring gig tapings and interviews, interspersed with fly-on-the-wall footage and films-within-films.

Miles Perhower disbanded Miss Halliwell in 2011, but later that year he re-arranged and trained a new band, which is known simply as “Perhower.” It has been a good gestation period, and curious followers of the bandleader have been informed of his experiences on his blog “Automatic Update.” We’ve seen him cast aspersions from his base in North Birmingham, evidence of his unrelenting hard graft in regards to the production of his music, video and art and exhibiting them in one-off multimedia events and charity gigs, work with a multitude of collaborators and stories relating the underbelly of the music scene including clashes with promoters and bar staff and in an extended piece “No Results For UKIPalsy”; an account of his infiltration of the UKIP conference held in Birmingham earlier this year juxtasposed with recounting of his work with people with cerebral palsy.

Those who were mindful enough to attend the Perhower gig at the end of November 2012 were treated to an incendiary live experience, no clichés necessary. And there’s a lot planned for next year – so get yourselves in the mood for it by reading this short interview I conducted
with the man himself…

 Milesperhowerface

The big news is, Perhower has a new EP next year. But you must be thinking, how are you going obtain a better audience for this? Are there plans for a tour?  Any more ideas for work including books, exhibitions, film, theatre? And maybe not just the UK, but also in Europe and beyond?

Bloody hell, I thought the first question would be more straightforward than that. I think I need to go to the shop and buy a bottle of Bathams, that’ll help me loosen up, or maybe some wine? We’ll see. I’ll do my best to… wait a minute, the house phone’s ringing… It was Rose of Bearwood, she just called to say hi and advise me to buy a pack of stubbies from Aldi, smoke a joint and relax, in order to answer these truly sickening questions properly. I’ll see if I can do this one straight, but, if it gets too stiff, then I’m outta here, Jim!

OK. Yeah. The Big, BIG news (in small, but ever increasing, decreasing – fluctuating circles) is indeed the fact that Perhower (which, for those who don’t know, is the name of the ‘Rock Group’ I have orchestrated for just over 12 months) will be releasing a new EP in the early part of 2013. If anything, it will give us a real kick up the arse and force us to arrange some shows so we can attempt to sell a few copies, in person. I have a slender, but very loyal set of supporters who will purchase releases online, but I do get the feeling that this time we might reach some new ears and minds. It will be a professional looking thing, nothing too fancy, but it will be sexy. From what I can tell, so far, it’s sounding like a real treat, and promo preparations are already underway.

We’re always looking for opportunities to perform live, there’s no reason why we can’t plan some shows abroad, we have fans in Sweden, weirdly, but I think we need to continue establishing this new “Perhower” format in as many parts of the UK as we can handle. No solid plans yet, but something will happen, it always comes together in some shape or form. I’m lucky to be working with people who believe in my twisted vision, they love it, whether it is being expressed through music, pictures or words, we can pull together and give this crazy gift to as many people possible, whether they like it or not! MIND-RAPE.

In truth, the way I see it, is if you make the effort to create something which you believe to be of an extremely high quality, then it will be a success, sooner or later. That is unless I’m just a deluded psychopath with no taste, talent or intelligence whatsoever. I’m always willing to face the flip-side, but, more importantly, I’m willing to face the future. The future being now, because some time has passed since I wrote that last sentence and I am now back at the desk, drinking lager and getting seriously focused on answering your tricky questions.

Why did you disband Miss Halliwell and return with Perhower?

Ah, that’s a tough one. Money (lack of), desperation, a lust for rebirth, changing situations, big questions – all what you would expect. It’s no secret that ‘Miss Halliwell’ IS ‘Perhower’ but things certainly feel different now. Miss Halliwell was kind of ‘inherited’, whereas Perhower is more of a ‘pure creation’. It was absolutely necessary to make the transition because there’s no way I could have lived with ‘Miss Halliwell’ as an identity for years to come, unlike Perhower, which, in its weird way, serves as so much more than a band name.

