This article originally appeared in the October edition of For the Love of Rock - October 9th, 2011
Interview by Valerie Disalvio – Writer, Editor and Senior Photographer
Interview with Jason Charles Miller
Jason Charles Miller Out to Prove There's Nothing "Uncountry" about him!
For over a decade, Jason Charles Miller has fronted Godhead, a rock band who toured with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne (Ozzfest), Marilyn Manson, and Disturbed. In the last couple of years, however, this rock ‘n’ roll frontman has gone back to his “dark country” roots to record his first full-length solo album, Uncountry, set to be released October 11.
Miller took the time to answer some questions for us about his music and what it means to be “dark country”.
Thank you, Jason, for speaking to us at For the Love of Rock.
Well you’re certainly a busy man…you have your own recording studio, you’re a recording artist, writer, producer, voiceover artist and actor. How do you find time to fit it all in?
I don’t! As you can see it took me 4 days to even get to these interview questions! LOL. I don’t know, honestly. My calendar is pretty crazy, but I’m doing what I love so it doesn’t really feel like work most of the time. I would say I’m at it about 18-20 hours a day, EVERY day though. I might take half a day off on the weekend, but not usually!
With everything you do, has music always been your number one or was there a time you thought maybe you’d want to focus more on acting?
First and foremost I am a musician and a songwriter. Everything else comes after that. Acting is fun and when I book a job I CERTAINLY give it my all and my complete attention, but music will always be first for me. The two are very intertwined though. The traveling minstrels of old had to do it all: sing, dance, act, write the stories, set up the stage, everything! At least I don’t have to dance!
For more than a decade you were the frontman for the rock band Godhead. How did you come about becoming a solo artist under the genre of “dark country”?
Well, when I decided to really branch out and be a solo artist, I wanted to do something that came from the heart. Godhead also comes from the heart, but a different part of it. I grew up listening to The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac (I’m STILL in love with Stevie Nicks), Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, The Cure, John Denver, Metallica, Frank Sinatra, Ozzy Osbourne, James Taylor, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Merle Haggard and David Bowie. Throw all those artists in my “mind stew”, send me to Nashville to write with some of the best songwriters in the world, and the “Uncountry” album is what comes out! Also I’m STILL the frontman for Godhead. We’re not dead yet, we’re UNdead. We’ll never die.
How would you describe the sound of “dark country” – and your musical interpretation of it – for those who may not have heard the term before or are new to your music?
You could call it goth county too. Has anyone coined that phrase yet? I don’t know what to call it. Godhead wasn’t metal enough for metal fans, wasn’t goth enough for goth fans, wasn’t industrial enough for industrial fans, but people still liked us (and still do, hopefully). So I’ve done it again.
I’ve screwed myself. My new music is this weird combination that’s part southern rock, part modern “Nashville country”, part Americana, part folk, and all about really “dark” subjects that not everyone likes to hear. Someone in Nashville said I don’t have any “party” songs. Like that’s a BAD thing? Let OTHER people sing the party songs. I’ll sing about the things I know: heartache, getting screwed over, giving into temptation and learning to live with guilt. The entire album deals with that, except for the title track that I co-wrote with my good friend Randall Clay. That one’s just a big middle finger song. Thanks, Randall!
Your first solo album, Uncountry, comes out Oct. 11. Can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording process and what it means to you to release your first solo album?
Well, I’ve been making a ton of trips to Nashville, TN from my adopted home of Los Angeles, CA (I’m originally from Clifton, VA). Trying to expand my mind and write with some of the best songwriters in the World, a lot of whom live in Nashville! And what crazy trips they’ve been! I’ve probably written 100 songs in the last year and a half, easily. More than I’ve ever written before in that amount of time by a LONG shot. Also, some of these songs were written there, some here, some solo, some co-writes. Most of it was recorded and produced by me in Los Angeles except for the new version of “You Get What You Pay For” (co-produced by Dan Hodges) and “You Must Have Loved Me A Lot” which were tracked in Nashville. I have another album’s worth of material ready, and most of it already recorded. I’m not going to stop, ever.
Your video for the title track “Uncountry” is both rockin’ and humorous. Can you tell us a little bit about the concept and who came up with it?
Well the director Travis Oates came up with all the comedy bits! When he told me about his ideas, I was just cracking up! He, Leif (producer) and I all sat around and brainstormed a lot of typical “country things” that a manager might ask me to do to try and “country me up”. Luckily the amazing Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager, Star Gate) was available to play my manager, and Grant Imahara from Mythbusters who I met on the set of “The Guild” (www.watchtheguild.com) was kind enough to come by the set to really amp up the comedy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT making fun of country music or images of country music, but rather how ridiculous I would look inserted into some of them. I’ll never be able to escape my past or who I am, so rather than try to be someone I’m not, I’m just going to give you exactly who I am. YES, I’m a tatted up goth who happened to grow up in the woods of Virginia, and who loves country music! I’ll tell you what though, in the past year I’ve played in front of the crowds of Toby Keith, Eric Church, Justin Moore and Gary Allan and their crowds accepted me for who I am just fine so I must be doing something right!!!
Much of your music has been used in the entertainment world, including the widely popular HBO series True Blood and also the pilot for another HBO series, Hung. Did your experience as an actor have a hand in making the connections for those two opportunities or did it happen some other way?
No, actually it was the amazing people over at my music publisher’s office, Bicycle Music who submitted me for those shows, but as an actor I HAVE made other music connections so it’s been fun being on so many sides of “showbiz.”
The song “Hangman” is the WWE Smackdown theme song. You can be heard on the song and co-wrote it with Rev Theory. How did that collaboration come about and how did WWE choose it as its theme?
I don’t think you can hear me on the final version, although I did sing backups on the demo. My good friend and amazing guitarist and songwriter Russell Ali, introduced me to the guys in Rev Theory and so Russell and I and the band have written several songs together. Hangman ended up on Rev’s new album “Justice” and since the guys have such a good relationship with WWE, I think the connection was just obvious for everyone involved. I’m very happy and lucky to have worked on that song.
You worked with Bret Michaels to remix his “Rock of Love” theme song for his solo album. Not too shabby J Tell us a little bit about the experience and how it was working with Bret.
Bret’s great! I was a Poison fan in High School I will admit, so working with him was kind of one of those “full circle” things, like going on tour opening for Ozzy was another. Bret’s an awesome guy who is one of the hardest workers I know out there. His guitarist Pete Evick originally made the introduction, as my first studio job ever was working for Pete at his recording studio in Manassass, VA in the 90s!
In closing, what would you like to say to your fans?
Thanks for sticking with me and coming on this ride together, and understanding that I love to perform more than one style of music. Your support has been nothing short of amazing!