By Ray Waddell | Billboard
Steve Miller is not a grumpy guy. Miller, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on April 9, has been at the center of a media cyclone ever since due to some rather inflammatory comments he made in an interview with Rolling Stone immediately following his induction by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. In the interview, Miller not only called the induction ceremony “unpleasant,” but went on to slam the whole music business. Sample sentence: “This whole industry fucking sucks and this little get-together you guys have here is like a private boys’ club and it’s a bunch of jackasses and jerks and fucking gangsters and crooks who’ve fucking stolen everything from a fucking artist.”
OK, then. In another post-ceremony interview with Rolling Stone, Auerbach told the magazine that he regretted inducting Miller, adding that “the most unpleasant part was being around [Miller].” Hall of Fame CEO Joel Peresman also responded to Miller’s comments, defended the Hall, and said he “felt badly” for Miller. So, this has been fun.
On a follow-up interview with Billboard, Miller is far from unpleasant. He laughs frequently, and doesn’t back down.
However unpleasant his evening was, Miller’s Hall of Fame credentials are undeniable. A native of Dallas, Texas, Stevie “Guitar” Miller became a pivotal figure in the late ’60s San Francisco music scene that profoundly impacted rock and roll. By the ’70s, the singer/songwriter/guitarist had evolved from a bluesy, groove-based sound that would fit seamlessly into today’s jam band scene to a more radio-friendly pop rock style that produced a wealth of hits still ubiquitous on classic rock radio today, including “The Joker,””Fly Like an Eagle” and “Take the Money and Run.” Miller is also contributing his time to serving on the welcoming committee of the Department of Musical Instruments of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as a board member of Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he curates and hosts shows at both institutions.
But, this past week, all of the talk surrounding Miller — and there has been a lot — has been centered on his take on his Hall of Fame induction. In an exclusive interview withBillboard, he explains that night, the resulting fallout, and what the proceeding week was like. Not surprisingly, he told us exactly how he feels about the whole thing.
Billboard: So, it’s been a pretty interesting week, no?
Steve Miller: Pretty action packed, yeah.
Billboard: How would you describe your week following the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony?
Steve Miller: The last week has been pretty interesting; I played three concerts in New York at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Jimmie Vaughan; I did the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony; and now I’m in San Diego. Tonight will be three shows that I’ve done in the last four days out here on the West Coast. The Steve Miller Band is busy, the Jazz at Lincoln Center projects have been great, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was just one of those things in the middle.
Billboard: Has the reaction to your comments following your Hall of Fame induction surprised you?
Steve Miller: Well, not really. I’ve gotten hundreds of emails from artists and pals and peers just saying, “right on, man, I can’t believe you had the balls to say that,” that kind of stuff. The reaction from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Rolling Stonemagazine has not surprised me at all.
Billboard: I imagine you were aware when you were saying the things you did that some of it might not go over so well.
Steve Miller: You have to speak truth to these people. It has really been a long, long slog for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and for some reason, I don’t understand why, they really have made it tough. It’s not a pleasant experience for the people being inducted — at least from my personal experience it certainly wasn’t. The whole process feels like you’re dealing with a company that wants you to give them everything and they’re going to go make all this money and they’re going to do everything with it, and you have no input into it, no say about any of it, take it or leave it. Probably what the general public thinks and what it really is are two different things.
Billboard: You said some pretty harsh things, do you stand by all of that?
Steve Miller: Of course I do, yeah. I spoke the truth as I experienced it, and as I have experienced it over the years. Basically, as everybody that has had a taste of the record business knows, they aregangsters and crooks. The history just proves it. If you’re naïve as a musician when you go into it, you learn your lessons quickly. I remember when I was a kid and signed with Capitol Records I thought, “boy, this is great, I’m going down to L.A., I’m going to record at Capitol tower.” I went in there and the engineering staff walked out because they didn’t like me because I was a hippie [laughs]. That was my first experience. I was thrown into a pool of sharks, where all the bands were fighting for the same resources, managers were wheeling and dealing, and it was a lot more than I thought. I was pretty naïve when I started and, over the years, my record companies have grossed over $1 billion from my work, and I’ve spent 50 years auditing them to force them to pay me what my contracts call for. I caught them illegally selling hundreds of thousands of my records in markets worldwide. They’ve broken their contracts, they’ve broken their word. They have built-in theft in all their accounting. I’ve had to threaten to use the RICO statutes against them. It’s a business with built-in theft and cheating, that’s just considered normal, and I’m just not the kind of guy who tolerates that, I don’t go for that. If it’s not fair, and if it’s not clean and clear, then I’m going to work to make it that way.
Billboard: So that billion dollar figure you used in theRolling Stone interview you didn’t just pull that out of thin air?
Steve Miller: [Laughing] No! And that was when a billion was a billion, not like today. Millions and millions and millions of records worldwide, it’s just been 50 years of auditing and arguing and lawsuits. I’m just a walking library of what it’s like dealing with a business that’s designed to cheat. It always has and it always will.
Originally entitled “Miller Talks Rock Hall Rancor, Who He Wishes Had Inducted Him and How He’d Fix the Whole ‘Rude’ Process”