Jeff Mills talks about Sight, Sound & Space


His knowledge of electronic music is unrivaled, yet it’s his understanding of how we’ve barely scratched the surface of techno that separates him. The genre, in essence, has no boundaries, so why should we apply them, why can’t we foresee a future in which electronic music is tapping into technology and human psyche that we never thought possible? Why can’t it be a vessel that transports a viewer to a character in a film, or a link through time? A look back can often pave the way to the future, one in which we can see and hear beyond the final frontier. 

Interview and text by Lee Shields

“I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light.” – John Coltrane

What inspired you to compile these tracks into a new album?

It was the aspect of time and in this era that provoke the idea of The Director’s Cut. Looking back to past works in order to re-examine and in cases, to modify and enhance.

Why was the album split into three parts, and what was the impetus in deciding the three sections?

These three subjects: seeing, hearing and one’s surrounding are the subjects that most of my direction has been for the past 25 years. It was a way to appropriate and categorize the tracks in terms of their purpose.

Space has been prevalent at the forefront of a vast amount of your work, why does it hold such significance to you? You cited sci-fi as an interest of yours since your youth; why is it so strong till this day?

I would imagine that the subject of Space and our placements in it would be of great interest to anyone. I think that my interest is more normal than it is abnormal and I’m grateful for the opportunity to use music to express how I feel about this subject. Science Fiction is the common man’s genre of storytelling and a lot of it is based on how we feel or would imagine ourselves in such situations. I guess my long-standing interests is because I’m intrigued about where humanity is headed and what adventures lie ahead for us.

What can you say has been explored in the theme of space in this project that hasn’t before, or how it develops the story of space for Jeff Mills?

Relating to things through context can be a very important element in storytelling and an aspect that connects people in very personal ways. What might be unique and something that I’ve never did before was to connect the albums and tracks of this project to certain world events – ones that most of us have lived through and experienced. Remembering back to a certain time, remembering a certain track might bring out other memories of that era. This is important because it is memories that shape our judgment, rationalize our understanding and positions and of course, shapes our view of the future.

“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul… we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” – Neil Armstrong

Is it that because it features tracks from your back catalogue that it is the development of space as a concept for you, tracking a story that has been the main component of your work throughout?

Discovering what is in Space is our greatest challenge. Discovering and learning about who and what we really are (the inner space) would be a close second! I can’t think of any other subjects that are more
important than these.

Jeff Mills is not only a techno savant but a connoisseur, an appreciator, a thinker and philosopher for the genre. He is not only consumed within his work, but the limitless potential of all that is electronic music. 

Sight is a concept you have delved through previously, and have even sounded some classic films. What is the motivation in producing tracks and composing scores for these projects?

The motivation started out as a way to bring more attention to Electronic Music, but over time, that objective had been achieved. It is normalized. Now, I’m finding unique ways to modify what the concept of a cine-mix could be. I have ideas of experiencing film to being much more than just watching and listening. Situations where the “would-be watcher” becomes a participant in the story. Seeing themselves as characters. The motivation is making the story more believable to the point the watcher can’t tell the difference anymore.

You have drawn inspiration from artists in different fields; has this led you to an appreciation of the faculty?

I’ve always admired artists of all strips and often study the work of others to better enhance what I’m doing with music.

What does sight mean to techno?

That’s a subjective question, but I would assume to many people that it means being able to see ones self more clearly through this music. When the music is impactful, it touches a certain parts of people’s soul. The more this happens, the better a species we become. We are less confused (Spiritually speaking).

A new wave of listeners may not even cast an ear to Jeff Mills’ music; knowing his stature and that he produced ‘The Bells’ is enough for them. The Director’s Cut series, and this subsequent album Sight, Sound and Space, are reflections not only of his work but his innermost thoughts and his developments of systematic themes throughout his illustrious career spanning over three decades.

How has scoring films like Woman In The Moon affected this album and your work as a whole?

Fritz Lang’s “Woman In The Moon” was quite a challenge to score. A long story, almost 3 hours long. I separated the film into 3 parts and composed the music for it in just over one year, creating about 200 track sketches. I think in music, the more one spends time to create, the more one learns what and what not to do! One gets better at knowing what works. I think this score shows how I’ve progressed over time.

Sound, of course, is a critical phenomenon for all musicians and artists. It is the fulcrum of your work. How was sound projected in this project?

I wish everyone heard all things the same, this would be a dream to all musicians, but how we each hear things can greatly vary. Knowing this from my long career in music, I’ve learned over time that there are certain ways that can better entice people’s ears and minds and it revolves around the aspect of spatial balance and sound perceptions. The tracks in this album are good examples of how I used these
techniques over the years.

To you, is sound all about perception?

Not all, but it is a vital element in the process. Knowing a little something about your typical listener’s character is important too. Understanding “what means what” is the most important.

“Techno is a spacecraft with no one actually driving it. The genre floats along aimlessly rather than travel in any particular direction. In my view, this is its strongest asset.” – Jeff Mills 

Finally, is techno and electronic music the future for exploring sound? For that matter, is it the future for exploring space; is there a higher state to be reached through the medium?

I believe we haven’t reached that point in music and sound yet. To another similar point, I also think that Techno and Electronic Music has never been very easy to understand either. Because the genre is so free and remains this way, it’s hard to fully grasp where boundaries (if there are any) might be. I see this strange situation as a sign of the future. Techno is a spacecraft with no one actually driving it. The genre floats along aimlessly rather than travel in any particular direction. In my view, this is its strongest asset.

The 3xCD Sight, Sound and Space will be released October 4th on Axis.

Courtesy of pullproxy.com

Jeff Mills talks about Sight, Sound & Space

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