The Phenomenon called Jeff Mills

Derrick May once described Jeff Mills: “He is always one step ahead and two on the left” – and that is probably true. Mills is one of the best examples how a musician can be on the top for years, but at the same time staying true to a vision, opposite to following the trends. When it comes to Dj-ing, not even changing the sound much within decades. If we know how important character of a sound is in electronic music, how can someone evolve without changing that core element?  The way Mills is approaching music has enabled him exactly what Derrick May said when describing his colleague’s inventiveness. Electronic music is relatively young and still an evolving thing, however some artists recognised potential of this art form and the way that it can be developed.

Taking electronic music into the cinema

Mills’ very well established presence in the typical forms of DJing and producing have not limited him to explore and connect electronic music to other forms of art; More like an alter ego that is opening different doors to creativity.

Two years ago, French director Jacqueline Caux made a documentary about Jeff Mills,  “Man From Tomorrow”.  The 45-minute film was set to premiere at the Louvre in Paris, and screenings where set for New York, and then Berlin, where both the director and Mills were attending. As I reside in Berlin it was quite a treat to attend the screening and to see Mills outside of the party context. It was more than obvious that people expected something different, or did not expect anything but still found themselves surprised after the screening. After the film ended, everyone still just remained seated, waiting for something… Reaction came couple of moments later as it seems exploration of Mills’ music and conceptual ideas demanded some thinking time. This is exactly what should be expected when an artist like Mills is involved. Jeff Mills consistently pushes the boundaries of Electronic Music we know today and probably tomorrow. What happens to be more and more interesting is taking electronic music away from the club. In the below video Detroit techno legend and Axis label boss, Jeff Mills, explains his processes and intentions in taking electronic music into the cinema with Cinemix.

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Eternal battle between underground and commercial music

Eternal battle between underground and commercial music makes us wonder: What actually is a good song? 

It seems like this kind of question doesn’t have a direct answer as taste is not something easy to define. Also, it depends if we are talking with someone who is deeply involved in music, or just passively consuming the radio. For the purpose of this article, let’s divide music into commercial and underground. Can mainstream, commercial music be good in quality?

Commercial stuff is made to be commercial, it is made to generate cash. Thus, the so called artist is missing the creative part – starting from the scratch. You can’t start from the beginning if the idea is already there. What you are doing is actually jumping on the wagon hoping it will take you along with the already running choo-choo train. So, how much  creativity is needed to follow previously defined guidelines for beat, melody and lyrics – all of that being already well tried out, no surprises there.

There are trends in the underground music also, however far less and the consumers are different; more demanding. Very often they search for a particular sound, style or a track. DJs and producers have much more room to experiment and be creative when it comes to underground styles. Some of them have progressed with their work (or just one song) to a such extent that they inspired a whole new genre of music.

However, things are not so simple as they seem. What about the music that initiated as underground and then crossed heavily into the commercial side? In approximately two decades Rap music became the most listened musical genre in the world.

Are we always able to differentiate underground from commercial?

In the video below, Matthew Dear and Carl Craig are sharing their vision and discussing electronic music scene, producers, equipment… It is one of the most inspiring conversations on this topic I have listened to lately, with tons of interesting insights such as: how the lack of equipment can stimulate creative process,  why Ricardo Villalobos is among the top producers in the genre, the way EDM is made today and much more..

Useful tips for DJs and producers – getting your projects done

In the following article I will share couple of ideas that I find very useful when managing your projects and dealing with tight schedule.

Lack of time or motivation

Lack of time or motivation can be a problem when facing deadlines or just trying to finish the project. Dj-producer who is basically a one-man band needs to master a range of skills to survive in today’s music business. There is a difference if you are a full time producer, or having music as a second job or a hobby, but in the end of the day you want to enjoy the songs you’ve made. If they are just a bunch of loops and unfinished compositions, it’s not likely your time and effort will be compensated. One of the most important things for me is that your equipment, or whatever you use, is as accessible as possible. Music is a creative thing and you want to merge your ideas with the projects you are making. It is nice to have a studio but if you need to travel 45 min. to get there, it can be a turnoff in the days when you’re exhausted from everyday schedule. This is something I see in Berlin quite often. Here in the city (and this is a great thing btw) authorities offered unused buildings to be converted and used by artists. You can see the whole blocks filled with studios, they are usually on the city outskirts demanding 45 minutes commuting from the centre. This means an hour and a half of traveling daily if you want to make music. Do you have that time? Luckily nowadays , as the technology evolved, a very basic software can help you sketch some ideas and save it for later. When the time allows it will be more suitable to develop your songs and arrangements in the studio. This bring us to the tip from the beginning of the text: make your tools as accessible as possible.

Creativity always beats technology, save your ideas-they are the real stuff here.

Creative block

Another thing that many artists face from time to time a creative block. If you don’t know how to handle this it can even damage your career. There are tons of advices on the internet on how to deal with this problem but I find the following solution quite effective. It is perfectly normal that you can’t flash ideas 24/7. However, electronic music scene is quite competitive environment and it is not a good idea to let everything on a side for some time hoping to continue God knows when. Especially if the music is not your income, this “having a little break” can eventually transform into “I don’t have time for this anymore”.

Normally, ideas will come sooner or later, important thing is to use your time and energy for different types of work in the meantime. Being a DJ/producer demands not just creative work but also a shitload of activities like promoting, networking etc.. You don’t need a high level of creativity to network with other artists or promote your already finished projects. Moreover, a feedback you receive or a new connection to other artist can open wide range of possibilities. If this doesn’t seem motivating, its time to ask your self: am I here for the right reasons?

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