🔥Crypto Fireside #12— Interviews with crypto people.
🔥Hello! Who are you, and what do you do?
SM: Hi, I’m Smokey Miles.
I’m a singer/songwriter, recording artist, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist, designer, illustrator, actor, talk show host, entertainer, emcee, ringmaster, producer, writer, poet, playwright, ventriloquist, and comedian!
That’s a lot of hats. I wear them at different times or simultaneously.
I wear them out of necessity and because it’s the only way I know how to be.
I grew up mainly in Long Island, NY, lived in NYC for several years, and have lived in Los Angeles, CA, for the past 34 years. My birth name is Robert Miles. I used to be known professionally as Bob Miles, but lately, I’ve been known mainly as Smokey Miles or Count Smokula
— the 496-year-old undead talk show host, emcee, performer, recording artist, and circus ringmaster from Smokesylvania.
Right now, my NFT project, The Miles Collection
, consists of artwork I have done over the years and continue to do — paintings, drawings, sculptures, and more.
So far, many, if not most of these released, are unique whimsical characters. Some of these I have shown previously on social media, in galleries, books, and magazines such as High Times and on my cable TV programs and .
Still, for the most part, this is the first time they are being seen and offered for sale, and definitely the first time as NFTs.
🔥Before we go on, how’d you get the name Smokey?
SM: A long time ago, when I was at Princeton, I thought I was gluten intolerant because anytime I’d eat the stuff, I’d get all stuffy and blow up. Somebody told me that Sudafed would fix the issue. So I started taking Sudafed, not knowing what we know now. It cleared me right up, but the stuff drove me crazy. I couldn’t sleep, and so I’d ride my bike all night around Princeton. This one time, I’m riding around. I see a mattress on the side of the road that must have been lit on fire or something because it was smoking, and I just had the thought, you know, voice from above “Smokey, yeah, I can be Smokey. Smokey Nightrider”. It had a cool bluesy feel to it, and you know I was playing music, so I just started telling people I was Smokey, and it kind of stuck.
Sometime later, when I joined the actors union, they asked me for my name. I told them I was Bob Miles, and they said, “nope, you can’t be Bob Miles, we already have a Bob,” and so I said what about “Smokey,” they said “yes,” and well there you are.
🔥The Miles Collection NFTs are something new. Tell me your backstory and how you got involved in art.
SM: Since I was a kid, I’ve been drawing and painting and writing songs, plays, and primarily funny stories, some that went along with the pictures.
My Dad had been a science teacher and then started a technical publishing company, and my Mom was a nurse. So it was a scientifically oriented home.
We had a lab in the basement. I did experiments on microscopic organisms like amoebas, paramecia, rotifers, and the like, bombarding them with chemicals to see how they’d react. I was going to cure every disease known to man, so I assumed I’d be a doctor, which I’d actually planned. But from the start, I was also seeing myself as an artist, musician, and writer. I can’t remember my exact age, but I began to fill up rolls of paper towels and sketchbooks with a drawing on each page, making critters out of letters of the alphabet. Then I began to draw on the basement walls. I thought I might get into trouble for that. Still, I think my parents didn’t mind because I made some interesting if not bewildering drawings.
When I was 7 or 8, my parents got me an oil paint set, an easel, and some canvases. My Dad showed me a book of Rembrandt paintings and drawings. I kind of had an out-of-body experience where I felt I had seen those paintings before and maybe had lived in those times and had something to do with making them. It was weird, and then, later on, several people told me I looked like Rembrandt. Hence, I began to wonder about the reality of reincarnation. I became obsessed with Rembrandt.
I was the eldest of three boys. When my first brother was born, my folks got me a plastic Gene Autry guitar with buttons to keep me from feeling the neglect of not having all the attention on me. I wanted to be a cowboy, a pirate, a musician, a doctor, all kinds of things, in a way we might call ADD now. So I would draw all these characters in my sketchbooks while banging out Roy Rogers and Gene Autry tunes on the guitar.
We moved to San Diego for a year when I was 10 for my Dad’s business and moved back to Long Island a year later, to the town of West Hempstead. I spent a lot of time in the basement. Painting with oils, doing scientific experiments, and trying to get an accordion that I had convinced my parents to buy me, to sound right without my exploding in frustration. My brain would often wander in school, and I would draw and doodle all over my notebooks, but I somehow remained a good student.
