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my philosophy From Oxford to Ibiza

Julian Baggini talks to Mylo about his transformation from swotty student to dance floor hero Around 12 hours before we met, Mylo had been headlining at an East London warehouse gig, performing a DJ set with the MySpace sensation Lily Allen as his warm-up act. The night before that he’d been doing pretty much the same in Ibiza. Such is Mylo’s life since his debut album Destroy Rock and Roll became an undergound, and then a very much overground, hit in 2004. Flashback six or seven years and it’s hard to believe that Mylo and Myles MacInnes, to give him his real name, are one and the same person. As an Oxford undergraduate reading philosophy and psychology at Brasenose College, MacInnes tells me, “I wasn’t particularly into music or going out, I was just quite obsessed with my subject. I also had some ear problems at the time and my doctor told me to avoid playing music and loud places.” As Mylo, MacInnes has become one of the hottest and most critically-acclaimed acts in electronic music. But it is philosophy, not music, that’s in his blood. “It kind of runs in my family,” he told me over alfresco lunch at a gastropub in an unseasonably warm North London. “My great uncle was JL Austin and my grandfather was Stephen Toulmin.” Still only 28, MacInnes obviously never met the great Austin, who led Oxford’s ordinary language school in the post-war years. “I do remember going to see the Ryles for Christmas though. I remember this magical apartment in north Oxford where everything was red, which was probably just a Christmassy glow. They were

really nice people.” Although only five or six at the time and so presumably not familiar with the import of Gilbert Ryle’s classic The Concept of Mind , he was aware that his grandparents were “quite proud to have their acquaintance.” Relations with Toulmin were also distant, due to some marital strife that saw him labelled a “terrible rogue” chez MacInnes. What time might have healed, distance maintained. “We didn’t see very much of him because he was in Chicago and then latterly in Los Angeles, so I only met him a couple of times.” Despite this inheritance, when MacInnes did set off to university from his “idyllic” home of the Isle of Skye, his acquaintance with actual philosophy was still quite slight. His parents may not have been philosophers, but they were certainly philosophical. “We were always arguing about the meanings of words and pulling the dictionary out. My parents were sort of eccentric hippies. They met at Cambridge and decided to move up to Skye in the early seventies to embrace the whole self-sufficiency movement.” Before going to university, he had “assiduously avoided” any of Toulmin’s work and only got round to reading Austin once he was at Oxford, via an abortive year at Edinburgh. “I liked his wit,” he says of his great-uncle. “It was more like philosophy as a kind of parlour game, but I quite enjoyed it for what it was.” MacInnes excelled at Oxford, though as seems to be the story of his life, his route was full of cul-de-sacs and digressions. “Originally I arrived at Oxford to do maths and philosophy. But as soon as I arrived there I realised I didn’t know quite what I had let myself in for. I don’t think

The Philosophers' Magazine /4th quarter 2006

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