Deron Miller Speaks About His New Death Metal Project World Under Blood
World Under Blood is the new melodic death metal project from CKY frontman Deron Miller. Joining forces with metal drummer extraordinaire Tim Yeung, Miller has put together an album in “Tactical” that represents his vision of the genre. The band’s debut is aggressive, full of great solos, a tight production from James Murphy, and some of the catchiest vocal lines heard so far this year.
Most will be surprised by what Miller can do with this style of music, a far cry from his work with CKY. I had the chance to speak to Miller about how World Under Blood came about, his thoughts on the current state of the music industry, and an update on the status of the Death tribute project he is a part of.
Heavytothebone2: How did you and Tim Yeung hook up to start this project?
We pretty much met each other at a restaurant/bar and got introduced to each other from Geraldo at Nuclear Blast. We were talking about how we were fans of each other and how we liked what each other had done. That was basically it. After hanging out for a while, we decided we were going to do a band.
Heavytothebone2: How did you decide to lean World Under Blood towards a melodic death metal sound? Was that decided when you two first met or did it come naturally?
I had always wanted to do some kind of death metal project. I just didn’t know what I wanted it to sound like. I said, ‘Well, I just write death metal songs. I know about metal.’ I just started writing some music and we started putting it together. It turned out sounding like the best of all my influences.
Heavytothebone2: How much influence did Tim have when it came down to writing the songs?
He had some good drum ideas, but other than that, it was just pretty much me. I had recorded a bunch of riffs on a 4-track and I wrote all the riffs for the songs and we would go in and arrange them. It wasn’t like he was writing any of the music or anything. He would arrange it to a certain way or change something if it was a little too long.
Heavytothebone2: Since this is the first death metal project you’ve done, did you ever talk to anybody for guidance or to make sure you were leaning in a direction you wanted to?
No, never. I felt pretty confident about what I would come up with metal-wise. I like the world of rock ‘n’ roll and I like doing that, but I tend to be a little bit more insecure when I’m doing rock. When I’m doing metal, I feel pretty good about it. I knew that whatever I would come up, at least I would like it. That was all I was really worried about is whether or not I was going to like it (laughs).
Heavytothebone2: Did you feel more comfortable writing metal than most of the rock-based stuff you’ve done?
Yeah, I definitely felt more comfortable doing this. It came a lot more natural. My roots are in metal. I started with rock, but I ended up being really hardcore into metal. I found a lot of favorite bands and musicians over the years, and was influenced by them. I thought, ‘Man, I would love to play this stuff and I would love to do a record of this stuff.’ Finally, we put it together and made it happen.
Heavytothebone2: What kind of influences helped you in writing these songs?
What I wanted to do was I didn’t want it to be basic sounding. I wanted it to be kind of technical, but I didn’t want it to be not catchy or lack hooks. I learned that from a lot of bands like Gorguts and Death and Pestilence and stuff like that. You can play technically, but you can also make that technical ability hooky and catchy. So I wanted to just make it with no limits. There was nothing that we couldn’t put in there. We could do whatever we wanted with it. If we wanted to add a part from left-field, you just put it in there and see how it works. That’s what is so great about extreme metal; it has no limits. You can do whatever you want. You can put some slow stuff in there, anything. If you call some music thrash metal, then you can’t get too harsh with the vocals. It has limits, but this has no limits. You can do whatever you want.
Heavytothebone2: A lot of these songs have a mix of aggressive parts and melodic, catchy moments. Did the demos of the songs reflect that?
Yeah, the demos actually ended up on the album, just in remixed form. I just tried to come up with an album’s worth of material. I tried to write songs that weren’t melodic, but they ended up sounding melodic anyway. I wanted to make completely fast, brutal, and evil-sounding stuff, and it still sounded a little bit melodic to me. I think all the songs ended up completely organic of my ability to write metal. There’s no one else’s influence in there, no one telling me don’t do that. I got to pretty much run this shit, so that was cool.
Heavytothebone2: Was there a particular moment when you first started writing this album when you felt everything starting to click? Was there one song in particular that really caught your ear?
