20 questions for Jeff Mills

20 Preguntas para Jeff Mills
Some days ago we asked our users to send questions for Jeff Mills, we had a lot of troubles to choose only 20, and you can now read what he answered. Enjoy!

Autor: albertosv
Hola Jeff... I consider you a genius using the Roland TR-909 and it's obvious that thanks to that machine a new sound was born in Detroit that you called techno. I think that there's nothing like the sound of that machine, its drums, claps, snares, charles, toms... Do you think that there is something today able to face that authentic analogic sound?

The Roland TR-909 Drum was one of those machines that was relatively easy to find in Music Shops around the USA back in 1980/1990's, so many young producers were using them. It was easier to learn than the TR-808, which was the machine of choice of Hip Hop producers in the 1980's. The TR-909 circuits and sound boards created the right balance of resonance that it sounded pretty much like the drums we heard on existing records. It was more brutal. I was heavily influenced to start using the machine in DJ sets by a few experiences I had when I went to go see Farley Jack Master Funk, Kenny "Jammin'" Jason and Bad Boy Bill from Chicago in the early 80's. They commonly mixed drum machines and TB-303 (Acid) into their sets as they were also producers. Today, the things I see/hear that might have great influence for tomorrow might not be a particular piece of equipment, but technology that would allow the translation of what one thinks to what others might see/hear/feel. Translating thoughts to software/hardware. In this way, the audiences would be able to (somewhat) feel what the DJ feels, etc. I can't think of anything more analogue than this. I predict that in 20-30 years, the World of Dance Music will be drastically different from now. Much more enhanced and direct to the reasons people escape to music in the first place. Rather than a model number of machine, we might refer to a state-of-mind.       
Autor: Maleficarum
Hi Jeff, first of all thank you for your huge influence in one of the music styles I feel more identified with... Back to your music beginnings... what do you remember of your time in Final Cut? I think you were pioneers in the Detroit scene, influenced by european sounds like E.B.M.

I remember Tony Srock and I (Final Cut) were totally convinced in what we were doing. We were trying very hard to make something happen. I remember that we both felt that we were on the cusp of something special with the merging of the styles of Detroit Techno and E.B.M. Around that time, we had a lot of inspiration because a lot of clubs in the Detroit area were mixing these two different types of crowds together. The lines between Music genres were being blurred by adventurous programming on the radio with programs like The Electrifying Mojo, etc. In Detroit, a city where different races of people did not mix so well, when a band like Nitzer Ebb or Front 242 came to perform, there were as many black people there as whites. It was a unique opportunity to expand in this common feeling everybody had. We were inspired by Greater Than One, Meat Beat Manifesto, Section 25, Public Enemy, Skinny Puppy, BabyFord, Consolidated and a long list of others. We were more influenced by what was happening in places like Texas, Chicago and New York more than Europe in the early stages and as we became more involved we connected with people outside the US.     
Autor: CVB
Hello Jeff, first I want to say that I admire your work and dedication, one of the few persons that still make me believe in techno. My question is: back to those years in which you were producing as a member of UR, with all that attitude and ideas, what did you think the role of techno would be in society?

