As previously mentioned elsewhere on this here blog, just over a month ago I bumped into Miles Sagnia while he was playing in Cambridge. We chatted and he agreed to do an interview for me. About a month ago I posted a link to this rather splendid mix of his, and here are some words to accompany the music.
What inspired you to take an interest in, and produce house music?
After lots of classical music training as a youngster, 'feeling' was something that I absorbed throughout that period. An emotional connection with music. Music has always felt a completely natural
part of my daily being.
I first was introduced to electronic music by my older brothers growing up, by way of mixtapes, along with stumbling across pirate radio stations. From about 12, the interest grew and it graduated to visiting record shops while spreading the word amongst mates, swapping shows, mixes and so on. By 1992 I was delving into anything electronic, exploring all sorts.
I heard a lot of House and Techno, or Trance as it was billed a lot back then, ambient Techno stuff, along with early UK Hardcore, then Jungle etc.. The groove sort of formed through the years in what I listened to and my ears seemed to just pick out certain music, House based yes, but not strictly House, more Techno / Experimental, with a lot of influences
globally. Lot's of music styles inspired and influenced my tastes from an early age. Difficult to pinpoint as there are so many influences.
I've always been a DJ at heart, but in 1998 I started taking an interest in production, it also felt natural as I've always composed music, except in the adult period of my life it's been electronic based composition (though I am working on classical Scores for relaxation ;)....
I've read that you're a mental health worker. How demanding a job is that and does it inform your music in any particular way?
Well the various roles have included a lot of dual diagnosis clients, you know, Substance Misuse issues as well (Heroin usually). Poverty, Homelessness, child protection work, terminal illness, the full spectrum of vulnerability.
It's been a ride over the years and has had it's fair share of life changing moments. Some great inspiring times where my direct client work has dramatically altered people's lives for the better, led people towards the light and a better place. That's the satisfying part. There is also the downside, when you lose people you've been working closely to help for a long time, sometimes young people, it hurts. Sometimes it's just the sadness that penetrates your own mind and you have to keep strong and put things in perspective. 10 years ago when I started doing it, the energy and enthusiasm were there a lot more, but after a decade one feels emotionally drained a little by the circumstances of people's lives, but at the same time you develop good coping mechanisms and are generally unfazed by a lot of things. I'm 31 now and feeling secure as a human being, I know my place and I have my missions to crack on with..
That work has definitely influenced my music work. The emotional side.
But general life is the main influence. I do write music that can sound melancholy at times, but for me it feels uplifting to hear... I always inject positivity into it to balance it out, along with as much groove and funk to jazz things up a little!
Being signed to Aesthetic Audio is a huge feather in your cap. What is Keith Worthy like to work with, and how much in common re: musical vision, do you really have with the artists on the label?
Keith is a great guy. He has a focus and integrity and will not bow to theway that things are always presented in music, but chooses to keep an open mind and explore the path of truth! No ego, no herd like following , along with an intolerance of industry BS! We share that vision, catch up when we can and have a mutual respect for each other.
As for the other artists on the label, i've only met Juju&Jordash, who are musicians of the highest order and are grounded true people. There music keeps an open mind so in that respect we share a vision also.
What medium do you like to work in while DJing, and how flexible are you?
I am a vinyl man. Always have been. From working in an underground record shop for a few years, it only solidified my stance and support for the medium. I do use CD's at times with my own and others unreleased music, along with samples, loops and so on for playing over the mix of records, or when i turn up to play somewhere and the decks are being used as an ashtray / general dumping ground , and CDs are the only option, but I just love records and try to ensure decks are always available... Standard!! I've messed about using Tractor and serato, but at the end of the day I love the sound and aesthetic of vinyl. Some people say to me 'vinyl's dead' or 'it's dying man'. Well, whatever. It's here and i'm using it and will continue to until it's no longer available and my collection is worn out lol.! I have not had any complaints after a set. I am working on the manipulation of sounds via a controller, with Software / Outboard playing live, which is a whole different thing for me, tying in composition and random structure together.
I'm getting it up to speed so one can perform a live show as well as a DJ set. But Djing will always mean vinyl to me...
Can you explain how differently your mind works when producing a track and when DJing?
When I write music, it's quite a stop start affair. The creative process for me. Sometimes I set everything up and just let it all run for hours, twisting and altering controllers to give an organic feel. There is no set template how i write. It's just expression.
Djing is a completely different experience. For me it hypnotises my mind into a spontaneous groove and I find my mind wills the records to my fingers as my fingers will themselves to the right record.
For me the connection between artwork, or feel of the record is definitely
linked with the ability to pull out the right next track. Knowing your records, the music contained within them, along with a feel for the atmosphere your in allows me to make the fusion happen.
