It was February 6th 2011 at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. Hangin’ with the usual suspects. Good times were afoot. Libations were had. Getting ready to sway to whatever DevilDriver was about to spew forth. We take our spot, stage right, next to the speakers. It begins…
“Um, where the fuck is Miller?”
Jonathan Miller, the bassist. The dude we meet on DD’s first tour in the early 2ks. That dude who helped lay down that rhythmic foundation since the beginning of their conception. That full steam ahead, 5-ton truck, ready to assault your ear cavity. The one who didn’t treat us women in the industry like a piece of ass in shoes?! Yeah, that dude. He was gone.
Were we [at FourteenG] that out of touch? Had we been away THAT long?! Nope. It was just a jettison maneuver of a familiar member. R i g h t u n d e r the current. Right under our noses. The sad truth was, when you have miles between friends and acquaintances, no one truly keeps in touch outside Facebook. We’re all guilty, no shame game here.
Many moons pass and to our gleeful surprise, we discover postings of iPhone videos of garage jam sessions. Like, really brutaljam sessions. With tags of Evan Pitts (vocals, guitars), Alex Chantes (drums), Andy Villasenor (guitars) and Jon Miller (bass)?!?!?! For once, my FB feed didn’t betray me! Time to “get the scoop” and also lay some rumors to rest.
EK: You were missed sweetie! Considering you we off the grid entirely, where had you been for the past few years?
MILLER: It is really cool to reconnect with you, Erika!!!! It’s true. I have been completely off the grid for a few years and it has been part of a journey that was necessary for me to grow spiritually. I left DevilDriver in 2011 to get sober. It is not something that I try to hide or sweep under the rug. I absolutely embrace the lifestyle changes that I made over the past 3 years. I moved into a men’s sober living home in Santa Barbara, CA called New House III. It was the best thing I ever did that I never thought I wanted. I needed to recover from a lot of broken and strained relationships and put the brakes on the partying for a while. I feel great.
EK: During those years, had you considered giving up metal forever?
MILLER: I don’t know if giving up metal forever is something I ever considered. I really believe that metal is something that is in your blood and becomes part of you and that you live and die with but I did need a complete transformation of lifestyle and the people that I surrounded myself with. Getting sober for 3 years was the change required for that transformation to take place.
EK: What made you want to come back to metal?
MILLER: Something has always watched over and guided me… the Universe, Higher Power; something led me back to my home. When I got sober, I actually went into sober-living in Santa Barbara. I needed to change EVERYTHING!!!! Not just the partying, but the people, the structure, the accountability, the whole character building process. It was ALL required for me to grow and wake up.
I had zero desire to even pick up an instrument for a couple of years but Evan Pitts consistently called me to check in, let me know that he cared about me and he would eventually encourage me to pick up a guitar or bass again. The experience I had for almost ten years in DevilDriver was incredibly rewarding and a dream come true but it was cold and empty and void of true fellowship and brotherhood at times and it killed my spirit. It was a business and I got tired of the way things were run. The members who wrote the music weren’t treated as equals. Bellum was something that offered a genuine passion for brutal music and no nonsense.
EK: Please explain how everyone came together. Why now? Do you feel there’s something you have to prove?
MILLER: I don’t feel as if we have something to prove as much as I feel like the members of Bellum have an unrelenting passion for what we are doing right now. It is something that has taken on its own life force and I am just a passenger along for the ride. No matter how much I tried to walk away from my creative side, heavy metal kept knocking on my door. As long as I feel inspired, I will continue to walk the path of a metalhead. I haven’t felt this much enjoyment writing songs and playing music in a long time.
EK: Do you feel that the current state of metal has lost its appeal and why? What will Bellum bring to the metal marketplace?
MILLER: This is a great question because it is something that I can only answer subjectively. I am 34 years old and I feel like I witnessed the best of the best for my generation (Pantera, Sepultura, Snot, Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad, the list goes on). There are still bands carrying the torch like Suffocation, Slipknot, Lamb of God, Machine Head, Opeth, In Flames and that is what keeps me inspired. I spent a decade on the road, recorded five albums on RoadRunner and met all of my heroes. I am so blessed. I am literally one of the luckiest guys in the world. To be able to live out that childhood dream is a rare thing. But there is something that tells me “I’m not done yet”. I still have unfinished business and that is just fine by me. It is exciting and it feels good. Bellum has so many doors that are waiting to be opened and I am eager to be a part of it.
EK: On to the music… The tunes sound too effortless! Like you guys have been playing as a unit for years. What’s the collaboration like for you guys? Who’s the main songwriters?
MILLER: I played with Evan Pitts on the first DevilDriver album cycle. He has been the main songwriter in Bellum so far. The first album was already written by the time I joined the band. The cool thing about the future of Bellum is having all four members write music. Everyone in the band writes killer music. Alex Chantes (drums) and Andy Villasenor (guitar) are musical powerhouses and I guarantee you we will be bringing serious beef to the metal marketplace. It is such a pleasure being able to make music with your best friends.
EK: I am a sucker for old movies! So, “God’s Demons” is my favorite song anyway, thus far. What are we to expect from your upcoming release? Where was it recorded & who produced the album?
MILLER: Andy made the God’s Demons video in his spare time just for fun. It is pretty wicked!!!! Our debut album “Kill The Man” is released on November 7th and the whole darn thing was recorded and produced by Bellum. The next album is already written and will be the next level of what this band can do. I am playing with Bellum because I believe in the band. I think that there is something ferocious going on.
EK: Any particular themes that run throughout the album?
MILLER: There are themes that run through the album. That’s for sure. Some are very personal for Evan and it would probably be more appropriate if he answered that question because he wrote all of the lyrics. One thing I can tell you is that Evan and myself are both founding members of DevilDriver and there is a lot of volatile energy and turmoil that was never addressed properly. There are opinions and stories and poisonous vibrations that contributed to both myself and Evan’s decision to leave DevilDriver. There are definitely some things that Evan felt necessary to get off of his chest and they show up in the lyrics. But, Bellum is a vessel for good and light and some things just need proper closure. We both left DevilDriver on our own accord. No one was fired or voted out or let go. We outgrew DevilDriver.
EK: Which songs are you looking forward to playing live and why?
MILLER: I like playing “Bayonet”, “God’s Demons” and “Never Come Back”
EK: What would you like the audience to walk away with after hearing the tunes?
MILLER: Inspired. Feeling better than you did 5 minutes ago. Anything to help the people.
EK: What does the next year hold for Bellum?
MILLER: I believe that there is a cosmic force at work and I trust that it will deliver us to each listener when the time is right. We hope to be able to play music for people all over the world.
EK: Any messages you would like to send to your supporters?
MILLER: See you on the road. Come say hello to us!!!!!!!
For more information on: New House III