Jeff Mills
Jeff Mills

The 4th edition of the Moondance Festival, which will be held from 11th to 13th August in the beautiful middle ages Fortress Kamerlengo in Trogir, will open one of the biggest names in the Detroit techno – a legendary Jeff Mills. Read the interview with him below!

Now expanding to three days, the fourth edition of the Moondance electronic festival will showcase DJs such as Jeff Mills, Josh Wink, Petar Dundov, John Heckle and The Storytellers (DJ Bone B2B Deetron) across boat parties, legendary after-parties and within the walls of the town’s historical fort. For more information look here.

On the occasion of the opening of the festival, Jan Kinčl Zero for UESMAG spoke with the legendary Jeff Mills! Read the interview below.

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UES: In one of your work diaries/reports from the “Planets” album sessions in the legendary Abbey Road studios, you’ve said that it’s probably the biggest step you undertook in developing a relationship between classical and electronic music. Would you elaborate a bit on why you feel it is the case? And what changes has your work method with classical musicians undergone since the Blue Potential concert? It must’ve been a tremendous learning curve.

Jeff Mills: I made this declaration because I’m convinced that the way both of these genres are being fused together, and at times, indistinguishable from one another, is an important step forward when compared to the previous projects and 2 other scores I’ve written for orchestra. With Planets, it shows how when there is enough attention to enhance these collaborations, that the engagements improve and move onto to creating something new. Something definite. Since the Blue Potential in 2005, my understanding of how to approach and manage artist collaborations in general has widened considerably. For instance, what ties all genres together, the various perspectives that can be pursued, how to contribute and many other aspects. I think that in music, learning never really ends. It just a matter of whether artists are willing to admit it.

UES: In 2007. you’ve been given a prestigious title “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” from the French cultural ministry. And this February you’ve been given a sort-of “carte blanche” 4 month residency at the Louvre Museum. How much planning went into the project and how did you decided to structure the time given to you? Also, at which point did the French art world started taking notice in your work outside the prism of a “techno DJ and performer”?

Jeff Mills: For the Carte Blanche or «The White Card» residency at Le Louvre, it took about 10 months of constant preparation for the four events – one event a month. To help manage all the work I assembled a small group of people to work with in preparing. All events were performance based with an emphasis on using film in each concept. Managing time between traveling on the weekends, various meetings and rehearsals throughout the weekdays was tough, but I appreciated the opportunity of being the first American to be given such a commission. I think the first real acknowledgement of work outside the dance floor was a techno music soundtrack for the film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. I debuted the soundtrack at the Centre Pompidou back in the year 2000. From that experience I was offered to artistically contribute the an exhibition celebrating the 100 Years of the Futurist Manifesto, also at Pompidou as well as film soundtrack on Buster Keaton and Josephine Baker for the film company MK2 and the Cinematheque de Francaise. Since the year 2000, it’s been a constant working relationship with France.

UES: Kobe sessions was recorded live close to the end of 2015. with a selected group of American and Japanese musicians. What was the motivation behind this project and how did you go about selecting the right people for the group? In my mind (and pardon me if I’m wrong), a lot of your Purpose Maker material had a very strong jazz backbone, however this is the first time you’ve decided to make that connection more obvious and visible. Why?

Jeff Mills: The Kobe Session live recordings is something that I had been wanting to create for quite a while. Since the recordings and release the band is now called Spiral Deluxe. I debuted the concept during the residency at Le Lourve in Paris. The desire to create a band comes from my youth, before becoming a DJ, when I was a drummer in a few jazz bands in Detroit. I really enjoyed the experience of working with other musicians. I’m a big listener and admirer of jazz so a lot my influences come from those type of musicians.

UES: I’ve heard in an interview that you actually spend more time working on film music, even though most of it never gets released. Why is that? What parameters of visual stimulants you find so inspiring?

Jeff Mills: Yes, this is true. Most music is never released as commercial product because it’s mostly made to use for live film screenings, commonly known as cinemixes. I’ve composed full soundtracks for films such as «The Cheat» by Cecil B. DeMille, «October» by Sergy Eisenstein, «The Lost World» by Arthur Conan Doyle and a few other films. Any chance to use electronic music is something I greatly enjoy, so I’m always looking for chances to do so.

UES: Alongside all of those projects we’ve mentioned, you still regularly DJ every weekend and present your and other people’s music. What quality in other people’s productions do you find interesting?

Jeff Mills: Well, it’s still quite enjoyable to DJ and to play other people’s work – to be able to contribute to the culture and art form is still something very special.

UES: You`ve played on Croatian coast since 1998. and performed at the first Moondance festival in 2013. Despite all of the changes and tribulations on the scene it’s obvious that you are still one of the most wanted electronic music artist here. Would you say there’s a secret connection between you and the local scene?

Jeff Mills: Yes, it’s been a while and I’m very happy to hear that I haven’t been forgotten! I very much look forward to returning. I’m not sure about a secret connection, but a lot can be attributed to the way electronic music creates deep bonds between DJs and audiences. 

UES: Last question, and one which unfortunately I never found an answer to. Your output is very large, and diverse in a way which demands incredible multitasking skills and very detailed planning, especially when maintaining such a level of quality. However, you seem to pull it off very successfully and at the same time expand the areas you work in while refining your skills in the areas you’ve been operating for some time. The question is, how does your work week look like? 

Jeff Mills: My typical weekdays are spent in meetings, research, traveling, production and office work. I’m usually working simultaneously on at leas, 5 -7 projects at any given time, which can be for months or sometimes, years in advance. A good amount of time is spent figuring out how to actually materialize ideas. 

UES: How do you manage to reconcile so many facets of music life with regular social activities, maintaining relationships etc. I hope the question’s not too personal, but I feel it’s the one with which a lot of working/traveling musicians are struggling with.

Jeff Mills: I’m usually engaged in work and on opportunities that I do not take lightly. When I have the responsibly to do something I do it and I rarely take on projects that I can’t handle. I don’t have many personal and social relationships that require constant attention, so I’m lucky enough to be able to work when I need to.

Interviewed by: Jan Kinčl Zero 

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