When you for instance, know by ear, the key of your records, the ear connected with sight, will recognise another track on a record which will
work in perfect symbiosis, harmonically. The same goes for rhythm. You find yourself layering the grooves in your mind way before the record even hits the platter! Then you serve it up in the way you feel you should and bang. The energy increases and you flow with a groove, taking things to the next level by manipulating the 'third layer'. EQ and general mix trickery. I'm lucky that my ears are well developed from years of training as a kid, along with endless music ever since..
Who are your favourite artists, past and present, and do you have a favourite period from the last twenty or so years during which, in your opinion, the best music was being produced?
Well, electronic music? If so, off the top of my head all jumbled up, new and old, go seek!
Larry Heard, Brian Eno, The Black Dog, Erik Van De Broek,
Glenn Underground, U.R., James Zeiter, Maurizio, Alton Miller, Ron Trent, Kirk Degiorgio, Derrick Carter, Dave Angel, Kerri Chandler, D5, Aybee,
Monolake, Vince Watson, Boards of Canada, Abacus, 65D Mavericks,
Biosphere, Andy Stott, Conforce, Blaze, Stephen Brown, Dan Curtin,
Chez Damier, Theo Parrish...
You get the picture...
Too many others to mention, but those are like i said off the top of my head...
Apart from house and techno, what are your other musical influences?
Early UK Hardcore, Jungle, D&B, Film Scores,
Classical, Ambient, Hip Hop, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Northern Soul, Rare Groove, New Wave, choral music- (the haunting stuff), Disco, Reggae, Dub, Acid Jazz, Afrobeat, Bakou, Bossa Nova, Latin, lots of African and world music, along with a good dose of the modern day eclectic music.... There's so much stuff I'm into basically.
How often do you play out and where is your favourite venue?
I don't get to play out as often as I'd like. I used to play fairly regularly, but times change, promoters grow older, the people behind the scenes change. I'd love to play out more. I've a few gigs coming up.
My favourite venues are usually venues that are a bit out of the ordinary, but work really well. I used to love the End in London. I love the intimacy and compressed sound of Plastic People... Steve Bicknell's LOST did some great parties down opposite the millenium dome years back, a cavernous space which holds some amazing memories. Saw Derrick May & Juan Atkins play there, along with Aphex Twin, Hawtin etc. Can't remember the name of it, but you could see panoramic views of the dome and the main room was just perfect, sonically and visually.
I love playing outside as dawn breaks, seeing all the bodies appear slowly, jacking in the mist, with that sound that only seems to sound like it does at that time of the morning, on a beach, in the hills, or somewhere crazy. Under the stars ranks amongst the perfect venue.
What are your interests outside music and how much time are you able to devote to them?
I try to keep a balance on things. I manage to get everything slotted in, thats what life's about is it not? My girlfriend is not 'slotted in' anywhere. Obviously she ranks above everything ;) and we share a lot of things together. I love good quality Film, world cinema. I'm pretty outdoorsy, enjoying mountain walking when I do get the chance, cycling, growing food, cooking, current world affairs, Travel, Art.... I've developed a taste and pallette for real ale over the years. Ale occupies a lot of my mind at the moment as i'm busy making business plans for a potential new venture, but I won't let on about that yet. I believe effective time management allows you to pursue whatever you want and give everything the time it deserves.
What's your attitude to hedonism, and is it something you've ever engaged in?
I believe in the pursuit of good times and freedom of spirit. Live your life! Throughout it though I do believe in self respect and a respect for others. Tolerance is important.
MP3 "blogs." Good for publicity or thieves?
It's theft! Well it is when you see how many have downloaded your music
and it equals the amount sold! If your some huge act, then maybe this could be argued, but when your trying to raise finances so you can at least continue to put the music out there, as an independent, it's a little more close to the bone. In some ways it spreads the word yes, but equally when you've spent time and energy along with money putting something out on vinyl and it's then ripped and put out to download the day after the release date, its taking the piss. Also, the way in which some half ass mp3 ripped from a radio show, pitched up way too much, is presented makes me as an artist feel sick. Thats not the way it was meant to be presented. I account a percentage for label losses for piracy as standard now. Support the artists!
If the music makers were in it just for the money, how many would be able to sustain it?
Depends what sort of music they write. If your talking about electronic stuff, then it depends.
It's difficult to know everybody's individual situation.
Let's look from the point of view of people now in the dance music world. With pressure on their craft to make money, if it were all about the money, those types would compromise their sound. This is something that disinterests me.
If you were in it just for the money, you'd do well and probably rise up whatever chart you want to be in and market yourself to fuck, dragging
anybody with talent along with you, leaching off their skills awarding them little or no reward, to ensure you and your ego 'makes it' whatever 'making it' means. The competative nature of mankind with regards to the dance music world now makes me feel nauseous. A little bit of healthy rivalry in a gentle way i suppose spurs artists to work harder, but for me it's all about contribution. How can one compare artists? Maybe one can, but in my eyes It's nonsensical to do so and self defeating. Art=Individuality+Expression.
Many thanks Miles for your full and frank answers.