This Sunday, Nouveau York welcomes back Justin Miller to Le Bain. Formerly known as ‘Justin Miller from DFA,’ Mr Miller went solo a few months ago to focus on his own career as a DJ and music producer. A regular - and a favorite! - at Le Bain, Justin will play along side the Dirt Crew from Berlin and the Parisian deep techno producer Rone. We shared a cab over to 13th and Washington and chatted about going solo, DJ bliss and how to get a room full of Hollywood swells to go “Dance Crazy.”
Justin Miller stays cool with Jacques Renault - photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya
The Standard: Your name and career had been associated with DFA records since 2005, where you had been part of the team. You left the label last year, to stand on your own feet. How did you feel? Was it like leaving a successful band and going solo?
Justin Miller: I’m feeling great! Thank you for asking. I do recall having some reservations about my career shift but when January 1, 2012 came, any uneasy feelings melted away. Working with DFA was an incredible opportunity and experience. Many would call it ‘the dream job’ and for me it was exactly that. As much as DFA felt like my own at the end of the day it was not my baby.
The last day of 2011, right before you played for the NYE DFA party at Le Bain, we asked you your wishes for 2012. You told us your ‘music revolution’ was to ‘become the music maker.’ Was it one of the reason you wanted to have more time for yourself: to create your own music?
You are absolutely correct. The day-to-day operation of the label along with DJing regularly left little time to focus on music production. I finally reached a point where the urge to create something of my own took precedence. I’m still in the early learning stages while setting myself up at home with the proper equipment needed to experiment. I hope to release something by the end of the year. Even if it’s only one track, I’ll be happy. That will be a milestone for me and set me on the path I wish to proceed.
Your ‘Music resolution’ for 2012 was ‘Have a Killer Time,’ which has been your motto and the brand of your own. When was the first time you had a “Killer” time?
Well it was all pleasant good times up until I started Have A Killer Time. Now it’s all Killer no filler.
And the last time?
There is no last time, only the next time.
Who are your all time favorite musicians who went solo after having success as a band?
The first ones that comes to mind are John Cale & Lou Reed. The break up of The Velvet Underground was a good thing because these two artists went on to produce some of my favorite albums of all time. Vintage Violence, Paris 1919, Transformer, Berlin & more.
You have played many times at Le Bain, with and without the DFA crew, and you really have been very consistent as a DJ - you always rock it. Even when you have ‘a killer time’ you seem to stay in control. Would you say that self-control is one of your strengths?
Never thought of it as self control. I just really love what I do. Fun first and foremost is key. If I’m having a ‘killer time’ then others will too. This sounds hippy’ish but it’s about energy and the vibe of the room. The people and the DJ make some kind of connection.
You also have been playing a lot for the art crowd, including a DJ set at MoMa for Tim Burton’s exhibition after party. There is a story I like about it: you “dropped Day O by Harry Belafonte which plays during a dinner scene in Burton’s film Beetlejuice and everyone went dance crazy including Mr. Burton himself.” And then you add “Good thing I thought of that 5 minutes before I left for the gig.” I think it is a perfect definition of being a good DJ. Be smart with your audience and get ready. Do you follow any other rules?
I agree with you 100%. That time it was both being prepared but at the same time not over thinking it. The only rules I follow with DJing are staying up on releases by the artists and labels I like while looking for other new gems. If I spend 30 to 40 minutes pulling records or sampling some music before a gig I tend to play better. The music is fresh in my mind so a track will pop into my head before I even have a chance to look for something to play next.
Beetlejuice’s Day O dinner scene
Your twitter motto is “so handsome, my looks dj for me.” Is this the other little secret of yours?
Well this was a joke of sorts (Laughing). My original twitter handle/name was ‘DJ Handsome’ which was followed by that tag line. This is an inside joke between myself and some friends - specifically the one friend that got me on twitter to begin with. In the end I had to change it to @haveakillertime to keeps things consistent.
You also said that you would have been a photographer if not a DJ. Could you send us a few of your own photos that would be a good definition of you?
Hum, I did say that once. I’m far from a photographer but here are a couple photos on my website or soon to be.