If you’re a hardcore Deadhead that seeks out the best recordings of that band, odds are you’re familiar with the work of Charlie Miller. Over the years Miller has taped and transferred thousands of tapes and you know that when he’s involved, it’ll sound good. Grateful Dead scholar Blair Jackson said it best, “My own rule of thumb with Archive Dead shows is I look for Charlie Miller’s name, and if it’s attached to a recording, I’ll usually check that out first, since his name is synonymous with the highest quality transfers and upgrades.” With that in mind we were excited a few days ago when we saw Miller’s name attached to a number of uncirculated Phish audience recordings popping up on bt.etree.org, so we reached out to Charlie to talk about his new found appreciation for the Vermont quartet.
Miller grew up and lived in Long Island for 25 years before moving west. “I saw every band in the ’70s at the Garden or Nassau,” he explained. How old was Charlie when he saw his first Dead show? “I walked into the show when I was 15, when the show ended I was 16. They started the encore at five after midnight,” the recording/sound engineer told us about catching the Dead on his birthday in 1979.
- BT.ETREE.ORG: Charlie Miller Phish Transfers
Now that he has his sights focused on Phish, how did he pick which shows to transfer? “I was asked to sort through my friend’s Phish collection and [etree Phish admins] Terry Watts and Jason Sobel went through the list and gave me a color-coded excel spreadsheet that indicated what shows were in circulation and what shows had unknown CD generation(s) (involved in their lineage). Since I have a DAT I can do a better transfer.”
Miller focused on the recordings that haven’t circulated. Those who know Charlie know that for a long time he wasn’t into Phish. “I got into Phish about a year and a half ago which is kinda weird because I worked with all the [band members] before then, but I never quite ‘got it,'” Charlie said. Miller, who is a longtime employee of Steve Kimock, worked with Phish bassist Mike Gordon during Kimock’s time with The Rhythm Devils in 2006. “We had a week of rehearsals at Trey’s barn and after the last night of rehearsals we went over to Mike’s house for a dinner party. I have this map that Mike drew for me from The Barn to his house. It’s so funny, he drew trees on the side – it’s just a funny map. We’re in the kitchen chatting and we were talking about a song when Mike mentioned a Phish song. And I had this blank stare and Mike said, ‘you don’t know this song?’ So I said, ‘you know what, you guys are really nice guys and really talented, but I just don’t get it.’ His response was something along the lines ‘I can understand, sometimes I don’t get it either.'”
[Image via Dark Star Palace]
Miller actually attended Phish’s last performance before starting an “indefinite hiatus” on October 7th, 2000 at Shoreline Amphitheatre. Though he was turned off by the crowd, he had a much different experience when he attended 10 shows during the Summer of 2011 while he was working for The Heavy Pets. “It’s funny because The Heavy Pets are Phish fans, so they designed their summer tour to follow Phish tour so that they could do some after show parties. On the first day, at the Phish show, we had handfuls of free tickets. There were about 10 Phish songs at that point that I knew and really liked and that night they played like eight of them. We went a few nights later and they played the rest of the songs I liked. And I was like ‘wow, this is kinda fun.’ I was having a good time. Some of it I get, some of it I don’t. I’m listening to more and more of it and i’m appreciating more and more of it,” Charlie explained.
In appreciation for his experience that summer, Miller has started to turn his attention to transferring and mastering Phish recordings. “I was going through this list of DATs that they sent me on this excel spreadsheet. Then, last night, Jason Sobel and I were talking on the phone and I said, ‘pick ten for me to work on right now’ and I worked on them through the night,” he said.
Over the past few days Charlie’s transfers of tapes from Phish’s 1996 and 1999 summer tour have been winning raves from fans. Personally, I attended the group’s July 13th, 1999 show at Great Woods and have never found a recording of that night which suited the music. His transfer hits the mark and listening to it was a revelation. He’s also just unveiled transfers of legendary December ’95 performances: 12/9, 12/29 and 12/30.
As we spoke, Miller had his hands full, “Right now I’m transferring a DAT to a compact flash of a Phish show, I’m transferring a Grateful Dead soundboard cassette master from a crew member to a hard drive recording, I’m mastering a Dead show on the computer and playing Bingo on my iPad.” When I mentioned his skill at multi-tasking, Charlie responded, “Multi-tasking is an understatement.”
[Charlie @ Merriweather For Phish – Summer ’11]
You’ll also notice Charlie’s name attached to hundreds of Steve Kimock recordings both official and unofficial. He told us about how he got his start with the guitarist, “I was following Kimock around and I couldn’t afford to do it anymore because I went to every show for a couple of years. So I got on the payroll and [now] they pay me to go.” As previously mentioned, he also worked for The Heavy Pets. “The Heavy Pets gig lasted about 15 months. I loved working for them because I’d sit at the board and dance and have so much fun. They’re such great guys and I love their music. It was a great experience overall.”
