Jeff Mills Man from Tomorrow
On January 31, 2014, Jeff Mills came back to La Machine du Moulin Rouge to perform the third episode of his residence, Time Tunnel. Through the course of the evening the celebrated Detroit DJ took the audience on a voyage through time, mixing various musical eras and genres from jazz to techno. On February 2 he premiered Man from Tomorrow, made with Jacqueline Caux, at the Auditorium du Louvre. Our contributor Stéphane Malfettes talked to him on this occasion.
February 1, 2014, 2 am, La Machine du Moulin Rouge, Paris. The throbbing of the first syncopated notes of “The Robots” ramps up the frenzy on the dance floor. None of the dancers were even born when Kraftwerk first recorded its proto-techno anthem, but the DJ in his fifties presi- ding over the turntables is in total control of his musical time travel machine. All night long, like an architect, Jeff Mills impassibly applies himself to the construction of sound structures built of old school techno, futuristic incursions and flashbacks to the golden age of jazz. His multiepisode Time Tunnel consists of “creating a structure within which each passing hour is devoted to a musical era of the past or future. This is a very educational way to play a wide variety of music, especially in a party context! I’ve always been convinced that techno is the ideal kind of music for telling stories. I acquired a taste for storytelling during my first years as a radio DJ, in the early 1980s. I was doing a show six days a week, and that meant I had to be creative to avoid getting bored on the air.” At the time Mills was living in Detroit, the former Motor City that made a decisive contribution to the history of popular music—the home of Motown Records in the 1960s and the birthplace of techno, invented in the mid-1980s by Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. In 1989, Jeff Mills and Mike Bank founded the label—and producers’ group—Underground Resistance, representing a second wind for Detroit techno. A countercurrent to the dominant music industry, their approach was to fight “for Revolution for Change—the advancement of the human race through Sonic Revolution,” betting on the creative promise of technological innovations. They went from forward-looking to downright futuristic with the recording X-102 Discovers the Rings of Saturn (1992), where the abstract, minimalist music probes the planet’s rings, as indicated by the names of the track titles: Phoebe, Titan, Rhea…