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Steve Miller: On the After-life, Ibiza & Wi-Fi Allergies

Reported by News Editor / Submitted 14-08-09 18:08

“I love technology. I love computers. I love software. My worry is that they roll out new technology without testing how safe it really is. It’s about profits before people.”

Chatting to the Sun newspaper recently about being allergic to Wi-Fi internet, ambient producer Steve Miller was reported to be enduring a ‘a living hell that makes him feel sick, dizzy and confused’, which the Daily Telegraph instead dismissed as agoraphobia.

Steve in turn, pointed out that while his favourite pastime is sailing, some 286,000 people in Sweden have been officially diagnosed with the condition, with electrosensitivity also ‘recognized officially in Canada’.

“Wi-Fi is a terrible technology because it’s not secure and it’s slower than a cable,” he continues, “Plus there’s a brilliant alternative called DLAN or a home plug; all you need to do is plug your router into this plug which goes straight into a main socket and it will run the broadband signal all around the main wiring of the house. This is perfectly safe and secure as long as you don’t disable the main router plug in the socket.”

Calling his new album Electrosensitive then might suggest Steve’s more than a little Wifi allergy obsessed though he’s quick to reveal the title came from a much more prosaic source.

“The title was a slight play on words and at first was actually about electro-house,” he chuckles. “Because during the last three and a half years I’ve been making this album there was a lot of electro house around which I found appalling. I mean, there’s good electro out there, but this stuff wasn’t good at all.”

His own music (released under the band name of Afterlife) is decidedly downtempo in style, a pace he admits he find invigorating.

“I suppose it’s because it encompasses many different music styles and keeping things interesting and fresh means a great deal to me,” says Steve.

“It is wonderful to create a fusion mixing dub with a bit of rock, country, African, a bit of Latin and so on. And it seems to me this is a genre where everything is possible as opposed to any other genre all of which seem to have a stricter regime as to what is permissible or allowed.”

Skrufff (Benedetta Ferraro): How did you get started in music, am I right in thinking you’re a classically trained musician?

Steve Miller: “Fortunately I am, yes. I started playing piano from the age of five and I was doing small classical concerts by the age of twelve. Then I just got so fed up with the restrictions of being trained in a certain way, of not being able to improvise at all, so eventually I had a really big argument with my tutor, who was quite well known, and I sacked him, to the horror of my parents. I was twelve, just about to take my LRCM exams so they went ballistic, but that was it for me. I wasn’t going back to work with him. Instead I went to work with a jazz orchestra and I became their youngest pianist and much to my parents’ disgust I later joined a reggae band, the ultimate disaster for them, but the ultimate fun for me.”

Skrufff: You’re nowadays based in Cornwall, did you grow up there?

Steve Miller: “No, I was born in Birmingham. I left when I was seventeen, came down to London and then I worked all around the world. I lived in Los Angeles for about three years, New York for a year, worked lots in Europe, almost like a roving musician in my trade and production technique. Finally I moved to Cornwall four years ago when broadband became available here.”

Skrufff: When did you first come across Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity?

Steve Miller: “I started reading up about the whole EMF situation. I looked at symptoms that I had been having previously and realized that many magnetic fields can effect us in many ways, though Wife was subjectively for me very, very obvious. As soon as I walk anywhere with Wi-Fi I can feel it. I get dizzy, I have terrible headaches, and if I don’t leave I cannot think straight at all.”

Skrufff: Did if affect the recording of this album much?

Steve Miller: “It did become more part of the process of writing some of the tracks, yes, but I didn’t want it to be very obvious. An album is like a reflection of a period of your life, like a photo album of a holiday, and this album is an unconscious reflection of my life in the last three years. So it reflects some of the sadness I have because I cannot fly, I cannot travel wherever I like, I cannot go to visit my friends in London or take a lot of the DJ gigs that are offered to me in Europe, I can’t go to Ibiza even if I drive there, as most hotels in Europe have Wi-Fi so finding a place to sleep is very hard.”

Skrufff: I understand the condition is also often sparked by electrical equipment: have any other devices caused you problems?

Steve Miller: “A mobile phone once. This was back in 2000; I was on a train speaking to my record company about upcoming projects for over an hour, and the next day I discovered a really big lump on the back of my ear where I had been holding the phone. The next day my doctor confirmed it was due to my mobile phone use, and when I asked him why didn’t they do something about it he answered that there’s too much money involved. Many friends of mine had the same issue. Now, if I have to use my mobile phone I do it on the loudspeaker.”

Skrufff: How does the WiFi situation affect you now?

Steve Miller: “I am a lot happier these days having made certain changes in my life; it’s just a little difficult to maintain a social life because many venues, restaurants, bars, have Wi-Fi, which I have to avoid. It makes you feel like a wet blanket but personally I have no alternative.”

Skrufff: The biggest restraint for you must be not being able to go to Ibiza . . .

Steve Miller: “It is, but not only there, there have many places in Europe I’ve had to turn down the gig this year. A friend of mine who has a fairly big sailing boat, half jokingly suggested we sail there, but that would take five or six days. I like sailing but not on a force nine gale, that would be very unpleasant, and the weather is so unpredictable these days. We would have to be there for a week or two, then wait for good weather conditions to sail back. It’s a big project, just to go and play out a few records.”

Skrufff: So where do you play? Or can you play these days?

Steve Miller: “The only place is ‘The Cove’, my favourite bar/restaurant here on the beach in Cornwall. I always do the summer parties there and maybe an end of the summer party as well. It’s out on the terrace overlooking the beach and it’s very Balearic, very beautiful and it’s known just by word of mouth.”

Skrufff: Your recording name is Afterlife: do you believe in the afterlife: or supernatural forces in general?

Steve Miller: “I believe that when we die it’s just a transition and then we move forward. But Afterlife came about because I used to be in a reggae band and we were joking one day because we were all going our separate ways and our manager at the time said ‘is there life after reggae’? I immediately though: that’s a good name.”

Skrufff: How much do you believe technology gone too far?

Steve Miller: “Governments want a quiet time; they want a good economy and happy people. Scientists want to be able to receive their funding to discover new, interesting things. The rest of us want just what’s best for us, now these three things can clash and I think at the moment there’s more concern around money than people’s health, well being and happiness.”

Steve Miller’s new album Afterlife – Electrosensitive, is out now on Defected Records.

Recommended reading (by Steve) on Electro Sensitivity:
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