Contrary to the theories of many scientists, it is music that shapes our thoughts, stretches our universe, and molds the culture. For lovers of this art form in its purist, meet the musical equivalent of Naum Gabo. Miyl (pronounced Mil), was born Jamiyl Gaines in Durham, NC. The Bull city native, to his own admission, has been standing at a crossroad for a long time. Calculating every possible outcome, sort of like Neo in front of all of the televisions in The Matrix. Positive and negative. While planning is vital to success, the perfectionist has planned to the point of procrastination. Now carrying his mother's spirit in his heart, his daughters' futures in his mind, and a child support summons in his wallet, the only child is charging straight at the crossroad with plans of going in all directions.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I'm from Durham, North Carolina. The Chamber of Commerce would want me to call it "The City of Medicine." Everyone else calls it the Bull City.
WHAT IS YOUR MUSIC BACKGROUND?
I started playing the trumpet at 11 years old and played until I graduated from high school. My grandmother had paid for piano lesson for my cousin (who eventually quit), so I just used her old books to teach myself the basics. Music was always my first love, but I never thought that I could be successful as a musician. While I was in college I would make beats for my friends back home on a Roland XP-60. After Economics fried my brain and a little convincing, I started taking my skills seriously.
DESCRIBE YOUR FIRST INSTRUMENT.
My granddaddy got my trumpet from a pawn shop in our neighborhood. The case was in better shape than the actual trumpet, but I loved it. I was constantly cleaning it and oiling the valves. I kept it all the way until I graduated from high school. I would tell you what happened to it, but this isn't a Barbara Walter's special.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO RECORD AND RELEASE YOUR OWN MUSIC? BE HONEST.
Honestly I feel that the music is such a large part of the culture and is one of the major guiding forces. So as the music goes, so go the people. Right now my people are not in a good space. There's much more to our culture than being killers and drug dealers. I want to show that you can be cool without being either of those things. I also want to see if I can create the level of music that is timeless. I'm not sure if that is the mind set that other great artist went into it with, but we'll see if it works for me.
WHAT ARE YOUR SONGS ABOUT?
My music is about things I have lived and want to live. My interpretations of some worldly things. Hopefully they contain all of the elements that people need to hear and most of the elements they want to hear.
DO YOU WRITE YOUR OWN SONGS?
I try to write as much of my own material as possible. If I do need help with a chorus or verse, there are only 2 people I call on. Other than that, what you are getting is 100% me.
WHO ARE YOUR MUSICAL INFLUENCES? BE SPECIFIC
My influences change with the minutes. I grew up listening to everything possible. My family's age range was wide so I got exposed to every genre possible. Because I thought everyone in my family was cool in some way, whatever they listened to was cool. So I draw my inspiration from different places at different times. I'm weird, so when I am working I think about the feelings of my listeners. So more than anything, I'm influenced by the reaction that I want people to have to what they're hearing.
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC TO PEOPLE? THIS SHOULD NOT BE A SHORT ANSWER
My music is a motorcycle gang performing the "The Nutcracker," an 8 year old making an obscene gesture in the car beside you riding down the highway, the dreams of an inmate, and the nightmares of a priest. I just made that up straight off the dome, did you like that?
Mostly my music is 100% me. It's every mood that I've ever been in. A bunch of pain that my therapist couldn't get me to talk about.
WHAT IMAGE DO YOU THINK YOUR MUSIC CONVEYS?
I think if you closed your eyes you would see a world where anything is possible. You are welcomed as you are, as long as you are being yourself. There is no such thing as second place. Your past is exactly that and no one is better or worst than anyone else. My dream world I suppose. Hopefully I can make this world somewhere that you want to be and return to. There's room enough here for everyone to have their own universe. Especially the pretty ladies.
WHAT ARE YOUR LONG TERM GOALS?
