Biography

Miles' MTV publicity photo (autographed)Within six months of The Wonder Stuff's farewell performance at the Phoenix Festival, shortly after leaving his job as a VJ on MTV Europe, Miles Hunt took his first steps in forming a new band.

 

In an interview in the NME, Hunt spoke about his work on MTV: "I really liked it.  The one thing I learned pretty fast was what cunts most bands were. The only band I expected to be cunts were Oasis, and they weren't." He then told of the time he met with Paul Weller at an Oasis gig. "We were both very pissed. He was saying, 'You still doing that TV?' And I said, 'Yes'. And he said, 'TV is for wankers. Grow your hair and write some songs'. And I thought, 'I've already done that, Paul'. But he invited me to the studio when he was doing 'Stanley Road' and watching them made me realise how much I missed it."

 

Working with former Eat drummer Pete Howard and The Senseless Things' Morgan Nicholls on bass, the trio initially threw around a few musical ideas in London in December 1994. For the next few months they kept in touch on a regular basis and sent each other demo tapes of tracks they had been working on without any serious thought of entering a studio together to record the tracks properly until April 1995 when, following a conversation with long-time idol Paul Weller, Miles quit his job on MTV and began to concentrate on his new musical venture - Vent.

 

The name of the group was suggested by their manager Tank - former manager of Ned's Atomic Dustbin and brother of Martin Gilks.  It was Tank who, under the name of Tankeelad, had designed the sleeves for The Wonder Stuff's 'If The Beatles Had Read Hunter', 'Greatest Hits - Finally Live' and 'Live In Manchester' albums as well as many of the Ned's releases.  Other names allegedly also considered were Bent and Pan Am Stress Boys.

 

It wasn't long though before the group were attracting public attention - though not in the sense which they were intending. After The Wonder Stuff had split, and following the break-up of his marriage to Mary-Anne Hobbs, Miles had left London and moved to Shropshire. After only a short time at his new house, he was issued him with an official caution for noise pollution after he had been playing some of the Vent demos recorded so far in his garden "to see what they sounded like played at volume in the open air".  Obviously some of his new neighbours did not have the same ear for talent and a good tune that others may have done and had complained to the local police force.

 

 

By the Summer of '95, the group had recorded around a dozen tracks for a demo tape that was given to Polydor along with close friends and family which showed that the Vent sound was aiming to be far more rock-oriented that anything Miles had undertaken within The Wonder Stuff.  Miles' vocals were more raw up against Nicholls' pounding basslines, heavier guitar lines and crashing drums from Pete Howard.  The demo tape included tracks such as 'Fits and Starts', 'At One', 'Don't Give Me Back The Knife', the experimental-sounding interlude of 'Weasel and Stoat' and 'Correctional'.

 

Attending 1995's Phoenix Festival from an audience member's point of view rather than headlining the main stage as he had done just twelve month's previous, Miles met former Cult guitarist Billy Duffy who joined Vent shortly after.  A series of very low-key dates were played in Europe to test out their new tracks on an unassuming public, followed by their official UK live debut at the Reading Festival although the group was unofficially performed live in the UK a few weeks prior when they were the musical entertainment for a garden party held by Vic Reeves.

 

Prior to their Reading debut, BBC Radio 1FM's Evening Session programme broadcast four songs that the group had recorded two week previous at the BBC's Maida Vale studios in London. The four tracks, 'Fits And Starts', 'Fixer', 'Night Out With a Foreign Fella' and 'Correctional' was the first public airing of tracks produced by the group as a four-piece.  Miles also made an appearance on Mark Radcliffe's Radio 1FM late night show shortly after where he gave an interview and performed an acoustic track called 'Give It Whole'.

 

 

Vent appeared on the Melody Maker stage at the festival on the August 28th. For fans who had been shocked when Miles had cut off his trademark locks prior to his final Phoenix performance in 1994, an even greater shock was now in store as he had gone even further and had his head almost shaved giving rise to a number of comments that he now resembled Ade Edmondson's "Eddie Hitler" character in BBC TV's Bottom comedy programme.

 

Vent, 1995 (Morgan Nicholls, Miles Hunt, Billy Duffy, Pete Howard)With The Wonder Stuff having bowed out on a high note, both Vent and counter spin-off group We Know Where You Live (featuring the other members of The Wonder Stuff with Ange Dolittle on vocals) found that they were in for a harsh time from critics and reviewers.  As both groups had concentrated solely on their new material, every track was essential new material to the audience who had not heard the tracks before so seemed more sombre and reserved than usual.  Indeed, Miles' views of the critics (and the crowds) reactions was that "audiences in the UK are far more aware of our past bands than the audiences we played to in Europe. As a result of which, people at Reading were 'checking us out' where as, out at the European festivals, the audiences just reacted to the music of a band they'd never heard of, which in all cases was really lively. Pete said it best when he said that at Reading it was too much like playing under the microscope. Let's just leave it at that, not one of my most memorable gigs."

