Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jack Rose, The Athenaeum, Fredericksburg, VA.

Photo by Ethan Miller, Jack Rose performs at Arthur Fest in Los Angeles, 2005.

Friends, we lost a damn fine artist in Jack’s passing. I am a big Jack Rose fan and his music has and continues to bring me a great amount of joy and inspiration. I wanted to do some kind of memorial for Jack here on the blog and in the end I felt that sharing one of his performances would be more illuminating and intimate to his friends and fans than anything I could write. I have been told that Jack approved of the taping and trading of his shows. Philip Smoker has given me a beautiful live show of Jack’s from last summer in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Phil, also a great Jack Rose fan, felt that this show in particular had an exceptional quality and intensity. I encourage any and all of you to write memories, thoughts, fan’s notes, whatever you want about Jack in the comments section. If you have live shows that you have taped, photos, video or any other item capturing Jack as a musician or a friend and you don’t have a way to get them to his family please email me here: and I will help get them to Jack’s family. I’m sure any and all would be appreciated.

Here is an excerpt from an email that Phil sent describing the show:

“…the venue was an old 250+-year-old building with massive exposed wooden beams that had been converted into a bookstore and arts space. There were various seats and sofas and folding chairs scattered around, all occupied but not crowded, as the room was getting muggy from the lack of modern climate control. Everyone lit up when Jack took a seat on the small wooden stage, and he played as brilliantly as ever. He broke a string at one point, and the whole place gasped in unison, but he took it in stride and coolly changed guitars. I met his mom and a few other family members throughout the night, and they seemed thrilled to hear him play. I wish he'd played longer, but I thought that every time he played… listening to this set in headphones, I feel like he's sitting right there in front of me, in a room full of people that deeply care about him, playing beautiful notes and melodies that I just never get tired of hearing over and over...”

I post this gig with loving memories of the handful of performances I had the pleasure of seeing and in honor of Jack's great and joyful music. It continues to ring with undiminished power and vibrancy.

Jack Rose. June 18, 2009 @ The Athenaeum, Fredericksburg,Virginia.

1. Cross the North Folk

2. Dusty Grass

3. Kensington Blues

4. Linden Avenue Stomp/ Everybody Ought To Pray Sometime

5. Luck In The Valley

6. Now That I’m A Man Full Grown II

7. St. Louis Blues

8. Woodpiles On The Side Of The Road

9. The World Has Let Me Down

Download from Mediafire:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Howlin Rain Live @ The Sidecar, Barcelona, Spain. 11.12.08

Photo by Le.Aguant 2008.

This Sidecar show is a warts and all event no doubt about it. The recording quality and "looseness" of the band are all part of the glory and charm. This show holds a very fond place in my memory both for the audience enthusiasm and because an old friend of ours from Humboldt County, Aolani Beere, came down from the Spanish hills where she now lives as a gypsy musician to join us on violin for a 12 minute version of "Nomads". To this day I feel that the sound and soul she brought to our song with her playing is among the most transcendent and beautiful moments in the history of Howlin Rain's music. Alas, Aolani's bright star is not the only thing special about this show. Herein also lies the sound of a band that is road weathered.
Here’s the thing, I believe that every band that tours in album cycles, usually anywhere from 6 months to 2 or 3 years per cycle, straddles this "performance elevation" trajectory that goes something like this: first 3 or 4 months the band is sinking into the songs and trying to really harness them. At 4 to 8 months the band has both enflamed the power of the beast, enlarged it and at the same time has harnessed it and controlling it nearly to perfection---this zone is the perfect zone to see a band play live in---it's when they take the stage and just command the room, the songs, your emotions, your adrenaline---they are doing something where intellect, physicality and primal knowledge have combined to create transcendent performance. This phase is a high-energy phase and for a few reasons can leave the band with a bit of a serotonin depletion in the next phase. Somewhere around 9 months and on up to the finish of tours (some bands can hold the "in the pocket" phase for up to a year or more but usually it's 9 months or so) a couple things can happen. Because the band has played the songs so many times, the power and tightest moments of the songs and the set are starting to lose some of the high for the band--thus the drug “come-down” metaphor. Musicians inspiration, just like listeners ears, can't just keep beating out these musical subtleties and climaxes and transcendent connections with the same conviction and finesse over and over forever. So at this phase as far as I've seen 2 things usually happen. One is the band has just memorized everything including seemingly spontaneous feeling etc and performs in a satisfactory way so that the fans get to hear the music and see the performance and, they don't feel ripped off, but deep down there is a nagging feeling that a ghost is walking over the grave of the music you so deeply love. This happens a lot when you go see a world touring stadium band that is in their 2nd year of touring a hit record. The other thing that can happen is that because the big headlines and bold print of the songs are no longer providing the challenge and rush that they once did the band begins to look between the lines. A crack fiend endlessly brushing his hand over a white shag carpet for crack crumbs that most likely never fell there--but the motion is wild, focused and invigorated. Or a mad man no longer reading the bible itself but now attempting to decode it's meaning by studying the nuances of color in a plain white wall. The band still has the pedal to the metal, fists white-knuckled on the wheel, burning the fuel reserves down to the rolling gravel at the bottom of a rusted tank but the wheels are coming off the rig and the vehicle is coming apart fast. The Finesse, the precision, the tightness is gone and rusted through but the maniacal pursuit of these things continue. Anyhow, that's all to say that this second option is where Howlin Rain was by this show in Spain. We were days from the end of a year and a half of touring these songs and to me there are echoes of life confusion and tour psychosis there. In a subtle way, Between the notes. There aren't a ton of guitars in this recording. So of course I will be putting up a guitar heavy show at a later date to counter that aesthetic misrepresentation. Despite the lack of guitar bombast this one is about the ghost in the room---not a good or bad ghost---just kind of strange. This is one of my favorites, warts, partying Spaniards, Aolani, ghosts and all.

