After taking a break from the music scene, former frontman of the rock band CKY, Deron Miller, is back with a new band, 96 Bitter Beings. Their recent album, Camp Pain, debuted last November and has since received outstanding feedback by fans. With a passion for horror, Deron has also dabbled in film, appearing in titles such as Dahmer vs. Gacy, Caesar and Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre (read review here), Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas (read review here) and Caesar and Otto’s Paranormal Halloween (read review here). I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Deron about all of this and more!
PopHorror: Hi, Deron! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Deron Miller: No problem at all!
PopHorror: To start, when did you first realize you wanted to pursue music for a career?
Deron Miller: Ah, man, I have to say that it was the first time I saw the Ace Frehley poster hanging on my cousin’s wall! It’s a classic poster, which I think has been reprinted, but I’ll never forget it. It was the famous one of Ace with this smoking guitar, like when he would light smoke bombs on the back of his guitar when he was on stage and the whole thing would go up in smoke. I was amazed! I had no idea who he was or what a guitar was. I just thought it was the coolest looking thing! And that’s when my cousin introduced me to KISS’s music on singles and vinyl. I was 2 years-old.
PopHorror: You were 2 years-old!? That’s crazy! (laughs)
Deron Miller: (laughs) I was 2 years-old, and he played me the single with “Calling Doctor Love,” I think it had “Take Me” on the other side. I remember all of that stuff just like it was yesterday. He even had beaded curtains! (laughs) So, other than the music that my parents would play in the house, that was my first introduction to music. And it was at the perfect time! KISS was starting to become unpopular, so all of their albums were 50 cents in the bargain bin.
PopHorror: Personally, I do miss the days when you could browse for physical copies of albums in record stores. As a musician, who would you say are some of your biggest influences?
Deron Miller: Well, aside from KISS, the first concert I went to was The Monkees’ 20th Anniversary. And then MTV started re-running the show of The Monkees, so I started to become very interested in that. Then, of course, KISS led to heavier bands like Ozzy, Def Leppard, and Metallica. That all led to discovering less commercial bands like Meliah Rage, Testament, Overkill and Savatage… and it just got heavier from there. Thrash metal led to death metal. And, I wanted to get really good at my instrument. For me, the best music to do that with was picking up death metal records and learning the riffs. I had a zillion influences. I guess that’s why a lot of people say that I ended up with my own sound. I took the best qualities of all my influences and turned them into my own thing. Or so I’m told. (laughs)
PopHorror: Influences often do lead to new things and the evolution of music. After your time with CKY, you went solo before forming 96 Bitter Beings. What led you to forming this new band?
Deron Miller: I just wanted to take a break from touring and the music business, because things weren’t turning out the way I hoped it would. It was starting to become something that was difficult to maneuver within. So, I got married, had a family and continued to make albums. Now, my kids are a little older and don’t need me quite as much. They’re smart and strong, so it felt like it was an appropriate time to start a band up again and taking a stab at it in 2019. The thing about music is that I love to be in the studio. I’m always recording. Recording music is something I love, regardless of the business side of things, but whether or not I want to dive full-time into it? We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
PopHorror: Taking a break is understandable, but I’m glad music is something you’ve stayed passionate about! At one time, it was announced that 96 Bitter Beings would be releasing two albums as part of an Indiegogo campaign. You just released Camp Pain. Do you still plan to release the second album, Synergy Restored?
Deron Miller: Absolutely! I made a deal with a record company, so I’m really at their mercy. I don’t want to spill too much of it because anything can happen. These days, record companies are changing, folding, people are leaving and the entire way of doing things is different. So, I’m waiting to see how the record company wants to approach the release. Meanwhile, we’re shooting videos and getting the album prepped. We have a lyric video done, one music video done and Chris Raab, Zach Storer, the rest of the band and I are going to do another video… probably for a song called Bloodrock Mania, which is really cool. It’s probably one of the best songs I’ve ever written, along with our bassist, Shaun Luera.
PopHorror: That’s awesome! I’ll have to keep a lookout for that, for sure. Let’s talk a little about your most recent release, Camp Pain. Was there anything in particular that influenced this album?
Deron Miller: The fans! I have conversations with a lot of the fans, and I’ve realized a lot of them are into the experimental stuff I did when I was with CKY, Foreign Objects and World Under Blood. There are several experimental songs on a lot of those albums. I wanted to give the fans more of that rather than just one genre of music. If you compare the Camp Pain songs, “Still Unstable” with “On And On And On And On,” it’s like two different bands. A lot like Volume 1 with CKY, when we started out very experimental. I enjoy branching out into different genres and try creating my own sound. And a lot of other people seem to enjoy it as well.
Camp Pain was pretty much an attempt to do things that I had never done or attempted to do before or started to do before, but to a more extreme degree… doing a cover of “Beat It” or a ballad like “December Higher Power.” Also, some of the songs are geared to creating more positive messages and not as much of horror storytelling. But you also still have “Still Unstable” and “The Whipping Hands,” which are horror stories. And then you have “Cavalcade of Perversion,” which is an instrumental that I pretty much just jammed up on the spot, and we put it together, and it turned out really cool. Every song on that album has a story and were recorded during different sessions. So, everything sounds different about them.
It’s also a band effort, which is something I’ve been wanting to give to fans. With “The Whipping Hands,” you have me and Ken Hunter on rhythm guitar. Everybody played on the album and played their part, which is something that’s never really happened on any other album. All in all, I wanted to do something different for the fans as a thank you.