This year, you and Rose of Bearwood collaborated on producing ‘St Eel: The Show in the Mirror’, a one-off event at a dance studio with poetry, good beer and bar snacks, showcases from acts on the Speech Fewapy and Dead London Records roster, light shows and an exhibition of your own paintings culminating in a performance by Perhower all for £5. Did the ambitious scale of this event succeed? If you were doing it again what would you change?

“St Eel” was a minor success, with many flaws. We saw it as an opportunity to make money, but it ended up being more of a wild experiment than anything financially profitable. Still, we got some good press, before and, err, after… and documented the thing well enough to put some strange little videos together. It was sort of a baptism of fire, having previously organised similar events in our old stomping ground, Stourbridge, which is a lot different to putting on a show, and a bar, in the industrial depths of Digbeth. People turned up though, enough to make it seem real, so I’m sure we could do something similar again. It was good training.

Explain your reaction to the ‘B-Town’ article in the NME.

You fucking swine, Jim! I’m trying to relax and have fun with this interview! What are you trying to do to me? My reaction to that drivel was, how can I put this? NATURAL AND HONEST (and drunk). I think I finally realised that I’m too difficult to understand unless you really devote enough time to getting to know my output. I’m not an easy sell. So it was as if some greater force guided me to type a deranged ‘reactionary’ piece, in an attempt to combat laziness and disconnection. Basically.

There’s been a lot of talk this year about Birmingham’s cultural presence: its desire to be seen as the true second city, thinking itself sidelined or forgotten behind the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield. But, in your opinion, does Birmingham need a collective voice to put its heads above the parapet and scream for attention, or should it just shut up and get on with it?

I’m sort of representing Birmingham, in a way, so that must count for something? I mean, I like Birmingham, I know it, but I’m the sort of person who thrives on variation, in people and in places. I’m hungry to experience more of this strange country. It’s always funny playing gigs in unfamiliar territory. I actually think Birmingham tries ‘too hard’ to compete with London and Manchester etc, it’s as if there’s this pseudo-art-creative network constantly making an embarrassment of what the City, and the rest of the West Midlands really has to offer. It’s hard to move on from the past, but you have to put things into perspective, don’t you?

In the book world, we are seeing more and more authors take complete ownership of their work and bypass agents and publishers; creating their own buzz and achieving great successes. You could argue that this has been happening in the music industry for ages with the advent of social networking and downloads, but ultimately, music and tastes have diversified so much that, to my mind, it is impossible to have any sort of true impact on the general consciousness. How important is it to have this true impact, and, as an artist, how do you plan to achieve this?

Jesus Christ! Let me just down this drink…right, so in terms of General Consciousness, that vicious, militant demon, I think we might have to abandon hope. He’s turned schizophrenic, bi-polar and ADHD, and there’s nothing we can do about it – except to continue the dangerous path of enlightenment, win or lose, or both.

I’m quite lucky because I’m enjoying the benefits of being able to access the well documented past, and also the endless possibilities of future creations. Technology is one thing that is really on our side, we’ve just got to remember to control it and not let it run the show. I can only speak from my own perspective here, it’s up to me to create extremely fun and interesting ‘products’, I can only do so much in terms of reaching a wider audience. I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted by outside help, such as a label, or management, but, for the moment, we seem to be developing at our own pace. If Perhower can secure a decent run through 2013 then I’m sure we will have made an impact. The plan is to keep fucking going, regardless.

You can see the bandleader as a god, arranging and producing, creating his and herself in his/her own image. Creating worlds and universes from one main brain. In that regard, what do you see Perhower representing? And how much of the outside world is created from your own interpretation from it? Does the concept of The Bad Atmosphere (as seen during the Conservative Party Conference where a steel fence was erected around the Hyatt and the ICC with a heavy police and security presence) stem from this personal interpretation, or does it stem from somewhere else, something metaphysical?