Get it here:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Comets On Fire "The Black Cassette"

I was going through a box of old tapes the other day and found this artifact. The Comets On Fire "Black Cassette". This sucker is so rare and forgotten I didn't even give it a catalog release number on my Silver Currant label when we made them. Just its number out of 21 made. Most often in Comets, Noel or I would make these at 2:30 am the night before heading out on tour and we'd just pull old rehearsal recordings from out of a box of hundreds that we have and find a couple killer 20 minute free jams and dub one on each side and there you go. So that's what this is. The cover is made of black lightweight construction paper, the comet symbol is burned into the paper by bleach, the Comets title is silk screened in gray ink and it was numbered in pencil. I'm not positive about this but it sounds like these jams were probably between Blue Cathedral and Avatar, I guess that's sometime in 2005 most likely. Side one sounds like the full band: Utrillo, Flashman, Noel, Myself and Chasny. Side two sounds like myself, Flashman and Utrillo but Chasny or Noel or both could be in there---it's hard to tell. Most likely this was recorded by Noel on a 4 track that we just used 2 channels of with two PZM's laid out on the floor haphazardly and would have just been a regular beer guzzling practice night. It's likely that both jams were completely spontaneous rather than riffs or songs someone brought in.
There is also a "White Cassette" that exists that I am trying to find to put up here but I am having trouble finding it in the vault. Will keep looking though. Enjoy!

Comets On Fire "Black Cassette"
1. Side One
2. Side Two

get it here:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Explosive Rock comp! by Steve Krakow. Further adventures into battered, broken and bizarre rock and roll!

