In Interview with Jeff Mills: Exploring The Metaphysical With “The Clairvoyant”

Jeff Mills The Techno Clairvoyant
Author : Marco Sgalbazzini
February 23, 2021

In Interview with Jeff Mills: Exploring The Metaphysical With “The Clairvoyant”

Today Jeff Mills releases The Clairvoyant on Axis Records, a 16-track journey in true Wizard fashion. The Clairvoyant represents this time and era, with Mills exploring the metaphysical through the deepest, most emotional Techno in many years.

An artistic icon with a storied, legendary past, Jeff Mills has remained an innovative presence in the world of techno since the very beginning, on a constant journey through the deepest corners of the genre, and far beyond.

With The Clairvoyant, Jeff Mills takes listeners on a trip through the past, present and future of techno. This is an album meant for home listening, as Mills himself confirms:

“The album plays in the way of a metaphysical séance and should be listened to in a darkened, candle lit room. A silent space, free of outside noise, chatter or talking and other visual distractions. The album should be listened in full – from beginning to end.” — Jeff Mills

If, while listening to the album, you find yourself transfixed, almost stuck in a moment through time, no one would blame you. It’s captivating and engrossing, and it undoubtedly makes one long for a return to those deep, meaningful dance floor moments and connections we miss so much.

The choice of name for The Clairvoyant has important meaning for Mills:

“A Clairvoyant is a person who claims to have a supernatural ability to perceive events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact. 100 years around 1920, a person with such abilities that could summon, speak to the decease and spirits were in high demand due to post World War I battle casualties, the Spanish Flu virus pandemic of 1918, the social and civil unrest and many more events that made uncertainty the norm. Ironically, the we were doomed to repeat some of these events and what we’re experiencing today. The general impression of Clairvoyant was that of a conductor of faux hope, scam artist that preys on grief and desperation or someone that believes in their natural ability a bit too much! In many cases, this might have credit, but also, it was this person, with this way of supposedly channeling the beyond that gave people hope, optimism, resolve and much needed closure.”— Jeff Mills

In what are sure uncertain times, Jeff Mills’ The Clairvoyant is a beacon of hope; a much-needed light at the end of what has been a dark tunnel. Accompanying the music, today we have the honor of presenting you with an exclusive interview with Mills where he discusses the past, present and future of techno.

Hello Jeff, thanks for chatting with us today and congratulations on the upcoming release of The Clairvoyant on Axis. Before we talk about music… how are YOU doing given the relatively strange times we are living in these days?

Patient and cautiously waiting. But in this time, busy with creating the type of projects I think could favor the attention of an idled and listening audience.

Your album comes at a time when most techno is listened to at home and The Clairvoyant is undoubtedly a brilliant collection of deeper, emotive techno. Did the pandemic and “lockdown” influence the production of these tracks? How so?

The pandemic had some influence, but before early last year, I was researching what was the state of the creative world about 100 years ago. I was studying the history of Art Deco and how it emerged. In it, I noticed about the habits of certain artists, architects and designers. What the effects of WWI, the Spanish Flu pandemic, the solidification of the industrial Age and other events might have shaped their actions.
In slight mention, but I found to actually be quite popular amongst certain artists and entertainers were the special meetings of Seances. Where a small group of people would get together in a salon, directed by a person known as a Clairvoyant. A person that would have the special ability to remotely see and feel spiritually. I was working on the album when the pandemic struck us and it justified the purpose even more of why such a concept might be useful at this time.

In fairly recent Axis releases, such as with the Director’s Cut series and Sight, Sound and Space, you were looking back, to the past, while with “The Clairvoyant” you are now looking ahead. What prompted this shift?

Actually, what we did was position ourselves by releasing those two retrospective projects that would be measurement and cause to move forward. I was convinced that it might be better to take a step back before taking steps forward. I’m quite fond of Jazz Music and we’ve been working with artists such as Tony Allen, Byron The Aquarius, recently released The Paradox with Jean-Phi Dary and the forthcoming albums of Spiral Deluxe and Raffaele Attansio. In between these points were all the Every Dog Has Its Day albums that were more or less transitional material.