One day I visited my friend Jeff Levy, and he played me this record. It was Bob Dylan. Once again, I had those strange flashes of recognition, like I’d heard those sounds before, that Dylan’s music was somehow a deep part of my existence. I just knew that I should be writing more songs and recordings.
I kept making lots of pictures and writing lots of songs. What was I to pursue? I knew I had to do something, and I was in a hurry to do it. On the one hand, I wanted to go to college quick, get out of the house and get through medical school before I was old. On the other hand, deep down, I needed to express myself with the music and the art. I took some courses over the summer after my sophomore year of high school, was certified as a senior, and got accepted into Princeton University as a biochemistry pre-med major.
A strange thing happened in the summer of 1968. My folks rented a cabin in Woodstock, NY, and my Mother began giving Lamaze natural childbirth lessons. Her only students that summer turned out to be Sara Dylan and her husband, Bob. If there was anyone in the world I wanted to meet, it was Bob Dylan, and he came to our cabin and then came back to swim in the pool on the property. The following summer, 1969, was the summer of the first Woodstock Festival. Bob went off to perform at the Isle of Wight and left me as caretaker of his house.
We stayed in touch, and I’d visit the Dylans back in Manhattan and was an occasional house guest. I played Bob some of the first songs I wrote in his living room, and we jammed. He encouraged me quite a bit to keep writing and performing. We also compared some notes on art, which he was into back then, even before he was exhibiting and selling his work. He had a batik creature I made and gave to him and Sara on their refrigerator for a while. One time at a restaurant, I sketched Bob, and he drew me in my notebook.
I changed majors, I did Philosophy for a while until I thought I’d lose my mind from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, then Near Eastern Studies, where I studied Arabic mainly because I had been playing the Oud and listening to Bedouin music. I even got a National Defense Foreign Language Grant to learn Arabic at Columbia University in the summer.
Still, I didn’t know what I’d do with all of that, so I changed majors to the Department of Art and Archaeology with a special major in Creative Arts. Princeton didn’t seem to know much about the creative arts or have much infrastructure in that. Still, they gave me a studio at 185 Nassau Street, which I believe had been an old elementary school taken over by the University. They let me draw and paint for a senior thesis instead of writing a book-long thesis. I took drawing classes there and tried to impress the painting teacher Esteban Vicente. He had been a classmate of Salvador Dali’s and was now making collages. The head of the program was Bill Graves, who was a famous architect and designer.
I got the impression he didn’t like what I was doing, or maybe he didn’t care. I tried to learn to draw from life. But mostly, I kept making the same kinds of things I did when I was a kid — outlandish characters that seemed cartoony, that the instructors did call cartoons, but which I thought were some form of “fine art” and not cartoons.
I actually did end up doing cartoons to illustrate the Phoenix Magazine, which I put together with my roommate Michael Rodemeyer. I did a cartoon called The True Adventures of Petroleum Z. Undo — Patriarch of the Aquarian Age for a booklet by the Union for Nation Draft Opposition (UNDO).
I got into Jackson Pollack and started splashing paint on canvases and spraying them. The sprays were pretty toxic, and I think they gave me breathing problems, depression, and confusion. Somehow, I managed to get the thesis accepted. I also had to take art history exams. But because I spent so much time painting and drawing, I didn’t know all the details, so instead of answering the questions correctly, I wrote a play about Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh, and some other artists playing craps in heaven or something like that. Miraculously they let me pass, and I got a degree.
I hitchhiked to California and recorded and played my songs and blues, country, and rock’n’roll solo and with my bands all over the place. I kept drawing and filling up notebooks and canvases, then came back to NYC. I’d sketch musicians and spectators at the clubs I played and was invited to The Actor’s Studio, where I sketched scenes the actors were doing. Late at night, I’d crawl out to places like The Central and do sketches on napkins.
I still have a napkin collection I’d like to show. Through the years, I got to study at The Art Students League, The School of Visual Arts, Printmaking Workshop, printmaking classes with Dan Freeman at Santa Monica College. I knew I wanted to show the art more and make it available, but my musical career took a lot of time, and then I got into acting.
