The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rob Miller of Amebix

Posted in Questionnaire on July 14th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

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Rob Miller is known outside of music for his quality craftsmanship and classic sword-making for a company he founded during Amebix‘s long absence called Castle Keep. Based out of the Isle of Skye in the north of Scotland, Miller took time out this winter to reflect on his work.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Rob Miller

How did you come to do what you do?

In 1991 I arrived on Skye after a motorcycle accident in Bath, Somerset. At that point in my life I was once again without a home and at the end of a bad relationship. The accident broke my arm and trashed my bike, I was left with nothing but the tattered clothes I stood up in.

I decided that, as I could not return to work in the night shift job I had, I would head to Scotland to see my folks after many years without much contact. Skye was very different, a harsh and brutal landscape in winter yet also wide open and free. I moved up a few weeks later, bike and belongings in a van and started out by working in Hotels as a waiter and kitchen staff to bring money in.

Out of the blue a cheque appeared from my insurance, compensation for the accident. I had learnt to make the best of opportunity when it arises and decided to look into something I had always had a fascination with, swords. This was before the internet so I started by writing to antiquarian bookshops looking for books and manuals on Arms and armour, meanwhile buying a few rudimentary tools and beginning the process of learning how to be a smith. It took some time and a lot of mistakes, 23 years later I am established as one of the better Sword makers worldwide. By no means the best, but accomplished to a degree of which I am quite proud.

Describe your first musical memory.

Radio at my grandparents’, “Lilly the Pink” was the song. I was growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s so became tuned in to glam rock, T-Rex, some stuff like Joe Cocker, The Move, Procul Harum. The music you hear at an early age tends to go deeper than a lot subsequently.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Personally, playing the [Great American Music Hall] in San Francisco. The whole place was heaving, alive and electric, band and audience totally in sync with one another.

Live, (coff) Manowar in Bristol circa 1983. Mercyful Fate had dropped off the tour and the crowds simply did not come. They played in front of maybe 200 people in a 5,000-capacity Hall, and gave it everything they had. I learnt a lot that night about people who really believe in what they do and the shallow world.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

The past two years have seen most of my personal beliefs tested to breaking point. I have believed in the basic goodness of most people and that has been proved wrong too close to home.

However, I think we can get trapped in other people’s dramas and feed the lie, sometimes you need to step aside and let the river flow by. I have learned how to start again many times. ;)

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Hopefully to a perennial body of work. In one form or another, there is a compulsion in the artist to strive, and a constant dissatisfaction with the work. This is what keeps us going. The work itself must become the very highest expression of yourself. The medium is not important.

How do you define success?

Inner calm, confidence. The conquest of Fear and doubt.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Pineapple Express and another couple of dozen stupid fucking Hollywood movies that have effectively wasted precious hours of this life.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I would like to create one truly great song, indisputably great on every level, something that would affect actual change in the listener. There are only a few dozen instances that exist, that is true Art.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Here on Skye it is wintertime. The land dies and we lose touch with nature, we forget the signs and signals, the internal language of the Spring. I look forward to that. Here, we have five months of winter. When it is through there is a very real feeling of having been reborn once more. The cycle begins again. Life is neither good nor bad. Life just is.

Amebix, Live at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA, 2009

Castle Keep on Thee Facebooks

Amebix’s website

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