We live in an age of cookie-cutter music. The national sickness that spawned the boy band revolution has spread to the techno scene. What began as an experiment in artistic expression has stagnated into a conglomerate of knockoff artists in search of the elusive cash cow. The Aphex Twin can afford to commute to his bank-cum-studio in a stylish German tank. The boys from Autechre flash gold toothed smiles, the afternoon sun glinting off their gold chains as they drive by in their new Lexus IS300 Luxury Sport Sedans. Funkstorung pop bubbly in the hot tub with Swedish supermodels, smoking Cuban cigars while debating the merits of various Ivy League colleges. And all over, groups and artists are creating music by formula, designed to imitate these icons.
However, somewhere in Detroit, a revolution is stirring. Here, the do-it-yourself musical ethic that spawned techno forefathers Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Jeff Mills and others too numerous to name is alive and flourishing. The city of Detroit is an urban sprawl and perhaps an unlikely place for a musical revolution given its crime rate and poverty level. Or is it these very factors that sowed the seeds making possible true artistic innovation? Whatever the case, Detroit is the nerve center for a growing movement in electronic music, and at its forefront is Adam Lee Miller.
One of the current musical pioneers to emerge from Detroit, Miller composes electro under the pseudonyms Adult, Le Car and Artificial Material, and runs the Ersatz Audio label. His funky, analogue sound is drawing accolades from many in the industry. A refreshing break from the current crop of Autechre and Funkstorung clones (in some circles, Funkstorung is even accused of Autechre copycatting), I caught up with Adam to ask him a few questions about the music he loves to create, his influences, and the current state of electronic music.
Igloo: What are the essential differences between your different aliases as Le Car, Artificial Material, and Adult?
ALM: Artificial Material was my solo project and the first release on Ersatz Audio, usually instrumental, a little more for the headz. Le Car was myself and Ian R. Clark; funky electro-pop. Adult is Nicola Kuperus and myself, and currently the only project I am involved with. I am giving it all my creative energy. It has punk and super early raw synth influences (circa 1979) – mostly vocal-oriented dance tracks.
Igloo: What are your inspirations, both for your music and your paintings?
ALM: I basically go with the idea that I paint paintings that I would like to hang on my own walls, and I make music I would like to listen to. I obviously have a thing for the synthetic and clean, but I think that is
simply because I’m neurotic. When making music, I am obsessed with making sure that what I am writing doesn’t sound anything like my contemporaries. Same goes for the paintings.
Igloo: Describe the collaborative process that exists between you and Nicola Kuperus on your Adult tracks.
ALM: It usually takes us a long time to write a track. One reason is because we like to hear each new line or part over-and-over for hours at a time to make sure it has long lasting qualities. We try to make music that has a long shelf life. Usually we start with a conceptual theme, then we start with some music. I’m better with drums and percussion, and Nicola is better at melody and vocal timing. We never start with the same thing; sometimes it is the kick/snare pattern, other times it is the bassline, and sometimes it is the lyrics to the chorus, it is always different.
Igloo: What is a typical day in the life of Adam Lee Miller?
ALM: Wake up and make it to work by 9:30 (I run Ersatz Audio full time): begin with emails: make calls to plants / other labels / update web / work on graphics / make one sheets / invoices / etc.: continue misc. business: Nicola comes to studio and we work on music until we can work no more.
Igloo: Detroit has a rich musical legacy. Describe the effect artists such as Drexciya, UR, Ectomorph, Juan Atkins, Richie Hawtin et. al. have had on your creative process.
ALM: Drexciya – taught me to never compromise.
UR / Early PLUS 8 / DBX – had the punk DIY attitude that inspired me to “do-it-myself”.
Early Juan Atkins – I just thought it was synth-pop, and I love that!
Ectomorph – BMG worked at record time in ’93 when I was getting into all this stuff. He helped me find what I liked. He started Interdimensional Transmissions within months of me starting Ersatz Audio, and we have been friends for 6 years through all the growing pains.
Dopplereffekt – inspiration, they are very supportive of Ersatz Audio.
Keith Tucker – because he is so damn nice.
IF (Ferenc) – because he is such a hard ass, and he plays such lite Italo Disco!
Igloo: What is your studio setup?
ALM: A big ole’ secret.. ;)
Igloo: How do your feel about the current state of techno music? Are you a fan of the software sequencers and DSP software trickery that has become so popular as of late or do you prefer hardware?
ALM: I prefer a combination. I prefer a software sequencer and some hard disk recording, but I prefer hardware signal processors. I definitely only use real analog synthesizers and drum boxes – no samples or computer for that!
Igloo: Who are your favorite artists, both visual and musical?
ALM: Musical (see next) ::
Igloo: In line with the above, give a current top 10.
ALM: No order / No time period / music ::
Igloo: What can we look forward to from the label in the coming months?
ALM: A new Le CAR CD album entitled Auto-Biography is due out in September. A new ADULT CD album is due out after that. Plus, a new ADULT. 12″ on Sabotage Communications (Vienna) is due out in
Igloo: Describe your approach to writing music.
ALM: We like themes. We talk about what we want the new song to do – mood, speed, lyric content, etc. Sometimes we will play something we’ve been listening to a lot for the other and say what it is we love about it. Then we start programming. I’m more of a programmer and Nicola is more hands on, so it makes for a nice combo.
Igloo: Do you think of your music as dance floor-oriented or made for home listening? What do you think of the current crop of so-called “IDM” releases?
ALM: I think Ersatz Audio is music for skilled and creative DJs or for the discriminating home listener. I like some of the current crop of so-called “IDM” releases because it seems to be getting interesting again instead of people just copying Autechre. There seems to be more dirt, melody, and creativity – and I like all that.
Igloo: Elaborate on your relationship with Rephlex. I read they were to release some of your music. Did it ever happen? Will it?
ALM: It never happened, and we have no relationship.
Igloo: Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
ALM: I went to the Center for Creative Studies (an Art School here in downtown Detroit) and I have a BFA in painting. Nicola has a degree in photography from there as well.
Igloo: Finally, how do you feel about “booty bass”, another Detroit staple? Miami Bass?
ALM: Some of it is great, but I hate the misogynist lyrics. I find it really depressing to watch people sing along to “Ass -n- Titties” or the like. I think music should take us to a higher level, not a lower level. I think the misogynist booty lyrics are testosterone driven boredom, similar to the testosterone driven four on the floor hard techno crap of the early 90’s. I never was into “Miami Bass”.
Adult’s Nausea 12″ is now out on Ersatz Audio.