He has been a musical inspiration for generations of up-and-comers and has been a mainstay in the Prince Rupert night scene. Yet, Brian Miller is just doing what he set out to do from high school — make a career playing music.
Miller is the unassuming guitarist of Triple Bypass, a Prince Rupert rock and roll band who play all the pub classics with a mix of some top 40 crowd pleasers. He plays with the band on stages around the city offering residents the rare pleasure of live music with a light show perfect for dancing.
“We do put a lot into it but we love it so it’s easy. It’s not really a job,” Miller said with a boyish grin and tousled beach hair.
When he was 12 his parents moved from Amherstburg, Ontario to Prince Rupert for a job transfer. A couple years later, he got a Series A guitar from the Sears catalogue for his birthday, eventually upgrading to an Ibanez. He taught himself how to play through books, watching videos and listening to his guitar heroes Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen.
After high school Miller’s parents told him he could do whatever he wanted so he got into a two-year music program at Nelson Selkirk College. He learned how to hone in on his skills and formed a band with new friends.
“We ended up moving to Calgary, lived in a house, all roomed together living the rock and roll dream you could say, playing at night,” he said.
The band was called Pez and people would bring candy Pez dispensers to them. They lasted for a year and when they disbanded Miller ended up moving back to Prince Rupert.
One of the big reasons for returning was because his high school sweetheart, Rosamaria, who he had spent the last few years in a long-distance relationship with, was still on the North Coast.
“I moved back and the rest is kind of history. I’ve been here every since. We got married, had a family,” Miller said, but he skipped a lot of history. The couple had two sons, Nevan and Zachary.
But even before his sons were born, when he got back to the city he met up with bass player Mark Giordano and the two started to jam and do shows. The duo wasn’t yet complete and newcomer to the area, Paul Cox, told them so.
“Paul comes in and he sees us and he’s like, ‘You guys are good but you need a drummer’. The rest is history. We got together, we played,” Miller said, skipping over some finer details.
At first they were called Mark, Paul and Brian but then someone suggested they call themselves Triple Bypass and it stuck. They band has been together for more than 22 years.
“Most bands don’t last as long as us. They have fighting within the band, or whatever, don’t get along, but these guys are lifelong friends. We get in a room, we play, we have fun. If it wasn’t fun I guess we’d call her a day,” Miller said.
The band is constantly evolving its setlist and learning new songs to please the crowd but there are some fail-safe songs that always make the roster. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve played ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC. I could probably play it with my eyes closed, sleeping upside down,” he said.
To support his family, Miller also became a full-time guitar instructor for 17 years and for six years he set up a recording studio with Cox.
Miller taught from the downstairs of his house, which he converted into a studio. At one point he had nearly 55 students. His lessons proved fruitful and some students pursued the music scene in Victoria, Vancouver and even Florida.
“Teaching guitar was amazing for me. Not only did I get to see my students progress going from never picking up an instrument to playing songs onstage, some even going on to careers in music, but it also allowed me to watch my kids grow up. While Rosamaria was at work I was ‘Mr.Mom’ and when she came home I went to work and she took over. I’m grateful to have had a career I love and watch my kids grow up,” he said.
Miller stopped teaching full-time when he was ready for a change and a break from the constant pressures of being self-employed. He took an opportunity to work at Prince Rupert Grain Terminal. He still teaches guitar here and there and the band still plays gigs in the city.
“My hobby has turned into a career, which again has turned into a hobby,” he said.
In April, the band is performing on stage in Rock of Ages at the Lester Centre.