Interview by EDF
Every now and then, an artist knows what he has to do to get to the next stage of his musical evolution. Robert Miles knows what he wants and his third album release, ORGANIK, is his calling card. PHASE9 was lucky enough to interview Robert Miles recently – so read on!
The press release for the new album mentions that your ambition is to do film scores. The first thing I noticed about the first track TSBOL from the new album was how elements of this track reminded me of a James Bond movie. Was that intentional?
When I was composing the album, I was thinking about music that could, in a certain way, be used in movies or ads. This is the direction I would like to take with my artistic career in the near future. I am working very hard to get the attention of movie directors and people from the film industry, as I would like to do a movie soundtrack.
You have always had a strings/orchestra sound in your music and your new album features a 25-piece orchestra. Would you like to expand that, possibly using a bigger orchestra for a movie soundtrack score?
I have nothing against classical scoring, if you have some original and interesting stuff. It all depends on the type of movie you were scoring. If it is the type of movie that needs a classical score then you have to go that way. If it is an independent production you would probably have a bit more freedom.
Your album has some elements of World Music. What style would catch your attention?
Indian music. They have a rich musical culture and their instruments evoke emotion. It fits perfectly with my music.
Peter Gabriel’s Real World label is rich, full of World Music artists.
One of my favourite albums is the soundtrack he did for THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.
You have been based in London for five years. Did your previous record label, Deconstruction, influence you to move?
They asked me to move in 1996 when I had my hit CHILDREN. Otherwise, I would have stayed in Italy and nothing would have changed. I saw this door open in front of me and I said this is the right time, let’s move.
Do you like London?
Yeah, I really like London. There is some stuff I like, some a little bit less, like the food and weather.
Would you not agree that London has a wide variety of music, which you can get your hands on?
I definitely think so. That is the most important thing in the world for somebody who wants to do music. It’s not just music but art in general.
If someone said to you that you had to move over to the United States so that you could write film scores for independence movies, would you consider such a move, possibly somewhere like Los Angeles?
Definitely not Los Angeles. If I were to move in a couple of years it would be to somewhere like New York or San Francisco. I have got plenty of friends over in the United States, so moving would not be a problem.
Would you just choose any type of movie to score or would the movie have to evoke a reaction within you?
I would definitely like to have a reaction from watching the movie, especially if it is something very personal and emotional. The first one is probably the most important one because it shows people your skills and what you could do on a movie. I would be very careful in choosing the first one.
What kind of movie would interest you?
Something like THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, THE MATRIX or even something like SCARFACE. I would prefer a movie that might have a lot of emotional moments, deep and dark as well.
Robert Miles and I have something in common as both of our mothers came from Naples. Robert’s real name is Roberto Concina and was born in Fleurier, Switzerland and eventually moved to Fagagna, Italy when he was nine.
How did you start DJing?
I started in my small town which had a population of roughly 6,000 people and when I was 17 I got calls from different clubs all around Italy, and I played in the bigger cities such has Milan, Venice and Bologna.
You were also running a radio station as well.
Three of them. That was really good. It helped me develop my music styles. I preferred electronic music and I started to produce music programs that reflected this. It was quite difficult at the time because in a small town everyone just listened to the Top Ten. I got some good reaction from my programs and three years later we became the second most listened to radio station in the North-East of Italy.
That’s quite an achievement. There must have been other genres of music other than Electronic music that you were playing at the time?
I started off with Soul, Funk, Hip-Hop then I moved onto Electronic music. It’s all just ageless.
You have now set up your own record label – S:ALT. Was it difficult to get it set it up?
It’s not difficult to set it up; it’s difficult to keep it up and running especially when it’s just two people doing everything. It’s a lot of work but we are very excited about it and we are looking to sign some artists for the label.
What type of artist are you hoping to sign?
We are looking for left-field type artists. We are looking for electronic type artists with some live elements with it. We are dealing with a couple of up and coming new artists, one from Manchester and one from London.
Would you be looking to help your artists evolve or will your label be operating as a commercial venture?
