Derek Miller
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Derek Miller


Band Rock Blues


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The best kept secret in music


"It's Miller Time"

In the forty years that I’ve been attending concerts here in Toronto (not to mention the
thirty years that I’ve been writing about music for CREEM), it’s rare that I come across a
new local band that’s good enough to make me want to put my rock critic reputation on
the line by publicly endorsing them.
It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it’s usually the result of my being enthused
about a group after hearing their debut album. Once in a while I’ll even get a hot tip
about a new group beforehand and then go and hear them perform live to see for myself
what all the fuss is about. But never before have I ever walked through an outdoor
festival at high noon and been stopped dead in my tracks by three musicians who were so
impressive that I had to go and find out who they were immediately afterwards.
Never before, that is, until I heard Derek Miller’s new touring band rocking the summer
air with the kind of aplomb usually reserved for seasoned veterans.
Take it from me: in a country beleaguered at one end of the popular music spectrum by
banal politically correct barbershop quartets (hello, Ladies) and brutally bludgeoned at
the other end by an ululating cadre of emaciated caterwauling chanteuses (adieu, Dion),
this stripped down power trio—featuring Miller on guitar, Kenny Hoover on bass, and
Sean Kilbride on drums—exudes the kind of bravura technical skill, keen power pop
sensibilities, and refreshing youthful rock ‘n’ roll energy that I haven’t seen or heard the
likes of in a nascent group since I saw Rush’s first live performance in front of an
audience the night they made their public début at the late lamented Victory Burlesque
strip joint on Spadina Avenue.
But keep in mind that I’m talking about Miller live, so don’t go thinking that his debut
studio recording Music Is The Medicine encroaches on hyper-thyroid territory because it
doesn’t. Instead, it’s an intelligent blues-fuelled amalgamation of Jesse Winchester’s
tastefully transcendent tone ("Lovesick Blues #49") and Eric Clapton’s sharp surgical
style ("Jaded Are My Wings"), fused with the smooth conceptual fluidity of Jimi Hendrix
("The End Of The World") via the soulful spirituality of Exile On Main Street’s uplifting
second side.
Then there’s the infectious title track. Listen to it once and it sounds real good. Hear it a
second time and you won’t be able to get its choogling rhythms out of your head. And
let’s not forget Music Is The Medicine’s other high impact excursions: the stellar "War
Shack" percolates with all the verve and swerve of a rabid Exile outtake, replete with
female chorus chanting "Bye bye, baby, good bye" while Miller howls "Stuck in a war
shack, my bloody war shack." And then there’s the rockabilly instrumental "Corn Cob
Soup" which is every bit as goofy an old fashioned Link Wray rave up as the title
And speaking of the old rumbler, as befitting his live power trio shows, Miller is a fan of
the Wray/Geezer Butler/John Bonham school of big noise boys, so I wouldn’t be
surprised if he’s got a stash of private recordings at home where he just wails away,
caustically shredding schizoid riffs like Jeff Beck does these days. And while I don’t
expect him to let loose like that on his next album, it sure wouldn’t hurt if Miller
unleashed the inner beast on more than a couple of tracks the next time around.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and go out of your way to buy a copy of Derek’s
debut disc and hear for yourself why Music Is The Medicine is the rock solid foundation
of a career that has all the potential to one day rival that of another fellow Native
Canadian songwriting guitarist, Robbie Robertson.
And lest you think those are unreasonably high aspirations to attain, let me remind you
that this is one Miller whose music sounds great and has less filler. In other words,
there’s nothing lite about it.
—Jeffrey Morgan - CREEM MAGAZINE


