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Music2Deal interviews: ‘Afterlife’ aka Steve Miller; Music Producer/Label Owner United Kingdom

DP Steve, hello & a warm welcome to Music2Deal & indeed, to our blog. Both I & Mario are very pleased to have you onboard the Music2Deal platform per your background so today, let’s focus on yourself and your career in music specifically. Can you tell us something of yourself to begin and perhaps give our readers a deeper insight into your background & motivations please Steve?

SM Hi Darren, well I’ve been writing and producing electronic music for commercial release for the last 20 years. Before that, I toured with a reggae band and worked occasionally with K-Klass on some of their remixes. As a child, I was classically trained at the piano. As a teenager striking out in the world, I once found myself in a testing situation when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life vs. my parent’s expectations of the path I should take.

DP So clearly you have a life-long background in music?

SM Yes, although a photography professor once told my parents that I should go to art college as my photography was also excellent although my parents wanted me to be a lawyer. So many parents want their children to be an improved update of themselves rather than recognise the fact that their children are each individual spirit’s and have very different ideas about what they themselves want to do whilst they are on this planet.

DP Thanks for that candid background to your motivations Steve. Now, before we dive deeper into the man behind the producer, can you tell us, which are your own top 3 tracks that you’ve produced as Afterlife to-date?

SM The following tracks in no particular order;

 ‘The Way to San Jose’ – from the album ‘On Being’ (released July ‘17)  San Jose is one of my favourite villages in Ibiza and a place we have driven through a lot travelling from Ibiza Town to the San Antonio Bay area so I decided to create a soundtrack to match.

‘Speck of Gold’ lyrics & vocals by Cathy Battistessa** (released June 2004) From the album of the same name, this was my reaction to the events of 9/11 and this track took over 2 years to get right.

‘Guitarra G – Banda Sonora’ (Afterlife Mix) (released Feb.’09) When Defected initially sent me the parts to this track, they included a LOT of guitar takes by a very talented guitarist from South America (name unknown). The takes were not really used much in the club mix so that’s why i started with a long ambient intro to allow the guitar to shine through.

Resume

SM My first professional work was as keyboard player & writer for 9-piece reggae band ‘Bassdance’, led by Basil Gabbidon, ex-guitarist from Steel Pulse. We toured for 6 years nationally between 1984 -1990 then I left the band and headed to Los Angeles to learn digital music production. I returned to the UK 3 years later and consequently sessioned all keyboards on Karl Pitterson’s** own album. Karl incidentally was the sound engineer on Bob Marley’s legendary ‘Exodus’ album and produced the Handsworth Revolution album by Steel Pulse.

Karl taught me about engineering and I then worked with Nigel Luby** who taught me a lot more about engineering & electronic music production generally. Then I worked with K-Klass for about a year on remixes, then the Afterlife project commenced in 1993.

DP In-terms of output can you fill us in on the projects you’ve completed?

SM See the discography below;

“Another Chance” – Roger Sanchez – Defected records and UK Number 1 (Silver disc awarded for UK sales, see shot below*)

“At Night” Remix – Shakedown – Defected

“Visions” – Jakatta – Rulin Records/MOS (Gold disc awarded for UK sales)

“Pjanoo” (remix)– Eric Prydz – MOS

“Mad World” (remix) – Tears for Fears – Universal

“The Best Things in Life are Free” (Janet Jackson & Luther Vandross (K-Klass mix) A&M Records

“National Anthem” (remix) – Lana Del Rey – Polydor

“Guide me God” (remix) – Sinead O’Connor – Rasa Records

“American Dream” (remix) – Jakatta – MOS

“Sandcastles” (remix) – Jerome Sydenham & Dennis Ferrer – Defected

“Balearic Unplugged” – Lovely Laura & Tyrell – Album (production, arrangement, mix and additional instrumentation) – Hed Kandi

“The Sun Goes Down” (Pete Gooding remix) – Level 42 (production, arrangement, mix and additional instrumentation) – Universal Music

“It’s You” (No Logo Sunset Mix) – Shapeshifters – Defected – (production, arrangement, remix and additional instrumentation)

Discogs Recent additions to this platform include my new album ‘On Being’ as well as a new album from ‘The Normalites’ (me and Chris Coco).

Lovely Laura* & Tyrrell ‎– Hed Kandi: Balearica Unplugged Final production & additional instruments.

me and roger*With Roger Sanchez at Cafe Mambo Ibiza after a hot sultry evening & just before we both went to do the ‘night shift’ at Pacha.

DP Have you licensed your music/signed your artists internationally Steve?