As an artist, my goals are as infinite as my creative potential. However, three (3) objectives remain constant. The first of these being to remain dedicated to my music. In this era of the megastar and the singer/actor, many artists often fill their agendas with interests outside of music. For this reason, most composers fail at my second goal, connecting with and enhancing the lives of their fan base. A large portion of music being recorded fails to be relevant after it is taken off of radio rotation. By providing nurturing music for your fan base, you create a connection that resonates far after your album has finished spinning. A successful completion of this goal places me in such company as The Beatles, Miles Davis, Mozart, and Stevie Wonder. While being in such company would make you a recipient of the illustrious Grammy, my third goal is a prize that I will never know how many times it's awarded to me. This final dream is to be worthy of being immortalized as a poster on an admirer's wall. This would be my greatest accomplishment.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THE WORD "SUCCESS"?
Success is best defined by the completion of all of your goals. So success to me is the ability to move my granny out of the neighborhood where I was raised. After that, my being able to secure my daughter's futures is all the success I will need. I don't need much. If I can stay away from Hollywood then I think that I will be okay.
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR AN INDEPENDENT LABEL DEAL OR A MAJOR LABEL?
I read an article recently of a very successful indie artist. She had some interesting numbers to back up her argument for being an indie artist. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn't want to be backed by a major label. If it is possible to have music of substance flooding the airwaves instead of what you may hear currently, why not have the support of a major label. So I guess in order to pack stadiums like Shawn Carter and The Beatles, you need to be major.
IN WHAT WAY DOES THE LIVING IN DURHAM AFFECT THE MUSIC YOU CREATE, OR YOUR TASTE IN MUSIC?
Being from North Carolina period puts me right in the drain. So everything comes our way. We listened to everyone. Partly because we aren't being represented on the airwaves. So I guess the affect that it has had on me is to adding some extra pressure to make music that can't be denied. When I saw Little Brother, come out and really give it to 100% from the underground to the record store and not get respect, I realized that 100% ain't good enough for North Carolina cause we don't have a built in gimmick like other places. We didn't invent hip-hop like New York can lay claim to. We're not the epitome of the "Dirty South" like places like Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. The palm trees don't sway here like in Florida and there aren't any low riders hopping down our MLK like in Cali. So the affect that all of this has on me is motivation to present our identity.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR YOU?
I had a couple of problems. Number one, I'm a big procrastinator. One of the biggest challenges I faced was actually just going out and getting things done. I also needed to understand that it was okay to dream big. You know how sometimes you share your dreams with people and they say "well that sounds great, but how about you take this out and just try to do this for now?" When you allow that doubt in then things fall apart and you feel like your dreams might be a bit far out of your reach. So after I let all that doubt go, I've been making things happen.
DO YOU HAVE YOUR OWN FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC AND IS IT ANY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU PLAY NOW?
In the 90s I picked up a taste for Alternative music. I think I love it more not being what everything else is trying to be, which is sort of my whole mode of operation. I'm fascinated with composition and the way that different instrumentation creates different moods, probably why my friends say that I have too many parts to my instrumentals. So I have been heavy into Classical, Big Band, and Broadway lately.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR STRONGEST INFLUENCE TO CONTINUING CREATING MUSIC?
There is so much in me that needs to come out. I feel like I haven't scratched the surface to my potential. More than that, I don't want my children to have to work like I did. So for that not to happen daddy has to do exactly what his heart is telling him to do and that's make music until I'm not here to do it anymore.
DOES ANYONE IN PARTICULAR INFLUENCE YOUR ARTISTIC TALENT?
The best way I can describe my influences is by saying anyone that still has fans, especially from the 60s and 70s. This was an era where things were happening musically that shape what music is today. Some of these things were happening because of risks that were being taken, but most of the creativity came from necessity. Without all the technology we possess today, these artists created connections with people that last to this day, even after most of these artists are gone. So I'm influenced by the possibility of creating connections that people won't be willing to let go of even after I'm gone.
WHAT FAMOUS MUSICIANS DO YOU ADMIRE? WHY?
