Daniel Miller is the most influential figure in the history of technopop. As artist (The Normal, Silicon Teens), founder and owner of Mute Records (and sublabels Blast First, NovaMute, The Grey Area), and producer (Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Fad Gadget), Miller has had a hand in many of the genre's finest moments.
Miller was born February 14, 1951 in London and was attracted to the wild rock 'n' roll of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry from a very early age. When he was 12 he got deeply into the Beatles, only to be disillusioned by what he felt to be their sell-out record, "She Loves You." He gravitated toward the R&B-based rock of the Stones, Who, and Kinks, which in turn led him to the blues of John Mayall and John Lee Hooker.
Miller took up the guitar at around 12, and later the sax, but considers himself "a hopeless musician." In the early-'70s he was turned on to the electronic music of German groups like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Neu, Faust, Amon Duul, Can, and the like, affectionately known as "Krautrock."
Miller loved the possibilities for fresh sounds that electronics afforded, as well as the opportunities for nonmusicians. As punk unfolded in the mid-'70s, he even anticipated that the synthesizer would become its central instrument (which certainly became true of industrial and new wave, if not punk itself).
Beginning to experiment with electronic music in punk's anarchic spirit, Miller bought a microphone and used it to treat his sax with effects, wresting tortured tones that God never intended from the unsuspecting instrument.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Miller attended film school and worked as a film editor. He kept up with new music as a club DJ from '74-76, and purchased a synthesizer when they became cheaper in the later-'70s. On a summer trip to Greece, he read the car crash/sex novel Crash, and was captivated by its premise that crashes are the final extension of pornography, as flesh and machine violently unite. He even wrote a screenplay based on the book, but when that went nowhere, he turned his attentions to creating a song that would evoke the imagery and tone of the book, "Warm Leatherette."
Released as the first single on his own Mute Records in '78, "Leatherette" struck a post-modern chord and sold a remarkable 40,000 copies in the U.K. A rapid, thin electronic beat, synth braps, and a rising/falling two-note vamp support Miller's detached monotone recitation of an accident and its aftermath, culminating with the line,