5 Magazine meets with Chicago producer and Grammy nominated remixer E-Smoove, aka Eric Miller, and talk about his 400 credited remixes and multiple #1 hits, working at Steve Hurley’s ID production house, “Freedom Train” (recently re-issued on Derrick Carter & Luke Solomon’s Classic Music Company) and his shift into video production.
On ID Productions
To go back, I knew Steve [Hurley] from DJing, of course. I wouldn’t say we were friends but we were acquaintances. I had a record on Mike “Hitman” Wilson’s label, a hip hop record. Steve used to play on the radio and I thought it’d be the kind of thing he could get into. This is at the time that he was doing remixes for Roberta Flack, and I don’t know if he’d done the Ten City stuff yet or was just working on it. It was right when his career on major labels was taking off.
So I hung out there for a good while before things took off. I worked for free for about two years there to try to break in! It was really like being an intern, pretty far from just walking into a steady job…
From my perspective, we had things at ID that were really done right. They had the Motownesque component down, of getting a group of creative people and remixers who understood the niche of the so-called “ID sound”. You had supporting songwriters, engineers, and you were booked at a studio with professionals which gave your music a sense of quality.
The gear we were using was not primitive at all. Management provided real studios for us. It wasn’t about making music on a Mackey 1604 but on this massive board with knowledgeable engineers. These days, the Swedish House Mafia might use an SSL but they probably only use two channels. If you make music in a non-studio environment, it’ll sound like music made in a non-studio environment. It’s that simple.
Where I think ID missed the boat was in comparison to Def Mix, by way of example. Def Mix understood the underground and that was the difference. Frankie and David were out DJing with the records they made and, believe it or not, our manager at the time was from an old school, R&B background and he didn’t want us in the streets. Like I remember Lynn Cosgrove of Ministry of Sound on the phone begging me to come over there and play. You have to think back – I’ve been doing this since I was 14 years old and someone’s calling me from London, from Ministry of Sound, begging me to play at the biggest, most awesome club in the world. But I have to say that “manager/dad” won’t let me. They didn’t want to sacrifice and take away from the good thing we had going.
On The 400 Remixes (!) He’s Credited With
I could not say for sure how many remixes there are altogether. Discogs fell off in tracking my remixes after 2000 or so. But if they have 400, I’d say it’s probably closer to 500.
We were sometimes working with two track masters and had to build the remix around that. There wasn’t really room to complain when the harmony wasn’t separated from the vocal or something like that. We were very solutions oriented; you couldn’t wait around for the perfect set-up because you might never get it.
On Video Production
I got into it a few years back. My cousin came to me when he was just out of film school, wanting to start a production company. I invested in it, buying equipment and so on, and then got involved behind the camera. We shoot music videos – we did one for Maurice Joshua’s record with Andrea Love, “More Love”, among others.
On Songwriting In House Music
I’ve worked with some of the most incredible vocalists. And I respect the young guys, I always have, but what’s lacking are good songwriters. Michael Jackson was an incredible vocalist, but what would he have been without Rod Temperton? When you create music in a vacuum, with no interaction with musicians and songwriters and engineers, you can hear the difference. The quality of a Quincy Jones record comes from having the best of everything – the best songwriters, the best studios, the best musicians.
The one thing that a computer cannot do (and there’s probably somebody writing code for this as we speak) is write a song that brings out emotion.
On “Freedom Train”
I made that record around the time that I left ID. I didn’t want to totally walk away from major label work, but I wanted to make a record that wasn’t such a “pure DJ” thing. I wanted a groove and MLK on top of it – just to get back to that classic Chicago bang. We released it in a really underground way – just put it out there, didn’t worry about getting it charted on Billboard or anything. It was refreshing.
I was surprised when Luke [Solomon] called me about reissuing it. The funny thing is that Derrick Carter sang – yes, sang – on one of my early records. It was called “Good Bye Girl” and I don’t think it ever came out. So I’m always reminded of that.