TF Archives

Jeff Mills

Author: Andrez
Sunday, January 1, 1995
Decoding the Millsean myth is an interesting proposition. To begin with there's the lack of hard facts to go by, which in turn has led to the construction of a whole mythology around the era of mid-80's Detroit.

Then again, one has to start somewhere. Jeff Mills currently runs two separate labels - his long term Axis imprint and the fledgling Purpose Maker. "I'd noticed the wonderful response to the 'Purpose Maker' EP [Axis #11] and that gave me the idea to create a separate label with the same title and format of music," he says, then goes on to infer in a rather mystical way: "The basic difference between the two labels is growth and existence. Diversity is the consistent format I use with Axis. Simplicity is used with Purpose Maker."I find myself checking through previous interviews for further clarification on this point. In Generator magazine Jeff assessed that "If I'm not completely satisfied with a record, if I don't feel right about it, then I don't release it. I don't care how much money I put into it, how much time. If it's not right then it's not right. Money was never really the issue for me." In a recent copy of Wax he went on to say that "The name of the label [Purpose Maker] is significant - I do have a purpose. The idea behind the label was created out of a need to make records that I wanted to play . . . They didn't have to be so complex, they're more DJ-oriented. It's all about concept and each record I make has a concept."

So does the man himself have long term plans for both- "I don't know, because it's impossible to forecast the future."

Perhaps the best known and most promoted Jeff Mills release was his recent effort for Sony Japan, the now almost legendary 'Mix-Up Volume 2 Featuring Jeff Mills', a completely live recording of a set he did in the Liquid Room in Tokyo in which he mixes an incredible 38 tracks within 70 minutes. This is Millsean techno at its grandest, at its most experimental and darkly defined yet oddly uplifting and fresh. Mixmag declared that he 'tangles drums like an arc-welder . . . while playing hard, twisted beats and sharp, atonal funk . . .'. Listen to Jeff Mills' set as recorded for posterity here and you'll hear a stark, dry, inspiring journey complete with all the hiccups and vulnerable glitches that go with it. Mills wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to mixing in his notorious three-deck fashion, perhaps even more so than when it comes to making his own music.

On that 'Mix-Up' CD Jeff's set took in much of his own work as well as fellow artists such as DJ Funk, Richie Hawtin, iO, Joey Beltram, Claude Young, Luke Slater and Ron Maney. Did his choice of these guys reflect current interests in music as a DJ- "These producers made compositions that sounded good to me at the time," Jeff explains in his patient, methodical fashion. "I played them because I thought the people should hear them, but time changes as with people and the music you like."

Much ado is made about the city of Detroit, and we're all guilty of this sin. It's the place that spawned such a wide variety of talented producers that it's hard to ignore what seems to be such an urban legacy. The litany of names is as expansive as it is bewildering: Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Eddie 'Flashin' Folkes, Alan Oldham, Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen, Claude Young, Kevin Saunderson, 'Mad' Mike Banks, Robert Hood, Kenny Larkin, Suburban Knight, Octave One, Jay Denham, Anthony Shakir, Aux 88, Blake Baxter . . . And along with all of these people Jeff Mills placed the city of Detroit very firmly on the techno map as a place for developing and progressive sounds. So, quite inanely, I find myself asking this particular producer what is it about the city of Detroit that makes it such a prolific base of operations. Jeff is as brief and poignant in his response as he can be: "Nothing," he says without hesitation.No compromise. That's Jeff Mills. After a decade of making his<