At one point, back in New York in the early 1980s, I was playing a solo gig 3 nights a week, 8pm to 4am, in a non-ventilated Irish bar called The Whale in Inwood, in upper Manhattan during the winter. It was so crowded and so hot, and everybody was smoking cigarettes. I’d sweat like an animal and step outside for breaks in 10-degree weather without a jacket. Soon I got pneumonia and thought I’d die.
Luckily I went to my parents’ house. As I lay there for weeks recovering, my brother Alex gave me an application for a summer job as an Immigration Inspector at JFK International Airport. I went in for the interview. The interviewer asked me how I’d handle hundreds of aliens at my booth trying, sometimes aggressively, to enter the US. I told him I’d been playing music to drunks for at least ten years and so I could handle anything. I got the job. They gave me a badge, a shirt with a US Immigration patch, an official stamp. I learned the secrets of the Black Book and became an Immigration Inspector.
There were times when no foreign flights would come in for an hour or more, so I’d draw in a notebook at my booth. I’d get so immersed that when the passengers would arrive, they’d be gathered around my booth attentively watching until I realized they were there and get back stamping them in or sending them off to Secondary Immigration for further scrutiny.
Anyway, some impressive folks passed through my booth who liked my art and really encouraged me, including the great Art Deco master Erte. Eugene Mihaesco painted covers for the New Yorker Magazine. He invited me to meet with him, and he helped me immensely, saying I could be making a living with my art within six months. He gave me some serious tips on how to sell magazines and books. Quickly I got assignments at High Times Magazine and at Harcourt and Brace books.
When the passengers would catch me by surprise, I’d ask them what they did for a living and why they were coming to the US, and I’d make a quick sketch of them or something related to what they did. One Frenchman came in off the Concord. I asked him what he did, and he said, “Underwear!” Apparently, he had started a craze in Paris of wearing underwear, basically boxer shorts, like outerwear, and was coming to open up a store in New York.
So I drew some boxers and drew a couple of my goofy characters on the pant legs, all this really quickly, of course. Next thing, he throws a gigantic opening party at the trendy area nightclub on Hudson Street, which has pools inside with young women washing white clothing. The invitations for the party were like customs declaration forms, and I was seated at the entry in my inspector uniform asking everybody why they’re coming and what they do, and now making the drawings of them and their professions on huge drawing pads. In addition, he showed slides of my paintings all night projected on a twenty-foot screen.
In 1986, just as I thought my NY illustration career was getting underway, I got cast as the lead playing Bob Dylan in “Dylan: Words and Music” in San Francisco, at that time the world’s only multimedia stage play about him. The show, although relatively successful in many ways, ran into some financial issues. When it closed, I got a job for a while at the Austin Gallery on Fisherman’s Wharf, and then my wife and I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 1987.
I produced and hosted The Smokey Miles Music Hour, a live one-hour acoustic music cable tv show, and then in 1996 produced and hosted The Count Smokula Show
as a comedic horror host, and I used my art a lot in these shows for bumpers and interstitials. At that moment, I realized how great the particular color choices and strange shapes of my stuff look on electronic media — tv and computer screens.
I had a recording contract back in New York with Emerald City Records, a custom label of WEA. The owner of the label Charlie Greene had discovered and produced the Buffalo Springfield, Sonny and Cher, The Troggs, and Iron Butterfly. He was going around saying that I would be his next big discovery, but there were all kinds of shenanigans going on at the label at that time, and we never did make the album. I did, however, get to do some scene reading with a then-unknown Madonna.
After moving to LA, I reconnected with my good friend from New York, legendary songwriter Otis Blackwell. Otis wrote the biggest hits for Elvis Presley; Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up, Return to Sender. He also wrote for Jerry Lee Lewis, Peggy Lee, and James Taylor. He liked my songs and produced my album Waiting for the Hurricane in Nashville in 1989.
Shortly before we finished the album, Otis had a brain stem stroke and couldn’t speak or move for the next 13 years before dying. It was a devastating thing to happen to my friend and mentor, but I was determined to get the album released.
It took 20 years for me to get it mixed and find a distributor. When it did get released in 2010, it was on the Grammy shortlist in the Americana category. The same year my second Count Smokula album, Smokesylvania in My Mind, was also on the Grammy shortlist in the comedy category. Both can be found online on Apple Music and Amazon Music.
Basically, that’s a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been painting, drawing, and doing other types of art for a long time but haven’t had the time to put it out to the public because of my involvement in other creative outlets, but the time has come when it must be launched, presented to the public and invested in.
