During Rainy Miller’s teenage years, grime ripped through Preston. Kids would write their own lyrics and send for each other on beats ripped from Limewire. “In every friendship group or every estate throughout the city, there was someone who had got hold of a USB microphone or managed to jank some recording software,” he says.
The most popular MCs would become local celebrities. Miller remembers going to watch some of the older kids from his school clash at a community centre on the Brookfield estate. The scene was fuelled by Myspace, which allowed users to curate lists of their favourite artists and leave supportive comments on tracks.
Miller tried out rapping and then started to experiment with producing his own beats after being introduced to Pirate Bay. “I think the first thing I got was a cracked version of Fruity Loops 5 and Adobe Audition that I’d managed to get on a CD from a mate,” he says.
The first few attempts at production were fairly rudimentary. He describes messing around with an instrumental to make it sound like a helicopter and taking it into school to show his friends. “Obviously, it wasn’t a beat at all, it was just me sticking a filter on a track that already existed,” he laughs. “But it was the first time I got into how techy production could be.”
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Today, Rainy Miller lives in Manchester and is the founder and head of Fixed Abode, the record label on which he released his latest EP, A Choreographed Interruption, last year. His music is moody and emotional, layered in context and intensely personal.
Miller is also part of a loose collective of Manchester-based underground artists who are turning an increasing number of industry heads with their experimental electronic releases. He is generous with his time, speaking passionately about Preston and the friends he surrounds himself with, including frequent collaborators Blackhaine and Croww.
Miller grew up in Longridge, a market town north-east of Preston and spent much of his childhood watching North End or playing football for the local team. “It was one of those satellite towns that probably run through the entire country,” he says. “It’s probably where the majority of people actually come from.”
“There was no onus to learn anything musical in my house. There were no instruments whatsoever, so music didn’t really come too naturally at the beginning,” Miller says. His mum was into the Madchester scene and Haçienda-style dance music, and his dad was a huge Beatles fan.
“I wasn’t really listening to anything like that until I got a little older and moved away – I thought it was music for old people,” he says. It was only after moving to Manchester that he started to trace his own interest in dance music back to the records his parents would play on a Friday or Saturday night.
In 2019, Miller released his debut album, Limbs, which reflected small town, working-class life and was dubbed ‘Lancashire’s answer to Frank Ocean’ by I-D Magazine. A Choreographed Interruption came two years later: much shorter, but just as carefully crafted. “I’ll have big gaps between writing music because there are periods of time where I’m not really that introspective or there’s not that much going on,” he says.
The EP’s title is taken from a poster for artist Keith Harrison’s ‘Conductor’, a performance which took place in Preston Bus Station in 2019. It was billed as a ‘live, choreographed interruption in the life of the station’ and was exhibited as an audio-visual installation at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. Harrison’s reflection on normal life being slowly disrupted seemed to echo situations Miller found himself in at the time.
He had briefly moved back to Preston and, by chance, walked past his biological father for the first time in 22 years. Yellowman reflects this encounter and is also a partial response to Pete Brassett’s novel of the same name, which revolves around a child losing his father.
How long was I, treading on the memory / How was I, swollen to indifference, Miller’s altered voice asks over a sombre piano. “I love wrapping things up in context, so it’s finding things that mirror similar themes and then using that as content to write the lyrics so that I can mask what I’m trying to say”, he explains.
The music video for Yellowman is a dance performance by one of Miller’s friends from Preston, Amber Calland. It’s important to him that the performers he works with have that personal connection. Visuals for the second track, Meridian, 1520, were filmed at a Gracie Barra jiu-jitsu gym where Miller’s childhood friend trains, two minutes away from his house.
“For me, everything just comes off way better when it’s homegrown,” Miller says. “I love being able to bring in the people around you that you believe do good stuff.” He talks about Blackhaine’s Crack Magazine cover shoot and how his friend Chris Henderson was brought in to do the styling. “It’s a person that would never get the opportunity to do that, but in my eyes has better taste and overview than anyone in the world.”
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He’s excited about the underground music coming out of Manchester at the moment, from the likes of Space Afrika, aya and Iceboy Violet. “There’s a real surge in what people are doing […] it feels like there is a loose rope being drawn around everyone and everyone’s really interested in what everyone else is doing,” he says.
It’s a scene – although Miller wouldn’t use that word – that is often associated with Salford and, in particular, The White Hotel. The venue, which is really on the border between Salford and Manchester, is known for backing local experimental artists and promoters. While appreciative of their support, Miller thinks the concentration on geography not only misses the point, but is also symptomatic of Manchester’s ‘long 90s’ obsession with finding the next Haçienda.
“Everywhere in the world there’s thousands of Haçiendas happening right now and the only reason that’s happening is because of the internet,” he says, pointing to the ease of communication through Instagram and Telegram as the scene’s true catalyst. “It’s more just a desire that people around here want to create and they want to create fast all the time.”
Miller’s view is that focusing on one specific venue excludes artists who are doing equally interesting work, but have never happened to play there. “I think people need more credit for what they’re doing off their own back,” he says. “There’s not a geographical location on this thing.”
We end by talking about the artists Miller is listening to right now – Michael J. Blood, Tom Boogizm, Karim Maas – and his admiration for promoters putting on local talent like Henzo at SOUP. It’s an exciting time for Manchester and Rainy Miller is right at the centre. He looks forward to the future: “When somebody does well, it elevates everyone else. There’s such a web of people that are always talking to each other and nobody even notices.”
A Choreographed Interruption is released on Fixed Abode. Consider buying the EP from one of Greater Manchester’s independent record shops or from the artist’s Bandcamp.