Mike Banks and I had both been in the Music industry for while when we merged together and we we're both struck by the amount of acceptance Dance Music was having that time. To us, it was the forthcoming sound of the new coming age, a new era. Personal/home recording studios and equipment had released the strong grip that Major Record Labels had on the industry and we both wanted to create an outlet that took any and all advantages of this. Back then, the term "Underground" wasn't as cliche' as it might seem today. Then, the music was just the result of the type of things we were thinking about -- the type of world were we envisioning. Beneath all the bleakness of subject matter was a very thick layer of optimism and with this, any and everything was possible. Communicating our ideas were just as important as the music itself. At the time, communication companies were beginning to introduce smaller, more affordable fax machines. This allowed us to reach people in a instant which lead to a particular fashion of spreading the info about our activities.
Is this the way it has evolved looking at nowaday's techno scene?
Yes, I believe it has. The "individual" today is immensely more empowered than we were back then. In many ways, its a dream come true that really started back in the 1960's when the original Flower Power Movement and the Summer Of Love laid the mind and groundwork for such visions. Today is by design, not by coincidence. "Freedom" is when you can go into your recording studio, make music, upload it to your server and directly sell it to someone else. This is what I think will allow Techno Music to latch onto whatever evolves in society.    XXXX
One final question if I am allowed: when you look back, is there something you regret about (professionally speaking)? Thanks!
Yes, I regret being influenced so much by my early trips to Europe that I eventually changed the way I thought about and made Dance Music. Before coming to Europe, I had a different idea of what Dance Music should be. It was really based on a spiritual awakening, a far reaching and limitless impression. Projects like X-102 The Rings Of Saturn (Underground Resistance) and X-103 Atlantis were created shortly before traveling abroad. I've been to trying to recapture this mind set ever since and have only recently in the past few years began to feel the connection between sound and futurism with projects like Contact Special, Sleeper Wakes, The Occurrence and The Power.   

Autor: peckinpah
Hello Mr. Mills, i'd like to know ten essential records for you (not techno, but from your influences like jazz, soul & funk) 

1. Led Boots - Jeff Beck
2. Star Spangled Banner - Jimi Hendrix
3. Scorpio - Dennis Coffey
4. Knee Deep - Parliament Funkadelic
5. Twilight Zone - Manhattan Transfer
6. More Bounce To The Ounce - Zapp
7. The Soul - Hashim
8. Radioclash - The Clash
9. Don't Believe The Hype - Public Enemy
10. Superbad - James Brown

Autor: Perry Mason
Do you see yourself in the future playing virtual sets like the one you did at Wire?

Yes, I do. In fact, Wire was a test for us to see how everyone would respond to the idea a virtual performance/DJ set. I think that in the future, it may not always be possible to travel as freely as we do today or that long after I'm gone, it may be possible for me to continue to present Music in a simulated impression. I think that if strong concepts are attached to this process -- the idea/process of sending information from great distances away (in time and space), then Techno Music could have a way to stretch its boundaries of how the Music could be presented to audiences far into the future. The Wire project entailed a great amount of planning and production. Two separate teams of people in Chicago and Yokohama that had to coordinate in real time. Before the actual transmission, we had to test the signal numerous times that required many hours of preparation. Stage/backdrop settings, costumes, actors, lighting, real time graphics and effects, etc.    
How was the experience?
It was fantastic and I'm very grateful for everyone that made it happen. When I think back to how much planning it took to produce it, it tells me that there are still people out there that still have dreams of pushing this genre forward.
Autor: pet2000
In your record studio, after finishing a track... ¿who is the first person to listen to it (besides yourself)?

I generally do not let anyone hear it. When I complete it and after listening to it over and over again, I'm convinced that its ok to release. There isn't anyone around me that I'm seeking advice or approval from. I think its this way because I believe that Music is neither right or wrong. It's just what it is, Music. As long as it feels like what I was trying to say, this its alright to let other people hear it. My recording character is really a unstructured one. Time does not matter and references to others, places and situations is almost nonexistent. I consider my studio nothing more than big complex microphone.

Autor: Raton
I think that you still uses the Roland TR909 on your sets, are you a romantic or you don't like any other hardware that has been created?.

I think I'm more sentimental and romantic. I know the TR-909 so well that its really considered a good friend. I'm aware of a lot other hardware, but the TR-909 has helped me so many times that I can always depend on it.

Autor: kekoh lokoh
When it would be a new volume of Every Dog Has Its Day? I think nowadays, a new episode loaded with that galatic soul will be fantastic, have you coneidered it?