SM Yes, I’ve licensed my own tracks to over a thousand compilations, I’ve also licensed my own albums to Hed Kandi & Defected records in the past but now run my own label, Subatomic UK.

DP Which country do you find is the best to license music to and why?

SM I don’t think there’s any best country to license to as all labels release worldwide, irrespective of their country of origin & if they are serious about what they do.

DP What are your current artists/projects/goals with the Afterlife brand and ‘journey’?

SM I’m really pleased with the reaction the Micko Roche album ‘Bleu’**is receiving. It was released in May of this year and has received a lot of DJ and radio support across Europe. The nicest email I got was from Danny Rampling who absolutely loved it. Micko is a very talented musician & songwriter as well as a real pleasure to work with. I have signed a couple of tracks from Micko’s daughter Jesse who has a fine voice and writes good songs. It will take a couple of years of careful work but I see an album there. She’s working on a live performance but that will take time getting the right players together to replicate the recordings.

DP Whilst in the area of vocalists  Steve, what advice would you offer to newcomers seeking a vocal career in music?

SM Find a vocal coach that teaches you the basics of correct breathing and pitch, no more than that, the rest is up to you.

DP Would you advise vocalists to seek out a manager and what attributes should they look for if so?

SM You will only get a good manager when you are worth managing and when that happens they will find you. The PRS has great guidelines about the sort of manager you should hire, for me a good legal knowledge of the business is essential.

DP Indeed, although per the age we’re in, do you feel that artists even require a manager per the variety of widely available self-promotional tools, platforms and human connections e.g. Music2deal as well as social media?

SM Only when they are successful enough to be worth managing properly, then it’s a must so the artist has the time to concentrate on their art.

DP  Ok so is a track-record of live performances a must-have for any vocalist that you would consider collaborating with? e.g. Cathy Battistessa** & Melanie Williams (Sub Sub)

SM Yes, there’s not much point being a singer if you don’t do live gigs, it’s part of the job.

DP What’s your view on live performances Steve? i.e. can you describe for us your ideal environment and setting?

SM An audience of people NOT videoing the performance with smartphones, rather simply living in the moment is a good start. Secondly, outdoors in the sunshine with a great sound system and engineer.

DP Ok thanks & moving on to the bigger pictures in wider music-industry terms, what do you feel is the biggest single problem faced by the industry today and how do you think it can be resolved?

SM Streaming. Artists do not receive anything like the correct share of streaming income, streaming sites cater to the lowest common denominator of pop music, the algorithms used are incredibly “narrow-minded” and do not represent the enormous range of new exciting music being made around the world. It’s the McDonalds of the music business and without a decent income, we will see more part-time artists and less professionalism. That’s not good for anybody. It’s a fact that only 20% of Full PRS members make their living solely from music. 20 years ago, the figure was 80%.

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AL1

A ‘Breather’, an interlude.

At this point, I thought we’d take a step back from the main interview & dig into one Afterlife track in particular. It’s a highly popular track in the Lounge downtempo arena and unsurprisingly so as the vocal performance from Rachel Lloyd fully complements the audio experience created by Steve so, let’s dive in for more;

‘Breather’ (track 8, album ‘Simplicity 2000’) – the origins of the initial version;

Nb. Play me while you read me!

DP  3 random comments via YouTube

“15 years later it’s still sooooo sooooothing……..

“OMG this song takes me back 17 years, I can’t even describe how it makes me feel, such a beautiful nectar-like timeless warm mysterious summer night”

“This brought a fresh air of holidays and images of an island to me. when it ends I’ll realize the quiet of my room. and then I’ll travel somewhere else with another song ..”

SM Breather was the first track I made with Rachel Lloyd. Rachel was a vocalist who came to the studio with a couple of DJ’s who wanted her to sing on a house track (which never took off incidentally). When the session was over, I asked Rachel what she thought of the backing track to Breather and she indicated that she would like to try a vocal so, I hit record and away she went. Her vocals are just a stream of consciousness really, I liked the take so I said I would edit and arrange it later into a song which I then did.  It formed part of the original Simplicity album (released late ’99 by Hed Kandi) and it consequently sold out in a week. Then, Mark Doyle (founder/owner Hed Kandi) deleted the release and suggested we commissioned remixes so, we then re-released a double album with quality artwork the following year. Rachel came to the studio several times during the making of the track and I always remember that her way of working was to never hear the track before she started recording her vocals so it really was as I mentioned, a stream of vocal consciousness which seemed to work and which Rachel was happy for me to edit the takes into a song format.