Sorry for the silence on here. For some reason of the other I’ve just sort of neglected the blog for a while. I think my head has been a little out of it. Don’t know why. I’ve got a few buddies who have written me recently and spoke of a similar low grade early spring depression. I read on line that perhaps I should try putting twice as much gin in my G & T’s and then drink half as many G & T’s per day and I have been doing that but I have added a white wine chaser and it seems to be helping.
One reason I’ve been neglecting is I have got the new incarnation of Howlin Rain as a power rock 4 piece up and running and we’ve been rehearsing like madmen. In recent years I kept experimenting with mellower and mellower music with Howlin Rain and then when we hit the road last year forever I just kept wanting to work the songs into heavier and heavier jams on stage. It’s a blast to make mellow jams in a studio. Maybe even more fun than making heavy jams because there is so much room for nuance but then when you hit the stage it just feels so goddamn good to feel like you are stepping in to the gladiator’s arena to do battle to the death with heavy jams. I can feel these new 4 piece Rain jams like a hungry lion trying to eat me for lunch. You know, you feel like you're under the shadow of something big and wild and you can’t outsmart it you just have to try and tear its eyes out while it takes you down to the dirt and blood.
Another thing that kind of got the spark a little hotter in the engine recently was running into this old cassette tape that was in the car the other night. Yes, my wife’s car has a cassette player still so that’s where cassettes go to die. “Explosive Rock Comp” made for me years ago in 2003 by Steve Krakow aka Crimewave. In fact I’m not totally sure it was made for me or if he already had a library of comps with different themes made up, but at the time I got it I was just immersed completely in heavy-psych-garage-explosive rock from all the touring and album making in Comets on Fire, being in a heavy psych rock band, the bands we’d play with, the music people would give me. Even though I'm pretty sure I asked Steve to make me the comp, I just didn’t want to hear “heavy psych rock” for a spell at that point. I thought the comp was well above average of course because Krakow is like the Library of Congress of lost rock and roll and I remember listening to it quite a bit when I got it but it wasn’t until March 30th, 2009 (4 days ago), that I really got the full impact of this killer comp.
My full taste for busted gnarly broke dick savage rock and roll has come back full force in the past year or so and when I pushed this dusty, rattling old cassette into the player I got my mind blown. It was just what I wanted to hear. You may know some of these songs and bands or you may never have heard any of them. It is indeed a great "Exploding Rock" comp either way. It’s an incredibly inspiring riff comp also for you song and riff writers out there, and perhaps even more inspiring are the wild solos. Lots of unhinged, fuzzed out , I don’t give a flying fuck cause I’m on speed and acid and I have this Hi-Watt cranked solos!!!
So I guess the long and the short of it is that this is the second in the series of “Great Riff” comps (more to come) that I have been given that I am using as inspiration for heavy riff writing but this one waltzed out of a corridor of my past to find me instead of me asking for it. Well, I asked for it in 2003 or whatever but it hibernated in a glove compartment and came back to me when I really needed it for inspiration.
A couple notes about the comp itself. I have transferred it to mp3 from cassette. Krakow’s shit came from his 7 inches and albums not mp3s. He made this before all this on line shit was mainstream. It’s questionable whether he even has a computer now with any music on it. Some of the songs skip when he made it. That’s just how it is. I like to think of it as part of the charm. He probably dropped the cherry of his joint onto the 45 as it was recording and was frantically trying to brush it off and knocked the needle but didn't go back and rerecord the jam because he was on a roll.
Thanks Steve, in case I never said it back in 03.
Nobody love's the mother fucking HULK!!!

Explosive Rock!
1. Futilist's Lament. High Tide
2. Its Too Late. JPT Scare Band
3. Why Can't Somebody Love Me? Edgar Broughton Band
4. Hassles. Fresh Blueberry Pancakes
5. Chauffer. Black Cat Bones
6. Vacation. John Mayall
7. Cradle Rock (Live). Rory Gallagher
8. Virgin. Brain Box
9. Is There A Better Way. Status Quo
10. Wonder Woman. Attila
11. Nobody Loves The Hulk. The Traits
12. Only Good For Conversation.Rodriguez
13. Seven Times Infinity.Sunlight
14.Lame. Incredible Hog
15.I'm A Freak. Wicked Lady
16.Grey Skies.Northwest Company
17. Can't You Feel It. Water Music
18. It's Just the Way I Feel. Mt. Rushmore
19. Sticky Living. BB Blunder
20.Child He Die.Rats
21. Photogenic Jenny.Curfew

get it here:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Howlin Rain Unreleased Haunted Acoustic EP from the Vaults: "Three From A Phantom Saloon"

This is a 3 song EP that Joel and I recorded at Louder Studios in SF with 2 acoustic guitars and a piano. It is 3 Howlin Rain songs rendered into mutant acoustic versions. We mostly just ran tape and played and sang with a piano overdub or a vocal overdub here or there when we felt we could do better or to round it out. It was a quick little session that we did in one evening in some left over time from a mastering or editing session that was for something else to do with preparation for Magnificent Fiend's release back in late '07. I just came across them and took a listen the other day and they sound raw but beautiful and ghostly to me. More like ghosts than old songs and recordings usually sound to me. I Especially dig the haunted saloon piano vibe and "Romancing The Stone" soundtrack-esque acoustic solo. The proper accompaniment drink for this EP is a tall Vodka with Club Soda and plenty of fresh Lime. AKA the Tim Green fave.

