The Inside Track: Rocket Miner - 'Skyway'

Words by Nick Biscardi

Photo by Andy Patch

Instrumental post-rock bands, am I right? Let me guess: if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all? That for every Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, there’s so many (read: too many) amateurs? An endless contest to see who’s melodramatic pain and sadness is more earnest and valid than someone else’s melodramatic pain and sadness? Yeah, maybe.

But then again philosophy points out that human beings are the only ones who care about what it means to be themselves. So if shoegaze is “the scene that celebrates itself”, then post-rock must be a “scene that finds meaning in itself”. Like jazz almost, songs move with just enough motor to keep a listener on their toes for what’s next; a thesis statement revealed by nuances of little decisions along the way. The meaning is in the journey--the process--rather than the destination or the outcome.

On top of that, drummers can't front a band either, right? Otherwise they're channeling Pete Wentz Syndrome? Well, I guess the 23-year-old me would take issue with that. My whole life I'd been listening to bands for their drummers, the usual idols of a suburban boy who'd longed for his share of the spotlight: John Bonham/Led Zeppelin, Stewart Copeland/The Police, Danny Carey/Tool, Jimmy Chamberlain/Smashing Pumpkins, Travis Barker/blink-182. Plus I'd swoon even harder for bands whose drummers had a hand in steering the creative ship, like Neil Peart writing lyrics for Rush or Jaki Liebezeit holding down a funky 22 minute groove for Can. But perhaps my guiltiest pleasure though: Matthew McDonough's psychedelic + polyrhythmic imprint on the first 2 Mudvayne records. Don't judge me.

Which brings me to the focus of this piece: Rocket Miner. In 2010 I moved from Montgomery County, PA to Chicago for a degree program in audio and helped start the band during my first month in town. I met guitarists Chip Wortel + Larry Hryn in a practice space to jam out and to "see what would happen." And in that following year I wore all the hats that I could--drums, managing, booking, recording, mixing--to produce our debut Songs For An October Sky. It served as a first step in the journey, bringing Rocket Miner to the table with me as our de facto leader and front-person.

But it was that zero-sum ambition, I think, that ultimately set up my exit from the band. Because revisiting the past also means acknowledging the ugliness that walks in shadow, lock-step with those memories. Transplanted from my simple suburb to the big & blustery Windy City, I felt pretty entitled to my creative opinions from the modest success we enjoyed with October Sky and barely let myself be accountable to anyone--especially my own bandmates. Like Gob Bluth in that $6300 suit (come ON!) Rocket Miner's wins were because of me, but our failures were typically someone else's fault. Following up Sky was taking too long for me so I took out my dissatisfaction on the other 4 guys for not helping "make the bread." Meanwhile after I'd left the band, the other guys in Rocket Miner would continue to churn out more records and open for some genre heavyweights--while I would bounce from band to band and eventually out of the city entirely. Hello, Seattle!

So ten years later now in 2021, October Sky sticks out more like a breadcrumb from the past or a fork in the road, reminding me where I was headed and what I thought I was chasing. Because as the philosopher Heidegger* tells us, “before you [can] know the truth about things, you [have] to care about’s caring about things that ‘unconceals’ them in your day-to-day life, so that they can be known about. If you don’t care about things, they stay ‘hidden’— be alive is ‘to be surrounded by the hidden.’” 

And it’s with an unsure mixture of naive hope and blind faith that this encore is presented to “unconceal” what was already there years ago, hidden just beneath the surface, if only I'd taken the time to look. Even without the process of recording a whole new album, this has very much felt like a new production; none of us are the same people we were when we first released it. For this tenth anniversary reissue, we had it remixed by Matt Bayles (ISIS, Minus The Bear, Holy Fawn) and pressed to vinyl for the first time ever too. It sounds 100x better now than I could have ever done by myself in 2011. To do so meant letting other people help get it across the finish line, to go further than just that first step, to really make it a team effort. A modest way to find meaning in ourselves and those “little decisions” once again. 

Because there's a fine line between being a front-person and having a solo project. Plus, drummers can't front a band either, right?

Check out the premiere stream of the whole record over on Big Takeover

Follow Rocket Miner on all the usual social media sites: Bandcamp / Instagram / Facebook

You can also find more from Nick aka That Lucky Butcher here: Official Site / Instagram / Soundcloud

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