After coming up through the underground, DIY culture of Punk Music, The Netherlands based production duo June Miller have continued to surprise and impress since turning their hands to electronic music (originally d&b but that would later diversify to reflect their varied tastes), quickly releasing their first singles on Inneractive and Horizons in 2009. After a slew of releases on both the genres biggest and most experimental labels, they signed exclusively to the mighty Ram records in 2013, despite constantly retaining their experimental edge and toying with a variety of styles in a way that few d&b artists do. From cinematic, almost beatless b-sides through clicky, engulfing bliss and dance floor smashers, the depth and texture in their production thrives wherever it lays it’s head. With their second release on their new Ram home, Empathy/Operation Ivy, having recently dropped, we caught up to see what they’ve been up to.
Hi chaps. How’s 2014 started for you?
2014 started at Star Warz New Years night, which was great. We had the honour to close the night haha! Our new single came Empathy/Operation Ivy came out in the first week of 2014 so the beginning of the year looks promising!
Sounds good! The twelve that really first caught my attention from you two was Converge/Neurosis on Horizons Music. Neurosis on the B-Side highlighted your experimental approach to music, but it was also a bit of a daring move as essentially an unmixable tune. Have you ever been worried about taking a risk such as that?
Haha yeah, we’ve made many tunes that are hard to mix, the shuffle in Neurosis or Aged 23 that wasn’t made on a 4×4 grid are good examples. We’re not really seeing this as a risk but more as a way to stay open-minded. We’re not focusing exclusively on the experimental, but when you do, it sort of clears your view on music and that’s exactly what we’re looking for. We can’t just do the same thing over and over again as it will get boring as hell! As soon as we’ve finished a banger we’re not really inspired to do another one straight away. It will sound the same anyway so that’s why we’re trying to keep making tunes from different angles.
So what inspires this diversity? What gets you hyped to create aside from other music?
Well, where to begin haha. To me, life is just all about finding new ways to trigger your senses. Whether it’s going to a movie or eating something you’ve never had before. I mean, in every way, life stays interesting if you keep looking for new things. For example, we both love to cook and its great way to be creative apart from making music. The list goes on, but I think you can definitely see a relation between how we’re making music and how we approach life in general.
Nail on the head! So musically, apart from your own releases, what are three tunes you think our viewers should hear?
Nils Frahm – Says
One of the greatest talents in new classical music is without a doubt Nils Frahm, if you haven’t heard of him, you probably will in the future (or now!). The thing that makes him so special is the way he combines electronic music and classical music. Instead of incorporating beats by using production techniques of electronic music, he’s borrowing the composition techniques of electronic music. A perfect example is “Says” which came out a couple of months ago and shows a beautiful blend between modern classical music, minimal and electronica. Sit down, take your time, turn the volume up and do nothing else but listening to this 10 minute space journey.
Converge – Locust Reign
Something completely different. A band that has changed the world of metal/punk/hardcore, one of our favourite bands you’ve actually mentioned before called Converge :) This an old one, “Locust Reign”, played live. A great example of pure energy, a crowd that goes crazy and highly technical skilled musicians.
FKA Twigs – Papi Pacify
Everything about her is, for some reason, so captivating. All the ideas are simple, but very well done. The music grabs you, it sounds familiar, but it’s still unlike anything you’ve heard before. And the video! It’s so intense, you can literally feel it.
You’ve always produced together as a duo, do you think the creative process of working alongside someone else is important to you? Do you think constantly bouncing off each other is something that’s contributed to your diversity?
To be honest, working together makes us less diverse. Some ideas are just too weird and out of place and luckily we have each other to tackle that before we put too much time in something that will never work out. And trust me, “too weird” might sound interesting to you but when listening back to some of these experiments, I’m quite satisfied we’ve never actually finished most of those if I’m honest!
Haha you’re definitely making me curious. What are essential studio comforts you can’t live without?
Fresh coffee, herbal tea and good beers, usually in that order.
Am I right in thinking your both living in Utrecht at the minute, what’s the d&b scene like out there? What keeps you in the Netherlands?
Yeah, well, maybe life in the Netherlands is quite relaxed, you never travel more than two hours to get anywhere in the country, that’s a big plus. But the d&b scene is definitely another world if you compare it to UK or even Belgium. Despite having great producers as Black Sun Empire, Noisia, Lenzman and Nymfo, d&b is not mainstream at all. You will never hear anything even close to d&b on the national radio. So it still has that kind of underground vibe to it.
You got to know each other through Punk music, something that, as we touched on earlier with Converge, is constantly referred to in your track names. Do you think it still influences your sound or approach to music?
For sure! Musically the energy and the dynamics of punk are really important to us. Making music is trying to get things as intense as possible. Also, the D.I.Y. scene makes you aware that people put so much effort into a scene. Whether it’s a putting up a concert, making graphic design for an album, driving bands, running a label etc. We all had to do it ourselves and that’s why we still feel really privileged to go to a country to play in a city you’ve never been and see people putting so much effort into creating a local scene.
So was the world of d&b a bit of a shock to the system after coming from a punk background? How do you think the two scenes differ in terms of attitudes and crowds?
The only similarity is that both scenes are underground. Punk can be very political and D.I.Y and there’s a great sort of awareness in general. D&B is mostly about partying ha haha. A combination of those two would be perfect :)
That’s where Hip Hop comes in for us here! You signed to the behemothic d&b label Ram Records in 2013 which, to be honest, came as a bit of a surprise move to many. What was it that attracted you to the label and what do you think it means for you in the future?
We have done loads of releases at various labels and signing exclusively means you wanna join a team that you’re totally comfortable with. RAM is without a doubt one of the biggest players in d&b that definitely don’t pigeonhole themselves at all. The diversity of music that comes out on the label makes us really feel secure and at home.
Empathy/Operation Ivy recently dropped. How would you describe those two tunes and how did they come about?
Empathy basically started with around the bassline. We were looking for something not too dark to create a contrast between the intro and drop. We couldn’t find the right vocalist so Mark ended up singing it himself :) Operation Ivy is quite an old tune to be honest that we revisited and really liked.
You recently played at Fabric in London, how do you find UK crowds differ to those back in The Netherlands?
We’ve played Fabric maybe ten times before now and it’s always packed and going mental. It doesn’t really matter what kind of style you play whereas in the Netherlands it’s difficult to go off the paved path.
With such varied output, how would you describe the sound of a typical June Miller set to those not in the know? Do you both attend every set and mix back to back?
We play live together as much as possible. Unfortunately it’s just not always possible. When we do, it usually turns out into a 4 deck b2b session. Energetic, fast and dynamic!
Lastly, what else is coming up this year for June Miller?
We’ve just finished building our new studio and this year we want to focus on releasing a more steady stream of twelves. Hopefully loads of gigs!
Sounds good! Anything else you’d like to end with?
Thanks for the interview guys, keep up the good work!