Turning Through the Window With worriedaboutsatan

I generally get excited when an artist I like goes on a bit of a detour into new realms, expanding their approach and palette in one fell swoop. On The Pivot, worriedaboutsatan (aka Gavin Miller) does just that. It’s such a massive album that keeps offering new and different pathways from repeated listens, opening up secret, sonic worlds within worlds. It’s tremendous.

The Pivot is out now and available HERE. I also highly recommend giving Miller’s Foxy Digitalis mix a listen.


Going back, what are some of your earliest memories or experiences related to music or sound? What are some of the real formative things from when you were young that have stuck with you?

Good question! the first sort of thing I can remember is being really obsessed with I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. No idea how or why I picked up on it, but distinctly remember dragging my mum to the local library to see if they had it on a CD or tape anywhere. Think I was maybe 8 or 9 at this point? I don’t think they did in the end, but would go nuts every time it came on somewhere, and tried to track it down as best I could. This was in the very, very pre-internet days obviously, so was at the mercy of local libraries and radio stations! Another one was listening to a tape my dad had of the Beatles – it wasn’t labeled, so I had no idea what this stuff was, and looking back, it was either Sgt Peppers or just a compilation he’d put together. I’m not a massive Beatles fan by any stretch, but I remember hearing A Day In The Life as a kid and it blew my mind – was like nothing I’d ever heard before, and as I had literally nothing to go on (I didn’t even know the name of it at this point), it felt like it’d been beamed down from another planet or something. 

Did you always want to be a musician or play music?

No, in all honesty, I came pretty late to playing music. I’d always loved it, and been generally very obsessive about it, but as far as playing it went, I didn’t pick up a guitar until much later on, like when I was a teenager or something. I didn’t study it at school when I probably should’ve – I had the option but went for something else instead, which was no doubt really boring as I can’t even remember what I picked. As soon as I started playing guitar though, there was no way back – it was all I wanted to do!

What drew you to or interested you about electronic music? What were some of the first projects or albums you discovered that really opened your ears?

I was quite an arsehole about music when I was younger – it was all Britpop and indie rock when I was growing up, so I was really into all that stuff, and I was quite snobby about anything else – maybe it was because my brother was really into dance music and was a pretty good DJ. I could always hear him practice through our shared wall, so maybe that made me rally against it with guitar music, but in the end, I came around. I think I started to get a bit bored of guitar-based stuff, and as he was a big fan of Underworld, I listened to their live album, Everything Everything, as he had it on cassette and it was just absolutely magic – I’d no idea electronic music could sound like that, or that you could even do it live outside of a DJ/ club setting. I met Karl Hyde once, backstage at a festival, and he’s seriously the nicest dude you’ll ever meet. His book is amazing too. As well as that though, around the time Kid A came out, there was a lot of chatter about these bands I’d sort of heard of, but never bothered to investigate – it sounds weird now, but you’ve no idea how informative that album was to a lot of us- back then the internet was still dialed up on a phone line, so me and my friends in middle-class northern suburbs just wouldn’t be exposed to much music other than what Lamacq was playing, or what Melody Maker covered. I know a lot of people clown on Radiohead these days, but it can’t be understated how much that album led me to find other stuff like Autechre, Boards of Canada, Aphex, etc. which I absolutely loved – Music Has The Right To Children absolutely blew my mind wide open, and I’ve been tirelessly obsessed with it (and BoC in general) ever since.

Let’s jump right into the new record, The Pivot because it is an absolute monster (in the best way!). First, what pushed you to make it such a sprawling, kind of epic journey?

Thanks! To be honest, I wasn’t going for a big, sprawling thing at first. I spend a lot of time making music, but it’s always regimented into projects – I’ll sit down and think ‘Right, this is all going to be this sort of album, and it’ll all sound like this’ and I’ll do my best to stay within those parameters until it’s finished. The Pivot was a little different, in that I’d actually had a few tracks left over from various other projects that didn’t have a home, which in turn led to the thing being a much longer record than I’d done in a while. I usually don’t like to make long albums, but this time I felt like maybe stepping out of that and doing something long and big and sprawling and epic was worth a shot! The rest of the material on there was basically made after that – I sat and just kept adding little bits, and getting carried away – here’s one that sounds like Neu and Can, here’s one that’s a Boards of Canada skit, here’s one that’s all glistening pianos and Ben Frost bass – it was like a genre a day experiment or something! 

I find these songs bring a lot of imagery to mind for me or even spark certain memories of very specific moments in my life. It really adds to the power of the record. What images or memories does the music evoke for you?

When putting stuff together, I’ll always, *always* have something in my head before starting work. Sometimes it’ll be a vibe or an atmosphere, or maybe I’ll be inspired by some other music and I’ll want to try and include that in my stuff. Sometimes, it’s honestly just that it’s a sunny day, or someone said something nice, or I’ll have a new piece of kit to try out – I’m always swimming around in my own head, and when I make stuff, it’s basically trying to get those images and thoughts out, as I don’t have lyrics to really impress upon people what I’m feeling at the time: the music has to do the heavy lifting. More often than not, it’s all very melancholic, as I’m that type of person anyway.

