Robots and Romans – An Interview with June Miller

You know that awkward moment when you meet someone for the first time and they tell you they “don’t like drum and bass”?  After the initial feeling that they need to just not exist I always politely tell them that drum and bass is an incredibly broad genre and perhaps they just haven’t found the side that suits them yet.

Because in actual fact it’s true, to an outsider, the eggiest of jump up and the most scratchy beardy of minimal won’t feel like the same genre, and as a result our scene has become incredibly segregated.  Over the years I feel there have been very few artists that have been able to bridge the gap between various d&b factions, both Zinc and Break did a pretty amazing job with Calibre up there too but until recently I wasn’t sure whether there was anyone to fill those rather large shoes, that was until I heard June Miller’s new album ‘Robots and Romans’ on Ram Records.

Whether you’re into the most technical of neuro, the most melodic of liquid, the outlandish and experimental or the earth shatteringly epic June Miller manage to tick all those boxes and more, subsequently sending a much needed surge of energy throughout the scene.  Their reputation for high octane live shows and “anything goes” approach have very much set the duo apart and, in my opinion, have made them one of the most exciting and versatile acts in a long, long time.  And so, it makes me incredibly happy to say that we recently had the opportunity to catch up with the guys to discuss all things Ram, Robots and Romans, here’s what was said . . .

Hi guys, thank you so much for joining us on in-Reach!

Heeeeyy In-Reach! Absolute pleasure!

It’s been a little minute since your album ‘Robots and Romans’ dropped on RAM Records and if the overall buzz was anything like ours here at In-Reach I can imagine the response has been nothing short of amazing!?

It’s been really humbling actually!  We must admit we were slightly nervous mainly due to the fact that we wanted to portray what we liked about drum and bass, which is quite a lot of different styles and vibes, not just tunes all made specifically for DJ’s, but mostly everyone has been very open minded and accepting, which is a special feeling! 

Releasing an album on the most prolific label in the genre must be every producers dream but if I remember rightly you guys came from quite humble beginnings.  In fact, I remember buying tracks like Soya Sushi and Shimizu/Quartz Controlled on wax back in the day and rinsing them mercilessly.  Can you tell us a little bit about the evolution of your sound!?  From the dark and moody to the epic, technical and down right mind-blowing!

I think the evolution has mainly been driven from working hard on the whole production side.  I remember a few years ago it was quite frustrating not being able to write a certain style or achieve a level of sound we were even slightly satisfied with, haha.  The more that side has developed the more freedom it gave us to actually do what we wanted to do on a daily basis.  What I mean with that is, we love to write lots of different forms and styles of music and that inspiration changes a lot.  For example, last week we had a huge inspiration to write some metal again so we started writing a metal tune at 86 bpm and this week, the feeling is a more a sober affair, so we have been writing a tune with a 30 piece orchestra.

Anyone that’s followed your musical career will already be aware of what a talented duo you guys make.  From hardcore punk to drum and bass and now, mostly recently Mark becoming a fully fledged Master of Ceremonies!  Has it always been a dream of yours to become an MC Mark, or was it an “oh fuck it, go on then” moment?

Hahaha, oh gosh!  Its all quite embarrassing really, haha!  I remember one night in Paris, Maztek and I were playing together and as he was just about to play, we couldn’t find the MC to introduce him.  So for some reason I was like ‘screw this, let me do this stuff’ – I remember waking up in the morning and thinking, what the hell have a done, this is terrible.  Then I checked the FB event and it seems everyone kinda liked it to my total shock haha.  That was obviously the worst thing that could happen because in my mind it gave me the confidence to do it all over again . . . Oh the pain!

JM MC

Haha!  Not at all, I remember waking up in the morning, seeing the picture of you on stage and had a good giggle to myself.  In the nicest possible way of course!  In actual fact, I have to admit that’s one thing i’ve always loved/admired/envied about your approach to music, you guys always bring such energy!  Whether its in person, through your music or through giving yourselves nose bleeds from going so buckwild on stage it’s clear to see that is more than just music to you!  That being said, is it difficult to keep up with the fast paced life of drum and bass DJ/producers?  And if so, how do you guys disconnect from it all to regain perspective?

Haha, I think that is why Bart and I get on so well, we both share the positive aspect on life.  Moving forward and bringing energy!  We gotta give credit to the whole Hardcore Punk scene for that. Everyone is so positive and driven, and its such hard work.  Hardly any money, driving your whole band to a show 500miles away for 50 quid, having to arrange practise together, sleeping on kitchen floors of the promoters house etc . . . So coming from that world, to a world where things are a lot more accessible was quite smooth in some way.  One thing for sure is that we definitely feel privileged to be in such an environment now even if it does require loads of traveling and sleepless nights.

