Robert Miles rocketed to fame with his global hit ‘Children’ and its accompanying album ‘Dreamland’ (selling 14 million copies and accidentally turning the mainstream onto chill-out in the process) Robert’s first job in music was in radio, as the DJ and proprietor of one of Italy’s most musically experimental pirate radio stations.
Here we take time out of Roberts very busy schedule to talk to him about Ibiza and his latest project OpenLab.
Can you tell us what you have been up to the last few years?
Travelling, meeting like-minded people around the world and of course writing music – I’ve just finished the soundtrack for an American documentary called ‘The Turn of this Century’ which uses the amazing photographs in TIME magazine’s archive to tell the story of the 20th Century.
Also, in 2006 I bought a 500 year old finca in Ibiza and have made it my second base. Ever since I’ve been moving backwards and forwards a lot between Ibiza and London.
What brought you to Ibiza in the first place?
I was very young when I first came to the island….back in the late ‘80s. It was a pretty different place back then. Then in the ‘90s I started to come regularly every summer (either to play in the clubs or just to compose new music) and eventually decided to have a base here. Now I spend more and more time in Ibiza. I just love its energy and the international creative community living here.
Can you tell us the story about your new project OpenLab Radio?
It’s a long story…but very briefly…I’ve been involved with radio in one way or another since I was 17 and every time I came to Ibiza I was amazed by the fact that there wasn’t a single station on the island that played the more alternative and eclectic kinds of music.
I mean…Ibiza is well known (especially in the last decade) for having a large international community of creative people, all of whom are forward thinking in their ideas and their way of living. They’re the kind of people that eat organic food and try to avoid the ‘supermarket’ style of eating, especially when feeding their kids. People that love technology, cutting edge ideas and alternative music but who also respect the environment and are trying to live without the compromises of big city life in the 21st Century.
A lot of these people come from across Europe and beyond, and they’ve not only been settled in Ibiza for a while now but have given life to a whole new community here, not least a whole new generation of beautiful kids who can all speak 2 or 3 different languages and are totally blessed growing up on a paradise island.
After meeting many of them over the years I noticed that they all had about two common complaints, firstly about the music being played in the clubs and radio stations (especially after the mid-‘90s) and secondly the fact that there wasn’t a single place on the island where the resident members of this international community could gather and simply hang out, exchange their views about life – whether music, art, technology, ecology, education, the world of tomorrow etc. – and listen to something different than they’d been hearing at every other club and radio station for the last 15 years.
I totally sympathised with them and so started thinking about ways of bringing all these people (and not just those living in Ibiza) together. The idea of a combined Internet radio station and creative centre came to mind and after thinking about it for a while I eventually met with some other people last year who had a similar idea.
At first we tried to launch a radio station together (some of you will remember Ibiza Alpha One) but we had very different views about the content and the management of the project and so after only a few months we went our separate ways. I decided to do it on my own instead, came up with the name OpenLab, and after a really successful first year here we are today!
We broadcast worldwide via www.openlab.fm and on 89.9FM in Ibiza and Formentera. I’m also planning frequencies in London and Berlin quite soon.
We only play top quality alternative music and our aim is to bring to the island (and now to the world thanks to the internet) a fresh approach to the way music and sound design can be combined to create a more sophisticated listening experience.
It’s a station for people that like new, alternative music and also appreciate art, culture, fine design and innovation. Many say it’s the best sounding station on the island (which I am obviously very proud of). We’ve invested in the best equipment available on the market to achieve that.
I’m a firm believer that music needs to be listened to at the best possible quality, in order to really experience all the subtle changes and elements. And this is particularly true of alternative music tracks. Most stations lose that detail and even worse there’s now a trend for broadcasting mp3s!
In addition to the station we’re also planning to build a multi-media centre in the northern part of the island where artists and like-minded people from all over the world can gather and spend time together; creating new art and coming up with new ideas and projects.
Children’s education is also a fundamental part of that project and our aim is to offer a platform where kids can learn to maximise their social and other skills – playing an instrument, painting, dancing, using the latest technology, and so on.
I think that Ibiza is entering a new phase. People have been moving here from all over the world and so the island is changing a lot. Its population alone has doubled in a very short amount of time.
Technology gives us all the opportunity to be in touch with anyone, anywhere in the world at the touch of a button. It almost doesn’t feel like living on an island any more. Ibiza is more and more becoming a creative hub and not just a party place like many people still think.
OpenLab definitely wants to be part of this transformation and we want to ‘transmit’ this new side of Ibiza to the world. In turn we’ve been amazed by the massive support for that we’re receiving, both from people living on the island and those listening all around the globe. It’s fantastic to see the station growing day by day and knowing there’s a considerable number of people out there who’ve started switching on their car stereo for the first time in years because they’ve finally found a place where they can listen to good alternative music, and only good alternative music.
Do you get to DJ much now?