Howlin Rain.
"Three From A Phantom Saloon"

1.In Sand & Dirt
2.Calling Lightning pt 2

Photo of Ethan & Joel at Old East Oakland practice space by Hilary Hulteen, 2008.
download here:

Monk's Rules To His Band

This has been posted elsewhere and is not exclusive to Silver Currant but it is just such a simple yet transcendent set of commandments I wanted it here too in case folks had missed it elsewhere. Click on the image to enlarge for viewing. Fellow musicians, these are your marching orders, they will never fail you!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Lost Electric Six Organs Of Admittance Album

This is the unreleased Electric Six Organs record. It’s a short record because the tape ran out on one song. I think of myself as fairly unsentimental. I am much more of a “fuck the good old days” kind of guy but listening to this for the first time in years the other day took me back for a moment to May 22, 2002. Usually when I listen to a record I’ve made or even happen upon a bygone rehearsal tape I can’t for the life of me imagine what I was thinking, where I was or why it was done this way. Perhaps it is because this tape is so raw and off the cuff but when I listened to it again I could really see the room, remember where everyone was standing, the lighting, the kind of beer we were drinking, for once I could understand where, why and how we did it.

It was made during the Field Recordings From the Sun rehearsals. Ben Chasny decided that he wanted to do an electric project with some of the Six Organs songs. He wanted a mellow groove oriented backing band as a platform and a foil for wild guitar and the Six Organs narrative and asked Comets On Fire to be the band. We set out with the idea of doing a few short rehearsals and then record an album with my Otari 8-track. The album was recorded but never released and in fact these recordings are from a 4 track reel to reel in what I believe was the first rehearsal. In the end the 8 track stuff just never had the same energy we captured that first time so that is why you are hearing that instead of the 8 track recordings, these would have been the release. Unfortunately the tape ran out on the end of “Even if You Knew”. Fuck it. We did tour Electric Six Organs alongside Comets on Fire on the U.S. West Coast including Canada. But this was before Field Recordings came out and really very few people saw us. I think Chasny even designed a record cover for the LP release of this album but at some point it fell from his grace or just fell to the back of the burner and then off the stove completely, I'm not sure which.

I can hear so much of that excited reckless energy in what we were doing with our music at that time in these recordings. In Chasny’s soloing and the general vibe of Electric Six O songs there is this incredible blend of spiritualism and nihilism. I guess to me, that’s often been the complex, struggling and overwhelming element of Six Organs in any of its forms, but I feel like that battle is laid out in a very raw and explicit duel in these three songs. Chasny's soloing was different in these sessions, it had a different tonal character and a different sense of space. Perhaps that has something to do with the groove beneath it--that element of swing groove rhythm isn't common to the Six Organs sound. There are some beautiful ghosts of melodies haunting the feedback on this record that I've never heard him do in quite the same way on later albums. I believe that up to this point Six Organs was still pretty much acoustic on record and live. This was kind of the gateway into the electric Six Organs phase, or the incorporation of electric instruments into Six Organs. That phase has since been incorporated in sometimes more subtle ways and sometimes more extreme ways but the roots of many of those ideas are here as an experiment, a beginning point.

One of my favorite anecdotes of this period, and forgive me if I’ve told you this one before, was on the way to the studio during the Field Recordings sessions at Tim Green's and we were all so excited about recording in a real studio for the first time. We had all the major basic tracks in the can too---in fact originally we had so much material and length that Field Recordings was going to be a double album but we brought it down to just over half an hour in length---good move!) and Chasny was going to lay down solos and perform “The Unicorn” that day and he was seriously hung over and in a fairly black mood and told us if we had any balls we’d take the master tapes from this record when it was finished and pour gasoline all over them and then bury them in a tar pit and dig them up in ten years and release that! For some reason, perhaps because I was on the brink of finishing my first real album and it was such a precious accomplishment to me that the thought of that was so horrifying but somehow wonderful at the same time. That really stuck with me over the years. Chasny wrote me the other day and told me he actually finally did make a record and buried the tapes and was going to dig it up in some years and release it. Pretty killer.

Electric Six Organs.
Recorded in San Francisco, May 22, 2002

1.1000 Birds
2.Close To The Sky
3.Even If You Knew

Ben Chasny, Vocals & Lead Guitar
Noel Harmonson: Bells and Rhythm Guitar
Ethan Miller: Rhythm Guitar
Ben Flashman: Bass
Utrillo Kushner: Drums

Chasny in Europe Photo by Mathieu Betard.

