TF Archives

Jeff Mills

Author: Alias
Sunday, January 1, 1995
You could call Jeff Mills a techno artist. You could go on about Detroitbeing a musical hotbed for talented electronic composers. You could dropnames like Carl Craig, Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, MikeBanks, Stacey Pullen, Kenny Larkin, Octave One and Claude Young. Youcould try and devise theories regarding the manifesto of the nowlegendary Underground Resistance movement. You could try to work outjust why Mills work still remains as relevant and inspiring as ever,even after more than ten years in the public spotlight.

But why bother- Only one person can really comment on the above, andthat is Jeff Mills himself. Many have tried to document the musicalphenomenon known as 'Detroit', thus sifting through the informationregarding mid 80's Detroit music is a difficult task. Firstly, there areso many contradictions evident in material devoted to Detroit. Musichacks like myself are too busy concocting theories about what made themotor city such a musical hotbed to really listen to what the actualmusicians themselves are saying. Secondly, there is a distinct lack ofhard concrete facts. Thirdly, the artists involved in this movement arenot exactly media types. For them the music can speak for itself (anddoes so quite adequately), whilst at the same time sub-consciouslystating a few other equally important elements. Music is not Jeff Millssole reason for living. "It's important to never forget that Technomusic is just one of the many fruits of life!," he says, "In the end itis the living that we love."

So what exactly lies behind Jeff Mills- Everyone has heard the stories,but rarely have these been from the mouth of Mills himself. So when hedoes speak it's best to listen. Questions were penned, and answers werereceived. Several topics were covered including:

Underground Resistance

Most people with an interest in electronic music and culture would beaware of the phenomenon known simply as Underground Resistance. JeffMills founded UR with Mike Banks. It was, in their own words, 'hardmusic from a hard city', with the UR crew maintaining their anonymityand getting together to create sounds that managed to reflect theaesthetic of Detroit almost perfectly in music. Despite its rather glumnature, the music was, and still is, strangely compelling. Mills hassince departed UR (in 1992) to start his own labels, Axis and PurposeMaker.

Mills: "I am fortunate to say that UR did not evolve from despair. ForMike Banks, he was already an accomplished musician and had travelledand played with many famous artists and bands. At that time someone likehim was largely in demand because he knew how to play keyboards in aclub like manner. For myself, I had almost ten years of recordingstudio, radio and djing experience. Both of us were pretty much in thebusiness when we first met back in 1989. we both came from stable middleclass homes, not the poverty that most Europeans want to believe. BeforeI started UR with Mike, I was very tired of being swindled by not themajor labels but, by people and companies that had connections to majorlabels. My first direct encounter with a major label was with Sony MusicJapan back in 1994 (Mix Up Volume 2)."

Detroit - past and present

Detroit, in a music context anyway, is more of a pigeonhole for lazyjournalists than a city in the Northeast of the United States. Much hasbeen said about industrial cities being depressing places, yet somehowconducive to good music. Bristol, Sheffield, Berlin, Frankfurt, Chicagoand Detroit are all cities renowned for their innovative sounds. What isit about these cities that nurtures such inspired artists-

Mills: "Detroit was an still is pretty much depressed looking. even moredepressed looking is you should come with the eyes of Paris, London,Berlin or some other international city. If those eyes were to come fromthe c