Not exactly a legendary name in rock'n'roll, Miller Anderson certainly has all of the credits needed to be elected to rock's hall of fame except the band that takes the world by storm. He's been in obscure bands with those who are currently reigning as kings of the rock pile, he's fronted rock bands like the Keef Hartley Band and Savoy Brown, but has always managed to escape the limelight, even when he's the main musical contributor to the outfit in question.
But currently, Miller is in a band called Dog Soldier playing guitar and singing, and if this group breaks big, Miller will go unacclaimed no longer. Dog Soldier also features his old mates Keef Hartley on drums and guitarist Derek Griffiths.
You and Keef first started out several years ago as The Keef Hartley Band. How did that band originally come together?
In 1968, I'd been in a band with Ian Hunter. Ian was playing bass and I was playing guitar and we had a drummer. Both of us used to sing, and we did a lot of our own material, but at the time people didn't really want bands who were playing their own material. It was O.K. for the Beatles and things like that, but it was hard for a new group to start playing their own stuff. So anyway, Ian went to Mott the Hoople and I went to join Keef.
Keef was dissatisfied with his vocalist, and I was actually a guitar player who did a bit of singing. I didn't figure I was much of a singer, but things were so rough moneywise that I answered an advert in the music paper: "Group requires vocalist who plays instrument." I thought I'd go and pretend I was a vocalist.
Can you tell us a little more about this group with Ian Hunter? Who else was in the band?
Well, we did have Bill Bruford on drums, who was with Yes. It was just him and Ian Hunter and myself, and nobody wanted to know.
Who was writing the material at the time?
Ian and myself were writing it. We had an EP out in Japan which we never saw a penny from. In fact, on one of the tracks Mitch Mitchell's playing drums. The band never really had a name though, we used to back people and do little clubs, we never even bothered to have a name. It was a shame because the band was really very good. Ian's a good bass player although he doesn't play bass now.
Were you writing with Ian or separately?
We used to write separately and together. We have quite a lot of songs that were written together. In fact, if you look on the Mott
album you'll see 'thanks for the riff Miller Anderson, the f sharp riff,' because he stole it from me. He was trying to remember where he got it and he was saying to the guys in the band, 'Is that the Kinks? Where have I heard this before?', and it was one of mine.
I said, 'Hey! Fuck! That's one of mine! You've stolen one of mine!' And he said, 'Oh fuck me, I better credit you for that.'
Anyway, to get on to this band, I came over to New York to be auditioned by Blood, Sweat, and Tears. I did the audition and they offered me the job, but I didn't take it because I didn't want to get into that. It wasn't what I wanted to do.
I'd just finished a tour with Savoy Brown. I did that for the money and so did everybody else in the band apart from Kim Simmonds. Kim was really into it and it's a shame because everybody else just joined for the money. I felt I couldn't do that again, so I didn't join Blood, Sweat, and Tears.
I got to thinking, 'What's the best thing I've done where I really got into the music?' And I said to myself that with Keef we used to get some really good things down on record and we used to really have a good band together. So I came straight back to England and rang up Keef and said, 'Look Keef, I know we've had our differences, but let's get a band together again.' He asked me if I was sure and I said I was, so here we are.
How many are there of you in the band?
There's five in the band. We have Derek Griffiths on lead guitar, he was with Keef in the Hardwoods and then with Colin Blunstone. Mel Simpson's on keyboards. He's an excellent musician — been around a lot of jazz clubs in England. One of the best I've heard that isn't well-known. The young guy in the group is Paul Bliss, he plays bass. He's going to be an incredible talent. I mean he already is, but it's frightening to think just how good he is at the age of twenty-one. Then there's myself and Keef. I play guitar and sing and Keef plays the drums.
Do you write all the material yourself?
It's all written by the band... I wrote three on the album, Keef wrote one, Derek wrote one, Mel wrote two, and Paul wrote one I think. It's pretty much scattered around.
You had a band of your own just before you joined Savoy Brown...
Yeah, it was called Hemlock. Actually the album was supposed to be my second solo album, I had one called Bright City
, but the band came together through the album. It only took twenty-six hours to make that album. There's very few overdubs on it. It's mostly live with just overdubs on the guitar because I'm the only guitarist on it. I just did the acoustic things on the back tracks and then dubbed on the electric.
There's a couple of tracks on there, like 'Monopoly', which is completely live-vocals, guitar, everything.
Did you ever play gigs with that band?
We did a tour in the U.S. a couple of years ago, but we didn't call it Hemlock. It was before we called it Hemlock, I did it as Miller Anderson. We did a tour with Savoy Brown top of the bill, Uriah Heep in the middle, and I was on the bottom. We really were well received by the audiences, I don't think we ever played New York though.
Who was in the band?
There were two guys who used to be in Noel Redding's Fat Mattress. That was the drummer and the bass player, Eric Dillon and Jimmy Levitt. They were also in Savoy Brown, 'cause when Hemlock broke up we joined up with Kim and Stan Webb.
What are they doing now?
Jim, the bass player, is working with Henry McCullough. Henry just left Paul McCartney, and he has a really nice band in the works.
How did Hemlock do financially?
Terribly. We cost Harry Simmonds something like $65,000.
Do you see Bruford or Hunter much anymore?
I saw Bill just after he reformed King Crimson, about a year ago. Ian I see all the time. Did you know his father was in the secret police during the last war — in the intelligence thing? A captain. I suppose Ian was a rebellion against his father's brains.
How is Ian?
He was in Mott the Hoople for five or six years now, and that kind of wears you out. It was very demanding upon him in as much as they expected him to write everything. It was the rest of the band that was laying back. Every time they had an album coming up it was, 'Hey Ian, where's the album?' You just get fed up with that and it made him ill. He just left the band because he didn't feel it was worth making himself ill for.
Who's produced Dog Soldier's first album?
It's kind of confusing. A guy who works at Island engineered and produced it at Island Studios in London. His name is John Burns. Then it was re-mixed in Los Angeles. They did a really nice job.
You haven't played much in England, have you?
We should have, but I was taken ill. My appendix burst and we had to cancel everything. I'm still recuperating actually.
Are any of the members of the band doing session work... is Derek Griffith still working with Blunstone?
Derek does the most sessions because technically he's a very clever guitarist. I never do any sessions... well, actually I did Dave Cousins' Two Weeks Last Summer
. I played guitar on that album.