Robert Miles obituary: Trance DJ behind hit chillout music track 'Children'

The Italian DJ and producer rose to fame in the Nineties with his hit song – a response to the ongoing war in Yugoslavia and its child victims – which went platinum in several countries

Marcus Williamson
Friday 12 May 2017 12:39 BST
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Robert Miles with his Capital Radio London Award for Best Dance Single 1996, which he won for ‘One on One’
Robert Miles with his Capital Radio London Award for Best Dance Single 1996, which he won for ‘One on One’ (PA)

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Robert Miles, who has died from cancer aged 47, was the DJ and music producer behind the Nineties trance smash hit “Children”, a favourite chillout tune for clubbers at the time and ever since.

He was born Roberto Concina in 1969 in Fleurier, Switzerland, to Italian immigrants Albino Concina and Antonietta Lauro. He spent his early years in Friuli, Italy, where he began playing piano, aged ten. Three years later he was already DJing at friends’ house parties. Miles began working as a club and pirate radio DJ in the mid-Eighties, using the stage name Robert Milani. He later anglicised the name to Miles, in anticipation, he said, of the musical journey ahead of him.

“Children”, the track for which he is best known, had its genesis in his garden studio during 1994 as an instrumental tune, featuring synthesiser and acoustic guitar, and was released the following year. The song’s title was Miles’ response to the ongoing war in Yugoslavia and its child victims. He later recalled the reactions to the first club outing for his composition:

“I was anxious to see how people would take to this piece. The following Sunday morning I opened my DJ set with ‘Children’, feeling both scared and excited... I lifted my gaze and saw a sea of hands reaching up high and a smile stamped on every face... A girl approached me in tears. 'What music is this?' she asked me. I don't think I shall ever forget that moment, when I realised that my feelings had been conveyed through my music. My dream turned into reality.”

In an era before music streaming and YouTube, the sales were initially slow. But the tune was gradually picked up by radio DJs across Europe. On BBC Radio 1 Pete Tong made it his “Essential Tune of The Week” for three weeks in a row. The single sold an initial 350,000 copies, had already sold more than 5 million copies worldwide within two years – going platinum in several countries – and continues its success in the age of online music.

As a chillout track, played by DJs at the end of the night and giving clubbers a chance to wind down before making the drive home, the tune is credited with saving lives. And in pioneering the genre of “dream house”, "Children" led the way to the trance music that has since entered into mainstream music consciousness.

“Children” was featured on his debut album, Dreamland (1996), and won him best international newcomer at the 1997 Brit Awards. Miles moved for a time to London and continued in a more experimental vein, releasing four further album titles, including 23am (1997) and Organik (2001), to critical acclaim. In 2012 he launched the radio station and music community, OpenLab, broadcasting from Ibiza.

His friend and former DBX label head, Joe T Vannelli, said of him “I will miss the fights, brawls, criticism, judgements but especially your talent in finding sounds and melodies unparalleled.”

Roberto Concina (Robert Miles), DJ and composer: born 3 November 1969; died 9 May 2017

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