Am I playing God? Yes, a bit. Maybe God’s playing me? All I know is that a good leader needs to show great creative strength and confidence in his or her abilities, as well as being able to encourage and guide others around them. I believe that I have stumbled upon a very pure art-form, something very rare and seriously underrated. Not everyone can pull it off, in fact, almost nobody else has, so I’m happy in my rarity and uniqueness. There’s a disturbing level of love at the heart of this thing. I can sense blandness, numbness, falseness, so acutely, maybe that’s what being an artist really is? Maybe it’s all bollocks? HA HA HA HA.

Tell us more about your work at the centre for people with Cerebral Palsy. Are you planning to get a grant for your work, or are you thinking of something different?

This has been pretty amazing. Earlier this year, totally out-of-the-blue, I began teaching a quite severely disabled person to play the guitar. Gary Ironmonger is his name, and he’s a Stone Cold Rocker. I’ve tuned his guitar in a way that allows me to improvise stuff over the top. We’ve recently been using a drum machine and recruited another member from the centre, Paul, on guitar and keys / piano. Gary has also been playing keyboard, so we’re just mixing it up. At the very least, it’s a fascinating new band, but, at most, it’s a potentially important step towards realising human potential. I’ve made some good friends there and I hope to keep things moving into 2013. It’s Rock n Roll therapy for all involved, including me.

During Perhower’s last show at the Rainbow (by all accounts an excellent, excellent gig) you said “I’m onto something here. I know what I’m doing.” Would you mind telling us what exactly it is that you are doing?

What I’m ON TO is a PURE VISION; a mutated statement of creativity, insanity and survival. I’m keeping the bloodline strong. I’m weathering my troops, establishing the name, experimenting with dynamics, rhythm, format and platform – in a pure and selfish way. I’ll fight to the death for this freedom. You’ve only got to look at how the group conducted themselves at the last few gigs to know how sonically boosted they are. I’m the coach, they are the players, and we’re battling for promotion. Some of the gigs we’ve played recently, much like the last few Miss Halliwell shows, were borderline psychotic, but oddly rejuvenating. Just remember, we’re still at it, riding on the violent highs and lows of the live music scene – brains AND balls at full power.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/44021087@N02/

Tell us about your collaborations with other musicians from Birmingham and the Black Country. Who is Jett Fyter? What is the Jerk Test? How important is it to collaborate?

I don’t want to talk about those old ****s! ONLY JOKING! Allan and Jett are really great lads, great talents. It’s a pleasure to work with them.

Me and Allan will be continuing with Jerk Test, hoping to concoct some heavy SCI-FI narratives and dance-floor-fillers in the very near future. He’s also produced the majority of this upcoming PERHOWER EP, which has been quite an experience, thus far. We’re in the studio again on Saturday, a different producer this time, but I have to say that the day we did with Allan, via his Midwich Youth Club and Hobby Centre, was one of the most productive, professional, and personal recording sessions ever to have happened.

As for Mr. Fyter, well, he’s a mysterious entity, a serious Bard, a natural comic, a Rock n Roll Queen… OK, so I should probably explain that “Jett” is a fantastic vocalist / lyricist / poet / thing, that should probably never be trusted, but I do, TRUST HIM, with my life. I look forward to “working” with him again soon.

Can I have your five cultural experiences of 2012 please.

Cultural Experiences, eh? Well, I’d be stupid not to include some of the things we’ve already talked about in this interview; the various crazy gigs and the CP centre tuition / band, but I would definitely put the UKIP “Training Day” coverage in there too. That was an eye opener. The Olympics and the Euros were prominent, both were fucking DULL as fuck, but what can you do? I really enjoyed an American film called “The Comedy”, starring Tim Heidecker. Oh, and I saw my first Symphony, Shostakovich, at the Symphony Hall. That was interesting, musically fascinating, but the atmosphere was messed up – really stuffy. For some reason I wanted to jump from the Gods. Don’t mention Baudrillard. Not now, Miles. It’s difficult for someone like myself to avoid being seen as an egotistical, cultural Nazi, but I don’t really care what most people think anymore. I’d have to be seriously dumb to expect the vast majority of people to jump willingly into my mind. I’m quite obviously VERY SICK, TOO FAR GONE and BEYOND HELP. Ah, FUCK IT! There’s way too much vague waffle out there. I’ll fight my way through, have NO DOUBT! That’s why I’m being sucked into the world of journalism. Force the poor bastards to experience ‘culture’ through the eyes of MPH!

