Recently we got the opportunity to ask Detroit’s own Jeff Mills aka “The Wizard” a few questions. This is a great honor for us considering Mr. Mills history with the city and his contributions to the Detroit Techno genre. He will be making a triumphant return to Ann Arbor’s Necto nightclub this Sunday to play a special Wizard set and promote his book titled, Sequence. This book will be celebrating 20 years of Axis Records, his prestigious label. It will include rare pictures and a collection of tracks on a USB drive with it as well. Both the event and the book should prove to be exciting. Along with the interview we decided to throw in for your auditory pleasure a special podcast put together by the DTH crew featuring vinyl tracks produced by The Wizard. We really hope you enjoy this episode of the podcast as it features records that we have enjoyed for many years. First we present you the interview and then make sure to download the free podcast created by Alex and I at the bottom of the post.
DTH– First off, congratulations on the 20th anniversary of Axis Records. To celebrate we understand you are releasing a book titled Sequence. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Jeff Mills– Thanks very much. We thought that the best way to commemorate our anniversary would be to show all the progress the label has made over the two decades. We went into our storage room, emptied our file cabinets and rummaged through everything in search of photographs and items that might help in explaining how many the concepts were materialized. The process too about 2 years. The Sequence book is large 320 page photographic archive with 30 track compilation on USB.
DTH- We also understand that there is an event at the Necto in Ann Arbor, MI on October 14th. Can you tell us a little bit about your history with the venue and Ann Arbor?
Jeff Mills- It will be a Wizard Reunion party. I haven’t played the club since I left at the end of the 1980’s. I’m planning on catching up on where we left off. My past with the club and Ann Arbor is quite detailed. Because I was asked to play at the [then Nectarine Ballroom] three nights a week, I eventually moved to Ann Arbor for a few years until I had to leave the club due to pressure from the City of Ann Arbor and police dept. Apparently, the success of the club and nights were too much for University.
DTH– What got you interested in electronic music initially and who were and are your influences?
Jeff Mills– I started my career many moons ago, so I had played it long before it was called “Electronic Music or Techno”. It was the futurist approach that attracted me the most. My influences are many and from just about every other genre of Music.
DTH– Many Detroiters know you from your radio days as “The Wizard”. What can you tell us about how you got the nickname?
Jeff Mills– Back in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, it was normal to not use your real name, but to assume a stage name or nickname. This was the era of all the Grand and Jam Masters, so something unique and a title that people could remember was adopted. The Wizard was suggested by my best neighbor/best friend. I used it from time to time, but it did not become well known until I start radio in 1983 at WDRQ 93FM.
DTH– Who is your favorite electronic musician from Detroit, past or present?
Jeff Mills– Every one involved in Detroit Techno. Past and present.
DTH– How has Detroit influenced your artistic development?
Jeff Mills– The beginnings of it, yes. After leaving Detroit for NYC in 1991, I began to see a wider view of the genre from traveling to Europe and Japan. Meeting like-minded people that shared the same vision as I and others in Detroit.
DTH– You were one of the founding members of Underground Resistance, what can you tell us about that experience?
Jeff Mills– It was the most important point in my career. I learned a lot from those days. A more serious work ethic was established that I still use today.
DTH– Where do you think electronic music is headed?
Jeff Mills– I’m not really sure. I think it depends on people and what they think they need to escape to. So far, Electronic Music has been successful in existing without saying much [conceptually]. For the past 30 years, we’ve practically been playing nameless/faceless music. The main thing that I can detect is that a lot music is being made and designed to make people dance, but people are more complicated and more complex than that. At some point, people will want more and I’m not sure if Electronic Music [collectively] works towards providing information for the other parts of life. It’s really a wait and see situation.
DTH– What is your favorite release that Axis has put out over the last 20 years and why?
Jeff Mills– I’d have to say, “Sleeper Wakes CD”. The reason is because of the nature of why it was made. About 7 years ago, I felt that Electronic Music was boring, stagnate and aimlessly repetitive. I decided that perhaps people needed to see and hear something new that was in the spirit of the beginnings of Techno Music, but from a different perspective. I created a fictional story about a person that travels the Universe in search of New Worlds, bringing back all that he had seen and learned in hopes of showing Earthlings that there is still an enormous amount of uncharted territory to explore.
To me, this sums up the remaining life time of work. This concept was vital to me as a musician, my label, Axis Records and hopefully to the many people that follow the series Sleeper Wakes.
DTH– What can we expect from Axis records in the future?
Jeff Mills– At this 20 year junction, we are in process of repositioning our label to introduce new concepts and products for the next years to come. Instead of mainly music, we plan to explore many more mediums to help bring forth our ideas and concepts.
We hope you enjoyed this interview and are inspired by it as much as us. Make sure to check out Jeff Mills playing as The Wizard on Sunday October 14th at The Necto nightclub in Ann Arbor, MI. Also make sure to check out the podcast below. Peace!