When I demoed “Into The Arms Of Cruelty,” which is the second track on the record, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool. I can’t wait to get into the studio and hear this finished.’ That one, I think, summed up our sound or this record. I don’t know what our sound will be in the future, because obviously, we’re going to try to do records that sound different from each other. I think track two sums up what “Tactical” is. It has the melody, it has the hooks, it’s technical, a lot of the riffs are hard to play. I just think it’s the best example to draw from the record if you wanted anybody to know what we sound like.
Heavytothebone2: You do a lot of growling and harsh vocals, which is different than most of your other projects. Did you find that doing the harsher tones was comfortable to you?
Oh yeah. I found my voice a long time ago with that because I was in a band called Foreign Objects in the mid ‘90s. I’ve always had a death metal voice. I’ve always practiced death metal vocals and used them a lot live. I just went in there and just wailed. Whatever it sounded like was what it sounded like. I didn’t sound ridiculous. I screamed my heart out. I wanted to actually see blood coming out of my mouth. I was screaming so loud. I got all the vocals done in five days and we worked 18 hour days and never shot out my voice, never had any problem with it. I just liked how the vocals turned out. I used a lot of different vocal tracks, a lot of different voices, and a lot of different tones.
Heavytothebone2: Do you do anything to maintain your voice, since screaming for 60 hours in a week isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do?
It’s just something that I do often. It’s kind of like a muscle I guess. If you flex it enough, it won’t go on you. A lot of times, if we’re been taking a break from touring for a long time and then we go on tour, I lose my voice quicker. I keep practicing and keeping it flex; it does me good. I can keep it up and get some work done easily.
Heavytothebone2: How did James Murphy become involved with the production and the behind-the-scenes stuff for “Tactical”?
I’ve always been a big fan of James. I asked him if he could help me with the record and he was like, ‘Sure.’ He heard the first three songs on the record. He pretty much travels with his studio. He came to my house and we did guitars and stuff. I went to his house and I did the vocals. It was just a good time. I had known him from the Death tribute before, so I had worked with him before. I just knew he would probably be the easier guy to work with because he has such an amazing ear for this kind of stuff. If something doesn’t sound right, he can find it, and we can fix it. I really trusted him with that.
Heavytothebone2: Did he have any influence on how the songs were put together? Did he take any parts out or that there were parts that needed to be worked on?
If I did a line of vocals that weren’t that great, he would tell me to do them over, but a lot of obsessive anal stuff came from me. Originally, there’s a song on “Tactical” that’s called “Revere’s Tears” that was originally seven minutes and I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got to cut at least two minutes out of the song.’ There were times like after the songs were near completion or almost done or about to be mixed, I went through and I said, ‘Let’s cut this out. Let’s add something here. Let’s take this part and move it around so it sounds better.’ Most of the stuff is organic. There were a couple of things that needed to be edited, but I cut a good two minutes out of “Revere’s Tears.”
Heavytothebone2: Why did you feel the need to cut that much out of the song?
It’s kind of like when you hear a Metallica song that goes on for too long and you say, ‘Wow, this is a long song, but they can probably sum it all up in four minutes instead of seven.’ A lot of bands do that. I don’t why they do that. They feel the need to make what you can do with a four minute song into a seven or eight minute song. That’s what I caught myself doing with “Revere’s Tears,” just repeating parts that didn’t need to be repeated. So I cut a good two minutes out and it’s a much better song for it.
Heavytothebone2: Do you see the band’s material in the future being around the four/five minute mark? Do you see the band doing lengthy songs at all?
I am not really into that. If a song is going to be eight minutes, it better be a song that doesn’t repeat the same thing over and over again. I don’t know. I’ve never really written an eight-minute song. Never really sat down and figured out why a song would need to be eight minutes, but I guess it could happen. I am uncomfortable when songs are too short, like two-and-a-half minutes. That bugs me. I’m usually comfortable between three-and-a-half, four minutes. That’s what I like to write.
Heavytothebone2: What bugs you about songs being under three minutes?