Every Dog Has Its Day Vol. 5 was actually produced many years ago, but never pressed and released. At the time, we felt that the project had ran its course and people weren't as interested in it as much so we never put 5 into production. The project was scheduled to last for 10 Volumes and would get deeper, more spiritual with each volume. I had designed it this way because I calculated that life would get more complex for must of us and the need to listen to music that reassured the listener would be desired. It was also a chance for me to work with other musicians as well. At this point, I doubt if EDHID would resurface in that same manner, but surely, the need to listen to music produced in that way is needed. At the moment, we're configuring a project for later this year, entitled "The Transcendent". It involves Techno Music and Avant Garde Dance performances. Similar to EDHID in theory, but with different disciplines.

Autor: Blood Vessel
Beside your interest in space, it seems you also have a big fascination for the machines, the robots, the future... the technology and its energy, very Blade Runner's concepts (i know it inspires you)... from your perspective, have you considered to contemplate the most perfect machine and full of energies of any kind, the living being?

Yes, and many years ago (1998/9) I was really ambitious to actually try to create a robot replica of myself. My plan was something/one that would act as a artist(s) on my label, Axis. Similar, but not exactly me. Only seen in photographs and advertisements, this replica would take on a life of its own. The idea came from a Music Video TV show here in the 1970's (can't remember the name......?), but all that the viewer would see is the head or upper torso of the robot-like person. After awhile, this simulation became a celebrity on its own. I think the theory of Singularity (Human + Machine) will become fact. It's not difficult to look around to see that many people and large companies have strong interest in this direction. It will, (of course) raise a mountain of moral and ethical debates like for instance, Who will be entitled and selected to integrate with Computers?.  How much will it costs?. Who decides and more importantly, how does it conflict with many people's religious beliefs and about the cycle of life/reincarnation. It has been forecast that around the year 2045, with the continued surge of innovations in Technology and Science that the World we know now will be unrecognizable. Religiously, the year 2065 is believed to be the beginning of the Age Of Aquarius. I'm not sure where Humanity is going, but I'm quite confident that we're moving towards something.      
Autor: Jox
Recently we have seen you very focused several individual works like "The Sleeper Wakes", "The Occurrence" o "The Power" and other stuff i guess is to come. But, what about other projects you might think to do with other artists?- I read in an interview at The Wire that you thought in working on an album X-104 about black holes with Robert Hood. What's the current state of that project?

Working alone is so comfortable that I can't see working with another Techno Artists (unless that artist has something very unique to contribute) - then it makes sense because we'd be fusing together different techniques. The biggest problem I have with working with others is about compromising. I have such a respect for other artists that it becomes difficult for me to express my disapproval of what we'd be doing if I didn't like or thought it could be better. Someone else's time or reaction becomes factors in the process that can alter the finished work. X-104 is structured to be about the 5 main theories of what happens on the other side of Black Holes. When I configuring the project many years, I could not figure out certain things about the vinyl and how the live performance could be. For instance, we we're trying to create a vinyl 12" where the sound would 3D warp stretch and dissolve the closer it got to the center hole of the disc (5 versions of disc for each scenario) and only 1-2 year ago I met a company that could create a circular 3D sound system and video mapping that could be used for live presentations and performances. It's a long and detailed process, but I'm determined to complete it.     

Autor: gcb
Do you think that nowadays techno and electro can still be treated as futuristic music?

I think that these styles are the music of now -- not tomorrow. In fact, the structure of what we're doing today is the same as in 1980, so in many ways we've gone back, not forward. I think until Dance Music producers see the need to advance, they won't. People seem to be quite happy with what they're hearing, if they weren't we would surely see and feel their dissatisfaction. There might have to be strong reasons to reach further than what we're doing right now. "Future Music" is defined as music that comes as the result of Futuristic thoughts. I'm not sure how many people in the Techno Music Scene today is thinking about Tomorrow and what it could be.

Autor: Ishigami
I always thought of your music, particularly since your project Sleeper Wakes, being the perfect soundtrack for books like The Foundation Series. Do you find inspiration in sci-fi literature classics like Dan Simmons, Isaac Asimov or Orson Scorr Card's books?

