An Interview with TJ Miller of Still Remains
This interview was conducted on Friday, August 19th 2005, at the HYAMP in Huntington, WV. HYAMP, which stands for Huntington Youth Arts and Music Project, is an all age’s venue run strictly by volunteers, with much of their equipment funded by grant money. The interview took place behind the venue, next to a rail yard. TJ Miller, the lead vocalist of Still Remains, was more than happy to give me the run down of the bands experiences and future thinking. He was fun to talk to, very receptive and whimsical at times, really a unique character. I really enjoyed our conversation and the interview as a whole; I’m looking forward to the opportunity to talk with him again.
Wes: Well I guess my first question for you is how did you get signed with Road Runner?
TJ: A lot of it has to do with who you know. It's basically... we sent them a demo. Our management knew a couple of the guys over there, it's like “hey we're sending you this demo, check it out”, ya know they're like, “all right all right”. “Their like no check out this demo it's gonna be the next band you sign”. And they ended up really liking it basically and they called us back, they were pretty geeked about it, they came out to some of our shows and it went from there. It was awesome.
Wes: Am I ashing on you?
Wes: Alright. This isn't bothering you?
Wes: I just wanna make sure.
TJ: It's all good.
Wes: How did you guys come up with the band name Still Remains?
TJ: Man, the name means probably something different to all of us. But we came up with the name... we had started the band and been jamming for a couple of months and we only had a few songs and we were offered to play this show. And the guy was like, “Hey man we need a name to put on the flyer”, I mean we hadn't even named the band yet. We were just writing songs, we were just jamming. And so one weekend I remember we just huddled and brainstormed. Still Remains sounded the coolest and we figured “ahhh, whatever, we'll change it eventually”. And we never did cause we're lazy. So that's just kinda what we went with.
Wes: This is your second album, Of Love and Lunacy, your touring in support for?
TJ: This is our first album on Roadrunner. We put out an EP independently last year that was called If Love was Born to Die. But this is our first tour, touring on an actual album. It's our first tour since the record came out yet.
Wes: And it came out in May of 2005?
TJ: It came out in May. We were in Europe when it came out. It kinda sucked, I wish we coulda been home when it came out. But ya know...
Wes: What was it like for you guys to play overseas?
TJ: Crazy, cause of different languages everyday. Unless your like in the UK cause they all speak English. But going from like Germany to Italy then Spain. All these different countries, it's crazy cause you learn a few words one day. You forget about it the next day cause you gotta learn a whole new set of words, try to... ya know... say hi to people and stuff like that. It was just cool, it's a different vibe. Some of the places felt like home, Spain felt like home… some what like home the couple of shows we played there.
Other Band Member: You want pizza? Pepperoni?
Wes: It's alright man, no problem.
Wes: What is the craziest thing to happen to you guys while you were touring in Europe?
TJ: I gotta think of these answers before you people come. They always ask these kinds of questions. The whole thing was just so surreal. We shared a bus with Three Inches of Blood; those guys are just off the wall. It was awesome. I remember one night Jordan got really sick. And we were all sitting in the lobby of the bus and he was just puking his guts out in this little bathroom and it was just the noises he was making...
TJ: Puke noise.
TJ: And we were all like laughing at him. I feel so bad. There were a couple of times... you can't crap on the buses so if you've gotta go and they don't wanna stop, the bus drivers, you've gotta like crap in a bag, like a plastic bag. So there were a couple of times guys had to take dumps in plastic bags.
TJ: It's kinda gross, but I think it's funny. It's probably lame to everybody else. It was one of the craziest things... “Ahh... dude I just had to hot bag it!” That sucks.
Wes: Laughing more.
TJ: Its so disgusting and you can smell it, ya know, and you can hold it and know what your our crap feels like in your own hand.
Wes: You guys should just get diapers.
TJ: That's what I said. Ya know, 20 year olds wearing Depends on the road.
Wes: The Road Rage tour you were part of took you to play your first shows in Canada, is that right?
Wes: Did you get a good response from the audience up there?
TJ: We got a great response there. The shows weren't that big, there was some other tour going on, I can't remember the name of it, playing the same nights as our nights. So most of the kids went to those shows. The kids that did come to ours had a really good time. I'm really excited to go back there; we won't be fighting against a big tour like that. This tour will be up there for like four days. I think that will be a real taste of Canada. They've got that show Fuse up there, it's kinda like MTV I guess, they play music videos all day. We were watching it up in Canada; they’re starting to play bands more along the lines of us. Hopefully that'll help.
Wes: What was the single you guys produced the video for?
TJ: The Worst is Yet to Come is the name of the song
Wes: Have you guys got any air time for that?
TJ: Yeah, its been on fast rotation on Head Bangers Ball, MTV. Kids are downloading it like crazy off of MySpace. Stuff like that.