Charlie explained the transferring process to us, “I transfer the DAT to either a computer or solid-state compact flash and then if it comes from an analog source I make MP3s and I put them on this FTP site for my friend. He has perfect pitch, so he plays along to the recordings that I send him and he’s got a guitar tuner. If he has to start bending the strings to hit the notes, it’s off pitch. His CD player has a pitch adjustment, so he can adjust and he emails me the pitch corrections. I then go into my software, correct them, master them, patch them and it’s a process. Believe it or not, it’s fun, you can see me doing this all day.” With over 2,000 of his recordings/transfers on the Live Music Archive, we’d sure hope so.
Since he’s transferred so many Dead shows from every era we wondered if Charlie’s running out of Grateful Dead recordings to work on. “Oh gosh no. No, no, no. Crew members and band members give me their tapes, so there’s always upgrades and new stuff is always coming out. Some guy contacted me a week ago and told me ‘I taped over 100 shows between 1985 and 1988, I’ve got my cassette masters do you want to transfer them?’ I said ‘sure’ so he sent me a box of cassettes. Another guy who emailed me yesterday told me ‘I taped a million GD shows between ’92 and ’95 can you transfer my DATs?’ I said sure. There will ALWAYS be stuff to transfer,” Miller said.
[Charlie’s Mics at Phish]
It takes Miller anywhere between an hour and 24 hours to transfer and master a recording. “It all depends on the quality of the source,” he explained. We look forward to seeing what else Charlie has in his bag of tricks in the coming months. Be sure to head over to bt.etree.org and look for “charlie miller” under “seeded by” to sample his work.
Cool article!!! Thanks!!!
IMO this is the best thing to happen to the Phish community in a long time! I am stoked to listen to his transfers. His work is top notch.
Great interview, I really like the Mike story.
Charlie’s the man! Great article. Thank you.
Amazing news. Wow, can’t wait
this is much appreciated and welcomed
question though. once you convert to mp3 is their a way to have everything properly tagged so Phish1999-07-04d3t07.mp3 does not show up in iTunes?
I use a program called Tag & Rename to add meta data to my music files. In it, you can change the album title for all tracks at one time, you can add song titles to the files and album artwork. There are probably thousands of ways, but that’s what I use.
Funny story.. I had always been a huge fan of Charlie’s work. His Grateful Dead transfers go above and beyond. Anyways, I ran into Charlie at Bethal Woods, before The Merriweather show, he was looking for a ticket for that show. I ended up giving him a miracle, because of all that he has done for the taping community. Then, when I ran into at Merriweather, he looked at me and said, “Thanks for the Miracle, I phinally get it now.” and I said, “Let me get a photo of you next to the Grateful Dead plaque.” So seeing that photo made (my day for one) and reminded me of how you never know when you might find yourself “Finally getting it.”
Welcome to The Team Charlie!
Woohoo..Buddy Pat is a taper, used to plug in through Brent, turned me on to Miller yarns ago and was always thankful. Awesome addition. Better late than never!!
Scotty…even gods must sleep once in a while. ha! How do you do what you do? Forget that question. Thanks, again, for yet another piece of incredible news! Charlie is, indeed, the Man!
yes very nice article, thank you
Nice article, too bad that Charlie represents everything wrong with the taping community; great at recording shows, bad at interacting with people
Great article Scotty. I love you Charlie Miller! Keep on keeping on.
I have been upgrading my summer 99 tour. These recordings are awesome!
i want his iloveiCarly shirt.
Are any of his recordings on the spreadsheet yet?
Perusing Etree I see Charlie has used 2 of my B&K 4011 sources.
Kudos for the re-up. I did seed to PLM (People for a Louder Mike) for quite some time so its not really a ‘new source’….
But still – can’t wait to re-listen.
Ron – when Charlie says “new source”, it’s because that particular source has never circulated digitally as SHN and/or FLAC files.
About eight years ago, I was doing a magazine review of a Kimock gig, and Charlie saw me scribbling away in my notebook, and asked what I was up to that night.
Well, at his request, he supplied me with a soundboard of the show sent to my address, gave me his card, and said if I ever needed anything, just let him know. A stand up guy to me.
Charlie is one of the hardest working guys I know. But then again, what he does is his uncondtional love and salvation. He wouldn’t have it any other way. He did it for nothing but now gets paid for it.
The man has come out on top, in tact and full of respect and love by many who know him.
Kudos Scotty and much love cm!
stay nclassy, dude. Do you think you could credit ANY of the tapers for your releases? theyre the ones who did all the work. like its really that hard to transfer a tape and EQ it.
maybe you dont mention the original tapers because you dont want to piss them off because most would say ‘please dont remaster my sources’
Or is it all about your huge ego?
most likely, the reason that no credit is given to the original taper is because it’s unknown, and no taper information is labeled on the DAT clones that Charlie is using to transfer. When the taper is known, Charlie includes that information in the text file (for example, see: http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=561769).
