Growing up in DC, Spooky (born Paul Miller) became interested in punk and go-go music, and attended college in Maine, earning degrees in French literature and philosophy. He began writing science fiction and formed a collective called Soundlab with several other artists. In the mid-1990s, Spooky began recording a series of singles and EPs; his debut LP was Songs of a Dead Dreamer, which is now widely regarded as the beginning of illbient. Riddim Warfare (see 1998 in music) was an underground hit that include collaborations with Dr. Octagon and other cult figures in indie rock. He then worked with several other artists on various collaborations and mix CDs, returning in 2002 with Modern Mantra (see 2002 in music). That same year saw the release of Optometry, a widely acclaimed collaboration with avant-jazz players Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Guillermo E. Brown and Joe McPhee. This album also features a track with Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin & Wood.