‘Breather 2000’ was, of course, the remix of the original:

SM The brainchild behind it was Eric Walkoff** who was a Norwegian national broadcaster on NRK Radio**, essentially Norway’s equivalent of the BBC.

SM Erik called me one day saying he had an idea to make a Latin remix with a brilliant guitarist who (at the time) was the best in Norway and did a lot of sessions for TV. It was completely Eric’s idea to remix the track in a Bossa Nova style, he commissioned the players, the studio and he then went on to be the mix engineerHe also remixed a house track I’d made (‘Sunrise’) which became the main release of that song which was then remixed by Roger Sanchez (both tracks can be found on the Speck of Gold album). Eric was a recording genius and he loved to do live mobile recordings. You can hear one of his recordings here which he did at Roskilde of Groove Armada live. It was (I believe) GA’s first live performance and Eric took the NRK mobile studio to the gig specifically for Groove Armada. He then recorded the live set then mixed it back in the main studio at NRK to create this mix;  Balearic classics Vol.6

I consequently visited Erik’s home in Oslo and he came over to the UK many times and we became good friends.

DP I always enjoy such insights to a tracks creation so yes, I did indulge myself completely with that last question peeps (blatantly some may say as it is a fave!).  Let’s now continue with our discussion and interview itself. I put this next question(s) to Steve specifically as he’s a known industry collaborator with a good ear for a fine vocalist and has worked with many in his production career personally based on what I’ve seen & heard so, well, there it is and on we go.

DP So tell me Steve, when you collaborate with another party to license their music or indeed sign artists to you your label, what sort of music are you looking for and why?

SM I tend to work with artists who can play at least one instrument very well and have some fresh ideas but need help with the production side. Musically it can be very diverse so it’s more about what grabs me on an emotional level.

DP Creativity vs, the business aspects of the music industry, what are your views on this (just as) important area?

SM I think that a lot of artists are too involved daily with social media and spend less time in the creative zone. Only last week I saw someone post that they had started a record label but didn’t realise how much hard work went into it, they had no idea whether they should be a PRS member or PPL member and were asking people on Facebook for their opinion…you might as well go down the pub and ask a bunch of strangers how you should run your business…

AL4

DP Do you have a view with regards to social media, how do you project yourself as well as share your work in both music & art?

SM Facebook and Twitter work for me. I don’t have time to share photos on all the rest.

DP Can you fill us in on the background to the creation of the recent Afterlife album?

SM It’s simply a snapshot of the last 12 months of my life, I think that’s all an album can ever be.

Listen to the album preview

View platform availability

DP Can you give us a flavour of Afterlife’s plans for 2018?

SM I’m concentrating on my next album and my monthly radio show Subatomic Radio. The latest Afterlife album was released July 7th this year ‘On Being’ which includes two tracks that I co-wrote with Rood Chakra who were Holly Chand, Naked Nick, Matt Black and Jonathan Moore (Coldcut). Later in the year, there will be an E.P. from No Logo (Pete Gooding and I).

DP as an aspiring writer of lyrics myself, can I ask whether songwriting is an area that you’re very comfortable with Steve? and would you perhaps even describe your own ‘process’ of writing lyrics & songwriting (that’s a purely ‘just for me’ question peeps, it’s a wordsmith thing  )

SM Well, I don’t write lyrics at all but I DO really enjoy editing a stream of consciousness & vocal takes into a song arrangement so, I’m very comfortable writing music, it’s the space that feels the most real. The process usually begins with a melody or bassline and groove in my head and I must then drop everything & get into the studio quickly to get the bare bones down before I lose it, (or write down the dots on paper). Sometimes though with tracks such as ‘Blue Bar’, it was simply because I had been asked to write a piece of music for a specific album – in the case of this track, Jose Padilla phoned me and asked me if I could write something for Cafe del Mar Vol 3.

DP After building a solid reputation on the underground down-tempo scene what are your ambitions for the future?

SM To make even better records.

DP What’s been your experience of using the Music2Deal platform so far?

SM I think it’s a great way to bring like-minded people together.

DP Overall what have been your best & worst experiences in music?

SM Best: Listening to the Protection album by Massive Attack for the first time, I played it repeatedly. Worst: Listening to anything by David Guetta!  (DP chuckles loudly!)

Like that last response! :D  ok, that’s a wrap, always leave em’ laughing right dear reader.!  Seriously,  I trust that you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I did during my scribing & conversations with Afterlife over various mediums. A big thank you to Steve Miller for his time & insights. Myself, Mario  & the M2D team appreciate & are pleased that you’re on board Music2Deal for the future!