I’m not really looking at the label as a commercial venture, that’s why I set it up. I’ve been through that process before with other major labels and independents. I ended up having arguments because they wanted me to go mainstream and when money is added to the equation they end up just losing the plot completely. I would love not to do the same errors again that I had experienced. I just want to sign up an artist because I like his music as it is and without me telling him what to do with regards to his music.
With most labels, if your demo doesn’t attract the A&R department within the first fifteen seconds, then they ignore you, which seems very unfair to me.
Sometimes music grows on you; you have to listen to it many times to appreciate it.
With that kind of attitude there should be more people like you setting up labels or even running record companies.
I wish so.
The major record labels seem to have gotten their way now with Napstar. Do you think Napstar was a good or bad thing for the music industry?
I think it was a good thing and I also think it was a bad thing. It was a good thing because it was a great promotional tool for up and coming artists. If an artist was releasing a new album, you could check it out on Napstar to see if you liked it before you went out to buy it. The bad thing was that the artist would not get paid for the publishing. I am sure they will come out with some sort of software for this soon.
Even though the major record companies brought Napstar to court, figures released for last year showed that there was an increase in sales for CD albums.
Record companies are scared by everything that is internet based. They see it as an enemy because they have no control over it. Every record company on the internet, big or small, has the same power and the majors are scared of this.
Was it difficult to get a distribution deal?
Not really. We played the album to the major distribution companies and almost all of them said that they would like to distribute it. They also know I’m looking to sign some new artist and it would be an ongoing relationship. Because I have had records and hit singles in the past, it makes things a little easier for our label.
Will you be personally seeking out new artists or will you have someone checking these new artists for you?
I’ve got plenty of people around the world that are constantly sending me tapes and CD’s. I would like to think of my label as a network of people with the same ideology and that they would look around for good music. If a friend of mine from Tokyo sends me something good, I would share the profit with him. I would not have a problem with that.
On to your website http://www.robert-miles.com how much of an input did you have with the design?
The designs are my own idea. I got a design company to develop it because I don’t really have time to do a website as well. I’m really into graphics anyway, including the artwork for the album and the single. For the website you would really need to know about Flash 5 and other stuff to which I don’t really have too much time for.
You are also running a competition on your website as well.
When I was really young I wanted to be recognised and for people to hear my music. It is really difficult if nobody pushes you. I wanted to give these young talented producers who stay up all night in their studios an opportunity to remix a track off the new album. The two best remixes will get $3,000 each and it will be released on our label.
This kind of chance to showcase ones ability is rare in the cutthroat business known as the music industry. One of the reasons why Robert Miles set up his label is to ensure that other new artists can concentrate on their own music without somebody breathing down their neck and interfering with an artists’ work.
When you were signed to Deconstruction, did you have any idea that the music business was going to be ruthless?
No, I didn’t. I was coming from a small town and I had pressed and released small quantities before I wrote CHILDREN. I did not really know how the music industry machine worked and it took me two to three years to learn and understand, which was the best path to take.
You seemed to have been disheartened by the amount of promotion you had to do back then.
I’m not scared about working but I am scared about the way you promote your own album. Labels push you towards anything really. Instead of being on creditable shows and magazines, you end up being on crap shows and magazines. If you were doing pure pop music, you would end up doing any promotion, as they would be surrounded by people who would tell them what to do, what to sing, what to wear. To me, music is a reflection of who you are.
Is there anything from your past that you would do differently?
Definitely. Probably the second album I did. The label and my management influenced me and that was why I split from both of them. I wasn’t happy with the direction they wanted to go with my project. They wanted vocals on some of the tracks and I wasn’t really happy with the lyrics, I thought that it was very pop. If I could go back I would take off the lyrics. At the time I didn’t speak any English and I trusted their judgment.
Other than the promotional work that you will be doing for your new album, ORGANIK, will you be doing any DJ sets?
I’m DJing all around the world. I’m just back from Australia, Japan and New Zealand. I’ve been to L.A. and New York and I will be back in the States in July.
Are you recognized more as an artist or as a DJ?
Definitely as an artist. I never have any problems filling up a club wherever I play.
I would personally like to thank Robert Miles for donating his time to be interviewed and wish him continuing success, especially with his new album, ORGANIK.