Jeff Mills: "Anyone Can Be A DJ. But When You Get Down To It, It's More Like A Science"

Jeff Mills gets down into the art of DJing with RA.
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Jeff Mills went deep into the art of DJing with Resident Advisor, talking in-depth about his own DJ set up and his philosophy for how he works behind the decks.

The master technician often uses three decks at once so he can layer parts of three different songs, adding and subtracting. He sees the art as more of a science given what you are doing to sound.

“Anyone can be a DJ. But when you get down to it, it's more like a science,” he explains. “You're really a sound scientist, because you have to know which frequencies match up, and which frequencies hide other frequencies, for instance. You have to know how to anticipate when the track will naturally break down.”

He explains that he works more from subtracting more than adding sounds, which may be counter intuitive to some, but it is how his mastery has been taught and evolved.

“I typically work in a way where, I don't put so much emphasis on adding things together. I'm thinking more about how I'm going to get this track out, rather than how I'm going to mix the next track in. My style is mainly of subtracting, not adding. Subtracting sound away. That's just the way I learned.”

He also offers his take on the role of a DJ in the past and now, saying that he is there to be the DJ, not to be a party host. He also doesn’t want to play hits, but play songs that could become hits with the crowd. Don’t play it safe, but rather play the songs the crowd should want to hear.

“I'm not a party host, I'm not a cheerleader, I'm not an aerobics instructor. I am a DJ. And my task has always been to play music, but to make it as interesting as I can, to make it as appealing to the audience as I can. And that might be slightly different from a DJ's objective today. Back then, a DJ's purpose was to play music, not necessarily hits, but that you were sensing could be a hit, and you had to make it work. You had to play this record in a way that would make it just incredible to the audience. You had to sell it. I learned to DJ in a way that, yes, you're mixing music together, but you're also trying to make it appealing to people.”

Read the fascinating examination of DJing with Jeff Mills here.

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