🔥Wow! Describe the process of creating and launching The Miles Collection NFTs.
SM: I was on the phone with my friend Richard Heene (I’ll get to how I know him in a minute, and it’ll all make sense), we did some catching up. He mentioned something about Cryptocurrency and NFTs, and how his sons made CryptoJunks
. He told me how they sold them, and I became very intrigued and wanted to know more. They showed me CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club and told me how they started. They asked if I wanted to turn my art into NFTs, I did, but I didn’t know-how.
The Heenes thought it would be a great idea after seeing my artwork. We all got excited and started immediately. We came up with an Agreement and signed a contract. I started scanning and sending them my artwork. Falcon, the youngest, began minting them on the OpenSea platform
for the next few days. He made a website
, social media accounts and is currently promoting the works.
We were finally ready to make the first Smokey Miles NFT drop and made the release date 1 week out on a Saturday. I waited patiently, not wasting a minute without telling anyone about the drop that week. We ended up selling 6 Pieces that day. Each piece is 0.08ETH.
We plan on doing bigger drops, contests, and giveaways, and we’re anticipating selling out a guestimate of over 10,000 NFTs in due time.
If I can find my earliest drawings and paintings from when I was a child, we will put those up after we sell out of my adult drawings.
So, how do I know Richard and his sons?
In 2000, I’d been hosting The Count Smokula Show on cable TV as Count Smokula. Around that same time, I had gotten together with Troma Entertainment
(the guys who made The Toxic Avenger) to produce short video segments called The Freak of the Week for Troma’s Edge TV
Lloyd Kaufman from Troma Entertainment, the oldest independent filmmaker in the world, sent me and my co-host Shelley Michelle
(body double to Julia Roberts’ legs in Pretty Woman) to the Cannes Film Festival to shoot more Freak of the Week segments and perform with the Troma Team. It was an extraordinary experience. I appeared in and composed all the music for the documentary All the Love You Cannes’ about Troma and Cannes. I came back from a total Cannes high to find out that the investor in the website Tromaville.com (which was a secondary site from Troma.com) had pulled out, and we had no more funding to do Freak of the Week Shows and besides, people were still on dial-up mostly, and it would take like 4 hours to download a 4-minute segment. So I needed a job ASAP.
My friend Joycelyn Lew owned Final Print, which printed mostly headshots for actors, had an office in West LA on Bundy and Olympic, right next to West Side Casting Offices. She hired me to manage her office and told me I’d enjoy meeting a producer who shared the space. It was a company called My You Me Productions, owned by Richard and Mayumi Heene.
There was quite a hotbed of activity over at My You Me! While Mayumi did extraordinary editing of actors’ and director’s reels with a gigantic Avid in the front office, Richard concocted all kinds of projects in the back room. It’s About Time, Science Detective, Box Time Play House, The Contractor, Tornado Seeking Rocket, and more. He’d get me involved in the projects writing music, acting, and creating artwork. It was an exciting time. And while all this was going on, the Heenes had three boys Bradford, Ryo, and Falcon, who began learning to be creative from a very early age.
The Heene family moved to Colorado and became internationally known through the Balloon Boy Incident
. It was believed that Falcon, the youngest, had flown away in a flying saucer Richard made as a prototype for a vessel to transport humans to work. The media and police called it a hoax, but Richard and Mayumi swore they were innocent and were eventually pardoned by the governor.
That’s how I know the Heene family.
🔥Take us through the process of what it is that you do day-to-day.
SM: Every day is kinda different, but I still do the same things I have always done. I wake up, get ideas, start writing stuff down, sometimes It’s demo’s or poems, I’ve been getting poems published recently, and sometimes I write rhymes and prose. I’ve trained my brain to think and talk in rhymes. I’ve also recently trained myself to do canvasses while I was in New York looking after my Mom, she’s 95.
Every day is different depending on what I am working on and who I am working with.
The NFT thing is very new, and so a lot of my time is on that at the moment.
🔥Through launching The Miles Collection, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
SM: I’m learning that promotion and enthusiasm in the right people’s hands can generate sales and garner the attention and enthusiasm needed to make my NFTs into viable and excellent investments.
I was very skeptical at first about getting into NFTs. However, I don’t regret it.