I've got to hand it to Quint Davis. For the
umpteenth time, I stumbled upon a group
whose performance made me a huge fan.
Saturday afternoon at Jazzfest I was
unexpectedly rocked by vocalist/guitarist
Derek Miller and his band at the Lagniappe
I arrived at the concert at the right time—
one or two songs in. I stood off to the side
until I realized that these guys were the
shit, so to speak. I moved in closer, and as
the set went on, the energy around the
stage increased. I soon found myself
surrounded by people bent on getting
The fuss was that Miller and his mates
(bassist Kenny Hoover and drummer Sean
Kilbride) played plutonic blues/rock. I
know they sweated their asses off, but I
wouldn't be surprised if they shed some
blood, too. The band, dressed in matching
suits, had a garage rock attitude. Miller
had the confidence of Jagger, and he
flailed and strutted while he expertly
dumped off a blistering guitar solo. The
guys played mid-tempo stuff, but when
they increased their speed, I felt like I was
listening to AC/DC. That's a compliment.
The Lagniappe stage was predictably filled
with middle-aged wanderers, but even
they got into the hard rock after a bit.
Miller was just a good showman, and who
doesn't want a good show, old people
The crowd shouted for an encore, a rare
thing for Jazzfest. After a minute, the boys
re-emerged from the horse stables behind
the stage to satiate the audience with one
more rocking song, which is all the
audience would have accepted at such a
high energy point of the concert.
Miller is based in Toronto, so don't expect
to see him anytime soon. But, if you saw
the concert and liked him, drop him a line
at his website. I'm sure he'd like to hear
the southerners enjoyed him. - Live New Orleans


MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Derek Miller - disheveled yet
stylishly neat in his retro pin-striped suit - eyes the crowd
before him at Milwaukee's Indian Summer Festival.
Suddenly, as if struck by lightening, he launches into a
stellar two-minute guitar solo with such carefree
exuberance that it leaves audience members in a daze,
wondering what just happened.
How appropriate then that a wry grin should cross
Miller's face, for this performance is being delivered at
one of the largest gatherings of American Indians in the
nation. His large brown eyes reflect the setting sun as his
phenomenal guitar riffs continue to amaze the audience.
Miller hails from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. He
has been playing music for 14 years, gathering the
admiration of fellow musicians Robbie Robertson, Buffy
St. Marie and countless music critics.
Miller handles his guitar with a strumming, finger-picking
style that has earned him numerous awards on the
Canadian and American scene in the past few years.
Striking and original, his maturity belies his youth. In his
finely honed tenor-spliced-with-a-growl of a voice, Miller
delivers a knockout punch, segueing neatly into "Music
Is The Medicine", his latest offering from the CD of the
same name.
Miller has been touring to support the release of "Music
is the Medicine." He is backed by Ken Hoover on bass
and Sean Kilbride on drums. The power trio performs
with boundless energy.
"It's great to be performing in the states. We hope our music reaches the masses here - so far the year has
been very good for us," Miller said after the Indian Summer Fest set. Their awards continue to collect and
deservedly so.
by: Abbey Thompson - Indian Country Today

"Derek Miller Channels Hunter Thompson For His Dirty Looks"

Thursday November 09, 2006 @ 07:30 PM

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Derek Miller isn't quite sure how to explain it, but he believes that there must be some sort of higher power watching over him. It's the only way he can describe how, through drug and alcohol addiction, he managed to produce an award-nominated album and land his first gig as an actor. "I almost killed myself making the damn thing," Miller says of his new CD, The Dirty Looks. "That being said, it's also me realizing that I was barrelling out of control. "I didn't realize it consciously at the time, so it's kind of a statement of me trying to get those demons under control. I was really happy to make that record because it was purging, and it also got me to get into rehab to get me the help that I needed to get it done… It was medicine to do that record as much as it was hard to do as well."

The Dirty Looks, the follow-up to Miller's Juno Award-winning Music Is The Medicine debut, has a classic rock feel that's a significant departure from his earlier work."The first one was more towards the light, and this one was more scattered and more drug-fuelled," Miller explains. "Stylistically, it's just more aggressive and a bit more scattered and eccentric. "Mimicking the hodge-podge nature of The Dirty Looks' songs, the Brandon Friesen-produced disc was recorded in multiple locations, including Winnipeg, Toronto, Mississauga and a trailer borrowed from actor Gary Farmer in Six Nations of Grand River, Ontario. "The whole record was just a total Hunter Thompson sort of freakin' deal," says Miller. "It was all pretty scary, let's put it that way."

In spite of the dark places that The Dirty Looks emerged from, it recently garnered nominations for best rock CD, songwriter and engineer/producer at the Aboriginal Peoples Choice awards. The accolades didn't shock Miller, who explains that he was actually very coherent when he was high. "I'm not surprised, because I was a functioning drug addict and alcoholic. I was very meticulous about my work and I'm a perfectionist, so I'm not surprised. But, yeah, I just worked really hard at this. I mean, I've toiled 18 years doing music. I'd like to think that I'm kind of good at it. Having a clear mind, I'm pretty sure that my next record will be a lot stronger."

