Daniel Miller (music producer)
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|Birth name||Daniel Otto Joachim Miller|
|Born||14 February 1951|
Marylebone, London, England
|Genres||Post-punk, new wave, synthpop, electronic, industrial|
|Instruments||Synthesizer, keyboards, sampler, drum machine, guitar, saxophone|
|Associated acts||The Normal, Silicon Teens, Depeche Mode, Duet Emmo|
Miller first became interested in synthesizer music at the Guildford School of Art (now University for the Creative Arts), where he studied film and television from 1969 to 1972. By the end of the sixties he had become frustrated with rock music due to the lack of experimentation. Around this time he was discovering the sound of German bands like Can, Faust, Neu! and Kraftwerk. These bands were creating new sounds, something Miller wanted to hear. He worked as a DJ in Switzerland for a while before returning to England at the height of punk. He began listening to punk because of the energy and excitement of the music. He liked the whole do-it-yourself attitude that came with the style of music and later spilled over into the electronic music scene. Synthesizers were becoming cheaper to buy and new bands were appearing such as Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. This inspired Miller to create his own music. Making some money from film editing and working long hours he gathered enough money to buy a cheap Korg 700S synthesizer and a TEAC four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder. This led to the creation of The Normal.
The birth of Mute Records
After returning from a live tour Miller found a pile of demo tapes on his doorstep. Because he had included an address on the 'Warm Leatherette' single cover people had wanted to do a similar small-scale deal with Mute. The turning point for Mute Records came when Miller listened to a tape by an artist called Fad Gadget and liked what he heard. In 1979 Mute Records began releasing singles by Fad Gadget including 'Back to Nature', the follow-up to 'Warm Leatherette'. Miller ran the label from his North-West London flat. Another early Mute signing was the American artist Boyd Rice (NON).
Miller recorded two songs, "T.V.O.D." and "Warm Leatherette". The latter was inspired by J.G. Ballard's novel Crash. He called it The Normal to demystify and make it very bland and completed the package by setting up a record label for the release, Mute. He had researched how to make a single so he got some test pressings. Not knowing anything about retail or distribution he approached Rough Trade Records in Portobello Road, London. Originally a record outlet, Rough Trade had expanded into a label and distribution network. Miller took a test pressing into the shop to see if they would be interested in buying a box of them. Rough Trade Records boss Geoff Travis went to the back of the shop with Miller and played "Warm Leatherette". They loved the recording and helped him press 2000 copies of the single. "Warm Leatherette" was released in May 1978 and sold out very quickly. After receiving critical acclaim for the project Miller decided to explore further. He had been helping out at the Rough Trade Shop when he was given an offer of live work. He didn't want to perform alone so he decided to form a little group with a person he had recently met. This person was the late Robert Rental who was recording a similar style of music to Miller. The live event was hosted by DJ Colin Faver and included Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. After that event, Miller and Rental took on a Rough Trade tour supporting Stiff Little Fingers. Miller and Rental went down very badly; Stiff Little Fingers were a traditional punk band supported by two people with synthesizers and a backing tape.
Another early Mute signing was the synthpop band Silicon Teens, with four imaginary band members: Darryl (played by Frank Tovey), Jacki, Paul, and Diane. The Silicon Teens were produced by Larry Least (Daniel Miller). The recordings were all recorded by Miller himself and engineered by Eric Radcliffe, who would later work on many other Mute releases. An album titled 'Music for Parties' was released in 1980 and consisted of classic rock 'n' roll songs, like 'Memphis, Tennessee' and 'Just Like Eddie', done in an upbeat synthpop style. The album became a cult classic, with some major record labels approaching Miller with offers for a band that didn't actually exist. The Silicon Teens gave an insight into Miller's idea of an all-synthesiser teenage pop group.
Duet Emmo was a one-off collaboration between Daniel Miller, Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert spawning an album and single, both titled 'Or So it Seems' in 1983. Lewis and Gilbert were both members of Wire until 1979 when the band split up. All three had been friends for a long time. They had all been using Blackwing Studios, and had shared the same engineer, Eric Radcliffe. An initial project had been suggested in 1980 but the success of Depeche Mode and Yazoo had kept Miller busy until the end of 1982. Lewis and Gilbert had both been releasing their own material under the name Dome. Duet Emmo was an anagram of Mute and Dome.
With fellow Depeche Mode music producer Gareth Jones, Daniel Miller has released a few remixes under the name Sunroof. Starting with a remix of "Oh Yeah" for the 1997 Can remix album Sacrilege, there has also surfaced remixes for Neu!, Kreidler, Pizzicato Five, Goldfrapp, Faust, MGMT, Charles Wilp, Ellis Island Sound, Future Bible Heroes and To Rococo Rot.
Mute: A Visual Document
In 2017, Miller co-authored Mute: A Visual Document (Thames & Hudson) with Terry Burrows. A lavishly illustrated hardback book that detailed the history of Mute Records, it was named Book of the Year by both Rough Trade and Electronic Sound magazine.
- "Hannah Norbert Miller « Cataloguing the Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert Miller Archive". norbertmiller.wordpress.com. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
- Pages 14–16 Depeche Mode Biography by Steve Malins
- Page 16 Depeche Mode Biography by Steve Malins
- Silicon Teens – Judy in Disguise record cover.
- Page 17 Depeche Mode Biography by Steve Malins
- Mute Liberation Technologies website, 6 June 2008
- See for example Sunroof remixes on Discogs.