Finally, what have you asked Father Christmas for? Have you been a good boy?

Having recently converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, I will not be celebrating Xmas this year. In recent years I have kindly asked Father Christmas to leave me THE FUCK ALONE, but if he couldn’t refrain I’d ask for plenty of Whiskey and Cash. “Christmas” is a sick joke, isn’t it? – ****mas, more like. Yeah.

Well, never mind, here’s a treat to see us through the festive period, or any period, if it’s that time of the month…a preview from the ‘During the Interrogation’ EP…

Well it would appear that there’s something wrong with that transmission, so whilst we’re trying to fix the problem, here’s some music…

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2 thoughts on “The Alternative Christmas Message – Miles Perhower

  1. I want to add my thoughts to this, if you don’t mind, as someone fully aware of the independent underground scene and with an understanding of the bigger picture.
    I believe that bands, writers, singers, performers etc need to decide whether they are artists or employees.
    I hear a lot about the lack of success being down to audiences not understanding the output of musicians, as if it is the audience’s job to decipher the message. If you want to appeal to a large audience, you have to make it easy for them: they are your employer. If you don’t mind what anyone thinks and you just create regardless, you are not an employee but an artist – but being an artist means you don’t moan if nobody understands you and you get used to having no money; your reward is your art.
    The hard reality is this: if you want to be successful you have to be marketable. You have to have a product that people want; it is not about whether the product is good or not, it is not about making something and expecting the market to suddenly swing to your way of thinking. So I don’t agree with Miles that: “if you make the effort to create something which you believe to be of an extremely high quality, then it will be a success, sooner or later”. I think this is highly idealistic, but no, I don’t think he is a “deluded psychopath with no taste, talent or intelligence”. I just think he has yet to decide where his place is. At the moment he seems to be an artist who wants to be employed. I don’t think you can be both anymore: artists are unpredictable and dangerous; an employee just wants to keep their job, and their employer just wants them to make a profit.
    It is ironic that the business musicians want to be involved in is corrupt. It survives by making money out of musicians. However, in the process of doing so can also keep a musician in work for a lifetime. This is the knife edge a musician has to walk if they want to be successful. They may also need to change everything about themselves and be prepared to sacrifice everything they believe in. They also have to ask themselves what they have to offer the audience of today and where they fit into the music business now, in the wake of talent contest wannabe’s. You have to remember that influential music of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s was paid for by record companies who were interested in developing their artists… but only as long as their albums kept selling, or as long as their product had a viable market. Now there is no point in for example fusing the sound of Zappa and Genesis P-Orridge and being surprised when the record label asked for something a bit more like Olly Murs. Regrettably, at the moment Mr Murs is what sells, but who wants to be Olly Murs? The likes of Zappa, Velvet Underground, Bowie, Joy Division, Theatre of Hate, The Blue Nile, Jimi Hendrix, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Radiohead etc. would never get record deals now, they would either do what we do, or they would have given up.
    You could always consider the Talk Talk way into the music business, which entails pretending to be something popular for a couple of albums and then making the albums you really always wanted to make, and then getting dropped by your label for making a non-pop album and sued by them for deliberately making an album that was not commercial enough? Not such a straight forward way in I guess.
    I suppose the point I am trying to make is this: you have to decide whether you want to succeed at any cost, and then do anything to achieve this goal, including ‘selling out’ and losing your identity… you have to be prepared to be moulded by someone else’s ideals – transformed into a sellable product and sacrificing everything that is you. Or you continue making the music you want to make and be happy with that, regardless of whether you are appreciated or recognised. But don’t get angry if you are not understood: either accept that you are beyond comprehension, or make your music comprehensible. It is always easier to blame the consumer’s ignorance than make your product palatable.

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