Jeff Milligan – DJing ca arta

Nemaipomenit, doamnelor si domnilor, cel mai talentat DJ din punct de vedere tehnic din lume, the one and only, Jeff Milligaaan!

Vine din triunghiul Toronto –Chicago –Detroit si danseaza minimal la patru platane, de pe vremea cand noi gandeam minimal. Da, tot cu Richie Hawtin are treaba, este unul dintre primii artisti de la Plus8. Ascultam zilele trecute un set al sau, din ‘96. M-am intrebat: facea Jeff Milligan atunci muzica viitorului sau muzica prezentului nu a evoluat in nici un fel? Culmea e, ca artistul a raspuns. Atat de mult, atat de bine si atat de interesant, incat s-a transformat in nemaipomenit! Sa se auda muzica, in timp ce cititi!

- Being among the first and the most important minimal-techno DJ’s, with a new sound and a new mixing style (4 decks), what where the reactions at the beginning?
- I have been performing with 3/4 turntables for many years now. Since I don’t produce very much and when I do, it’s usually ambient, I know that my productions don’t sell me as a DJ. That being said, I know that 90% of my gigs are booked because of my turntablism.

The public has been very supportive of me but I have also lost many gigs because of my mixing style. There are quite a few star DJs (that i will leave nameless) that criticize my mixing style. They say that what I do is inappropriate and that it’s all about the music, not the mixing. I disagree with them but these opinions have influenced the public and I have lost gigs.

- What is the difference between a mix at 2 turntables and one at 4? Is the degree of difficulty higher? How do you do it?
- Yes, mixing 4 turntables is definately harder than 2 but in some ways it’s easier. When you only have 2 turntables you have to approach DJing in a very linear way, track after track after track. With 3 or 4 turntables you can choose to take the mix in any direction at any time which gives you much more flexibility. How is it done ? Practise and more practise. But being quite honest it’s not so much technical as it is philosophical. It may sound odd but it’s about letting the records un-mix themselves. I’ll let the audience figure it out. ;)

- Do you remember the first gear you started producing with? What hardware piece do you think had the biggest impact on producing and why?
- The first gear I bought was a Roland Juno 106 and a tr505. I can’t remember where I got them but likely from a pawn shop. I used to be obsessed by searching for things in pawn shops and used music gear stores. I bought and sold many 909′s, 808′s etc. The one instrument that had the biggest impact to me was probably the Roland TB303, just like so many other DJs.

- What is the thing from your studio you can’t work without? What’s your piece of resistance. Is it a secret? : ))
- Hmmm. Haha, the Technics 1210. ;)

- How would you characterize your style?

- My style is a hybrid of edit oriented hip-hop mixing and smooth beatmatched techno/house mixing. My DJ roots are in hip-hop. I used to study scratching and turntable tricks in my early years yet musically I always identified more with house and techno. I fused these two styles together.  

- How would you characterize the Canadian style, the way it began and evolved?
- I think that the Canadian style is quite diverse. I must say that North American DJs consider mixing to be much more important than European DJs do. I think North American and Japanese DJs are much more technically oriented than our European counterparts. Canada is far too big a country to define as one style. Montreal takes a more lazy, laid back European style of DJing whereas Toronto was very much all about mixing.  

Toronto was and is a special place for this technical style because of it’s geography. It is the closest major city across the American border to Detroit. Torontontonians were always overshadowed by Detroit so we had to work hard to stand out and get noticed as being unique. I remember being in many DJ battles 15 years ago. It was very, very competitive. If you couldn’t mix, you got boooed, had spare change thrown at you and all kinds of nasty stuff!

- In order to give the best, your demands about mixing gear and for a live set point out nothing but professionalism. This technique of placing the turntables, white slip mats, a fading mixer, the height of the monitors, the table’s length, and so on, create the best environment. Tell us more about it.
- Though my technical criteria may seem odd at first, I can assure there is a methodology and logic behind everything in my rider. The placement of the turntables counter-clockwise, roughly in a semi-circle is based upon the need to have as little distance as possible between the pitch controls and the mixer in order to mix quickly. It’s very important if you need to monitor multiple sources and quickly turn off things that may go out of synch because the last thing I want to do is run across the DJ booth to pull a fader down.

White slipmats, silver decks etc. are best used because they reflect light. All DJs know that the most annoying thing in a DJ booth is when you can’t see anything. The more natural ambient light that can be reflected, the better.

Height and angle of monitors is based on acoustic laws. In many DJ booths you will find monitors that are pointed directly at the DJs head and the monitors also point directly at each other, causing phase cancellation and thus, requiring that the monitors be turned up louder and louder. On top of that, usually those monitors are also pointing at the wall directly behind the DJ causing an immediate first reflection. If the back wall has an odd geometry there can be many reflections that create all kinds of acoustic anomolies which affect perception of tempo.

Table height is just my preference for my body height. I don’t think there is really an ideal height for all DJs of course. I think that the most effective height is one in which the DJs arm when working the mixer is 180 degrees horizontal to the mixer. The flattering thing about all these particulars is that often I re-arrange a DJ booth in a club and months later I go back and find that all the other DJs since me enjoyed my set up much better and left the booth as I designed it.