I think it’s just too short, for me anyway. Of course, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, most singles were 2:05. They would just sing the chorus and the song would be over in two minutes. Sometimes, I think a song will be finished. I’ll listen to it and I’ll time it and it’ll be like 2:15 and I’m like, ‘Shit, can’t do that. It’s not a full song.’ To me, it doesn’t feel like a full song, two-and-a-half minutes.
Heavytothebone2: A lot of death metal in the early ‘90s was only like two to three minutes long. Does it bother you to listen to songs that are that short or is it only when you are working on the songs yourself?
It doesn’t really bother me to hear songs that are that short. I don’t know of any bands I like that have songs that are really short. My favorite death metal albums are always eight songs and under 35 minutes. That’s pretty much what I tried to do with this. The eight original songs on here and the ninth is a cover of Megadeth. The classic metal records that I got into as a kid were always eight songs and under 35 minutes, which means each song was four-and-a-half minutes. That’s basically what I wanted to capture. There’s one song that’s 3:05, but then there’s “Revere’s Tears,” which is almost five minutes. I think it ended up perfect. I’m really happy with it. I just got copies of the CD yesterday. The booklet turned out nice. All the lyrics are right. There are no spelling errors. Cool band shot inside. I’m psyched. I’m happy with it. I want to go listen to it.
Heavytothebone2: When you are sitting there, waiting for any CD you’ve worked on to come out, do you a nervous feeling waiting for it? Do you hope that everything is spelled correctly and the cover art is just right?
Yeah, you worry about it a little bit. I was pretty much there for everything while it was being done. I spell checked everything. The way I look at this record is that it’s the first album I ever did that I really don’t care what people think. I’m not really going to pay attention to the critical response, whether it’s good or bad. I know what it sounds like. I know what I wanted it to sound like and I’m really happy with it. I love listening to it. I’m proud of what we did. This one’s for me. This is the first album that’s pretty much for me. If fans latch onto it and enjoy it, that’s great. I’m not going to really dwell too much on criticism or the success of it. It was just something that I wanted to do for myself. That’s the way I look at it.
Heavytothebone2: The band performed two covers for the album, Megadeth’s “Wake Up Dead” and Malevolent Creation’s “Alliance or War.” Why were these two bands chosen to be covered?
I think “Wake Up Dead” is one of the best metal songs ever written. It defies any kind of song structure. For the most part, it’s an instrumental. It has very little vocals. It’s got a lot of cools solos and a lot of different riffs that don’t really relate to each other. That’s why it was one of my favorite songs and I decided that we should do it. The Malevolent song came about because it was the only Malevolent Creation song me and Tim both knew. We just wanted to do faster to them to just piss them off. We did (laughs). That was pretty much what that was about.
Heavytothebone2: Are you looking to take this band on the road for extensive touring or just one-off shows?
I want to see whatever is feasible. A lot of people are saying forget about America. Forget about selling records in the U.S., forget about touring in the U.S., especially the Mid-West. A lot of people are saying just go to Europe. I have no idea what the outcome of this is going to be. I don’t know what kind of money situation the band will be in. If we can afford to go to some place and play, we obviously will. If somebody wants us to get in a car and pay out of our own pockets to get to some club in San Diego, then no, we’re not going to do something like that. We’re too old for that. It just depends on whatever happens with it.
Heavytothebone2: With Tim being in Morbid Angel, is that going to influence the touring cycle?
It is a factor. It sucks because I never pictured doing anything with this without him, but there’s plenty of drummers that I know that can handle this material. A band member would never be a problem. I think it has more to do with financial issues and practicality. I can’t leave home for two months and come back with no money. I might have been able to do that when I was 18, but none of us in this band can do that right now. If the album becomes an underground hit, and people want to see the band, we’ll go where people want to see the band. If not, then I’ll stay home and listen to the album.
Heavytothebone2: A lot of people know you as the frontman for CKY. Are you going to focus on both bands at the same time or will one lean more than the other?
That has a lot to do with the last question. It depends. If the CD comes out and a few people pick it up and like it and that’s the end of that, I’ll just do the CKY thing. Wherever there is more demand is where I’m going to end up going.
Heavytothebone2: Do you think the fact that CKY is more established will lean you in one direction or the other or are you excited to jumpstart a new band?
