Mission of Burma play Antone's on Saturday
The Horn talked with Mission of Burma’s guitarist, Roger Miller, before their show at Antone's on Saturday. See what he has to say about the current state of music and their new album.
Mission of Burma has seen it all. Taking roots in the cacophonic post- punk era, and then soon calling it quits, Mission of Burma has rejoined forces since 2002 and released four promising albums of psychedelic experimentation and adrenaline- charged rock.
So, for starters, how has the reception for the new album, Unsound, been?
Pretty damn good. The enthusiasm has been much better than the last album, The Oblierati. There has been a lot of great response in the UK and generally the response has been great in the U.S. too. We’re really happy about it.
There has been resurgence in post-punk bands like Swans. Do you think there's a reason why post-punk and punk has gained some musical traction again?
Maybe. People are looking for the past to find inspiration again. And I think we kind of fall into that realm of music. We are kind of mostly in the post-punk era. We weren’t really in the punk era but we weren’t wholly post-punk either so we were sort of in the grey area. There was a lot of sheet work that we laid out in terms of variety so it’s sort of interesting.
You guys have also made four new albums since the reunion. How have you guys managed to change it up and stay relevant for so long?
The first album, ONoffON, was us trying to get off on our feet again and then on The Obliterati we kind of just let it go. The Obliterati is almost a hard rock album, and then on The Sound The Speed The Light, we went a little bit milder. So we decided that after that album we wanted to mess around with our sound a little bit more. Everything from the song structures and all the music material we made, we wanted to vary and mess around with it.
You mentioned that Mission of Burma has experienced some erratic times. How has the music scene been since the late 70’s and early 80’s to now?
It’s royally different, and not in an attempt to sound jaded or anything, but in the media from punk like in the late 70’s to early 80’s, so many ideas were happening. It was such an exciting time and so many walls were being smashed down. For example, you could have great punk bands like James Chances and The Contortions and Stiff Little Fingers all playing monthly. Although it is nobodies’ fault except maybe modern Western culture, there is no real massive breakout. Don’t get me wrong; there are some bands that are great and pushing the limits, but nothing over-extraordinary. In the post-punk era, there was something to fight against. There was flog of heavy metal and bad power pop. Yet, I don’t know if there is any major thing to fight against now except maybe apathy. But apathy is a real hard thing to fight.
You mentioned apathy. Do you think that is why musicians are making a resurgence of punk and new wave?
Yeah, I think that is happening to a certain degree. And again, I’m not blaming the current musicians or anything, but it’s just tricky as hell. Like in my case in 1969 I had my first original band and just last year we almost re-released our album that was recorded in 1970 on a German psychedelic label, and it got great reviews on the psychedelic underground scene. But I couldn’t get a band going in 1970, when my first original band ended, until Mission of Burma started in 1979. I was incapable of getting a band together that could play gigs. You just couldn’t do it. And then when punk and post-punk hit, it allowed Mission of Burma to start. I was talented for all those ten years but I just couldn’t do anything. So I guess what I’m saying is that you can’t help to be a part of the cultural era that you are in and sometimes that works for you and sometimes that works against you.
It’s weird because it seems like punk is finally gaining the credit it lost in the 90’s.
It is funny because when things get lost, you go back to its source and where its energy was. Definitely in the punk and post-punk era, there was a lot of energy but a lot of that punk energy was lost in the 90’s. I’m not trying to diss on grunge or anything, but nothing that energetic has happened since psychedelic or punk. Once again I’m not trying to sound jaded, but I’ve seen it all.
Funny you mentioned that. I remember reading Pitchfork’s review of Unsound and it compared you guys to NBA players trying to defend their title every year.
Yeah, (laughs) we’re definitely veterans. And it’s pretty funny because our live shows still tend to be very energetic despite us not being youngsters anymore. Our live shows are still crazy. Like a past show in DC, we went absolutely nuts. We went really gone for a change but people still dug it. And it’s great because as long as we can still do that and get the crowd going, we’ll keep playing. The minute we feel like it’s not happening, we’ll fire it off. We’re not here just to take up space.
Mission of Burma play at Antone's tonight. BUY TICKETS!