I'm a constant collector of Classic Science Fiction books. 1910 - 1970. I refer to these a lot as they are a fixture in my recording studio. The title "Sleeper Wakes" comes from "HG Wells "The Sleeper Awakes", titles I've released in the past such as "Man From Tomorrow" and "Alpha Centauri" come from Science Fiction stories. I'm attracted to the ideas and visions of what people in the early part of last century thought today (21 Century) would be like. Looking for comparisons in hopes to figure out what could be tomorrow. I tend to read and consider these stories as futuristic dairies or sub conscious premonitions. My most recent work have been nothing more than soundtracks for such stories. I imagine a time when Science Fiction becomes possible scenarios for when Humans conquer the act of Space Travel and make it routine to visit other planets.     
Autor: Chord13
How do you think that the parties will be in the future?

I think that in the future the act of congregating together will be cleverly simulated. Your surrounding will be by your design. Think a virtual video game with few surprises thrown in. The idea of "party" might be in dimensional terms. Meaning, you could chose which position you want to experience it. For instance, as DJ, as dancer, as bartender or a fly on the wall. The physical DJ and Sound Systems will disappear so the structure of "Space" will be greatly redefined. Today, "Virtually" any and everything is possible. Tomorrow should be a few steps beyond that.  
The visual part will be more important than now?
Yes, I calculate this to be true.
Do you believe that the essence of the techno is disappearing?
I believe that the core purpose of Techno Music prepares us for the core purpose of human existence. Enlightenment is the best definition I can think of now, but tomorrow could change or expand that word.

Autor: Euterpe
I work in a contemporary art museum and the multimedia art seasons that they program are pathetic, those including the ones referring to electronic music, and I think that many people would think the same. It’s a huge museum with an enormous infrastructure. They usually bring intellectualized musicians to play music that for people who are used to your music –for example-, we think that there are really bad. Of course, the visual show and the music that they bring comes with a complex discourse that is nonsense for me. ¿What is the philosophy or discourse that has bring you to make what you do? I believe that a show of yours would fit much better in a contemporary art musem, even without giving a speech that is as complex as empty in it’s proposals. ¿Why are those museums so reluctant to feature artists consolidated by thousand of people or newcomers but with a higher quality?

En estos momentos estoy trabajando en un proyecto de actuación sobre Objetos Volantes No Identificados (UFO en inglés) para la Fundación del Museo Cartier de París. Este proyecto tuvo su origen en el pequeño y oscuro sello que he creado llamado Something In The Sky. De algún modo, el comisario de la exhibición se enteró de lo que estaba haciendo y me propuso participar. El tema de los UFOs llama a todo el mundo (¡estén interesados o no!). El hecho de crear bandas sonoras para estas ocurrencias pavimentó el camino para algo más amplio.

Autor: AtomiKa 52
Hi! How does it feels like beeing one of the best dj’s in the World and the most technical one, and seeing that nowadays anybody without any clue of how to work a turntable can realize extreme surgeon’s precision sets with ableton?

I think that there is too much attention to what DJs are using to program the music. Its a weightless factor that would have to be argued over and over again as Technology advances. I think its much more important about what the type of Music the DJ is playing. The type and level of messages that the music is translating. I agree, whether a DJ is more physically gifted or not has become irrelevant in most discussions and now its mainly about which programming process is more convenient and easy. The fascination with Technology can quite blinding at times.  
Don’t you think that in some way this has left the dj figure without his soul and that in a close future it will be automatic machines that make live sets?
From my perspective, most audiences seem to be content with the way things are going with how most DJs are programming the music. I think it can be much, much better if DJS were using the music (and Technology) more conceptually, but I'm sure I'm in the minority. 

Autor: The73galaxy
I'am a proud and faithful follower of your work since The Wizard. How do you see the current techno scene, the one that the concept is less important, and there's more and more records that don't contribute, and the main goal of the new producers is to copy the trendy sounds with the solely interest to perform in clubs and festivals? Good luck Jeff.