 

 

Undeterred, the group set off for America to play a series of dates for which reviews were (marginally) more favourable.  On their return they announced details of their first full UK tour which would see them supporting Irish rockers Therapy?  As the first dates of the tour approached, Therapy?'s lead singer Andy Cairns suffered vocal problems which led to the start of the tour being delayed by a couple of weeks.  It was at this point that Billy Duffy left the group by mutual consent.  In an interview for the New Musical Express, Miles elaborated that "...it was a pretty cool thing to play with him and we enjoyed it but it changed what we were doing. It was more like a standard rock set up and that wasn't what we wanted to do. It didn't really suit him either." Regarding Vent in general, Miles compared it to like being "back on the school bus", saying that the feeling was comparable to the time when The Wonder Stuff were just starting up, adding "I worked with the same people for ten years and now I'm working with two new people, which is inspiring."

 

Audience Of One

Former Wonder Stuff frontman Miles Hunt has been telling me how his new band played for an audience of just one person on their recent tour! Miles, who sang in front of thousands with the Stuffies, reveals that Vent - formed last April - played secret gigs in Europe to warm up for the Reading Festival. "We were booked to perform at a German boozer, with no advance tickets," he says. "Five minutes before we were due to go on, there were just three bar staff in the place. We decided to use the gig as a rehearsal and were chatting between songs and having cups of tea. But with three songs of the set to go, a punter brought a ticket and watched the rest of the set. He even applauded each number! It was ironic that the next night we played in front of 8,000 at a Belgium festival!"
 

Miles formed Vent with ex-Senseless Things bassist Morgan Nicholls, former Eat drummer Pete Howard and guitarist Billy Duffy from the disbanded Cult. Duffy has now left but Vent are continuing as a threesome and will support Therapy? at the Aston Villa Leisure Centre on November 3. "I enjoy supporting rather than headlining because there's no responsibility and I can just enjoy playing," Miles confesses. "We are also not preaching to the converted each night and there's the challenge of introducing our music to a new audience."

 

Carlos, Birmingham Evening Mail

 

In one of the first few issues of the short-lived music magazine Raw, Miles was interviewed about his plans for Vent. In response to one of the questions about who they would be releasing their work with, Miles confirmed that his services were still held by the Polydor record label. One unconfirmed story is that, upon hearing that The Wonder Stuff would be splitting up, an high-ranking Polydor executive took Miles out to dinner and asked him to continue working with the label should he decide to pursue a musical career again in the future.

 

 

With more new tracks under their belt, the group bided their time for the next few months whilst they waited for their choice of producer for the debut album, Steve Albini, to become available - a eleven day recording slot in April was booked by Miles during the Christmas holidays.  During the next four months, the trio wrote and recorded a handful of songs at rehearsal studios in London and Brighton which Miles later confessed "are the best the album has to offer".  With a little over one week to go before they were due to go into the Abbey Road Studios with Albini, the group hastily headed out on their first headlining UK tour stopping at eight venues in almost as many days to get the audience's reactions to many of the songs they planned to record with Albini the following week.

 

Vent, 1996In an interview for NME, Hunt spoke about their choice of producer - "Albini wouldn't have been my choice if I was still in The Wonder Stuff. But we wanted to move on and do something different, a lot more jarred, a lot more jagged. I also wanted to avoid the studio tricks that you learn over the years to tart up songs that aren't strong enough. You can put bits of tambourine on choruses to beef it up a bit but somebody like Albini ain't gonna let us do that." He also spoke about Vent in relation to The Wonder Stuff, "There are people coming along who would like to hear Wonder Stuff songs. But after 30 seconds I think it's pretty obvious that something like 'Size Of A Cow' isn't going to fit. I don't see The Wonder Stuff as a weight around my neck. I'm really proud of that stuff."

 

Recording sessions for the album went well and the group finished with around 15-16 songs that could be used for album and additional single tracks although the eleven day recording period was something alien to all members of the group - as Miles once said, recording for The Wonder Stuff's 'Construction For The Modern Idiot' album had taken a couple of months to complete and this album had been done in under a fortnight.  However, after listening to rough production mixes of the tracks recorded, Miles felt that a couple of songs hadn't come across well in the final recorded performance and a visit to Olympic Studios in London was arranged with producer Danton Supple in the hotseat to capture versions that Miles was happier with.