- Where you ever not satisfied with a set because of the sound system?
- Oh yes, of course! Perhaps I don’t even need to mention it because my reputation in this regard could perhaps be a little bad. I am certainly my own worse critic and one slightly off mix makes me hate a set completely. I get very nervous if I have technical problems and have been known to lose my Irish temper.

I drew up a very complicated rider and always take a long soundcheck. I am so particular about sound and am so nervous about technical issues that I took it upon myself to always take at least two hours or more usually to make sure the booth is as absolutely perfect as it can be. If I screw up, it’s only my fault or an overseen circumstance. I take my job very seriously.

It outrages me when I see DJs not giving a shit, just showing up and pressing play. DJing is a technical art form and needs to be respected as such. I have had a few shows where the booth was really bad and I acted embarrassingly angry because of it. This year I played shows in Alicante, Spain, one in Krakow, Poland, one in Toronto, Canada this past New Year’s Eve and one in Seattle, USA, last summer where I had technological and mental breakdowns!

I can truly say that it is rarely if ever the promoters fault. Sometimes shit happens! Ironically, after all this attention to detail sometimes I suck when the booth is perfect and sometimes I rock it when the booth is a disaster.

- Tell us a club where the sound system blew you away and what impressed you the most about it?
- I cant say one club in particular has the best booth and sound but I can certainly say that the ENTIRE country of Japan has the BEST sound and DJ booths in the world. Perhaps it’s due to Otak-u culture or the fact that the Japanese invented half of this equipment or because they seem to be the least egotystical people in the world. I must also say that the best DJs I have ever played with are all Japanese. They really take mixing seriously like us Canadians.

- Back in 1986 you had your first radio show. How did you end up there?
- Damn, I have to admit that I’m forgetting which radio show that was or where u got this info. Nonetheless I did many radio shows in my life from a very young age and I was so young and naive and nervous about everything back then! I was convinced that all those international DJs were on some superhuman level and then I started to slowly realize it’s all marketing and publicity.

- How was the vibe of the parties back in ’88? Tell us about a party from that period: how was the club, the music, the people, how were they dressing, how were they combing their hair and how were they dancing?
- Haha, well back then in Canada, all forms of electronic and alternative music were all played together at the same club. People were hearing hip-hop, house and alternative music in the same place. There was high exposure to a variety of styles. I was one of those people who got into the rave scene from listening to the Stone Roses and the sounds coming out of Manchester and Scheffield. So I guess we were all wearing baggy jeans back then.

- Although your first release came out in 1996 at Serotonin, 1999 is the year of your own label REVOLVER and the first release signed by you. What was the goal of this label? What makes a label be good?
- The original goal of the label was to expose the underpromoted works of our friends back home in Toronto and Montreal. I think a good label is one that tries to put out records that are timeless. A good label is one that sets trends, not following them.

- Artists like Akufen, Tomas Jirku, The Mole, Pan/Tone signed at your record label. What do these DJ’s and the label have in common?
The one thing they have in common is that they are all making music that is unique. You can hear one of their records and know instantly that it’s them because they took a long time to develop a unique sound.

- In all these years you had the opportunity to watch the evolution of music, especially the techno scene. How would you say it evolved? How big was the influence of technology over music? How did technology influence you? Can you compare ’88 with the prezent, the music and the technique?

- I think that I have seen the de-evolution of music in recent years rather than evolution. If we roll back the clock ten years you will notice that many DJs worked much harder at mixing and it was also much harder to produce and put out records back then. You needed a lot of abstract knowledge ten years ago in order to make music. New technologies have demystified this process.

Today I see much lazier DJs and much lazier music since no real investments need to be made to create, release and perform music. It’s all so much easier now and I find it ironic that with such unlimited tools, somehow the music has taken a few steps back! I think the electronic music scene needs another renaissance similar to the early nineties to breathe new sound and life into the industry. Techno music used to be defined as anything you hadn’t heard before and now it’s all about fitting into genres and molds. Of course there are plenty of amazing records coming out today but there is also a huge amount more music coming out.

- I have listened to a mix of yours from 1996. I wondered: were you doing the music for the future or the music from the present did not evolve in any way?

- The music evolution slowed down and also, producers today are trying to mimmick the old school. It’s funny how in old school minimal, artists were doing as much as they could with a few pieces of gear. It seems to me that modern minimalist artists are trying to “sound” like they only have a few pieces of gear!

Interview by [+_+] & Ghiudem

Posted in interviu on November 25th, 2007 by fresh good minimal | 5 Comments

5 Responses to ' Jeff Milligan – DJing ca arta '

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  1. AO said,

    on November 6th, 2008 at 07:21

    Cheers from Canada, always enjoy Jeff’s point of view!

  2. on November 7th, 2008 at 06:33

    [...] Interview: Jeff Milligan Wer Jeff Milligan noch nicht mit vier Plattenspielern hat auflegen sehen, sollte das tunlichst nachholen, am besten natürlich live! Wer nicht die Chance dazu hat, kann immerhin das Interview mit dem Kanadier lesen. (Link) [...]

  3. Blugi said,

    on December 9th, 2010 at 04:56

    Tata, vreau sa ma însor, zice Bula. Cu cine? Cu Janos. Imposibil, Janos e ungur.

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