SM It’s been a pleasure, thanks for putting together Music2Deal, anything that helps unite music makers has to be a good thing.

Subatomic label

Afterlife artist page

DP Finally, and just for yourself dear reader, my last words are simply these; Go listen, get inspired then go create!  Why?  Because that mantra works for this sometime scriber & always sound lover

Peace & music, forever

Darren E. Pearson – UK Country Partner

Music2Deal.com

Join my business network on Music2Deal

Join my business network on LinkedIn

**References

Erick Walkoff, background.

NRK Radio on Wikipedia 

Cathy Battistessa (Official website)

Cathy Battistessa – Wikipedia

bleu   Miko Roche ‘Bleu’ album mini-mix

Micko Roche on Facebook

 

Interview with Ade Fenton – Part 2

Music2Deal pulled off a real cracker last month when Richard Rogers interviewed producer Ade Fenton about the new Gary Numan album Savage (Songs From A Broken World) that was released last week. We are proud and extremely pleased that the album looks to have gone in at number 2 into the UK Chart this week beaten off only by the new Foo Fighters album but with almost almost 3 times the sales of Ed Sheehan in third place. In fact the Savage sales and chart position is even more startling as it steamrollered ahead of new releases from Cat Stevens, Madonna’s new Rebel Heart album and the new Doors compilation. It is 36 years since Gary Numan last had a top 3 album and in part two of the interview Ade and Richard talk about the new album, Dj’ing, how Sennheiser was important to both of them and working on film soundtracks.

 

Ade Fenton with Gary Numan

Ade Fenton with Gary Numan

 

RR: You’ve put out over 40 releases so when was your first release?

 

AF: 1998 or 1996 I can’t remember. I’d got really into the techno thing, I just happened to be going out with a girl and she had these turntables and we’d gone into the clubbing scene quite big and she’s gone into the house scene and i’d gone down the techno path because I liked aggressive music and I started messing around with these turntables and I realised I could beat match really easy. I had a normal job for many years and I was made redundant so I took all my mates to Ibiza with my redundancy money and had the best two weeks of my life. I came back with no money and thought ‘What am I going to do now?’ So I decided I’m going to give making music a go because I was so in love with the scene. So I started making music with an old program called Cool Edit Pro not knowing what I was doing so I just taught myself. I found a distributor for the record and put my email and number on the record and the calls just kept on coming in and it took off. There you go, timing, it was a shit record, really embarrassing now but it is what it is. Later I met Gary Numan and I was into industrial music and realised i’d learnt what I needed to do.

 

RR: What is your favourite release of your own material?

 

AF: I did an album in 2007 called Artificial Perfect and Gary guested on the album and we did a track called Recall. I listen to the rest of the album now and go ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’ but Recall was quite a dark track after I broke up with a girl at the time and I was in a low place. I can listen to that song and think ‘Crikey I like that it’s quite good’ and i’m quite self deprecating. All the stuff with Gary has been the highlight year after year. Dead Son Rising Gary and I wrote together and was a huge stepping stone from Jagged in terms of production. Splinter i’m obviously massively proud of but with Savage it feels like the next level again, and i’m very proud to have produced it.

 

RR: From the My Name Is Ruin single it feels like a great taster for the album and slightly exotic with the structure of the song which is so different to anything out there. It seems very eastern based with a pumping rhythm. Was that your idea or Gary’s?

 

AF: That was Gary’s. It is very electronic. We stuck very rigidly to the structure and when Gary gave me the song we ensured the drums are processed to hell through a Sherman Filterbank so it’s really gnarly and with all the sparkly bits and everything. I did think of the structure at the time like yourself ‘Blimey, that’s unique’. It felt like we could be more experimental on the new album than Splinter. I’’m saying this in inverted commas but there isn’t really an industrial rock track on Savage like there perhaps was on Splinter. Because it’s a half concept album there is a story behind it like there was with Replicas or even Dance it is one of the reasons we went full on with it and it’s quite war like in places and in other places it’s really stripped back and there’s a track called ‘And It All Began With You’ and it’s very gentle and minimal with weird electronics and with a thunderstorm going through the song, very experimental and we’re both very proud of that.

 

RR: That’s a beautiful song, lightly sung and atmospheric almost hypnotic. I will put that in one of my DJ sets. Are you still DJ-ing now?

 

AF: Not really. I still do the occasional thing if i’m asked to do it and I like it. It’s like riding a bike I can still do it reasonably well but I just have other things going on really and having a young toddler of 16 months, I don’t want to miss anything with him at the moment. I don’t want to miss him putting his first sentence together, depending on what he says of course.