 

 

At the end of June, advertisements for the 1996 Reading Festival showed that Vent would again be appearing on the Sunday night. Shortly after though, the group were forced to change their name following the threat of legal action from a group in America with the same name. This then led to the discovery of a group in Australia who were also called Vent. To ease confusion (and avoid any potential legal battle), they renamed themselves Vent 414 - the suffix allegedly coming from a calculation of the ideal fighting weight of the combined three group members according to their individual heights.

 

At the same time, rumours circulated that the group would be playing a series of low-key dates at the end of July. Though venues at which the group were appearing at were able to confirm the date, tickets were not available to buy until just a couple of weeks prior to the dates due to a delay in the promoter releasing details of the ticket prices.  It was also announced that Vent 414's debut single, 'Fixer' was scheduled for release on September 9th with the self-titled album following shortly after.  A promotional multi-artist compilation CD was also issued by Polydor to record stores which included 'Fixer'.

 

On July 29th, the night of Miles' 30th birthday, the group appeared on BBC Radio 1FM's Mark Radcliffe Show during which they played four songs - 'Laying Down With', 'Fixer', 'Life Before You' and 'Kissing The Mirror' - and spoke openly about various topics though Miles had a slight dig at The Wonder Stuff when, asked about the length of time it had taken Vent 414 to record their debut album, he replied "...it helped that we managed to write some songs this time." He confirmed that the album would be released on September 23rd and said that he was also considering publishing a book of some of the "rantings" which he had written during his 'Henry Rollins period' of 1995.

 

 

Like their appearance the previous year, Vent 414's Reading Festival performance was again greeted with intense criticism by the music press though both of the articles in the NME and Melody Maker actually spent more time attacking Hunt rather than the music itself. Interest from the national music press had dropped considerably in the twelve months following their debut Reading appearance although it is rumoured that one of the UK's music tabloids had offered the group a front cover if Miles would dish the dirt on the real goings-on and events of The Wonder Stuff's final few months. Miles had declined their offer and that seemed to spell the end of the the groups' acceptance and promotion by the national press.

 

Shortly before their performance on the Sunday afternoon, promotional CD's were distributed around the site promoting the For All The Right Reasons label, set up by Miles and Tank. Featuring tracks from some of the label's first signings, Shift, Chamberlain and Seaweed, the compilation album also included another new Vent 414 track, '2113'.

 

 

Vent 414, 1996As the release of the single approached, Music Week magazine ran an article on the group in which Miles spoke about the period when Billy Duffy was in the group. "As soon as he arrived, I stopped enjoying playing. It didn't feel like anything odd could happen anymore - being a three-piece band gives you that freedom. In the end we wanted to take the band in different directions. He was listening to Alice In Chains, I was listening to PIL's 'Metal Box' which said it all." He went on to talk about the decision to use Steve Albini as producer; "I loved the sound he got with Polly Harvey and Jesus Lizard and some of his own stuff with Shellac. I didn't think he'd be into us, particularly if he'd found out what I'd done before, but we sent him some stuff on eight-track." Upon hearing the recordings, Albini's first reaction was to doubt that the tracks were actually only demos as he thought that they already sounded great.

 

Also in the article, Lucian Grainge (Polydor's general manager and A&R director) - and the man who signed The Wonder Stuff to their publishing deal in 1986 - commented on the record company's reaction to the production decision. "We knew what we were likely to get and I'm very excited with it. Albini signs himself as recording engineer and there's a lot in that - he's caught them just as they are."

 

Having already had a brush with success, Miles was now in a very different frame of mind to when he was in the Stuffies. "I know the record company wants big sales but that's their problem," he said in the Music Week article. "I don't expect to be knocking on the door of the Top 20 with any of this stuff and I couldn't give a fuck if I don't. I've had a number one single and that didn't make me happy. I hated the attention." "This is the best writing that I've ever done and it's no coincidence that it's come while I've had nothing to do with the music industry. I'd be happy if the album didn't come out until next year so we could carry on like this. The longer I can be left alone with my band, the better."

 

Reviews for the new single, delayed by a couple of weeks, were mixed. As the listening public's first real hearing of a Vent 414 track, many were unsure about the harder edge to Miles' music and also commented on the roughness of Albini's production style - rather strange considering that this was one of the few songs on the LP he didn't produce!  It also appeared that the track listing for the single had changed shortly before the production run began.  Reports from the US indicated that the single had been planned as a three track release though it had changed to four tracks by the time of its release.