Wes: How did you start working with Garth Richardson?
TJ: Well when we were writing the record back home I remember getting a call from our managers, “So ahh, what producers do you wanna work with?” We had a few in mind, Garth was one of them. He was like our top choice. One of the guys at Road Runner was like “yeah, I know Garth, I've worked with him before.” He got in touch with him, sent him demos of our songs and Garth really like what he was hearing so he was like “Yeah, I'll do it. I'll do it, sure.” But he wasn't sure for a while, the dude's got so much going, I mean he's constantly working; he'll be doing like two bands at once, stuff like that. But he was like “Yeah I'll do it.” So it worked out and we went up there and had a blast. Really nervous at first cause he's such a well know producer. But man he's rad; I would definitely work with him again.
Wes: Did he make you guys feel comfortable?
TJ: Oh yeah, yeah. He's got his house up there, then right next to his house he's got like a band house. His personal studio is at his house. We did some at the studio in Vancouver, the Warehouse, we did like the drums, and mixed there. We did everything else at Garth's studio, which is called the Farm, at his house. It was awesome, he had his own Frisbee golf course. Like any DVD that came out that we could've wanted he was just like “I went and picked up this”, he'd go out and pick up an Xbox game, “this new game came out the new Star Wars, Halo 2 just came out today, I picked this up for you guys today.” He'd just come back with all these gifts for us and like definitely tried to make us feel comfortable and at home. And it was for the best, a better experience. Yeah he was rad.
Wes: Still Remains is from Grand Rapids, Michigan right?
TJ: Yeah, yep
Wes: That's not to far from the Canadian border; I figured you'd have been there before?
TJ: Some of the guys have. When we played Canada, that was my first time there... no when we recorded in Vancouver that was my first time over. I never really had the desire to go over. I'm not much for road trips. I guess I'm just lame, we trounce around in a van enough as it is, ya know.
Wes: Do you have a big fan base in Grand Rapids?
TJ: Yep. Yes and it's growing. Ya know I did this interview with Metal Hammer magazine, it's out of the UK and they actually do it here. And I was talking about how much Detroit sucks and how much the scene sucks in Grand Rapids. How it's just a bunch of new metals bands and stuff like that, which it kinda of is. There's like two separate scenes, there's like a huge new metal scene. Then there's the underground metal scene, which I failed to mention in the interview. Which is like awesome and it's growing. We've got a really good following at home. When we go out and do these tours, Grand Rapids is like something we can't wait to play. We're stoked to play Grand Rapids because usually when we play the kids just go off. Like any band that's with us they'll definitely show'em a good time, that's something we're really thankful for. So I just thought I mention that, how appreciative we are of the fans in Grand Rapids.
Wes: Do you get the same response in Detroit also?
TJ: We honestly haven't done Detroit much; the last show we played in Detroit was at this huge venue. Huge, like one of the biggest places we've ever played. And there were like ten bands on the bill, they just put all these local bands on. And we were the last band that played, it was on the Road Rage Tour, and we were the last band to play and it was late. By the time we played most of the people had left. There were a few hundred people in there earlier in the day, but by the time we played there might have been a hundred or maybe even less. So... we've played a couple shows out there before that, they have been really cool, but it's not a huge following like we have in Grand Rapids. Least not yet, hopefully it will grow.
Wes: You guys have opened for some big name bands, is there one you enjoyed playing with in particular?
TJ: When we played… we played in Europe, we played two festivals in Germany and we got to share stages with bands like Lamb of God, In Flames, Unearth, As I Lay Dying, Everytime I Die. All those bands we look up to a lot and we got to go over there and hang out, ya know. I got to hang out with the guys from In Flames for awhile and they’re like one of my biggest influences. We're pretty stoked about In Flames, and Unearth and Lamb of God too, cause ya know their some of the biggest bands in America right now in the metal scene. As I Lay Dying we've been friends with for a long time so it's always really awesome to play with them.
Wes: So how did you guys put this tour together, the Summer Free Fall tour?
TJ: Stretch Armstrong and Haste the Day, it was gonna be their tour so they needed bands to go with them. Haste the Day, they are actually like our best friends, we've know them for the past couple years, our manager manages them too. We get to play a lot shows with them, we toured with them last summer for awhile. They were just like “yeah we wanna take Still Remains out” and we where like “well yeah”. Cause when ever the two of our bands are together its just like stupid! So we were like “yeah”. We might actually do some future touring with them as well. But they're like our best friends, I often say that there’s not another band I want to tour with, I just want to tour with them forever, ya know. That's not truthful I guess, it's just me trying to exaggerate like how well our friendships are with those guys.
Wes: How did you guys come up with album title, Of Love and Lunacy?