In terms of disconnecting, I must admit, personally I find it hard.  Its not just about making music anymore, its basically running a full time business also, so it requires tons of different aspects to make it all work, so there is always something to do and always something to think about, which actually is pretty exciting.  l couldn’t think of a worse thing that sitting around doing nothing all day! 😀

Somewhere around the mid to late 2000’s I remember reading that you guys were voted “Best Up and Coming Act” in a Dutch drum and bass awards ceremony, it seems they couldn’t have been more spot on with that prediction!  If you were to give a piece of advice to any young producer embarking on that same journey, what would it be?

I think you need two things essentially; a bit of talent and a massively huge hunger to learn and be successful.  I guess its just like anything in life, the more you practise the better you get.  Its on my mind pretty much all day, and its more of a ‘what do I need to do to be better’ self question.  You can find so much knowledge online nowadays so you can pretty much find an answer, solution or new technique to get busy with 24/7.  Set yourself goals, like ‘ok i’m going to spend the next 2 weeks learning about a synth and find out as much as I can’ or ‘I’m going to spend the next few days trying out 25 different compressors on my drums to see and learn how they react and what they actually sound like’ – And if its not working out with the beats, try not to get so down but refocus with a positive energy and think about what the actual root cause is, rather than the direct problem; what I mean by that is, if your bass samples are not that great, you’re not going to solve the long term issue by spending 5 hours looking online for bass sounds.  But you will, if you get a learning plan together for yourself and invest time and effort into the skills for that.

If you listen very closely I think you can hear a little light come on in just about every aspiring producers’ head after reading that!  Now, I heard a little whisper that Bart is a fellow vegetarian!  How does that go down when it comes to studio snacks?  Has Mark been converted to Soya Sushi or is it an all out war between meat and vegetables?

Haha yes Bart is!  Actually its no issue at all!  I’m embarrassingly an ex vegi (sorry!!!) so I know how exciting and amazing vegetarian food can be. We actually hardly ever eat in the studio but we do cook a lot.  We both seriously love food so much, so never any problems with food unless we have to skip a kick ass BBQ restaurant for example because it doesn’t have a good veggi selection, haha!

Story of my life Mark, story of my life . . . Im sure you’re both aware that the drum and bass grapevine is as prevalent as ever and upon it, I heard that there could potentially be a little collab happening/about to happen with the cheeky teenage genius that is Signal, can you shed any light on this for us?

Signal is unofficially my son, haha!  I offered his parents that I would adopt him and then I would raise him in the jungle with a pack of giant wolves but they unfortunately declined my offer.  I couldn’t imagine why to be honest.  But the kid has a great talent and focus on production.  We’ll be making tons of music together in the future.

I can’t think why they declined that offer either, they must be crazy! . . . With so much already ticked off the drum and bass bucket list (achieving unfathomable, Noisia-esq production techniques, a critically acclaimed album on the most prolific label in the scene and playing stand out shows to thousands of crazy ravers to name just a few) where do you guys see yourselves this time next year? What would you most like to have achieved?

To be honest, we don’t really look back too much.  A short reflection is good but complacency seems like a disease we don’t want to catch, so we’re writing loads of new music at the moment.  Lots of collabs actually, which is really cool.

I think this time next year we will be about 70% through our next album I guess!  I think thats something we are going to start thinking about towards the end of year.  Make a new plan and see what we want to do.  But the plan for now is to just write music without any limits or direct purpose, which is really really fun to do!

And lastly, in terms of drum and bass, who would you say is your “one to watch out for”?

I would say Signal but because we already spoke about him so i’m gonna say ‘Disprove’ as his new tunes are just crazy.  We play them every set and you’re gonna see this guy massive next year!  Also a special mention to ‘Proxima’ who has put his dnb hat on again and is making some fire!

Big ups to that! Proxima made some of my favourite tracks back in the day!  Thanks again for joining us, it’s been a pleasure!!  Just before we go, any shout outs?

Yesss!  Massive sounds to the whole In-Reach crew for the amazing interview, you guys rock! A huge shout to everyone at RAM, GRAM and everyone we work with and to everyone that turns out to our shows week in and week out, amazing! <3

Awww shucks, what a nice guy! I guess we do kinda rock! . . . .

As always, if you’re yet to check June Miller’s latest release ‘Robots and Romans’ be sure to do it this very second, it’s available directly from RAM Records, beatport or any other reputable download store.  Shout outs again to June Miller for joining us and until next time, peace! x