 

In a move which Hunt had often criticised in the past, the single was released in a foldout CD sleeve and also in a limited run of blue vinyl foldout sleeve 7" singles. Surprisingly, after an initial mid-week chart placing in the high 60's, the single only reached 71 in the national UK singles charts although the group's - and Polydor's - reaction to the seemingly low position was one of calm. Polydor were apparently very happy that what they were considering to be the debut single by a new unpromoted group had reached such a high position.

 

Vent live, 1996Promotional posters and music press adverts for the single listed details of Vent 414's largest UK tour to date stopping at seventeen venues in a twenty day span.

 

Shortly after publicity for the new album had gone to press, the album's release date was put back by a few weeks.  As with the single where the track listing had changed at the last minute, the track listing for the album was also altered.  Initially the album was planned to contain fifteen tracks though only fourteen appeared on the eventual release. To promote the album in America, Polygram released a sampler CD which showed that the track pulled from the album was 'Give It Whole', a solo acoustic number recorded early one morning by Hunt at the Abbey Road Studios which many regard as being one of his finest works to date.

 

With the high regard that many fans, and indeed Miles, had for the track, many were puzzled as to why it was not included. Miles later admitted that they hadn't been able to record a version that everyone was happy with at the time, and felt the group as a whole could do it more justice at a later date for inclusion on their second album.

 

 

Vent


When the crowds gathered for the Phoenix Festival in 1994, the end of the world was apparently just behind their shoulders. In the end an exploding fireball failed to dent the weekend and instead all that occurred was the less than cosmic finale of The Wonder Stuff, who bowed out on a Black Country-heavy bill that also included Ned's Atomic Dustbin.

 

The Stuffies' singer and hyperactive mouthpiece, Miles Hunt, resurfaced slickly as a VJ on MTV's 120 Minutes, until the ex-Jam fan was given a sharp word of encouragement from Paul Weller himself, who told Hunt to get off his backside and put a band together.

 

While the other members of The Wonder Stuff joined forces with the manic Ange Doolittle from Eat to form Weknowwhereyoulive, Hunt formed his own splenetic response. Vent forces all the songs into a taut, metallic style, thanks to the razorblade dynamics of former Nirvana cohort, producer Steve Albini. The album is pure back-to-wall invective, enlivened by some scratchy funkiness reminiscent of Gang Of Four and the odd Frippism in the angular guitars. There are no Britpop knees-ups - the Stuffies having gathered around the old joanna long before Blur - and at its worst, Hunt's dense, muddy guitar sounds follow the be-suited uniform angst of Tin Machine into a dead end of mutant squeals and grungy feedback. Nevertheless, there's a sense of urgency in the clipped, frantic riffs of Correctional that twists around the thumpy drums. Bruised, slashed melodies also tumble around tempo changes on Fits And Starts and the album's standout track, Easy To Talk, which is all grey macs and 70's new wave-ism's in its earnestly indie spirit. Bowie's hollow romanticism, circa Low, also hovers over the track in its numbed, stark affectations.

 

A frazzled Hendrix riff punches through the skin-tight aural upholstery on Kissing The Mirror, which opens with the line "Ultimately I will be whatever you invent me to be". The song maintains the narcissistic self-consciousness suggested by Easy To talk, but this time slaps a bit of lippy on and snogs itself. "Picture me on top of the girl where all the love that I give out is for me", sings Hunt, acting the ego-idiot.

 

All this and mutated Kraftwerk trip hop interludes add up to a fat-free album that keeps Brummie meat and potatoes rock firmly at arms length. ***

 

Steve Malins, Q Magazine

 

 

In January 1997, Morgan announced his departure from the group. He was unhappy with the lack of promotion given to the group by Polydor alongside promised promotion for his own solo works (as featured on the two Vent 414 singles) which had been indicated as being taken from a forthcoming release which has never yet seen the light of day.

 

The official line from Polydor was that the group were on hold and personnel changes were planned although only a few weeks later Polydor dropped their options on the group which subsequently led to the closure of the For All The Right Reasons label.  Undeterred, Miles enlisted a new guitarist into the group... his former Wonder Stuff colleague, Malc Treece.

 

 

After a couple of months of hard work, the new line-up had recorded almost a dozen new tracks of which Miles took a tape containing some of the tracks over the USA to play to prospective producers and record companies.  His brother Russ posted his reaction to some of the new tracks on the TWSonline messageboard...

 

Hello again, I've been living with a tape of this stuff for 2 days now so I think I can kinda let you know what's happening.


There are 7 songs... 'How Long Was I Asleep?', 'Call Me When You Get Some News', 'Feet To Fail On', 'Looking For Subtext', 'We Are Happy', 'Viennese', 'You Shine A Light'.