You state that the album should be listened to sequentially, from beginning to end. In this sense it is much like an album, and a DJ set, should be… a true journey. What kind of emotional journey do you hope listeners embark on when listening to the album? Are there specific emotional outcomes you anticipate as the orchestrator and pilot of this journey?

The tracklisting was modeled after an actual Séance. There were no breaks when these sessions began. The people would have stay seated and quiet during the whole thing. I imagined that this would be the best way to actually hear all the ways in which I composed the tracks. Meaning, things happen at certain times for a reasons. The tracks titled “Three Signs From The Other Side – signs 1-2-3” are your points of openness that might lead to contact.

Given our absence from the dance floor, the techno community, just like much of the world, has been longing for a future where we can return to some kind of “normality,” able to gather again, and enjoy music together once more. When I listened to “The Clairvoyant” myself, I came out of the other end feeling hopeful and positive about a return to the dance floor. Did you intend for the album to have this specific result on listeners?

That’s a positive effect that I’m happy to note, but no. I did not intend for the listener to want to dance after hearing this album. I was imagining that a listener might detect that Techno Music can have more soulful relevancy. The album and concept were designed to reach out to people spiritually, not physically. The majority of the tracks were created to be contemplated upon and even discussed if listened to as a group of people. This was my hope.

When describing the album, you stated something that struck me deeply, “Each one of us are born with this special tool set that tells us when the time is right, when enough is enough and when there may be more or less to it.” Is this an approach you personally take when taking inspiration to dive into new musical projects?

I think these are just basic traits of surviving for humans. Like any animal, we’re born with a sense to know, to feel. The more experience and time we have dealing with it, the more sensitive and (theoretically) the better we become at operating it. Though, my assumption could be based of an outdated idea that all humans see and view reality the same. When we now have the situation where people choose to create their own truths (like there was ever an option to do so), to feel seems more like a preference. This is a clear sign of human evolution, whether it is good or bad, only time will tell.

I have always admired your ability to take almost any project you have worked on, even the most “esoteric” ones, and turned them into an opportunity to present them, live, to a crowd. Do you plan to do the same with the material on The Clairvoyant?

No, not for this project. Intimacy and privacy are important to better understand this album. This isn’t designed for a large audience, mainly because there is no way to control the over-extended acoustics of a large space. It works better to hear it closely to your ear or in a setting where there are a few people or alone. It’s music, but the way I made it was more in the way of a someone speaking to you, so I must ask if the listeners reframe from speaking to one another.

One particular thing I have noticed and have been loving about Axis is the focus on providing a platform for other artists to release on, giving quality techno a spotlight to shine from. I have particularly enjoyed the contributions to the label from DVS1, Dimi Angelis, ROD and Mike Storm, which show a diversity in the A&R process from yourself and Axis. After so many years in the techno world, can you tell us what it takes for a track, EP or album to really catch your ears and make you say, “this belongs on Axis!?

I need to hear that the artist has a special way of doing and translating elements of the concept. It’s not about whether it is good or bad because there is no scale. It has nothing to do with trends or what is “cool” either. After 30-plus years, I can basically tell whether I’m hearing or feeling something special. It’s a timeless feeling. These are the types of works were searching for because we feel it is this level that propels creativity forward. Not carbon copies of copies.

You have a special relationship with cosmos and space, and I feel like the whole message behind “The Clairvoyant” is somehow connected. The ideas of predicting the future and therefore of “fate” are connected, in many ways, to the cosmos and space, or at least I feel so myself. Is this a connection you feel yourself?

Well, in the shape and rotation of things we know exist in Outer Space, it might be reasonable to assume that time also moves in this fashion as well. Perhaps the reoccurrence and vicinities of time allow us to connect with what was and what will be.

In 2020 the world was faced with the inevitable truth that systemic racism is not only still a problem, but it is still present even in the techno world. We discussed before that you believe that we all know when the time is right, and when enough is enough. Is this also how you felt when it comes the need to fight inequality head on, both in society as well as in the techno-sphere?

