We interview UK producer Miles Atmospheric just as he dropped three atmospheric cuts entitled Defining Circles EP on John Digweed’s Bedrock imprint.
One of the true unsung heroes of UK techno, Miles Sagnia aka Miles Atmospheric is as much a mesmerising presence behind the DJ booth as he is in the studio. Through his richly emotive releases, he weaves seamless stories out of the deepest house to the most spacious techno. He is equally at home going deep on his own Atmospheric Existence label, or sending out uniquely soulful techno missives for labels such as Applied Rhythmic Technology, Firescope or Detroit’s Aesthetic Audio.
A Freerotation festival regular, Miles enjoys a dedicated following no matter whether he is delivering sets of muscular late-night techno or feel-good Sunday afternoon house. His Defining Circles EP is his debut single release on John Digweed’s Bedrock imprint after featuring exclusive downtempo versions of ‘Andromeda’ and ‘Orbis Alius’ on the recent ‘Quattro’ album release mixed and compiled by John Digweed. Miles’s release follows other recent releases from Hannes Bieger, BOg, Madben and the label boss himself.
Recently 6AM had the chance to interview Miles Atmospheric to find out what he has been up to.
Hi, thanks for chatting with us today! Where in the world are you located these days?
Hi and thank you for the invite! Splitting my time between the English side of the Welsh borders & the South coast of England, outside Brighton in the South Downs. A diverse scenery, with a magical topography! I’m a wilderness lover, love the vibe of cities but I reside mainly in very rural environments.
Is that where you spent lockdown months? How was that experience for you?
Spent the entire lockdown by the South coast. I tend to veer towards self-isolation a lot of the time anyway, in my conservation work & other outdoor pursuits.
It was a good time for reflection and reorganising a lot of things. The same for a lot of people I imagine. It presented its own challenges and who knows what’s round the corner, but in all essence, channelling was a large part of that. Focusing on trying to interpret the scenario we were all faced with and trying to creatively keep buoyant throughout.
Bought a lot of records and delivered some Podcast DJ mixes which were fun!
Did you find the whole experience to benefit you as a person and as an artist in any way?
It was life-enhancing in that without freedoms, one feels under pressure, so to utilise that pressure and turn it around and crack on. It’s a positive essentially. Any negative life experience, I have always wrangled around into a positive, by thinking deeply and looking at the bigger picture. Yes, I have faced many uphill battles, as most of us have in life, but this experience just hardens ones resolve. Artistically speaking, I am yet too truly understand if those few months of isolation will impact on anything artistic I do? I believe experiences help to sculpt creativity, in some way. I have been tentatively embarking on new work in the last few weeks, so let’s see what happens.
How was your productiveness in the studio affected, if at all?
Studio time has been at a minimum, mainly due to having a family, so time has been spent focusing on the needs of others in my tribe! Structure and routine have been paramount during the lockdown. To be honest I have not really felt enthused to write anything lately, but I work a bit like that, several months not even going near a studio, then suddenly, 5 weeks worth of output, then fatigue and give it space. Not only to maintain my own motivations but also, it’s nice to let your work marinade. Come back to it after periods, reflect.
So in fairness, I don’t think the lockdown really affected my output. Definitely feeling inspired now though! I have kicked off a little ambient project, which will be a long series of releases, pure downtempo electronica. Enjoyed conceptualising this and writing it. Something about the calm of writing this music. I find it so meditative. A complete contrast to the energy of upbeat techno, or deeper house or Electro that tends to come out of the studio blender…. I end up writing such an array of styles and projects, that at times, you feel that you are being put into a box, a category of style. Surely compositions should allow one to experiment without being pigeonholed? It’s the same with DJing. I play so many styles, for different bookings. I’m of the mindset that a promoter will book you and trust in your judgement for the night, the vibe, the following, to produce the goods. So often it seems so narrow and hardline in choices and taste of bookings for events. Either this or that. I am a purist, no doubt, but with that I mean pure in the integrity of good music, whatever the night or style. I find the tragedy in modern electronic music, is the lack of longevity for the independent low key producer.
Yes, people dig deep and represent, but so often, on the wider scale, cuts are supported for a few weeks, then gone. Making music, getting their music used, played, supported in some way, then boom… Into the used record shop, the theatre of broken dreams I heard it called. Or the digital trash bin, resigned to history. It’s fair to say things resurface in time, perhaps that’s the best bit. I really am not bothered myself, with my own work, but I feel for others who are yet to go through the process of hope, that perhaps it will lead to a better day and the realisation that work you must and be thankful that ears have listened and life goes on. If you can deliver the goods and bring a little love into peoples lives then you have succeeded as an artist.
Congrats on your release on Bedrock? What’s your relationship with John like and how did the signing of this EP come about?
Thank-you. John & I get along really well. I have followed, danced and listened to Johns musical projects and output for a very long time. I used to work for an old friend Rowan, who used to record as Breeder, a long time ago, In a record Shop called Rhythm Syndicate records in Cambridge. We used to put together industry packages for a lot of household named DJs, sending them weekly mailers crammed with new 12”, both promos and general releases. Whatever they liked, they kept and we charged them, whatever they didn’t like, they sent back.