Truthfully, I'm quite disappointed that the Techno Community (listeners/audiences/etc.) do not ask more from the artist/DJ. In my opinion, most of the DJs and Producers do not work at the highest level of their capacity and do not explore enough. I've seen cases where very capable DJs purposely downgrades the quality of the music in order to be more widely accepted. More liked and as a result, booked more at parties because more people would attend and everybody wins. Until the audiences become to understand the differences of what things are and what they could be, the level of quality of Music won't raise. Maybe innovation and forging forward isn't for everyone. To some, maybe a beat is just a beat. Not a beat of life. Maybe we sit in a period of time where Conceptual Music is less proportionate to the general thinking of Music itself(?). Maybe it takes a while for people to realize its importance.

Autor: skanky
Hi, Mr. Mills, it might seem an odd question but i would like to know what do you think of the new sounds that are growing in Uk from artists like Ramadanman, Untold, Shakleton etc. It seems that they are developing in to a closer dialogue with techno music (like the one from UR). Thanks for your attention.

I'm quite fond of all these groups, especially Shakleton. I can hear some similarities, but I think it probably stems more from the Producers mind set than anything else. The idea of using the music to extend ones voice is nothing new. I bet that if go back in time 30/40/50 years ago, you might find the same similarities (especially in the Afro-American Community). It might have something to with discontent. The act of having a plan or blueprint and the music is just the result.

Autor: orius
hi Jeff, first of all i would like to congratulate you for showing us your world through your music. There's something that i admire from your records, the discourse that is behind them, the conceptual basis that gives coherence and evolution to your music. Are you worried that this conceptual basis may spaces you out of the audience, or from a part of it, those eager for harder & party beats?

If I believed that all the Music I made should be acceptable by audiences, then I'd be in trouble!. I was never convinced that all Music has to be accepted, by everyone all the time. Some works have more importance than others and maybe in time, the substance of the work surfaces. I have absolutely no problem making harder/party beats, but to me, its even more interesting is there was reason the beats are hard.
As a measure of logic hard - medium - soft beats make more sense when signify something that might mean something to someone (now or later) Otherwise, people would be asking the question" For what reason is the beat so hard......couldn't it have been softer?. Rather than the DJs/producers conform to what the people always want, I think its more interesting and better serves Techno and Dance Music that the opposite sometime happens. I'm simply practicing and exercising that "opposite". Surprisingly wonderful, the more conceptual and obscure music I make, the more acceptance I it gets so there must have been a demand for such.     

Autor: vicky
I think that the audience plays a very important part in the dance culture. As a dj, what do you prefer, an audience that knows all the music and its context and that is at your show watching like if was a painting, static? Or an audience less literate but dancing, devoted to the music and enjoying it? I know that the ideal would be a balance of both but i would like you to choose one of the two and explaining the reason of your choice.
I think it’s more important to play for audiences that have less knowledge giving the DJs more ability to enlighten them with something new -- but this is my preference. In DJ Culture, there are DJs that have the background in playing Music for people to dance to, a technician that tends to be more interested in using the music as a tool to enhance the life of others and then there those DJs that play music only to reinforce and confirm things people already know. Both have their importance and neither is less than the other. Together all these DJs created the Dance Music genre we enjoy today and probably tomorrow.     

Autor: Sun Ra
Hey Jeff. In my many conversations with music and techno fans I often realize that it seems that they haven't realized yet that you left hard techno and conga techno quite years ago and that your are now more interested in cosmos and classical music stuff. Do you strugle against this “Leonard Nimoy complex” (stucked in your old character?). Thanks and keep on exploring cosmos.

In making Music, I'm unconditionally committed to these ideas. Translating these concepts are more important than the Music itself. There really isn't any other style I'd like to explore as much and there isn't much I can do to make people more happy. If they like the old productions and style of Music, most of those works still exist and can be obtained. I see more in Techno Music and if I don't try to capture it, I don't think I'm serving this industry in best way I can. If people are turned away as the result, these are facts of life. 


12 March 2011 - Up @ Family Club - Sonseca (Toledo)
29 April 2011 - Fact Bcn - The One - Barcelona
14 May 2011 - Lovejoy @ Feria de Muestras - Gijón
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Web: Axis Records