The Dirty Looks wasn't the only project that forced Miller to face his demons and head for rehab. He also fell into one of the lead roles in a new film from Big Soul Productions called 133 Skyway. It turned out that, at the time, the role was tailor-made for Miller and his vices. "There seems to be help from some higher power or something, because this role is a drunken hobo musician," Miller muses. "And when I played the damn part, it kind of catapulted me into the future 20 years."It kind of prompted me to go sort stuff out… Being arrogant and egocentric at that time, having that little part kick your ass, it was very humbling."

Now sober, Miller has begun making plans for the future. Though nothing has been solidified yet, he expects to do a cross-country tour for The Dirty Looks and has already started working on new songs. Though he's excited to get these projects underway, Miller plans to take things slowly at first. "I'm just going to start slowly picking my way through, trying to build up some momentum. Hopefully I'll be getting across Canada within the new year. We've got stuff working but, since I came out of the rehab joint, we've been trying to figure out our strategy. Right now I'm just rehearsing with the band and writing new material… as an artist I just have to maintain doing what I do best."

—Scott Bryson


The Dirty Looks - 2006
Muisc Is The Medicine (2002)
Sketches (1999)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Derek Miller is Link Wray and Hank Williams on peyote.
Derek Miller is a howling voodoo wolf with a guitar on his back.
Derek Miller is a completely original rock’n’roll legend.

Derek Miller (Bear Clan) Born Oct 29th 1974, on the Six Nations of the Grand River, Mohawk Territory. Derek’s musical journey began when his mother gave him a warped neck Fender guitar fished out of his deceased grandfathers closet at the age of 13. “Looking back at it now, it was as though his spirit was saying, take this, talk to me through this instrument and everything will be fine.” He connected with the guitar and feverishly devoured all he could, playing with his cousins and friends, copping licks from his mother’s extensive record collection. “She used to dance me to sleep, so I often wondered if that’s why I had time and rhythm…but I do tend to push the beat hard.”

A few years of playing and a few low-tech demos later, Derek gave his first offerings to the public of what he could really do…and people took notice. Like former music writer Howard Druckman who first brought Derek to the attention of a public outside Six Nations, and famous peace advocate Buffy St. Marie who would eventually take Derek on the road with her, exposing him to Canada at large. Writing, recording, and the road followed with Derek putting out the Sketches EP, as well as heading south to Phoenix and garnering producer credits in 2000 for Keith Secola and The Wild Band of Indians hit Fingermonkey. In 2002 he released Music Is The Medicine and began to focus more on his own career. He was recognized with a Juno Award for this album, a spiritual journey for Derek, using music as the catalyst for the curing of a troubled soul. The success of that recording gave way to international touring for the better part of 2 years to far away lands like Norway, Greenland and France, and hanging out in NYC with friends such as Jim Jarmusch who coined the Link Wray/Hank Williams comparison.
“By 2005, I felt like I had given my soul completely to the devil…touring, drinking and pumping my body full of drugs…it had me reeling pretty bad…thank the Maker for friends saying ‘get help’…that’s what I was battling as I went to record The Dirty Looks. It was the hardest thing I’d done at that point, then I went through rehab and wrung out the laundry. Through native culture, ceremony and trauma recovery I felt I’d won my soul back…and you can hear that torture on that record, and man, I’m just grateful I lived through it.”
Dirty Looks is full of changes and experience that can be heard on songs like ‘Devil Come Down Sunday’ a song written as a testament to life after you get through the hard livin. Derek wrote this song in 10 minutes directly following a near death car experience in the Ontario bush that almost took his life in the same way it took his father’s. ‘Ocean (All Night Long)’ is a prayer to his grandfather on the other side; ‘10 000 RPM’ is the American dream being a fast car and a hot woman, both showing no remorse or consequence and ‘Stormy Eyes’ is a cry to war with your greatest enemy…yourself.

“You just get sick of the smoke and mirrors of show business…but this music has no apology nor does it come from a formula…and I’m so thankful I’m able to tour because I’m told it’s WAY better live!” The Dirty Looks is Derek’s story, a story of experience, troubles, good times and bad, of a man fighting for his life and winning.