Jeff Mills’ new musical story is otherworldly

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Jeff Mills’ new musical story is otherworldly


During the show on Saturday November 17 at The Hub, located at ACMI, Mills will flex his non-verbal storytelling muscle and take the audience on an explorative journey of the universe’s transcended worlds. 

“I got about a hundred science-fiction films and extracted certain parts out of the film and these parts are where the story takes a turn and the characters realise that there is no turning back,” Mills discloses about the visual aspect of his performance. 

Mills is chatting to Beat Magazine from his home in Miami Beach, Florida, a city that is also the headquarters for his label Axis Records, a far-cry from the sub-zero temperatures and urban belligerence of downtown Detroit where the label was originally founded in 1992. 

Interestingly, the story behind the logo for Axis reveals that Mills’ fascination with the astral realms is nothing new. The logo consists of four mirrored triangles pointing to an invisible centre – Mills takes the rotating principle of the solar system as a model for the continual renewal of creativity. 

Describing the aspect of the performance fans of his DJ sets will be most interested in, Mills leans on its exclusivity. “The music is mostly original; actually, I have spent all day here in Miami producing things for this performance. A lot of it will be heard for the first time when I perform in Melbourne and like Woman in the Moon, I can change things, improvise and extend things during the performance. 

“So the music is actually quite experimental in how it is being played, not really like a soundtrack.

“As I said, I am currently making my tracks and once they are ready to go I am going to mix them together and modify them together and then I am going to have live equipment running through the mixer so I will have usage of effects, a few synths and a drum machine,” elaborates Mills. 

His reference of Woman in the Moon relates to a performance he did to support the three-record, 32-song soundtrack he composed for the 1929 silent film of the same name. Translated from “Frau im Mond”, by Austrian filmmaker Fitz Lang, many consider Woman in the Moon the first film to take science fiction seriously. 

Mills will be presenting the soundtrack alongside the film at ACMI on Friday November 16 yet there is zero chance that this ‘double-up’ of Mills’ genius would quell ticket sales for either event given the insatiable appetite of Melbourne audiences. 

Mills offers an interesting theory, harking on his own origins, as to why Melburnians, as opposed to other Australian capital cities, have the capacity and the inclination to support an event as avant-garde as Melbourne Music Week. 

“I think it’s not by coincidence that most DJs that I speak to always point to Melbourne as the more important city in Australia to play. Since the early ‘90s it has widely been known across the DJing community that Melbourne is the first place to play in Australia, even more so than Sydney.”

Drawing parallels with Detroit, the city he was born in and grew up, Mills alludes to the cold weather as not a hindrance but a point of resolve. “I am from Detroit, Detroit’s in the Midwest and in the Midwest it gets extremely cold, winter comes and you have to hibernate – you can’t stop it, you just have to adapt to it and I think that really shapes your character, shapes your tenacity, and you have to get yourself together to get along [to the events] in those types of climates. 

“I think that people who live in these types of climates tend to have to think a bit more seriously about work time, free time, using their time a bit more meaningfully and Detroit is one place where we have a long history of saying things with music and using it as an extension of our personalities and I feel that in Melbourne, music carries that same weight of meaning.”