I remember John had an account for a while and he kept a lot of stuff we sent, so guessed we were on the right lines musically. We met briefly over the years, then when I was writing some material last year, Rowan asked me to send some stuff over. He passed it over and the rest is history. It’s always great to work with people who are no-nonsense and have a passion for what they do. I’m really enjoying the clarity, professionalism and friendliness of everyone at Bedrock. I feel my material has found a home that fits and It’s fun and there are more projects lined up together. So watch this space!!
How long have you been working on the tracks?
I tend to conceptualise quite heavily before I sit down and do anything studio wise. Spend a little time just thinking and reflecting. It usually results in going in focused and just letting the spirit take control of direction. Other times its more of a slog. The Bedrock tracks just seem to fall together. Perhaps it’s a comforting reassurance of the team behind it all, just express and feel at ease, no drama. I can truly say my output has never been better with that support.
I think it took about a day to get the tracks laid down, then several more days coming back and forth, EQ, certain arrangement switches, but generally trying to keep a spontaneous feel overall.
Can you tell us a little about them and the experience producing them, what software and hardware you used, etc?
All the tracks were written in various locations. I write a lot nowadays with a laptop loaned to me by my dear friend Charlie Tear, who also releases on Bedrock and who I am working with to produce a live show ‘QUADRA’.
It’s a great machine, has a lot of power and it’s all part of the gear we intend to use for the show. I mainly use Logic and have done since the ’90s. I have access to hardware, but my working speed and technique is familiar now, that I tend to utilise amazing software, which for me, lets me get my ideas out of my head, then ran into a proper studio through all the analogue gear to great effect.
Again, I drift with the spirit of things and avoid getting bogged down while producing, just lay it down, then not ponder or scratch my head at all, just work around what I’ve done to compliment in some way. Took me a long time to get to that point, experience helps to solidify your approach. Get it done!!
Do you have any other releases on the pipeline for 2020?
I have a very exciting release via Bedrock forthcoming at some point, possibly this year, maybe early next year. I have several ambient releases coming out digitally on my imprint shortly. My record label Atmospheric Existence recordings is running strong, with a release about to drop from my friend Helen Copnall, she’s such a talent. I am planning another release on AER before the year is out, while getting together more music for Bedrock.
Your artist name, Miles Atmospheric, seems to be in and of itself a signature of intent with your music. Am I interpreting that correctly?
I started my record label in 2008 after years of wanting to. Atmospheric Existence recordings was born out of wanting to write and release material from myself and others, that resonated deeper than just 3am dancefloor
Tools, music with meaning, a story, with dance floor sensibilities, but also for a wide range of environments. Emotive music basically. I nabbed the ‘Atmospheric’ as a natural continuation of this, as a lot of people were always asking for Miles Atmospheric, the label boss, so it stuck and has become a benchmark for me to aspire to musically.
What kind of atmospheric music do you listen to in your spare time? Can you name some artists?
I listen to a lot of ambient music, as well as a lot of funk, soul, dub, classical, contemporary pop, African music, Brazilian music, British folk, a hell of a lot of Jazz, Electronic, Choral, all sorts!
Some things I’ve listened to lately, Philip Wilkerson, King Tubby, Fela Kuti, Raw Silk, Biosphere, Renata Rosa, Gregorian chants, Ennio Morricone (RIP), Abacus, Brian Eno, Jeff Mills, Loose Ends, 214, Taidi Khatham, Seu Jorge, Sessa, Larry Heard. All been on rotation in the last few days.
If you could pick one location in the world to perform in, based on atmosphere alone, what would you pick?
A place where the sound system is crisp and deep, people are open, kind and fun-loving. The ingredients where magic can happen. Human interaction and spirit has the ability to create profound moments, so whether it’s a motorway flyover in Hamburg, or a jungle party in Honduras, so long as that shared spirit of enthusiasm is there… Always had a fascination with the world as a whole. The Polar & African regions though!
Is there an outdoor spot where you live that you like spending time at to recharge or soak in the atmosphere?
Yes. Deep in the forest. I spend a lot of time there & in the mountains. Solitude and reflection are key components to my wellbeing. Spending time in the forest, partly via my conservation work, tuning into nature and the order of the animal kingdom is a lesson for me. I’m always learning, it’s immense.
The sea has an enduring presence also, not just the water and the movement, but for me, the weather systems I find magical, placid or extreme, it brings a sense of belonging.
What’s the most beautiful country you’ve visited?
There are many I have visited but for the sheer variety of environments and flora and fauna and landscapes, I have to say home. I spend a lot of time in the wilderness and the UK has such an immense range of beauty, seasonal shifts, climatic movement that although there are many places in the world that are amazing, my heart remains in the wilderness of the UK.
What’s your favorite meal?
I love Japanese food. Traditional worldwide cuisine is big in this house. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and love food from there and all over the world. Asian food is high on the list, as well as African! Hard to pinpoint a favourite.
What else do you like to do as a hobby or strong passion beside music?
Make good food! I started and ran an award-winning brewery with my wife for 5 years. I am involved in food & drink. Other than that, a life outdoors in all sorts from forestry to mountaineering, but above all being a family guy is a main focus. Stay safe and keep strong!