 

RR: If you were going to have a basic budget DJ set up what would it be to get you started?

 

AF: I always went with a Mac running either Serato or Traktor and personally I love digital vinyl. A lot of people use CDJ’s and I can but I really love digital vinyl and my personal choice of mixer was Pioneer DJM 600 or 800 as that was my preference as I loved the digital effects on board. DJ-ing has a different meaning now and DJ-ing can be put in inverted commas and for me it’s not really DJ-ing. DJ-ing was mixing records together and that’s not always the case now which is why I love people like Dave Clarke as there is proper skill in that. PMC 228’s are my speaker choice but they are not budget speakers, I think they retail for nine or ten grand and i’ve had them for 3 or 4 years. I chose PMC because the clarity is ridiculously good and they do a more affordable range although they are still not really budget but if I were to recommend monitors to anybody I do recommend PMC.

 

RR: On the headphone side i’ve always loved Sennheiser, i’ve got three pair of them and still have a pair from 1989 without the foam surrounds sadly as they wore away. I bought a fabulous pair of cordless ones last year too, the HDR 118’s. What would you recommend?

 

AF: I use Sennheiser as well. Several pairs of them, absolutely battered some of them as well particularly my old DJ-ing Sennheiser headphones. Sennheiser is all I use to be honest. I’ve got some with the mic too. Sennheiser were always reliable and the quality second to none.

 

RR: I always found them a superb company for headphones particularly the overall sound and design, I think they are German but I don’t know where exactly they are based, I know they also do microphones but I never used any in the studio as the Sennheiser microphones were more difficult to find in the UK. It should be easier to find now I live near Cologne.

 

AF: I didn’t know you could get Sennheiser mics, are they studio mics?

 

RR: If truth be known, I don’t know. I’ll find out and ask them. I co-produced the last Karel Fialka and Racecar album (Karel had a huge hit in the GAS territories with ‘Hey Matthew’ in the eighties with over 650,000 copies sold and a lesser hit in the UK too) and I always ensure we do a playback session when a project is completed to sort out any minor glitches. I invited the guys from the project over, one said ‘no it’s OK, we don’t need a playback session’ and the other never bothered to show up. Incredible, you always need playback sessions no question! For me I always listen to the album on my old Roland Monitors for an open playback and then with the Sennheiser headphones for a closed playback. There were only me listening through headphones and the Sennheiser cans picked up a lot of production faults a treat. Startlingly so. I always advise artists to have two playback sessions as well as outside professional mastering. Sadly some artists never listen. So for any Music2deal members out there what is one piece of advice you would give them if they were thinking of treading a path into the music industry professionally?

 

AF: Apart from buying Sennheiser and PMC products for quality I would say for the music industry, always have a back up plan. You’d be very lucky if things fall into place really quickly these days because making money out of music is very difficult. I was dead lucky, timing is a massive thing as well. I was lucky that when I started the first record I ever made sold quite well and I started getting DJ bookings and suddenly i’ve got a career. For me I’ve got into the film world as there is no age barrier in being a composer and I love making music for film and TV. For me it was a long term decision to do that as there will come a point that i’m not as young as I used to be and that matters less in Film and TV. So my advice is have a back up plan but if you make it work it is so worth it?

 

RR: What other projects are you working on?

 

AF: I’ve been working with Jayce Lewis who is supporting Gary Numan on the forthcoming World Tour as well as a band called Puzzle who are superb. Other than as I mentioned i’m really trying to get into the film music, film soundtrack area and music for TV. The next TV project out is 8 Days That Made Rome. Gary Numan and I did a soundtrack a couple of years back to a film called From Inside and i’ve been involved in a lot of horror soundtracks but i’d like to broaden the scope if I can.

 

RR: Are you aware if the deal for the Savage album with BMG is a one album deal or more?

 

AF: As far as I know it’s a one album deal but I’m sure there are options in the contract.

 

RR: Will you be going out on the road for the Savage Tour?

 

AF: Unfortunately not as I have other booked work coming up. Even today i’m working on a remix of a track from Savage that will be an extra track on the Japanese version of the album. It’s a bit of a  mad remix.

 

RR: Finally, apart from Gary Numan, if there is one other artist you could collaborate with who would it be?

 

AF: Oh come on you know the answer to that one – Trent Reznor of course.

 

RR: Ade, thank you very much for your time and good luck with the release of Savage.

 

AF: My pleasure, thank you.

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