There are a lot of things said and done by one of the most influential Detroit techno DJ and producer, Jeff Mills. We had an opportunity to talk with him about his new projects, inspiration, the things that he finds fascinating, the matter of time and space. He tends to describe his visions,thoughts and emotions through his music and performance. So we got little bit closer to that process. Enjoy!
Your latest collaboration with Mikhaïl Rudy on “When time splits” is inspired by the conceptual film “L’ Enfer”. Can you tell us something about the creative process? Have some particular scene from film left a deep impact onto you that you later passed into “When time splits”?
The project and collaboration of “When Time Splits” was a joint effort of Mikhail and I to create a unique soundtrack for the unreleased film L’Enfer. We explored the subject of Time in many different ways. We worked together to create a musical relationship, where neither side had to compromised or accommodate each other, but we did so of the shared compassion for the film and our thoughts about the sensitivity of Time. Bringing the subject of Parallel Time to Mikhail in the beginning spurred a create reaction that paved the way for that performance and CD release. It was a pleasure to use Techno Music in that way and working with Mikhail was fantastic and an mind opening experience.
In “Life to Death and Back” it is set to explore the circulation of everything around us, like day/night, tide/re flux, life/death ; do you think that we, as living beings, are somewhat being habituated to the unstoppable transitions, but at the same time always stacked with similar outcomes?
Humans can’t be blamed for always wanting to be reminded or subjected to things that we feel more comfortable with. It is our natural instinct. Similar, but not the same outcomes are how we’ve learned from our mistake to evolve this far. Our lives depend on expectation in the future, calculated by looking at the past. I think humans won’t be detached from this cycle until we’re faced with situations that is far beyond our control. Beyond our technology and logic.
The world premiere of exhibition “Weapons” that was held in Tokyo, along with that premiering “The Visitor” design of drum machine. Do have any visions or your personal predictions of how will the music and machines evolve in future and their position in the world?
It’s impossible to make a blanket prediction, but I would imagine that a lot of what we realize and see today will no longer exist in the far future. Meaning, our surrounding will change drastically – either by consequence or by choice, we’ll exist and live in our individual reality. Becoming less dependent of others, this detachment will bring the inventions of many other things we would use to enlighten ourselves, to teach ourselves. For instance, applying un-lived experiences to our own memory or being the person we’ve always wanted to be. It could be that one day you’re a Western Cowboy, the next day Miles Davis, the next day a Japanese Geisha. The learning aspects of this would be enormous. For Music, I do not believe that it will survive in this way and form because the acoustics of ‘hearing something” will depend on the surrounding and that will change. “Seeing, touching, smelling” something will only be as reliable as the most convincing software or applications.
You have been commissioned as resident-artist for “Duos Ephémères“ at Louvre Museum, having performances. What is it like, when all started, how did you feel?
It was an honor to be invited. As the first American invitee, there was a lot of responsibility to consider as the concepts needed to be of a certain level and materialization. The first thing I did was create a team of people to help me produce the concepts and events. People that had experience in Music performance production, dance, art, film, but most importantly, they had to be open to new ideas and not afraid to go in new directions. Once this was established, we got to work. I created and presented 4 concepts that all revolved around the subject of time – performances and films w/ contemporary dance. The whole process took just over 1 year of constant preparation and attention. The whole experience was a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I knew that I represented various positions, as an American/Afro American, a musician of Techno Music, being from Detroit were all actualities that I had to consider.
Are you aware of the fact that with your music and currently having performances at Louvre, you have opened the door and emerged electronic music with high art, showing it in a completely remarkable way to the world?
Well, if this comes to fruition, then I’m delighted to have had the opportunity.
How long have you been preparing Exhibitionist 2 and could you tell us the main frame of it? How is it different than the first Exhibitionist?
Exhibitionist 2 has been in planning and production for almost 2 years. We filmed the first segments in Detroit during the Movement Festival of 2014. The objective of this DVD will be about creative improvisation and thinking-in-the-moment”. Not pre-planning anything in hopes of using natural reactions to what a DJ/producers thinks in real-time. Whereas the first DVD, that was released in 2005 explored the technical aspects of a DJ and what he physically does, the new DVD will explore on a DJ thinks.
It seems like you are always pushing the limits of creativity, music and performance. Do you actually think when you are pushing boundaries in electronic music, with the creative use of machines, you actually pushing your own boundaries and boundaries of public, when it comes to creating and perceiving music?
I realize that there might be that small possibility, but its not the reference point I consider on my creative actions. Naturally, I like to explore new ways. I feel more comfortable doing this than re-creating the same thing over and over again. I find it exciting. I believe its what made me survive in Electronic Music this long and how I can imagine being involved until the end of my life. There is a deep spiritual purpose in working in this way.
One of your concerts of Light from the Outside World project is with notable BBC Symphonic Orchestra and it’s scheduled for October 24th. All your performances with symphonic orchestras have always been sold-out shows and you gather both lover of classical and electronic music. Do you have special expectation or requests for this show?
Jeff Mills: I’m very much looking forward to this event. It will definitely be one of the highlights of my career. I have a special attachment to London and the British Dance Music scene. Outside of Detroit and New York, its where I learned the most about Music. I’m looking forward to presenting this work there at Barbican Center and of course, with the BBC Orchestra.
Your project Planets is inspired by Gustav Holst’s Op.32 The Planets that was made from 1914 to 1916. Thanks to new scientific and technological achievements we know much more about the planets and universe. Inspired by Holst, you made a musical description of each planet in our Solar System. How did you manage to display it so picturesque with music? Was each planet inspiration for itself?
This is the most detailed and longest project I ever conceived and worked on. I’ve been working on the soundtrack for about 10 years. My objective, which was very much inspired by Holst’s “The Planets” explores the planets in our Solar System with a lot the newfound knowledge humans have acquired since 1914. Focused more on scientific data, I wanted to musically script a journey where the audience is taken to each one of the planets to feel the translation (with Music) the geographical make-up and compositions. We start the trip with the thrust of the Sun’s Rays to Mercury and all the way to end of the system to Pluto. Different from Holst, I wanted to explore all time and space between each planet as well, so an entire soundtrack was made for the Space in between each planet. There are 18 tracks in total in a 10 part orchestration.
You will perform at ECO Festival Slovenia, how do you decide what are you going to play at the festival? Do you have a plan or program or you are simply following the flow and sensing the crowd? I’m interested to know how your process of selecting tracks for set goes.
Honestly, I think about a subject or destination that I’d like to work towards. This is how I choose the music to play. In most cases, I’m imagining a planet and the room/area where we are is the spacecraft. At some point in the DJ set, we land and begin to explore the surface. So, a lot times what I’ playing is in a soundtrack type of mind-set. There is an introduction, an unexpected experience, an ending, etc. Science Fiction!