I’ve been DJing less in the last few years. I was lucky enough to be part of the electronic/club scene from the time of the very first acid house parties of the ‘80s, all the way to its peak in the mid ‘90s, and in recent years it’s been hard sometimes to find those special moments and that energy in clubs again. Maybe it’s me getting older…maybe it’s the fact that club music has become very mainstream and superficial with most big DJs using the same formula over and over again…and very often playing the same records that we were playing 20 years ago! It’s boring and anti-creative. Ibiza needs to open up to genres other than club music. It’s such a beautiful island and there are so many amazing spots. I can imagine live alternative music concerts that would be just breathtaking.
Where do you think the music scene is heading in Ibiza?
As I said, I think that there is a substantial change happening on the island: there are faster internet connections; residents of the island can travel to all the major cities around Europe in less than 3 hours; bigger ports and more modern infrastructure are being built; increasing numbers of these international creatives and free-thinkers are moving to the island. It’s as if the island is losing its old skin and a new Ibiza is coming to life. I hope that the music scene will change along with this new era so we get more variety and, most importantly, quality.
Over the years what’s been your personal / professional highlight of your involvement with the island?
I guess the release of ‘Children’ and the way it stormed the island in the summer of 1996. Ibiza embraced the track as much as the rest of the world did and it was an amazing time, seeing so many people dancing to a tune that I’d made 2 years earlier in my then girlfriend’s 4x4m2 garage! A more recent highlight in my life was that I’ve become the father of an amazing little girl.
What does Ibiza have that other similar destinations don’t have to make it so special?
Its energy is unique. Every time I land here I feel really good and inspired. Most people around the world identify Ibiza with parties and drugs…but we all know that there is much more to the island than that, in every aspect.
If you could change one thing about the island, what would it be and why?
I’d eliminate petrol and diesel cars and replace them with electric ones, helping make it a more green and sustainable island. Ibiza is relatively small so it could totally be self-sufficient. I’d also remove all the supermarkets that sell processed food and create weekly markets where only organic food would be sold. One day maybe 🙂
What do you think the future holds for Ibiza?
I think it will eventually lose its focus on mainstream clubs and dance music and become at the same time more chic and more creative. A premium destination but with innovation at its core.
Do you see the internet as a vital part in today’s electronic music scene?
I actually see the Internet being a vital part of today’s (and tomorrow’s) life as a whole. It’s changing the way we think, the way we live and so of course the way we communicate, and music is a vital part of that.
Electronic music came into being many years before the internet, so I guess the latter is not vital in order for that genre of music to exist. It might help distribution and sharing but it’s not essential.
Where do you think electronic music and the internet are heading?
Electronic music will become more and more sophisticated thanks to new software and technology. Hopefully we’ll also return to a high standard of audio quality as well (I think mp3s just ruin the sensitivity of people’s ears!).
For me, producers such as Flying Lotus, Gold Panda and Apparat (to name just a few…there’s a lot of indie/underground acts that could be added to that list), bands like Radiohead and labels like Ghostly and Ninja Tune have been taking it to a whole new level in recent years. This is music where you can actually hear and feel the artists conveying their emotions through their work. It’s another world completely to that other, often more mainstream electronic music out there, stuff that sounds flat and soulless…
OpenLab is all about that first kind of music, high quality, innovative and artistic. I hope one day to be able to bring these artists to the island and give life to the first OpenLab music gathering.
I think the Internet will also become the most powerful and pervasive media on the planet. Terrestrial platforms such as FM radio and VHF/UHF TV will eventually just disappear. Give it another 10 years and see what happens….we are in for a big change.
Does social media play a role in your music career? If so how?
It does indeed. It’s my favourite way to connect with all my friends and fans around the world. As well as direct communication it gives me a platform from which I can keep them posted about everything I’m involved with.
OpenLab wouldn’t exist without on-line networks …. we’ve managed to gather more than 50,000 likes on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/openlabradio) in just 3 months and day after day we get people connecting and asking to help with the project.
As I’ve already said, the radio station is just a small part of the overall OpenLab project. We’re aiming to build a creative space in the northern part of the island which will include recording studios, an open air live venue, an artists’ retreat and a chill out area. People will be able to come and perform or exhibit their work, share their ideas and help build the world of tomorrow.
If you had to start all over again from scratch, what one piece of equipment would you use?
Do you miss vinyl records?
I do…mostly the sound of vinyl. Though having said that, if you’re DJing and have to carry 200-300 records around everywhere you go it can get pretty difficult, so for that I definitely thank technology for having invented the digital format. It’s light and never deteriorates. Embrace the future…vinyl is more a lifestyle / collectible item than a useful musical tool these days.
Do you think it is easier or harder for new DJs and producers to get involved in the electronic music scene today?
It’s harder of course…there is much more competition.
After the 1990s and 2000s being huge for dance music do you think the dance music scene is still as popular and strong today?
Let’s say that it is not as ‘credible’ as it used to be back then…but dance music will never die as it’s part of our culture. People will always want to go out and dance together. What will eventually change is the way the music is produced and perceived and ultimately of course even danced to. Remember how differently people used to dance at the beginning of acid house and the way they dressed up in amazing costumes? Imagine how things like that will develop over the next 100 years from now!
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