To try and put it simply, all of humanity is waiting for a certain group to accept truths about our existence. Racism isn’t a shared disability. It’s one group of people that are so fearful of another that have created and made life (for all of us) so unbearable that at times, some of us feel that change… extensive change is needed so that we can all move forward together. No matter which country or part of the world you live in, which God you pray to. To believe anything other than that goes against the laws of nature… and nature’s rules. Not men’s.

Several great Detroit Techno artists, including Kevin Saunderson, have been vocal about the electronic music industry failing black artists, to the point that many newcomers to techno aren’t even aware that techno came from black artists such as yourself. How do you think we can all do our part to change this, and to educate the techno world on the true roots of the techno movement for the good and the future of electronic music?

I think there isn’t any one person or reason that could be to blame. “It’s not their fault” As far as I know, the Electronic Music Industry isn’t controlled by one single person or group of people. Artists are free to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Now, if you an artist that waits for people to ask you to do things or you need some type of an “approval”, then one might find themselves in a controlled environment, but to my experience and understanding, no.

Anybody with a plan and ways to materialize it, can make just about anything happen. So to the point of Kevin, I recognize the fact that Black Artists are often overlooked, but this may be the case because we (black artists) do/did not take the time to create the positions to be able to choose. If one wants to make a difference, don’t just say something, do it.

Prior to the pandemic the world of techno in the United States had been changing remarkably, with the genre increasing a lot in popularity. As the talent buyer at 6AM in Los Angeles we have been organizing underground techno events for several years and noticed this change in terms of the enthusiasm and size of the techno scene, perhaps also as a form of escape during a very difficult presidential administration in the last four years. I know your relationship with performing in the United States has been touch and go in the last several years, and I can completely understand why. Do you see this changing in the future given the changes in this country, both with techno becoming more followed and, hopefully, a better administration leading the country?

Yes, it has been “touch and go” but originally, not by choice. It was a matter of creative survival. Simply by the amount, there is more appreciation and participation for Techno Music and its artists/DJs outside the U.S. America has and continues to have difficulties when it comes to certain forms of Music. Because of our racist past and history, any black form of music that doesn’t intentionally or peripherally erode black communities, the music and media industries aren’t really interested in.

Here, you’ll hear and see more about a group or artist speaking about the ills of life, then you will about anything positive, uplifting and empowering. This is what I recognize and understand to be one of the reasons, Techno is more popular abroad. I do not anticipate or see any real significant changes ahead because if Americans really wanted to have very active Dance Music scenes and an industry that recognized artists of this genre, we could.

Given that I imagine you consider yourself as a “Clairvoyant” in one degree or another, what are some of the changes you expect to happen in the techno world in the next 5-10 years?

I wish I had a crystal ball to peer into and tell you, but as an industry, I’m not sure. I know that some things should be protected and saved, while other things need to be left behind, but overall, it’s really up to the majority of people that follow the music that will dictate its future. Not the artists or DJs.

Thank you Jeff, I cannot wait until I have the personal chance to see you perform live again. Your 2014 set at the Movement Detroit Underground Stage changed my life, and I hope to be able to experience that again.

Thank you!

Jeff Mills "The Clairvoyant"

Jeff Mills “The Clairvoyant”

Jeff Mills The Clairvoyant Track Listing

01. The Séance
02. Psuedoscience
03. Remote Viewing
04. Someone Who Feels Things
05. Calling All Loved Ones
06. Shadow With A Golden Aurra
07. I Feel A Presence
08. Three Signs From The Other Side_ Sign 1
09. Three Signs From The Other Side_ Sign 2
10. Three Signs From The Other Side_ Sign 3
11. Questions Decisions And Consequences
12. The Feeling Anything Is Possible
13. Dancing Shadows
14. Ganzfeld Experiments
15. The Spirit World
16. From The Mind’s Eye (digital bonus)

Jeff Mills The Clairvoyant is out on Axis Records and available HERE

For more info check out the Official Axis Records Website

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