Ames Musician Rudy Miller Details His Upcoming King Wylde EP

Photo courtesy of Caleb Pike

Rudy Miller is a musician and songwriter from Ames known for his charismatic stage presence as a guitarist for Kickstart the Sun and MarKaus. He’s also been performing solo for the past few years under the name King Wylde and is preparing for the release of his debut EP Faultless on Media Fresh Entertainment. The Informer reached out to learn more about the EP, his approaches to composing and studio work, and his personal history with the electric guitar.

What was your recording process like?

It was my first time recording in a studio, but I’d have to say it was a pretty smooth experience. Demoing out all of the tracks and making sure my parts were solidified before going in made it a simple process. The hardest part was definitely finding my voice; once we figured that out, everything else fell into place. I’d been working at becoming proficient playing multiple instruments, so I decided to track everything myself, except for the drums. I had a couple of talented friends track those for me.

I recorded it all at the Alexander Recording Kompany with Daniel Schoen. I have to give Dennis Haislip credit for helping me dial in my vocals. They took care great of me over there!

You have some history with Dennis and ARK, if I’m remembering correctly, is that right?

Yes! I’ve known Dennis for what feels like forever. He took me under his wing when I was 16 as an intern at the old ARK studio. Over the years, our bond grew closer. My dad passed when I was pretty young, Dennis helped fill that void, becoming a mentor and father figure in my life. Whether it’s music or something life-related, I feel like I learn something new from him every single day!

You mentioned playing multiple instruments on the EP. Tell me about some of the instrumentation and compositions that people will be hearing.

Every track has layers of guitars, bass, drums, keys, and synths. My goal in music is making songs that I enjoy listening to. Right now, that consists of blending rock and post-hardcore instrumentals with subtle hints of R&B in the vocals and in the background. There will be three tracks on the EP (and maybe a secret fourth!). Each track covers a different phase and emotion of a non-platonic relationship. They all have tons of energy. If you listen closely, you’ll notice no two verses in a song are the same, just like relationships evolve and change.

Rudy Miller performing with MarKaus at 80/35 in 2017. Photo courtesy of Lauren Morgan

Do you have a second favorite instrument to play after guitar?

This one’s tough! I’m really into playing drums at the moment, but I’d have to go with vocals. I feel the most vulnerable when I’m singing and it’s freeing to me. I think it’s easier to connect with people by singing as well.

What kind of keys and synths are you working with?

I usually use a combination of Logic’s Alchemy, Spitfire Audio Labs, and Izotope’s Iris 2. I’m still learning how everything works and what each one does well, but once I figure them out I think I’ll be able to do everything I want in terms of sounds. You can lose track of time so fast playing with synths, it’s insane! I love it.

Do you think you’d ever put together a full band for King Wylde?

Definitely! It would be more of a permanent backing band sort of thing, though. I have a vision for the project, so I’d like to maintain artistic and creative control over everything to keep that vision true. Plus, there’s something special about the satisfaction I get from writing the songs by myself.

Photo courtesy of Caleb Pike

People know you as a great guitarist — what’s your background with the instrument? Who are some of your favorite guitarists?

I’ve been playing guitar since Christmas 2006, so about 14 years. I was in 8th grade that year. My mom got me a First Act electric guitar and a level two House of Blues lesson book as a gift. Most people start off learning chords, but I wanted to shred! I decided to learn scales, riffs, and solos instead. I taught myself by watching YouTube videos of Jimi Hendrix and Slash doing their thing, as well as the occasional how-to video. I had Jimi playing “Villanova Junction” at Woodstock and a 1992 video of Slash doing improv in Tokyo on repeat. I wanted to be like them so bad. They made being cool and playing guitar look so effortless. As I got older, I slowly grew into alt-rock and post-hardcore music. Coming from a family that predominantly listened to rap and R&B, this was a whole different world for me. I’d hear chords I’d never heard before and immediately pick up my guitar to figure out how to play them.

As far as influences go, I’d definitely have to say Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Kirk Hammett, Prince, and Vic Fuentes and Tony Perry from Pierce the Veil.

Your shredding ability is prominent in your work as lead guitarist for Kickstart the Sun, one of my favorite Ames bands of recent years. How did that group come together?

Our frontman (Justin Kunkel) started the group with our drummer (Justin Booth) and former bassist (Dan Waller) through the Genre music club at ISU back in 2015. I had just gotten back in town from California and wanted a way to keep growing as a musician, so I asked if I could join the band. Being close friends with Justin K. since high school and previously being in a band with him, I knew it would be a perfect fit. It’s crazy to think we’ve been a band for five years already.

You’ve also been a featured guitarist with the Des Moines artist MarKaus and have played some big shows, including 80/35. What’s it like collaborating with him?

It’s super dope! We’ve played some pretty hype sets together, my favorite probably being 80/35 back in 2017. That was our first time playing together. I can’t really explain what happened on stage that day, but it was like I unlocked a completely different level of stage presence and energy. I feel like playing shows with MarKaus (and really being around him in general) has boosted my confidence as an artist. Not only is he talented in a music sense, but he’s got an incredible business sense as well. He’s opened up a lot of doors for me and given me some crazy insight on how the business side of music works. I am definitely glad to have him in my circle.

Miller performing with MarKaus at 80/35 in 2019. Photo courtesy of Caleb Pike

The new King Wylde EP is going to be on his Media Fresh Entertainment label as well. It’s such a crazy time to be a musician (or anything, really) but how are you and the label planning to get the music out there when it’s released?

My goal for my next few releases is to get as many plays as I can while building a solid following. Right now the plan is to build a social media presence by doing multiple single releases, interviews, and livestream performances. I believe this approach, as well as staying connected to my fan base, is the best way to reach that goal. I want people to appreciate my music, but I also want them to understand who I am as a person. Once people understand who I am and what I’m about, I think they’ll want to listen to the music even more.

What’s your read on where the Ames scene is at right now? Obviously musicians, music professionals, and venues are all hurting. Do you think the local scene can make a comeback after the pandemic?

I think it’s safe to say we’re all struggling a little bit. Everyone I talk to (fans of music included) is missing live music and the social interaction you get from concerts. I’ve had the chance to write and record songs with people, so it seems everyone is still finding a way to be creative (live-streaming, remote recording, lessons, etcetera). We’re all in a pretty tough situation, but Team Ames has always been tough, especially in our sense of community. I think we’ll come back stronger than ever. I bet we’ll even see some new faces.

Nate Logsdon is a writer, editor, and indexer from Ames. He was a founding editor of the Ames Progressive and contributing editor at the Iowa Informer.