The techno artiste estimates that we have between ‘300 and 500 years left’
Over the past week, Jeff Mills has been touring the world, performing his original live score to Fritz Lang's seminal sci-fi 1920s film Woman In The Moon. Tomorrow night, he will debut his new USB album Proxima Centauri at his Time Tunnel 6 event in Strasbourg, France.
Out of all of us, Jeff Mills has probably seen enough of the world to know when our time is up. Arguably Detroit's king of techno, in a career spanning 35 years Mills has travelled the earth playing for hundreds of thousands of people, in that time becoming more and more philosophical about what's around us and what's out there.
Increasingly, Mills' work has focussed more and more on space – in the last four or five years, his output has been doused in sci-fi aesthetic (see album names Chronicles of Possible Worlds, The Jungle Planet and 2087). With the world feeling increasingly precarious and unsure of itself (don't say you haven't noticed), we caught up with Mills to talk about our journey into individualism, how long we have left on Earth and the point at which art forms will all merge into one single thing.
What excites you about the future and what terrifies you?
Jeff Mills: I have a strong interest in what lies in store for all of us. Nothing terrifies me. I'm quite pragmatic and realistic about the way people are and why we do the things we do. Most of our world is shaped by a particular vision, while simultaneously, fear that it won't materialize.
How much time do you spend thinking about the past?
Jeff Mills: I refer to the past a lot, but not for the reasons of repeating it. I typically look back in order to better understand the various ways to move forward.
You think that we’re becoming more and more isolated - do you think that this will ever become a good thing?
Jeff Mills: Yes, I think technology is increasing this condition, but even without it, we would move away from each other regardless, simply because of our instinctive ideas about protection or survival. Already, all of us have seen in our lifetime that humans have a capacity to be quite unpredictable, irrational, uncaring and cruel. That, among us are those humans who are convinced to think that "change" needs to happen by creating chaos and committing crimes against others unlike themselves. As long as this persists, we do not stand a chance of surviving in the longterm. It's a defect that's built into our psyche that grows to be more threatening, the more independent and knowledgeable we become. Our nearest greatest threat is the Sun. Our closest greatest threat is our minds.
How do we cope with our descent/ascent into individualism?
Jeff Mills: I believe we should start and learn to conform to it now. We should learn to be more self-reliant, self-sufficient and onmipresent. Our far future isn't here on this planet, it's out there in space – most likely in search of much-needed natural resources that will be in shortage here on Earth.
As our lifespans are short, we might have to split up to search other planets to increase our chances of success. The idea of always being comfortably supported by others around you just doesn't fit into this probable vision. When humans are born away from this planet is when the threshold will have been crossed. The detachment will be literally worlds away.
How long, really, do you think we have left on this planet?
Jeff Mills: Without natural occurrence, 300-500 years. With natural occurrence, 40-50 years from the time of impact (in a hurried sense). Evacuations and who gets to leave the Planet is a complex subject that humans will be having to deal with in the future. Just the thought of those discussions will give some indications on how we'll all have to reshape the way we think about life and what we expect from it. As ideological as we may all want to believe we are, we might be similar in structure but that notion will be tested to the farthest degree. Eventually, people may have to accept the idea that a "long life" may not necessarily mean in terms of time, but perhaps the amount of knowledge and interaction ones give to others in the their lifespan.
How do you see your music and your legacy being discussed 100 years from now?
Jeff Mills: I think that the longevity of an artist's work is determined by the amount of meaning and relevance people seek to find. If people in the year 3014 are faced with the same harsh realities of new inventions after a turn of the century, like in 1914 with transportation and now in 2014 with technology, the people 100 years from now might re-discover things in music that could explain or re-enforce such similar feelings.
Can you see a point when music will die out as a form of entertainment?
Jeff Mills: Yes. Clearly actually. I think that in the future, all art forms will merge into one single "thing". In that universal form will be all the devices that will entice and affect our senses in the way we wish to be enlightened. "Music" is the device in which we use to feel and learn about someone else, some other place, a different perspective on a known subject, but as a musician I realize that the process doesn't work very well.
Too much important information gets missed in translations. Either from what the artist thinks to what he does on the instrument or when the audience hears it when the artist or DJ plays it. People aren't getting the most they can get out of music. In time, someone will create something which will allow complete thoughts to complete actions to 100% comprehension without any loss in the translation. It won't be called music.
If you could go and live on another planet - habitable, but only ten people there, would you do it?
Jeff Mills: No, I think it would probably be the most uncomfortable experience ever because within the ten people, decisions would have to be made. As the result, a percentage of the ten would see things differently and eventually, first mentally then physically separate themselves from the rest, leading to divisions that would grow onto other complex situations.
I'm already living in this way as the result of opposing views and opinions, why would I go to some other place to witness it happen all over again? I'm convinced that the big problem in the future will be people and all of our various ideas on how we should evolve. The only thing powerful enough to bring people down to reality might be the idea that time will stop or change for everyone – i.e. organized religion, doomsday scenarios, science-fiction.
What do you want to experience most in the future that you haven’t already experienced?
Jeff Mills: Many things like our other human senses and natural abilities, what's beyond the Milky Way, the geographical surfaces of Jupiter and Saturn, the depths of Earth's oceans, the origin of Extra Solar Planet: WASP 17b and its reversed orbit, other intelligent life. Looking forward and preparing for it should bring facts that we've never imagined possible.
More immediately, what does 2015 hold for you individually, and us as a planet?
Jeff Mills: War or the prelude leading towards it. Artistically, this depends on the first part of this answer. Spiritually, solace is contagious. Like always, music might be one of the few things that makes sense in times of distress.
Do you believe that we’ll encounter alien lifeforms in your lifetime? Do you believe we already have?
Jeff Mills: I believe we already have and if Albert Einstein was right, we're most likely being visited and in the company of lifeforms we're related to. Therefore, we can't see them because they would know the meaning and result of that. The average person would have to take an enormous mental leap forward in order to be able to accommodate this actuality. As we tend to fray around the mental edges too easy, I'm not sure if it would be worth it.