HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


Jeff Mills Interview

The man behind over 15 years in production of the highest quality Techno and a substantial amount of those years spent gracing the decks as a professional turntabalist wowing the crowds with his immense speed and ability, Jeff Mills has become a household name and is widely recognized as one of the greatest DJs of our time. The head honcho of the genre defining label, Axis records and its various sub-labels including Purpose Maker, Tomorrow and most recently 6277 (Mars), Jeff Mills has set the standard for others to only dream of achieving. With his latest album release, Contact Special, he has created a lot more than just a record but also an Ethos and a philosophy about life, where it starts and who else may be touching us from unknown worlds. While taking up a month long residency at Womb, during October, to celebrate the album launch in Japan he managed to find a small whole in his schedule to meet and talk with HigherFrequency about what has spurred him on this far, his new album and what is on the horizon.

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HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : So what is your opinion of integrating audio and visual in the club ?

Jeff Mills : Well, I understand now that it is much harder to get people to recognize the visual images than I thought. For many years I had traveled around and played parties as a DJ and noticed that people had absolutely no attention to the video screen that is on and thought that that was really a wasted opportunity to be able to display certain ideas that pertain to the music, that pertain to the party, or whatever and thought that actually those two, or three, even the lights should all work together in one effort to create a certain type of atmosphere and this is what we will do tomorrow (at the Womb residency). So there is a certain amount of choreography that we will all work out, that certain things should happen at certain times, certain colours, certain images, things will happen in certain sequences so that there is an overall effect.

HRFQ : You performed with Montpellier Orchestra at Pont DuGard. We know it will be released as a DVD and CD early next year, but as a sneak preview on this project, can you tell us how did you integrate your techno sound into an orchestral sound and what did you actually do at the recording session ?

Jeff : Well we had about 14 of my compositions scored to sheet music for eighty musicians and they performed in a very large special performance at Pont DuGard back in July and we recorded and filmed the whole performance. I think something like this would only happen say if the artist, you know myself, had made top forty hits and it really warranted the addition of an orchestra to perform these and the audience knew exactly every song but in this case it was different, a lot of the songs we performed had only been released on twelve inch vinyl that most of the audience would not be aware of which doesn't normally happen, well it doesn't happen at all. It was completely from an artistic point of view not a commercial, mainstream perspective which made it very, very unique. So I selected compositions that really meant the most to me and there was some things that I had created in the past and there was some that I had created with Underground Resistance and the orchestra actually performed them and I provided the electronic music parts in sync with the orchestra and it turned out very, very well. It is a project that I am proud of.

Jeff Mills Interview

HRFQ : It sounds quite complex.

Jeff : It was. It was much more complex than what I would have thought. You are dealing with eighty musicians and though they are all trained and they are all master musicians there is this human element in terms of sync that after so many years working with machines that the tempo and the BPM and the sequences are perfect to have to work with eighty musicians where it is not exactly perfect, well it took some getting used to and really helped me understand that it's not the perfection in the sequences that is most important but that it's the overall feeling. That all the musicians have all come together and they are all playing is the most important thing. So it is a very different project from anything else that has ever been released.

HRFQ : Digital download has certainly become the order of the day, and websites like Beatport are proving popular. What is your strategy for digital music distribution ?

Jeff : Well I think that it really has the ability to enhance the music industry and help the music industry. In a technical sense it allows producers to be able to produce things that were maybe not physically possible on the formats that we have for instance, to produce something for CD, that has a maximum of seventy eight minutes, to produce something that's twenty five minutes would be far, far too short and would seem slightly odd or strange to release it on that format and it would too much music for a vinyl twelve inch. So it allows the producer to be freer, to be able to produce effortlessly and not have to worry about the structure of the format, or the capacity of the format. The ability to be able to reach more people because of the internet and the ways it has integrated and it allows it to come in contact with more people it is much better than someone having to go into a record shop and sort through thousands and thousands of vinyl records and spend hours and hours of listening. It has made the whole process much easier and much quicker. And I think that as result of it allowing so much, it should put pressure on producers to have to produce in a way that their music will probably have to become maybe more convincing I think. I believe that it allows you to use and immediately put it online and be able to consume it. It should make things more competitive and as a result should give the ones that will sell, that have really mastered the art of producing and it will be focused more.

Jeff Mills Interview

HRFQ : Therefore do you support copyright management systems like WMA, or support non-DRM downloads ?

Jeff : No! I support copyright. I mean it is intellectual property, it is the thought process of someone and those things should always be protected. I think without it our music has very little chance of survival without any type of protection. Yes I think it is totally necessary.

HRFQ : Are there any new releases from Axis in the pipeline ?

Jeff : Yes. There's an album that I'm working on, well it could be an album, it depends on if we put it on MP3 it could be something short of an album. It is a project based on the evolution of robots and I'm specifically focusing on the initial intention of the inventors of the first robots, what they were envisioning and how they thought the robot would serve mankind. So I'm doing research now and trying to find out more about what their initial ideas were, about whether it was how they see themselves, whether it was about how they see their imperfections and they wanted to create something perfect, something that would solve their problems. Basically on what their objective was and why they would create a robot in the first place. So that is what the album is going to be about. It is about half way finished.

And there is another project based on the dancer Josephine Baker from the 1930s which is a collection of videos that I created based on footages taken from around 1939 when she was dancing at the Moulin Rouge among other places and I took the film footages and remixed them and added new music to them, restructured them and remixed the images. That project should be out hopefully later this year among a few other things.

HRFQ : On a final note, you have a lot of fans here in Japan. Do you have any messages for them ?

Jeff : Yes I do. It is always a privilege to come here to play for them it is still very much one of the best places to play as a DJ. Just about every DJ that comes here will say that. It's always a great opportunity to bring new ideas here to present them and if they work we can take them back to other places so Japan really has become a testing ground. So I am very happy to be here.

HRFQ : Great well that's about all from us. Thank you very much.

Jeff : Thank you.

End of the interview

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