PopHorror: That sounds like a great variety! With Camp Pain already released, what else can fans expect from Synergy Restored?
Deron Miller: The feedback we have been getting for Camp Pain is just unbelievable. A lot of people are surprised and are continuously surprised. With Synergy, it’s a whole other level. The band and I were so inspired, and we just came up with such a great record. We have so many songs to choose from, but we know which 13 songs in what order that we’ll probably put on the album. We just need to tweek some mixing, and I want to change a line on one of the songs. Then we’re going to get it mastered and hand it in to the record company and see what happens.
PopHorror: That sounds exciting! I’m looking forward to hearing the completed album. Where can people pick up their own copy of Camp Pain or hear the album?
Deron Miller: They can go to Amazon, iTunes, Spotify or find a link to get a physical copy on my Facebook page or 96 Bitter Beings Facebook page. And it’s streaming quite a few places. It’s available almost wherever you want to get it.
PopHorror: I’m going to have to see about getting my own copy soon! Shifting gears a little, I’m aware you’ve done some acting, and of course, you’re married to Felissa Rose [read our interview with her here], who is known by horror fans for her work in Sleepaway Camp. Are you personally a horror fan?
Deron Miller: (laughs) That’s an understatement! I’m obsessed with horror. I’m going to end up making my own short horror film soon, actually. I have my own crew built up that really wants to help me out, and I’m so lucky to have friends who have access to all of this amazing equipment… and they don’t want to get paid. They want to invest their time in a project. I want to invest my time and come up with some shorts. I have some short stories that will make for great short horror films. I have some ideas for some full length features, some of which I want to be in, and some of them I want to be behind the camera.
I absolutely love horror. Comedy and horror are my favorite things… not always working well together, but there are some that pull it off. I like the Sleepaway Camp sequels. I think they’re hilarious. Other than that, I’m not a big fan of very serious scary movies trying to put bits of comedy into the film. I don’t understand why they do it, but they always have some excuse for it – like comedic relief – to take the tension away. But you don’t want to take the tension away! You want to keep the tension there. That’s the point of horror.
I love the new Halloween film. I think they did an amazing job. Some of the humor is funny and it passes, but some of it on the other hand just doesn’t work as much. If it’s a joke that most people didn’t get, it’s probably funny to me. (laughs) There’s humor all throughout different movies that people don’t laugh at, but I just find it hilarious. I love the John Waters movies from the ’70s. Those are hilarious to me. But I’ve played them for people, and some are either disgusted or just don’t think it’s funny at all. (both laugh)
PopHorror: In regards to the film projects you’re planning on doing, are you thinking of turning them into an anthology or keep them as individual shorts?
Deron Miller: I plan to shoot them as shorts and maybe shop them around, get them into some festivals, show people that I have an idea of what I’m doing… or maybe I don’t know what I’m doing and I’ll find out! (laughs) I just want to learn the process, and I have a lot of experienced people around me who are going to help me out with that. But I’m really confident in my stories. Whether I can director or be convincing as a actor is something that I’m going to find out, but I’m pretty confident. So, basically I want to begin with short films and progress to doing full length features.
PopHorror: As far as the acting side of things, you are known to make some appearances in indie horror here and there, for example, in Dave Campfield’s Caesar and Otto films. Do you have projects coming up that you would like to mention?
Deron Miller: Oh, I love the Caesar and Otto films. I think they’re really funny, and they’re fun to do. Dave has a unique sense of humor. It was also fun to work with so many talented people, and I think he should keep making them. I’d love to do another one because they’re so fun. As far as upcoming projects go, I have a few small cameos that I’m scheduled to shoot coming up.
My son also just made his first on-screen debut in a film called Hanukkah. I make an appearance in the film as a dead body, but I was basically there just to coach my son and make sure he was comfortable. Sid Haig stars in that one, and he is very intimidating for a 9 year-old to meet in person if you don’t know him. (laughs) But the film went great! He did a good job, he received a good paycheck and he was able to buy all the toys he wanted. (laughs)
There are other things in store as well. Aside from that, I want to shoot the music video I mentioned earlier, keep recording, book some shows and see how things keep going on the music side. Then, of course, the shorts, which will hopefully lead to a feature film. Just keep being artistic.
PopHorror: Do you have any plans for a follow-up record after you release Synergy?
Deron Miller: Oh yeah, I think I will always be making 96 Bitter Beings records, regardless of how successful they are. The Indiegogo campaign for Camp Pain was tremendously successful, way more than what we thought it was going to be. So, with Synergy, it could go anywhere at this point. And I’ll always be making music. I want to make another World Under Blood record and another Foreign Objects record. I have titles for them and riffs ready. I would love to do all of these things under the company name 96 Bitter Beings. The music and films would all be under that banner. I also want to do an album with my best friend. We used to have a joke band when we were kids. We want to revive the band and record all of these joke songs onto a well produced record. This will have its own sound and just be very goofy and ridiculous. Some of it’s offensive. Some of it goes into “why are they singing about this?” territory. (both laugh)
PopHorror: With all these music projects on the horizon, do you have any plans to tour in the near future?
Deron Miller: I’m actually working on that. I’m working on signing with an agency. And we’re trying to self-book a European tour in the UK. It’s just a matter of taking time to get the word out about Camp Pain and growing the base before hitting the road.
PopHorror: That sounds exciting! I look forward to seeing where all this takes you.
Whether it’s in music or film, we’re sure to keep seeing work from this horror-inspired artist. With the success of Camp Pain and plans for so much more to come, I’m excited to see what Deron comes up with next!