Tom Miller – Emotional Currency
Born and raised in Stockwell, South London, Tom Miller first picked up the pencil as a child. By school, it was already an adolescent obsession. He had also picked up the guitar by Secondary school. By 21, his skills would include performance poetry, painting, guitar, music-production, song-writing, sculpture, and most recently, tattooing.
“I never thought of myself as an artist, or someone that was even good at drawing. Then when I was 18, I started to think about art a lot more. So, I started doing it more, and using proper pencils, not cheap ones”.
Miller sees art as part of his everyday life. “I live my life; and art falls off it, like flakes of dead skin”.
Miller left London at the age of 20 to pursue a more uncontrolled lifestyle. Miller’s experience working voluntarily as a gardener for a couple months, led to deep frustration, heavy drinking, and nervous breakdowns. He sees the Welsh capital as his escape, and saviour from his illness. ‘That’s where I found out who I was, in Cardiff, not in London.’
Miller has always championed individuality and alternative approaches. On the guitar, his level of experience and emotion is compelling.
Miller’s current focus is on his music production. He draws admiration from bands and styles as varied as Dog Fashion Disco, to Yann Tiersen. ‘Glitch’ effect processed guitar riffs take on epic form, often cutting through mournful strings, driven by pounding modern bass lines. In song ‘DogFashion Urine Sample on the Night of the Demon’, pounding IBM rhythms marry discordant strings, to send the listener into ecstasy and the dark edge of his paintings.
Miller’s new-found agency clearly provides a safe-haven of survival, creative productivity, and time to focus on his art, away from the modern pressures of the city and hackneyed instruction. In today’s strain of social networking and polished suits and ties, one might assume a modern deficiency in Miller’s way of life. But it has afforded him the same skills many gain in the work world, and much more: Tom professes urgently, a powerful and extreme philosophy which keeps his art strong.
‘I’m gonna die one day… I don’t know when it will be. But don’t want to waste time doing anything else. Because, I know that gives me pleasure. It gives me pride. It gives me self-confidence. It occasionally pleases other people as well, and cheers them up, or makes them think.’
Through the personal skills allowed by an alternative lifestyle dedicated to his passions, we find an intimate reciprocity in his art. Getting to the core of the philosophy, Miller finds essentially, what he calls an ’emotional currency’ with his art. Rather than the material currency and status within the public eye: ‘Art gets exchanged for feeling, instead of money.’
In regards to art, and all of Tom Miller’s talents, his main aim is to keep doing it and getting better. Amidst unemployment, no money, and a society which he feels estranged from, Miller’s art finds an emotional currency offered by the freedom he has found.
Video by Amy Obarski