TJ: Well it could go a couple of ways. The main way is that it kinda sums up the lyrics on the record, the things I wrote about. In times I was feeling awesome and feeling thankful for different things I was going through at my life at that time, there were lots of things that were disastrous, totally. Made me just wanna pack up my bags and say see ya life, ya know what I mean. Of Love and Lunacy pretty much sums all that up, everything I was going through, in the pretty simplistic form of words. “Of Love and Lunacy. Oh, ok, well that works”. I asked the guys and they were like “yeah I like the title let's do it”. I think it kinda describes our music as well. There's times when it's a whole lot of metal assault or whatever, then there's times when there's this huge chorus and sounds beautiful with the keyboards. It can go both ways, musically and lyrically, what’s being felt, what's being heard. Of Love and Lunacy pretty much sums it up I guess.
Wes: Do think there's something about Still Remains, that separates you guys from the rest of the bands out there today?
TJ: There's some yes and a lot no. This genre is starting... not starting, lyrics have always been important... passionate and hardcore in metal, in that respect not really. There's a lot of bands that are singing now in hardcore metal, that's something we do because we can, it's not anything new. The things we are doing with our keyboards I think set us apart. We treat our keyboards like another guitar, there just as important or prominent. There are parts I think on the record where if you heard that song on the dance floor, if you were in a club or something like that, kids would just be shaken their booties or whatever. It's something I want to incorporate into our next album, like some mechanical drums, fake drums, some dancey parts with some cool keyboard and synth stuff going on. I think that kinda thing is something this genre of metal hasn't really dabbled with yet. It's something we're really stoked about getting into and that will set us apart even more with what we're doing.
Wes: Have you started writing new material for the next album?
TJ: Very little, like not as a band. Jordan has been writing a lot of guitar riffs that he's shown us, that we're really excited about, he's been doing different tunings and that stuff sounds really cool as well. Zach has been writing some keyboard stuff, dabbling around, trying to get to know his instrument more, his instruments more and more.
Wes: Are you guys planning on taking a break from touring anytime soon?
TJ: Doubt it. Maybe around Christmas, ya know be with our families and loved ones. We’re gonna be touring for the rest of our lives, until we hit the writing process again. But that probably won't be for awhile either. We need to tour on this record for awhile, let kids know what we're all about; we're still the new guys around.
Wes: What do you guys do when you go home after being on the road for so long?
TJ: Sleep. Most of the dudes in the band have girlfriends; one of the guys is married, so I think most of the time is spent with them. I like to go see my parents, go see my brothers, just like to go out do some dancing, go to some clubs. I don't know...
Wes: Eat some cereal?
TJ: Eat cereal. Yeah! It's crazy; you don't really get to eat breakfast. Ya know it's mainly like “Alright everyone get up, time to shower, hit the road”. By the time you hit the road it's almost lunch time. We haven't even really drank milk on this tour at all. When Stacy had cereal for us, we were like “oh my god we're in Heaven”. That was awesome. Everybody who hears this is going to think I'm a moron, cause I love cereal. I love Nine Inch Nails but I'm in a metal band. Whatever, screw you guys. No I'm just kidding.
Wes: Is there a certain place or State your more excited to play more than some of the others maybe?
TJ: Ummm... I'm looking forward to home, Grand Rapids. I think most of the ones we were really really looking forward to are ones that we already did, like California shows are always awesome. We played a show in Long Island everybody was looking forward to. The Texas shows everybody was looking forward to too, the Texas shows are always insane. There honestly hasn't really been any bad shows on this tour. I was really stoked to play Florida, cause I did some growing up there. We really haven't touched Florida yet; we played like one show in Florida last summer. Most of the ones we were looking forward to we've already done. The tours coming to an end soon.
Wes: You guys are ready to start up again in a couple of weeks?
TJ: Yeah. Yep.
Jimmy: Still Remains rules!
TJ: That's Jimmy from Haste the Day. Jimmy Ryan. He's my older brother.
Wes: Do you think the web has helped you guys?
TJ: Oh yeah. When we all started playing in bands, not this band, but bands before this, it was all about going around flyering. Now we don't have to do that anymore.
Wes: No more putting flyers under the windshield wipers on cars in the parking lot?
TJ: No way. Screw that. Post the dates on PRP, on your MySpace, or your Roadrunner.com or your bands website. Kids will hear about and all those kids will tell their friends that don't have the internet, why flyer. Flyering's effective though, I mean, ya know, it's definitely good for clubs and things like that. To take the posters and put them up everywhere, some of the kids that don't check the websites regularly will see those flyers and be like “oh cool ya know the free fall tour!” So flyering is effective, but we don't do it... ourselves.
Wes: Well that's all I've got for you TJ. Thanks you've been great.
TJ: Hey, no problem. Have fun.
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