‘The freedom we lost cannot be reconquered cheaply, but however high, it is a price worth paying’ – Robert Miles, ‘23am’ album sleeve notes (1997).
Another too young artistic soul has lost his battle against the illness and left this world too soon.
Born Roberto Concina on November 1969, Robert Miles was a Swiss-born Italian record producer, composer, musician and DJ.
Who,in the 90s, did not listen, even just casually, the intriguing and infectious piano notes of the massive Euro hit single ‘Children’. ‘It was done after my father showed me pictures of child victims of the war in Yugoslavia back in 1994’ recalled Robert.
An incidental ‘one hit wonder’, as it often happens, 13 million copies sold of his debut album: fame, money, magazine covers, exposure, A&R’s pressure and greed.
You have to be thick skinned to survive, the music industry pressed to reiterate the winning formula and ‘Children’-alike tracks as ‘Fable’, ‘One And One’ and ‘Freedom’ (featuring the great Kathy Sledge), soon followed; clearly commercial consumer products made to be chart hits, all characterized by his trademark piano notes and the trancey atmosphere.
Robert gave way at first to the pressures of his manager and the major BMG label and the star system rules, but soon he did feel those records far from his artistic sensibility, so much to refuse to appear on the cover of the sophomore album.
Enough was enough, Robert decided the time had come to break the chains off, as he said, those ‘gangs of sharks’ and to follow his own free path. It was 1998, a brave but unavoidable uphill move, but finally he could make the music he liked and freely experiment with new sonic horizons and inspirations.
Relocated in a big multi ethnic city like London, he was immediately overwhelmed by a wave of new underground sounds, but it was the fertile electronic brit-indian-jazz electronic scene with drum & bass hints, grown around visionary musicians like Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney, the Outcaste Records label and the seminal compilation/manifesto ‘Anokha: Soundz Of The Asian Underground’, that strongly stimulated his fantasy.
It’s precisely from these new intriguing influences, trips to India and new musical meetings that in 2001 will originate and develop his first independent album ‘Organik’ for his own diy label S:alt (suitably alternative) Records. Recorded and produced between London and Ibiza with the contribution of amazing musicians such as Nitin Sawhney, Bill Laswell, Paul Falloon, Trilok Gurtu and the song ‘Paths’ co-written with Smoke City featuring Nina Miranda on vocals. Robert said about it ‘it was entirely conceptualised while travelling in India and still trying to gain my artistic independence’.
The year later, the reworking treatment of the album titled ‘Organik Remixes’ with remixes by promising young electronic artists like Riton, Da Lata, Si Beggs, 2nd Gen and, ‘icing on the cake’, The Future Sound Of London, will be released.
In 2004, Robert released the collaborative mini album with the Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu as ‘Miles_Gurtu’, a brilliant nu-jazz album with electronic and progressive rock elements.
Highly influenced by Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’ period and Pink Floyd, he re-emerged in 2011 with his fifth full length ‘Th1rt3en’, and features as guest his youth’s idol King Crimson’s guitarist Robert Fripp.
More experimental, space ambient with some drum & bass suggestions, it’s a work of daring contrasts and a poignant fusion of his early persistent jazz and progressive listenings with the new trippy electronic sound of acts like Orbital and The Orb.
It was ‘the product of the last six years of events, a mix of very different and strong experiences that have shaped my life and music like I could never previously have imagined’ Miles said.
In the last years Robert, always looking for new challenges and adventures and with a wide range of artistic interests and hobbies as architecture, design, video editing and gardening, relentlessly kept on working in the studio amassing a wide archive of unfinished and unreleased tracks.
‘The most important thing for me is to create music that will stand the test of time. It’s a big aim, I know … but I feel like I’m on the right path. And that with every new album I am getting closer and closer to achieving it’
He also threw himself into his futuristic OpenLab digital radio project based in property in Ibiza, reaching in few space of time an audience of more than 500.000 people worldwide. It surely was for him like going back to his roots, when in the early 90s he used to run a dance pirate radio station in the North/East of Italy.
As evidence of his endless passion for new music he said ‘l give my listeners something that had nearly been forgotten – discovery! Today we play the music of tomorrow’.
I met him once just for a brief ‘aperitivo’ when he still was in the middle of his messy hype period, a really nice humble guy that seemed to be uncomfortable with the unexpected fame and would be quite happy to be back to a normal life of anonymity. He still felt to be part of that underground where he happily used to spin his German techno and psy-trance records just few years before, but unworthily he was judged now as a sell-out and a traitor. He just couldn’t tolerate that.
In a world of increasingly fake and spoiled hipsters, ready to sell their mothers for fame and money, his pure star shines brighter than ever.
A true radical and forward thinking artist who has left a pioneering mark in the history of dance electronic music.
He fully deserves all our endless respect, love and memory.
‘Music to me is the medium that allows me to talk to the world, to express myself and with which I spend many appreciated hours in solitude – exploring the many faces of the art and its magic…It’s the one art that people can’t live without’.