It’s also quite an emotional rollercoaster throughout. How do the different elements of the music (pitch, rhythm, harmony, timbre, etc.) contribute to the expression of emotion?

It’s all about the reverb haha! As a post-rock fan in my formative years, it was really heartening to know that these bands that I loved – Sigur Rós, Mogwai, GY!BE – could express emotion without really saying anything. I picked up on that, as I’d always struggled with writing lyrics, so this way of communicating emotion without being super literate about it really stood out – you slow things down, give a little atmosphere to inhabit, a guitar chimes in a minor key – it’s all really interesting how it makes you feel listening to all that when they’re not really telling you what they’re feeling. As I got older, I realized you can do that sort of stuff with synths too, with drum machines, with weird samples – it’s really open to interpretation, and as long as you feel that emotion before you set to record anything, you can express it with literally anything.

There’s something so satisfying for me, as a listener, to sit and dig into this album and let it take me on this long, winding journey. Some of the sequencing choices and transitions are really wonderful and surprising. You mention on the release page how, basically, it’s a bit different, but still a ‘very satan album.’ How did making this record really push you? And how does it make you feel about your own creativity and future possibilities?

Thanks for that – I put a lot of time into sequencing, and I really like the challenge of what song goes where. Nothing worse than an album that’s been slapped together! The whole record was a challenge to put together because it was all so disparate – on paper, certain tracks shouldn’t really fit next to others, but I wanted to see if I could do it, and take people on a little journey at the same time. I get bored easily too, so wanted to mess around in genres where I’d not been before, which really pushed the way I felt about making music, about satan in general, and my place in it. The album before this, Bloodsport, has a track with a grime rapper on it, and I remember feeling a bit pensive about putting that on the album, as I thought people would hate it. Turns out they didn’t, it was a standout, and I get asked about it all the time still, so that really gave me the push to carry on digging into my own whims and take on a few flights of fancy! It’s nice and made me feel good about trying new things under the umbrella of worriedaboutsatan.

What were some of the biggest challenges you dealt with in making The Pivot?

Just time in the day, really. Sometimes you’ll not be feeling it, or a vocalist will drop out or something and you’re frustrated with it all because you only have a few hours here and there to put something together you’re happy with. Also, I guess the lack of equipment doesn’t help. Not that you should rely on it, but when the band slimmed down to just me a few years back, I realized I didn’t even have the tools to do satan music anymore, so that took a while to come to terms with, and to try and work around it. These days it’s a bit easier, but still tough when you have these ideas in your head that you can’t really get out, because you don’t own anything that can replicate what you want to do – I’m still on Ableton 7 on a laptop from 2008, so I’m enormously limited with what I can work with – I can’t use plugins, or virtual instruments on it, so I have to find ways around it – I’ll try and mangle sample packs, or use the guitar instead, or pull favors, etc. Once I had to ask a mate to just record a bunch of piano notes as I didn’t have any! 

There’s an incredible cast of collaborators on The Pivot as well. How important is collaboration to you and how does working with all these great musicians help push and inspire your work?

It’s really great when you have a little community of like-minded souls around you, so when I had a few blank spots on this record, I knew their vocals would fit so so well. Ben (Cold Comfort) literally sent me his vocal in a day, which is by far and away the quickest that’s ever happened! Some performance on it, too. Greg was also really great, as I have a tendency to rush things a bit too much, and he really wanted to take some time with the track and get it just right, which made it sound amazing in the end. Mirza (Arms & Sleepers) too, man, that vocal is an absolute heartbreaker. Can’t thank him enough for that, and I’m so glad he felt comfortable enough to say those things – I’d done the spoken word thing before, and the prompts I usually use are things like ‘What advice would you give your younger self?’ or ‘what was the last dream you remember?’, but he went for something far more personal, to which I’m eternally grateful. I pretty much stripped everything out of the track as it was so I could hone in on his passages and put them right up front. 

For you, what was the overall emotional impact of making this record?

Overall it took a lot out of me, for sure. Weirdly, it was really nice to finally let those leftover tracks go, as they’d been hanging around my hard drive for so long, so it really felt like I was clearing the decks- sweeping everything out and drawing a line under so much stuff from the recent past, so I could start again totally brand new. Also, if I’m not careful, I can get really down about music and I’ll sit and start to ponder on why I do it, but finishing everything up felt really good, and listening back to everything when it was done was so nice – sort of like when you mow your lawn and you stand back and look at it for hours. Some albums are way darker than others, and it weighs pretty heavy on you when you’re in the midst of it, but thankfully this time wasn’t so weighty as there were quite a few lighter moments in there to keep me sane!

And lastly, what’s next for you during the rest of 2023 and beyond?

The rest of this year is pretty quiet – there’s an ambient guitar tape coming towards the end of the year, and maybe a few shows, but as I had a pretty intense start to this year (3 album releases in 5 months!) I’m looking forward to a little break haha! After that, it’ll be more of the same – I’m currently in the middle of a new record, so that’ll no doubt see the light of day soon. There’s also my side project with my girlfriend Sophie, Marta Mist – currently working on another record with that too, so I’m always busy!

Foxy Digitalis depends on our awesome readers to keep things rolling. Pledge your support today via our Patreon or subscribe to The Jewel Garden.