I’m caught in the middle. I want to see what CKY can still do and still achieve. I’m excited to see what kind of future there is with that. I’m also interested in finding out what happens with World Under Blood. I don’t really want to say that one has anything to do with the other, because they are completely sounding bands and completely different markets. I’ll go wherever I need to be. The music industry is so much different than it was that I don’t have the same attitude that I did before.
Heavytothebone2: What kind of attitude do you have about the music industry in general?
I don’t take it anywhere nearly as serious as I used to. I don’t know how much longer I intend on being a part of it. It’s just not the same thing. I feel like I’m a video store selling VHS tapes. I think most bands feel like that. People have moved on. It’s time to close the video store.
I enjoy doing music and whether or not the industry decides what I do professionally, I’m always going to play music and write music and just keep it for myself. I don’t have any problem writing songs and recording them and listening to them and keeping them for myself. I don’t have to sell them to anybody. That what the whole fun of it was in the beginning anyway was writing your own songs and being the only one listening to them.
There was the whole thing where you could have a career and sell records and go on tour and people cared, but that’s pretty much gone now. Bands are scrounging up any kind of money they can to stay alive and it’s a shame. CKY caught the tail-end of it at the early turn of the century. People were still buying music and getting into bands. It’s just totally dead ten years later. My final point is that I don’t take it seriously. I used to get mad at critiques and reviews and I would get mad at clubs. I’m just doing it for fun now and looking to do different things, like producing movies, TV, and stuff like that.
Heavytothebone2: Will the success or however “Tactical” does influence your opinion about staying in the music industry?
I’m not an idiot. I know what kind of music this is. I know that World Under Blood is death metal and I know what a typical death metal record will sell. I’m not expecting a gold plaque on my wall. I don’t expect I’ll be touring with Godsmack or Metallica with this band. I’m realistic. I don’t expect anything. I just did it for fun and I wanted to do it for me. I wanted it to be a record that I would like, that I wanted to listen to. That’s pretty much all it is. I’m not sitting waiting to find out how many copies it sold or who likes it or who hates it or anything like that. I don’t care about that stuff anymore.
Heavytothebone2: You mentioned earlier the Death tribute project. A lot of people have been talking about it. It’s been years in the making. Is there any update on the status of that?
What happened was that a lot of people backed out that were going to do it. Now, he (James Murphy) seems to be getting those people to work on it. He’s almost finished it and I think he has to have it done by November, if I’m not mistaken. I think that we’ll be seeing it by the new year or the end of this year.
Heavytothebone2: Why is there such a tight deadline for it?
There wasn’t a tight deadline on it, which I think was the problem. We were kind of given free reign of the whole project and how we budgeted the time and how long it took. I think somebody must have put their foot down and said, ‘Okay, we need this while we can still print CDs.’ I think somebody might had said something like that and James said, ‘Okay, I’ll get it done.’ Terry Butler just played on it a few weeks ago. We got a long list of people on this thing and it’s going to be really cool.
Heavytothebone2: Is it going to encompass the whole Death catalog?
Yeah, the whole career. I’m a fan of the first five Death albums, more so the first three. “Human” and “Individual Thought Patterns” kind of confused me a bit. After that, I didn’t get into “Symbolic” or “The Sound Of Perseverance.” I played on “Scream Bloody Gore” tracks and “Leprosy,” “Spiritual Healing,” some “Human” songs and I think I did a few “Individual Thought Patterns” songs. I think I did a song off “Symbolic” even, but I was more of a fan of the first three albums. There’s two period of Death. The first three records and then the rest.
Heavytothebone2: Well, they got more technical after the first three records.
Yeah, they got more technical and a lot more band members were coming in and out. It was a stranger period for me. I didn’t understand it as much as I did the first three records.
Heavytothebone2: If World Under Blood could tour with any band, past or present, who would it be and why?
Are we getting paid a lot? (laughs)
Heavytothebone2: No, it’s a benefit concert.
I think it would be funny to play with KISS. KISS is the only band that I love that I’ve never played with. CKY has played with Metallica and Guns N’ Roses. We almost toured with Megadeth. I would like to do some shows with Megadeth. Death would have been cool too.
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