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"I Will Die. This Will Live On.": Creeper's Ian Miles Talks Solo Bow 'Degradation, Death, Decay'

Thursday, 14 October 2021 Written by Emma Wilkes

The solo project is a well-trodden path walked by artists during downtime away from their main projects, or when they must scratch a creative itch their day job doesn’t permit them to. They offer an interesting creative dynamic, with songs that thrive off reputations while also revealing different sides to musicians fans thought they knew inside out.

It might appear that Creeper guitarist Ian Miles is also setting off along this familiar road. In his own mind, though, he isn’t. He’s been making music by himself since he was 15, even releasing a couple of songs into a quiet corner of the internet during the early days of Creeper, so this project doesn’t feel new to him. In fact, perhaps the most important thing any listener should know about it is that it’s not really about him at all. “I am lazy and boring,” he says. “What I create is much more interesting than me.” 

That’s why he has chosen to hide his face behind the black and white visuals promoting his upcoming debut album, ‘Degradation, Death, Decay’. The Grim Reaper-esque figure seen on the LP’s cover bears no resemblance to him and anybody could be wearing that distinctive mask, with its hollow caverns for eyes and mouth open in a permanent scream. “It’s about removing myself from the aesthetic of this project,” Miles says. 

Inevitably, because of Miles’ career with Creeper, there will be people who will flock to his solo music precisely because it bears his name, even though he doesn’t necessarily expect them to like it. “It’s the opposite of [what Creeper does],” he admits. “There is a clear contradiction between the way I carry myself in this project and the way that Creeper has done in our entire career. That’s because Creeper is way more than just me.” 

Hiding, therefore, is impossible when any fan could easily Google the band and discover what Miles looks like. Besides, where his solo music is concerned, it’s really been hidden for long enough. “Writing is something I’m so comfortable with, like lying on a giant pillow,” he says. But singing is a different story. ‘Degradation, Death, Decay’ was recorded in 2018 between Creeper albums, and it’s taken three years for Miles to settle into a space where he’s happy to release it into the world. 

At the time of recording, he couldn’t see himself releasing it at all. He even felt too anxious to sing around his wife, waiting until she left the house before he began recording in their spare room, facing the cold after the heating had broken. He has since built a home studio where he can sing without worrying about being heard. “It’s given me time to find and form a singing voice I am comfortable with,” he adds.

The product of those secretive recording sessions is beautifully sparse and existential, sharing more DNA with Elliott Smith than the gothic theatrics of, say, AFI or The Damned. Our introduction to Miles’ musical world came in the form of the fragile Truest Blue, a track that feels as vulnerable in terms of its sound as it does lyrically. It was followed up by the dreamily dark Overwhelmed, which offered a contrast to its predecessor with more full-bodied instrumentation leading to a stark spoken-word conclusion. “I want love or death,” murmurs a woman. “That’s it.” 

The common thread between this music and Creeper is this sense of darkness. What separates them is the way that darkness is treated. Creeper handle it with a sense of grandiosity and drama, looking at the idea of a godless world and taking it as an opportunity to live like sinners, as their recent song Annabelle puts it. When Miles contemplates the darkness of life, particularly the prospect of its ending, it is not dressed up, but left as bare, soul-shaking truth.

“Death is the closest thing to a ‘God’ we have,” he asserts. “It dictates everything we do in our lives—you have to get the best, highest paid job before you get old and die, you have to get the most fulfilling job so you can enjoy life before you die. You have to create to quench the insatiable thirst until you die. You have to have a family before you die, et cetera. Why spend life trying to avoid the thought of death happening? Accepting it is hard and witnessing it is even harder. It’s fascinating.” 

This belief permeates the project, right down to its title, a conscious statement acknowledging and accepting what is coming for all of us. ‘Degradation, Death, Decay’, then, becomes something of a paradox. An album is an immortal thing, yet this one is preoccupied with mortality, recorded by a mortal being. It’s something Miles is all too aware of. “I want to create something wholly ageless,” he says. “I will die. This will live on.” 

When asked what his ultimate intention is with this project, Miles says: “I want to make people feel uncomfortable.” He doesn’t elaborate upon his answer, but he doesn’t need to—there is no how and why to it. Staring death in the face is uncomfortable at best, terrifying at worst, but when it is accepted and acknowledged, it becomes the inspiration to live the best life possible while we still can. There is only so far you can run from the inevitable. 

Ian Miles’ ‘Degradation, Death, Decay’ is out on October 15 through Big Scary Monsters.

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