Exclusive Interview: Jeff Mills

We chat with Jeff Mills about his latest releases, innovation, and outer space.
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Jeff Mills is an artist who needs no introduction. He is, without a doubt, one of the most influential artists in electronic music of all time. It's easy for people at his level to ease up and ride the high that was their careers, but Jeff is one of the few who continues to push boundaries and himself in and out of the studio. Whether that be live scoring movies at world-famous museums, performing with a live orchestra, or releasing music of the highest quality, for as long as he's been in the game, he's shown no signs of slowing down. He recently released the latest addition to his Millsart Every Dog Has Its Day series, on top of his massive Sight Sound and Space box set, which you can grab here

To learn a bit more about how he's able to maintain this level of quality, discuss the return of Millsart & Every Dog series, his box set, and his love of outer space, we sat with him for a quick and exclusive interview. 

Jeff_Mills_Artist_Image_by_Jacob_Khrist

Hi Jeff. It's a real honor to be chatting with you today. There are so many questions I could ask you, but first, you recently released your Sight, Sound, and Space compilation, to which we say, congrats. Not only that, but it's a massive 46 tracks across 3 discs. How did you even begin to narrow this down? Especially with how many records you've put out over the years?

The selection to create Sight Sound And Space depended on various factors such as the titles, the purpose of creating them, the sound and texture of the tracks. I’m not sure as to how many vinyl records I’ve released to date, but in full albums, the number is somewhere around 75 – 80.

When you first decided to commit to this project, was your plan to only focus on your work as Jeff Mills, or had you thought about including other projects you 'd be a part of as well?

I choose to only use my own tracks because I knew that I would have to explain them in-depth.

In the box set, you provided commentary for each track in the release. What was it like to go back and dissect each record? Are there any specific memories or funny stories about any of them you care to share?

There are a few memories around all the tracks, but no. No funny stories that I can remember. My studio environment is a private one, so my focus is on trying to extract what I’m thinking about into sound.

The booklet includes your entire discography, and countless tracks didn't make it to the discs. Were there any records you loved that didn't make it on the release for one reason or another? If so, which ones?

Well, I don’t really have favorite tracks. There are one or two that are more special to me (privately), but all tracks that I’ve made are thought as the same level. They’re all connected.

If you were to choose one piece of hardware to represent each of the discs, what would they be?

Hardware as in Electronic instruments? If so, there isn’t a particular piece that I can connect to each of the discs, but vintage Pulp Science Fiction magazines could be tied to a lot of the music.

Speaking of discs, Sight, Sound, and Space is being released in various formats, including CD. Is there a reason you chose to go with CDs in an age where streaming is king and vinyl has made a comeback?

Many of the people that follow and collect music from our label are music collectors. We imagine that they have all the necessary format players in their audio systems. Personally, I will always love the CD format. I’m old enough to remember how much of advancement it was to go from analogue tape of cassette and 8-track players to this format. Compact Discs were and still are quite futuristic to me. Of course, not very good for our environment, but this may be one of the last large CD format collections from our label.

It's no secret that you've got a special relationship with space and the cosmos, it even being a theme for the compilation. When did this begin? Has it always been of fascination to you?

It must have started when I was quite young. Yes, I’ve always been very fond of the genre.

On top of releasing the mighty compilation, you are also releasing a new entry into the Every Dog Has Its Day series, with vol 4 having been released 2003. What inspired you to return to the series 17 years later?

I decided to re-start the album series because I sensed that there are enough new listeners that might connect with the concept. One that connects the subject of “Life” into Electronic Music.

Are these all completely new tracks, or are they some that have sat in the vault?

Only one track “Forever And A Day” was made about 17 years ago.

When approaching this project, does your production process change at all? Are there certain tools you use to create music for this project specifically compared to your other work?

The production process varies depending on the concept of the track.

Vol. 6 is coming soon. Can we expect this series to grow exponentially in the coming decade?

Yes, EDHID Vol. 6 is coming soon. Vol. 7 is near complete and we hope to have it out my June.

You wrote a lengthy post on Facebook recently about being an artist. Upon reading some of the comments on your post (a great way to start the day...), it appears that some people disagree with your idea of what an artist is, stating that mediocrity doesn't make you an artist. In your own words, what do you think defines someone as an artist? At was stage does one become one?

An artist is someone that spends more than casual time practicing an art form.

Mental health has been a huge topic over the past few years, and I believe there is a connection between it and the points you made in your post. I also agree with you saying, "the only way to shut them down is to get better at what you do", but with technology being so integrated into our culture, some may find this more difficult. What are some steps you've taken in your own life when faced with these situations?

I learned to do something well enough to make a career from it. I was taught by others, I learned from watching, hearing and studying techniques.

Getting back to science and techno, what has been the most recent scientific discovery or event that you've found to be inspiring?

The accomplishment of Astronaut Christina Kochs. 328 days in space!

If you were to create a track around that, what would you think it would sound like?

Silence.

You've arguably been the most prolific user of the 909 of all time. In your quest to discover the sounds of the future, and with so many new tools at your disposal, how is this machine still your go-to tool?

Well actually its not a “go-to” tool for me, but I use it a lot because it allows me to break away from playing pre-recorded music in DJ sets where I can have full control what the people are hearing. If there was another machine or Electronic instrument that had similar features, I’d probably try that as well. It’s not the drum machine itself, but rather what it allows me to do - which is to play more freely.

Grab Every Dog Has Its Day vol. 5 here.

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