The first two are very much in the vein of 'Easy To Talk', very bass driven with Pete doing almost dub reggae-type rhythms. Miles voice verges on a pastiche of Mark E Smith in parts. The most surprising thing is the guitar parts, I always think Malcolm has a very identifiable style but unless you know it's him you'd never guess. For instance 'How Long Was I Asleep?' features a big fat guitar riff very reminiscent of '20th Century Boy', most un-Treece like. 'Feet To Fail On' almost hangs on one note and is quite leaden, almost like it wants to let go but is being held back by something. 'Looking For Subtext' sounds like an idea that will blossom in time but is not quite the finished article yet. In between spoken parts over some slide guitar it repeats the same 4 lines over and over ("These are days, when no-one visits, The only moves are fidgets, And time is measured with a phone call after dark"). 'We Are Happy' reminds me of Jawbox (if that means anything to anyone) with a chanted, rap type chorus. The last two songs feature Melanie Garside on vocals. 'Viennese' was going to be an instrumental until they got Miss Garside to add phonetic wailings over some huge metal-spacerock-freakout guitars. 'You Shine A Light' features Garside on backing vocals over a track built round a loop of some of Pete's playing and a drum machine.


Miles stresses that these are only rough demo's, more for their own benefit than anything else. Things could change quite drastically between now and these songs ever getting a release. Doesn't alter the fact that 'How Long Was I Asleep?' and 'Call Me When You Get Some News' are great songs and 'Viennese' & 'You Shine A Light' will turn a few heads. I hope you found this interesting.

 

Russ Hunt

 

Despite the exciting prospect of the new tracks, Miles was unable to gather enough interest from US record labels and returned to the UK.  Shortly after he decided that the Vent 414 project should come to an end although it was, and still is, Miles' view that "people's playing styles have a great effect on the finished songs... personalities involved are also very important when shaping up a band."  He felt that both Morgan and Pete provided enormous input into the group and without their input the whole experience could never re-match their initial efforts.  Even now, Miles still regards Howard as one of the bets drummers he has ever worked with.

 

The Vent 414 period is still one of Miles' favourites times in his career.  He still performs some of their material during his solo acoustic performances and re-recorded some of their tracks for a solo album in 1998.

 

 

Post-split...

In 2000, Miles released a compilation album of previously unreleased demo and acoustic tracks which included three tracks recorded by Vent 414 - 'More Than Us' and 'Satellites' plus a full band performance on 'Give It Whole'.  A re-recorded version of this latter track was also later made available on Miles' own website which comprised of the original acoustic version of the track overlaid with additional drums and guitar work by Andres Karu, Miles' long-time drumming companion.

 

 

Over a decade since they split, interest in the group's work is still high.  The Vent 414 recording period is still regarded as being some of Miles' finest work with many fans seeking copies of their demos and other unreleased tracks including live performances.  In 2007, rumours began circulating that Miles was planning to release a limited edition CD of previously unreleased Vent 414 recordings, to be sold through The Wonder Stuff's website and at the merchandising stand on his solo tours.

 

Using Miles' own copies of the demos originally recorded between Summer 1996 and Spring 1997, 'The Post Album Demos' finally saw the light of day as a download-only release in February 2009 available through the group's website.

 

Featuring the seven tracks as previously mentioned by Miles' brother Russ back in 1997 (as referenced above), the album also included five additional tracks covering the line-up changes of the group between 1996 and 1997.

 

The new tracks only served to highlight how underrated the group had been with many tracks still standing the test of time by today's musical standards.

 

 

 

As time went on, with acoustic performances alongside Erica Nockalls dominating Miles' output away from The Wonder Stuff, public airings of Vent 414 tracks became few and far between.  However in 2013 Miles re-released his original debut solo album, 'Hairy On The Inside' with a bonus disc of demos and unreleased tracks.  Included on this disc were new versions of Vent 414 tracks, 'Your Latest Innuendo', 'Give It Whole' and 'How Long Was I Asleep'.

 

 

With still over a handful of tracks written or recorded by the group which have never seen the light of day and only exist in Miles' own demo archives.  One of the tracks, 'So Like Me' seemed to have been a sure-fire inclusion on any album as it was a staple part of their live set and was recorded during a number of demo sessions yet never been officially released.  Other tracks paved the way for future works such as the Artist Model soundtrack which Miles wrote and recorded, as well as tracks that he would later release as part of his own solo work but there is no way of avoiding the fact that Vent 414 were a moment of genius - albeit only a very brief one.  They had all the signs of reaching a far greater potential but instead their greatness was only realised by a small few.

 

Our gain - their loss...