Falcon and his team promote their asses off in between flipping houses. It takes lots of time and a group of promoters constantly coming up with promotion ideas. Falcon would rather do NFTs and promote them as a full-time occupation. It’s hard, very hard to do both.
🔥I saw something on Reddit about your original physical works being sent out along with the NFT sales. How does that work?
SM: Well, we listed most of these works on OpenSea
just as straight sales items, but we also listed one as an auction. That Auction is the one where the winner will be sent the original piece
. It’s something fun and different. So when someone wins the Auction, they will get the original. I’m running out of space. I need to get rid of some of this stuff. I’d like to auction more of them off if I could.
🔥How are you doing today, and what does the future look like? Let’s talk numbers!
SM: 6 of the NFTs sold straight away, one investor bought 5, and the Auction is still going
. We have listed 41 of my works currently, with hundreds more on the way, maybe even thousands to come. I have so much art lying around. At least this way, people enjoy my works.
I’m working with a studio called 4D Fun
. They create 4D characters for immersive multiplayer worlds. They have one character of me, like me, and another as Smokula. They shot me with 32 cameras around, and the plan is to turn those into some kind of NFT — I’m not sure what they are going to do with it exactly.
I’ve been back to LA recently. I did a beer commercial for Samuel Adams
, they said, ‘Oh, you got a beard, and you play the accordion? Perfect, you’re our guy’. I’m doing something with HBO, a show called Our Flag Means Death
, it’s made by Taika Waititi, you’d know him, he’s from out your way.
I’ve been told I should host my own podcast. It’s something I’m looking into as well.
But I’m always doing art and music, always, every day. Just today, I drew some pieces and did my writing. That’s the one thing I will always do, daily, no matter what else is happening.
🔥What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources? This can include people.
SM: Falcon said I should study , so he put me onto him. This guy is brilliant.
I also follow an investor on Twitter and Coinbase named Gary Vaynerchuk, @garyvee
. I’m really learning a lot from these guys.
As to this field of Crypto and NFTs, I am just at the primitive steps of learning. I have had several podcasts recommended but have yet to really go deep into them. It is like a parallel universe of language for me.
I intend to learn more as the process goes on, but I feel my primary responsibility is art. I let Falcon and his brothers take care of the marketing and the presentation of the content.
Their team had to educate me quickly about cryptocurrency and NFTs and how they work. They taught me how to get a wallet. I have gotta say this is all very exciting.
And of course, all the great artists, musicians, business people, teachers, poets, and actors that I have already mentioned above.
🔥Do you have any advice for other creators, entrepreneurs, or developers who want to get started or are just starting out?
SM: It’s trite, but do what you love.
If you want to get into art or music, you gotta be obsessed with getting it right. You gotta do it the way that you feel is right.
Take the things that you really love and are good at and get that education, really learn it. I didn’t really learn my art and music from an educational level. I’ve taken courses and things, but I wish I had gotten a real education in art and music.
If you are interested in something, the music business, for example, it’s all or nothing, it’s gotta be. Otherwise, it’ll never work.
If you have the mind and the patience for that thing that you want to do, learn everything you can about it, or partner up with someone who knows what they’re doing and has the passion for it.
The key is to have passion for what you believe in. Stick to the goal and do not deviate. As you travel your journey, you will learn more and more, and people will be attracted to you. This will make you successful.
Today, you don’t need a formal education. All of the information in the world is in the palm of your hand. Do a search on any topic, and you will get the answers. I wish I had this ability in the ’50s and 60's.
🔥Where do you see this entire crypto and decentralisation space going in the next 5 to 10 years?
SM: Perhaps this will lead to some form of barter system where everything is not hooked up to the US dollar. But I’m not a psychic or economist, so we’ll all just have to wait and see how it all rolls out.
The US dollar continues to devalue. I’m losing money by leaving it in the bank. At least with cryptocurrency and NFT’s, I can invest in them and possibly make 2 to 3 times on my investment.
Traditional art, I have come to realize if for elites, rich people. NFTs anyone can buy, and I think that it is a great thing.
🔥Where can we go to learn more?
My main website
🔥Thank you, Smokey! And thank you for reading, hackers! Follow me here on HN, or Twitter for the next 🔥Crypto Fireside!
My vested interests include: nothing.
Article also published behind Medium’s paywall here.