Charlie Miller is a god among mortals.
That Mann Center show 6/24/95 sounds refreshingly crisp and wild with the new tape. Very nice job!
Saddest thing about this article is Charlie has not produced 75% of what he has put out – most has come from others and been put out under different named sources, but it came from others, me included. You guys are praying to a false God – All he does is take from others and put aud patches in and calls them his. He does no mixing, they sound better because they are from Masters. Trust me I know.
Hey “Anonymous,” how can we ‘trust you’ when you don’t have the courage to put your name out there? It’s easy to slander someone when you are hiding behind anonymity. At least ‘Dave’ and ‘pete’ had the courage to put some kind of first name on the board.
Charlie is one of the most arrogant tapers I have ever met in my life…and that is saying a lot
This exposes charlie for the fraud that he is:
“He has perfect pitch, so he plays along to the recordings that I send him and he’s got a guitar tuner. If he has to start bending the strings to hit the notes, it’s off pitch. His CD player has a pitch adjustment, so he can adjust and he emails me the pitch corrections. I then go into my software, correct them, master them, patch them and it’s a process.”
Any trained audio engineer would literally laugh this clown out of the studio
I just remastered a recording Charlie shared and in the notes he said the right channel didn’t have any sound or hardly any sound for the first song, so he “pasted the right channel over the left so it wouldn’t sound weird”. Whatever works, but he doesn’t even know how to use a pan knob. How do you self aggrandize yourself like that calling yourself a professional mastering engineer and don’t even know where the pan knob is at? He can’t mix, and you aren’t going to understand mastering if you can’t mix. What he is doing is transferring cassettes to digital or DAT to digital. That’s it. That is technically “mastering” but were talking a few sections of a few chapters of an extensive process. These “tapers” that behave like this are all full of shit. They are inept, self entitled, and arrogant. What’s more, they undermine good work they are not capable of. They aren’t smart enough. This crap is a joke. This guy is a joke. And certainly don’t need to give this guy attention and interview anymore.
Is there a taper message board somewhere that y’all are writing back and forth to each other shitting on the 2,000 freely distributed recordings he’s worked on for no reward except spreading the music?
“Hey, someone wrote an article about a taper/trader/collector that isn’t us, let’s get him!”
Charlie didn’t ask for this article to be written. He didn’t advertise these transfers as “the best” or an “upgrade” or “remastered.” I liked what I heard and gave him a shout leading to this article. How incredibly depressing that all the guy did was devote a few days of his life to spreading these tunes and those shitting on Charlie feel the need to do so. And most anonymously as well. How old are you? Does it make you feel good to put down others?
Thousands of people are enjoying these recordings and clearly people were interested in hearing about how it came together. For that CM has gotten no financial reward and has been subject to being called an egomaniac and a fraud. Ridiculous. It’s enough, you’ve made your takes on him clear.
Been there, done that. We ALL owe the tapers a HUGE “thank you” for even recording the stuff to begin with. Without them we’d be shit out of luck. So to them, THANK YOU.
It’s a rough boat to sit in on “our” side (as folks who like to tinker with audio in post to make it even sweeter than it already is) because of the “attitude” we are percieved as having…like we think of ourselves as “gods” or are somehow better than so-and-so or some craziness…but lets face it, not every recording/transfer out there is perfect. We ALL fuck things up from time to time…even the best of the best make mistakes….don’t hate on those who attempt to make things better, and I use that term with the sincerest of intentions, for the end listeners.
Just think…without folks like Charlie who care about the end result, you’d have the 6yr old down the street “mastering” shit on a Fisher-Price computer with an 8-bit soundcard and call it gold.
Just some food for thought.
Thank you Bernstein and Marmar for perfectly expressing my thoughts on these hating clowns. Way to tell ’em what’s up. I can’t fathom how someone can have anything negative to say about someone who has provided us with thousands of stellar recordings. Super lame…
Charlie, I have the metal master sb (that were played one time to copy them) of 6/30/89. I know they circulate but I would gladly send them to you if you are interested…sorry to say I’m not a PHISH fan, but, the TB’s of Miller GD in front of me make me smile…so thank you!
P.S. Yes I was there…Love Merriweather, I just realized the Phish show is the 4th anniversary of the Shakedown…that’s funny.
Thanks Charlie! Your work is loved and appreciated by millions!
PS- I was at 6/30 and 7/1/85, along with 6/27 and 6/28 – one of the funnest weeks of my life. I was also at Kimock at Richards on Richards in ’99. Transcendent show. I wonder if you were at the board?
Wow I made some killer recordings with my Iphone last summer. Will get those to Charlie ASAP. You guys are in for a treat. I’m da sickest taper ever.
Even though this article is several years old, it’s exciting to read about my son’s involvement in Phish, GD, Steve Kimock, et al. I’m a proud mom.