Think Balearic. Think Steve Miller. Steve or Afterlife is a producer who has been making a name for himself since the early 2000's, starting off by reaching to the top of the UK charts with his remix of Roger Sanchez - Another Chance he also continued his music making career by making and releasing a personal album two years and running his label 'Subatomic'.
'String Theory' his latest work is an album where Afterlife heads in the direction of introspective gazing, thinking about days gone past and planning a optimistic future that is needing to be made. The album presents flamenco guitar tracks, ambient drones that fit in with the white isle sound but also nod to a producer who is at the top of his game by shedding the Balearic usuals and creating an album that is choc full of different tones, moods and textures.
Steve kindly agreed to answer some questions ahead of the album release to share some thoughts and feelings about twenty years of making music in his Afterlife career.
Where did music start for you ?
Listening to the radio from about 2 years old according to my father who noticed I was always much quieter when music was playing so hooked up a small radio for me to go to sleep to, then my parents record collection which featured a lot of exotic beats, Mostly jazzy latin American stuff. I wouldn’t leave the hifi alone and wanted to play the piano so at 5 they started me off with classical lessons but I soon got into jazz.
What was the first record you bought ?
Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain.
You have had twenty years in the music business, what have been the major changes you have seen since you first started ?
A positive change was when computers became powerful enough to record audio so if like me you had grown up working in big analogue studios that cost a fortune it was an epiphany. It gave everyone the opportunity to take charge of their creativity completely without big studio costs. A more negative change has been streaming and downloads. It has changed the act of listening to music as a primary activity ( you sit down, put a record on, shut your eyes and listen) to a secondary activity where people listen on ear buds whilst doing something else, and the income paid to streaming artists is criminally pitiful. I’m so happy that vinyl is making a comeback to a degree.
Balearic music has been your bread and butter and where Afterlife sits in most reviews, write up's and profiles you have, what is it about the genre that attracts you to keep making music that fits in with that style ?
The balearic style is so open to interpretation that it becomes almost genre free which is a godsend because my styles of music vary wildly, dub, jazz, electronica, house, and a fusion of lots of different influences from growing up in a musical environment. Playing the right track at the right moment irrespective of genre is, in my mind, the true essence of the balearic spirit and I found that from the first time I went to Ibiza it all made sense there more than anywhere else in the world.
Who have been your influences when making music, do you have any go to artists or producers to find inspiration ?
Herbie Hancock, Airto, Astrud Gilberto, Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Jose Padilla, Steel Pulse and Mixmaster Morris were all influences in the early days. At the moment I find Ada Kaleh really inspiring, unbelievably deep bass and killer grooves, ace production and proper mastering. He has a friend Raymond Obouvie who lives in Odessa and is making some really interesting deep ambient techno, one to watch.
How do you find Ibiza these days ? Where do you like to hang out on the island ?
It’s still my spiritual home, I love the indigenous culture but not keen on what I see as massive over commercialisation in certain parts. I hang out with good friends in the north of the island mostly who have the best private parties with special DJ guests. Going south it has to be Hostal La Torre for sunset and Pikes for parties.
How is running Subatomic as a record label ? Was it a conscious decision to start to release your own music on your own label ?
I had friends who ran successful small labels that I had worked for in a production capacity and they passed on their knowledge to me so running Subatomic was quite easy after the initial stages. I started Subatomic in 1996 to deal with compilation requests that were coming in thick and fast after Jose Padilla had asked me to write something for Cafe del Mar vol 3. At first Subatomic just acted as a licensing vehicle for compilations, then licensed various albums and singles of mine to Hed Kandi and Defected. Once the world went digital it made sense for me to release my own music on Subatomic as it had developed a following.
What was the last record you bought, what was it that you liked about the release ?
Kira Kira by The Irresistible Force on vinyl. Each track is like three tracks in one, really organic, always surprising and very musical, they almost have a classical structure.
What do you do when you are not making music ?
Street photography is my current interest, mostly in black and white, people are eternally fascinating. Making promo videos for the tunes is fun. My big love is sailing single handed on my little old but seaworthy sail boat, it focuses the mind dealing with wind and waves and reminds me that I live on a beautiful planet lest I forget.
The album 'String Theory' has your most introspective work on it I feel, it feels like you have taken a further leap into what is even deeper music, is this something that has happened naturally or was it a choice that you made ?
It's a natural progression partly influenced by the brilliant new music I receive daily, the best of which I include in my monthly radio show. Now that the “loudness war” is pretty much over there is so much more dynamic range in new electronica I see a whole new bunch of artists coming to the fore making intelligent music. It’s a real inspiration.
Do you go record shopping ? Are there any labels that you follow ?
I love crate digging when I can but mostly online. R&S records and Apollo Records are the only labels I actively follow.
Your remix of Roger Sanchez - Another Chance was part of a remix package of a record which made a huge impression in electronic music just after the millennium, then it started making mainstream radio playlists - what was that like for you ?
Fantastic, in the true sense of the word. It was a big turning point for my career with major labels queuing up for an Afterlife mix, a residency on Pacha’s Roof Terrace on Roger’s “Release Yourself” night, playing the sunset at Cafe Mambo every week and playing the chill room everywhere in Europe that Roger had a gig that year. The only down side was that because I was DJing I hardly saw my own studio for 12 months.
If you were giving advice to a producer who is still experimenting and trying to get signed, what would it be ?
The obvious stuff really, don’t follow music trends slavishly but be true to your own creativity, you could become the next trend. Look at the labels who release music that you love and make contact with them, let them hear your finished productions, if they offer advice then listen but make up your own mind. Remember you don’t become successful overnight, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
Away from music, what films, books, blogs are you into ?
Films: The Martian, Bladerunner 2049. Books: At the moment I’m reading Altered Carbon, way better than the series on Netflix. How Music Works by David Byrne and A Secret History of Consciousness by Gary Lachman. I don’t read blogs as I’m not into gazing at a screen for ages to read, I prefer paper.
What are your plans for the Summer ahead ?
See my friends in Ibiza, do a lot of sailing and continue work on my next album.
'String Theory' is released digitally on the 9th of July. The remix 12' is available on Subatomic now to buy from the usual places. Alongside the album is a 12" remix package from Christophe, Wolf Music's Medlar which is also worth checking.