There is no doubt that Jeff Mills has been one of the instrumental forces in shaping techno as we know it. From his work as founder of Axis Records in the early 1990’s through to establishing electronic music festivals in Berlin and Detroit, the philosophical Mills has continued to challenge and shift the boundaries. In recent years he has launched The Exhibitionist, an ambitious project of site and sound, as well as provided cinema scores to classics such as the 1920’s dystopian industrial classic Metropolis.
As an experienced Sonar campaigner, how is the festival different from others?
Sonar is an event devoted to the progression and advancement of the electronic arts. Where it differs from other festivals is the wide variety of presentations, performances and artists/DJs that contribute every year. The Sonar festival is a massive joint effort.
Sonar is a truly international event – can you share your experience of electronic music in different countries?
There are a few festivals that specialise in other areas like the ever-growing Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) in late October. The ADE provides the platform for new and upcoming artists to showcase, panel discussions and more. Fuse-In festival in Detroit in late May covers performances in the city centre for three days. Montenegro’s festival in mid October in Spain, which is the largest in Spain, The Wire Festival, presented by Takkuyu Iishino in Japan, also in October and many others throughout the year.
How do you change your style when playing to festivals rather than nightclubs?
When playing for large crowds, at times, it can take a little longer for the people to come together for a joint effort so, patience is the key. Once, I can see that there is opportunity, I grab it.
The Sonar programme includes features on art, multimedia and technology. This year you’re providing the music for a cinematic release again. Can you tell RA a little about the Three Ages project?
It a new soundtrack project for Buster Keaton's Three Ages. Created in 1923, the story deals with the ups and downs of man/woman relationships. It focuses in on three different era of our past; the Stone Age, the Roman Age and the Present Age (which was 1923). It is terribly funny and at the same time, exposes the difficulties of finding true love.
Sonar has a reputation for pushing new frontiers – what are you looking forward to catching at this year's festival?
I generally navigate towards the computer art/design and sound/visual installation areas of Sonar. The SonarCinema is my favourite as well. Overall, I look forward to seeing what is new.
How will you be spending your time in Barcelona when not playing?
During the three days of Sonar, Axis Records will again create an Axis Shop Live at Sci Fi Records, not very far away from the CCCB. We'll provide very special and limited items ranging from music to wears. Last year was extremely successful and we're really looking forward to this year.
Finally, will you be launching any new music at Sonar this year? Can you give RA a heads-up on anything to keep an ear out for, or anything else on the horizon for you in 2005?
For Sonar, no. I usually keep these details a secret. As for 2005, we're quite busy with other film projects such as a film remix project of Josephine Baker. In July, I will perform with an 80 person orchestra in Montpellier, France. The orchestra and I will perform 10 compositions ranging from early Axis catalogue to a few tracks from Underground Resistance.
Jeff Mills plays Sonar by Night on Friday 17 June
This interview is part of RA’s exclusive 2005 Sonar Prologue interview series - check out the others below;
2005 Sonar Prologue with Richie Hawtin
2005 Sonar Prologue with Miss Kittin
2005 Sonar Prologue with Headman
2005 Sonar Prologue with Booka Shade
2005 Sonar Prologue with DJ Yoda
2005 Sonar Prologue with Ellen Allien
2005 Sonar Prologue with Basteroid
2005 Sonar Prologue with DJ T.
2005 Sonar Prologue with Ada
2005 Sonar Prologue with Damain Lazarus
2005 Sonar Prologue with Mu
2005 Sonar Prologue with James Murphy