Although Phil had always contributed a few numbers to the repertoire of both Hatfield & The North and National Health, he was not a major contributor. At the beginning of the 80s Phil started writing his compositions in earnest. Between 1980 and 1983 he wrote Above & Below, Second Sight, Nowadays a Silhouette, Your Root 2, Eastern Region, Hard Shoulder and Speaking to Lydia. Now that Hatfield was over and National Health was coming to an end, he decided to form a band specifically to play his compositions.
Phil naturally asked Pip to play drums. Pip was Phil’s very first, best and oldest friend. They originally met at nursery school in Sawbridgeworth where both their families lived – In fact their back gardens were only separated by a line on the map! They formed their own band Delivery with Phil on guitar and Pip on drums and subsequently Pip was the drummer in all the bands that Phil played in, apart from Matching Mole when the drummer was Robert Wyatt.
Richard Sinclair was Phil’s choice for bass. He had enjoyed enjoyed playing with Richard for a long time and admired him enormously for his natural musicianship.
Rehearsals began in November 1982 with Richard Sinclair and Pip Pyle, soon joined by Elton Dean, the great player and improvisor who was a near neighbour and friend in Hackney and very interested in Phil’s music. The music slowly gained shape out of countless improvisations and new arrangements of compositions.
Phil was delighted when Pete Lemer agreed to join the band. Phil once told me: “I feel my music is safe in Pete’s hands – he has a complete grip on it and could play all the parts if he so chose.” With the addition of Peter Lemer on keyboards they gigged around London with occasional forays elsewhere and recorded for the BBC’s radio 3 Jazz Today.
The band originally played under the name of The Phil Miller Quartet but Pip didn’t much care for the name which he felt was a bit lame and came up with the name In Cahoots which he felt had more character. To be “in cahoots” means colluding or conspiring together secretly – sometimes to nefarious ends! Phil thought it was quite amusing and the name was changed.
Fast forward 20 years
Phil’s composition Inca was the shortened version of In Cahoots that Phil and others used for the band. It was written in 2002 after Pip had left to form his own group Bash. It was written as an affirmation of the band’s continuation after Pip’s departure, despite Pip’s doubts that it could. It was part of the setlist for the inaugural Progman Cometh festival in Seattle where In Cahoots was booked to play with a new drummer: Mark Fletcher.
It turned out that Pip’s new band Bash was also booked to play at this same festival. Both bands played very well. Steve Feigenbaum from Wayside music was at the festival and offered Phil a record deal on the spot. After the festival In Cahoots returned to London and were soon back in Philip Bagenall’s Eastcote studios recording Inca plus 3 more of Phil’s titles he had written for this event: Black Cat, Sleight of Hand and Out There.
Phil had originally planned to call the resulting album Out There but at the last moment his brother Steve’s band K’Ostra came out with a CD called It’s Out There and so the name was hastily changed to All That.
In Cahoots carried on in changing formats, from quartet through to septet. In the making of the CD Conspiracy Theories the cast grew to twelve with Phil Miller, Fred Baker, Mark Fletcher, Simon Finch, Annie Whitehead, Doug Boyle, Richard Sinclair, Didier Malherbe, Pete Lemer. Simon Picard, Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin.
The band lasted until it’s final CD Mind Over Matter appeared with Phil Miller, Fred Baker, Pete Lemer, Mark Fletcher, Paul Booth and Mark Armstrong in 2011.