Any of the artist that I have posters of right now, but Miles and Coltrane are at the very top of the mountain. From covering standards to experimentation, these two weren't afraid at all. I want to have that range in my music. Not to do something because it's cool, but to have what you are doing become cool. Kurt Cobain is another of my favorites. Talk about being a poster child for a whole genre of music. I only knew of him through his music, but in my eyes he was probably one of the most human stars that there ever was or will be. Here's one that is going to shock a lot of people. I'm by no means a gangster, but I admire 50 Cent's hunger and his ability to discard the feelings of others. If I had those two traits maybe I would be where I want to be right now.
WHAT ARE YOU FONDEST MUSICAL MEMORIES IN YOUR HOUSE?
I just remember music being on all the time. No matter whom I was with. My granny had the vinyl so I got doses of everything from Rufus and Chaka to Bobby Womack. In my aunt's car you'd hear disco. My other grandmother had a clock radio in her kitchen that she only allowed to be on the gospel station. I think it was an AM station because it had that frequency hum in the background. (Laughs) My uncle Terry probably broadened my music spectrum without knowing it. He was into more of the folk and soft pop stuff. So when people catch me listening to the Carpenters and The Mama & The Papas, I have him to thank for that. So music was everywhere that I was. It was never censored either, my family let me listen to whatever I wanted.
WERE YOU INFLUENCED BY OLD RECORDS & TAPES? WHICH ONES?
Since I got to hear so much, I found something that I enjoyed from every song and every artist. One thing that I would do though is study album covers. I would try to take myself to that moment in time. I'd stare into the eyes of the artist, look at what they were wearing, and read the linear notes. Lyrics and all. This is back when you the linear notes were the only way to know who you were listening to. So I soaked all that in and use all of it right now.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR MUSIC OBLIGATIONS WITH YOUR SOCIAL LIFE, CHILDREN, AND JOB?
Balance might not be the best word for what I'm doing, but I make it work. I'm a firm believer in everything having a purpose. My social life right now is the same as work. That's really the only time I get to hang out. If I'm not at work, I'm taking caring of my youngest daughter and anytime that I am not with her or at work, I'm in my studio/living room trying to change my life one note and one line at a time.
WHAT ASPECT OF MAKING MUSIC EXCITES YOU THE MOST RIGHT NOW?
More than any other time that I have studied, musically this is the best time to be different. I'm extremely excited about not being anything like what is being played on the radio. If I'm able to be different and relevant at the same time, I am going to be everything that I think I can be.
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO RIGHT NOW MUSIC-WISE?
Worrying. When you are working on songs for other people, life is good. You make tracks and just keep going. I see why it takes Dr. Dre so long to release albums. Being the producer, engineer, and artist, I worry about every aspect of the songs. Sometimes maybe too much. So right now I'm writing and re-writing, tweaking and removing parts from tracks. No one wants to flop right out of the gate. At least you want to get on VH1's one hit wonder list.
LATELY WHAT MUSICAL PERIODS OR STYLES DO YOU FIND YOURSELF MOST DRAWN TO?
I've been listening to a lot of music from the 60s and 70s lately. The music was pretty basic, but the songwriting was superb. I'm trying to tap into that space where you can say what needs to be said, without speaking it direct. Something that leaves your audience thinking and possibly arguing over what you meant. All of which brings them back to your music over and over again.
NAME A BAND OR MUSICIAN THAT YOU FLAT-OUT LOVE AND THINK THAT MORE PEOPLE SHOULD LISTEN TO. WHATS ONE OF YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE RECORDINGS BY THIS MUSICIAN?
Michael Franks is number one on my list. For anyone that wants to hear some smooth, vocal jazz, this is the first place that I would send you. My uncle gave me a tape of his album "Blue Pacific," and from there I was hooked. If I had to pick one album, it would either be Art of Tea or Blue Pacific.
WHATS THE SADDEST SONG YOU'VE EVER HEARD?
Anything by Bjork. I love her music, but I never know how I'm supposed to feel when I am listening to it. So if you are down, then don't listen to Bjork.