Get Electric Six Organs Album here:


Wednesday, February 25, 2009


My good friend Arik Roper, (you may also know him as the graphic artist for both Howlin Rain albums, High On Fire, Earth, The Black Crowes, Sleep and many other album covers, posters, t-shirts, Arthur Mag illustrations, etc) is about to see the first major publication of his work in book form. In early April Abrams will release an extraordinary coffee table book on Magic Mushrooms illustrated by Roper. The publishing world is a whole other mother fucker and as a friend and a fan it gives me a great deal of pride to see Arik's accomplishment and hope that his beautiful water color work continues to reach an expanded audience. Visit Arik's website for pre-order.
Congratulations Arik! Fuck Yeah Brother!!! Next stop the California school curriculum!

Abrams Book description:

"For centuries hallucinogenic mushrooms have participated in a sublime relationship with humankind, thanks to their psychoactive chemicals that shift and modify the human mind. Arik Roper's exquisite painted portraits of magic mushrooms illustrate more than 90 of the known hallucinogenic species from around the world. He captures their powerful auras, adding to a tradition of Mushroom art that stretches back more than 400 years.
Popular culture critics Erik Davis and Daniel Pinchbeck provide background and testimony in elegant essays, and mushroom expert Gary Lincoff contributes notes. This beautifully designed and profusely illustrated mushroom bible will appeal to nature lovers, mushroom hunters, and enthusiasts of all things psychedelic."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Unrivaled International Psych, Savage Jams, Broken Rock & Battered Soul Comp by the Mighty Fitz!

As the premiere posting olive branch I present to you a shrine of psychedelic music. This incredible grail of savage jams, battered Soul and international Psych warriors was compiled by the legendary John Fitzgerald (aka Fitz) for me after I told him that I wanted him to make me a "riff" comp to inspire me to write heavy riffs for the next Howlin Rain record. Fitz has booked and driven and promoted Howlin Rain across much of the UK, Europe and Scandinavia in the last year and most of the time some glorious unearthed heavy psych gem was blasting from the stereo, out of tune guitars wailing, drums pounding, some foreign rock god or goddess shrieking bloody murder in some unrecognizable but hypnotic tongue as our van screamed down the M1 or Autobahn! Fitz is a true lover and collector of underground and the esoteric of international hard rock psychedelia, the more riffed out the more beautiful. Thank You Fitz!
Please enjoy and share.


1. Metamorphi. Four Levels of Existance
2. Lagoa das Lontras. O Terco
3. Ve. Erkin Koray
4. Human Being. Coloured Balls
5. Egy Lany Nem Ment Haza. Omega Redstar
6. Noc Je Moja. YU Grupa- Yu Grupa
7. Negros Son Tus Ojos. Las Grecas
8. Let Me Start. Telegraph Ave
9. Bullets. Zipper
10. Gdyby's Kochal Hej! Breakout
11. Sevenler Aglarmis. 3 Hur-El
12. Violence. Blue Phantom
13. Nao Fale Com Paredes. Modulo 1000
14. Toma El Tren Hacia El Sur. Alemendra
15. E Assim Falava Mefistofeles. O Bando
16. Cynthy-Ruth. Black Merda
17. Thinking Black. Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm
18. Midnight Train. Tommy James
19. Your Love Has Been So Good To Me. Ruth Copeland
20. Show Stopper. Iron Knowledge

Get comp here:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Birth of the Silver Currant Blog

Good Day,
Welcome to Silver Currant!
I now have a place to post music, books, photos from the road & recordings and gin and tonic ponderings of all sorts that relate to the Howlin Rain or anything otherwise. I have named the blog after my first and only record label; Silver Currant, that I began in Santa Cruz, Ca. in the late 90's. All my releases were usually limited to about 10 copies or so, cdrs and were all hand silk screened covers. I think we released about 2 or 3 Comets on Fire live shows in the Silver Currant cdr roster and so far one Howlin Rain live disk---all those beat out the edition of 10 mark and climbed well into the hundred range! Anyhow, thats where the name comes from. I may be a little slow getting started but I'm going to post some killer tunes and other delights soon. Enough bullshit---I will do my god's honest best to keep the bullshit rants to a minimum and tunes, art and strong cheap dope to a maximum here!
Ethan Miller