Derrick May Official Site

Kevin Saunderson WORLD OF DEEP

Juan Atkins click here or here

The Belleville Three

These three are pioneers of the early Detroit techno sound.

Kevin Saunderson was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 9 1964. At the age of nine he moved to Detroit, where he attended Belleville High School and befriended two students, Derrick May and Juan Atkins. Kevin Saunderson is today together with Juan Atkins and Derrick May, considered to be one of the originators of Techno, specifically Detroit techno.

Kevin Saunderson started his career as a disk jockey, and developed new skills that led him into producing records, which he released on his own label KMS Records. Kevin Saunderson has released his music using many names and "Tronik House", "Reese Project", "Essaray" and "E-Dancer", are some of them. His most commercially recognized project to date, has been Inner City with vocalist Paris Grey.

Other greats include: DJ Charles "The Electrifying Mojo" Johnson, Underground Resistance: Mike Banks and Jeff Mills (The Wizard) James Pennington (Suburban Knight)
, Robert Hood (X-101, X-102, X-103, The Vision), Alan Oldham (DJ T-1000, X-313), Eddie "Flashing" Fowlk, Frankie Knuckles, John Acquaviva, Mr. Fingers, Drexciya, Kenny Larkin, Ken Ishii, Mad Mike, Jeff Mills, Laurent Garnier, Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin

Model 500

In the early eighties, in a remote part of Detroit the stars and stripes of the American dream had overlooked, a new machine-driven dance music was created. Fired by the metronomic screech of German icons Kraftwerk and the mindwarping space grooves of Fu nkadelic, a group of black musicians designed a new sound. Born of the harsh urban environs in an industrial terrain, their experimental records redrew the map of cities everywhere.

JUAN ATKINS gave this music a name, and consequently redefined creative expression by interpreting motion and machines. Born and raised in Detroit, he grew up mainly on the northwest side, where he attended high school in the suburban area of Belleville u ntil 1980. Here he met Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, his future techno compatriots. He first came to prominence in the early eighties with Cybotron, a techno-electro outfit he formed with Rick Davis. The duo achieved some success, but they eventually split up because of conflicting musical viewpoints. Atkins then started working solo as MODEL 500, releasing on his own Metroplex label polished, minimalist hi-tech dance music gems such as No UFO's, The Chase, Night Drive and Interference (most of these were later compiled and re-issued as the first release in R & S Records' Classics series).

Juan's reputation really started to spread in the second half of the eighties, when the new Detroit dance movement reached the shores of Europe. He was frequently invited to remix tracks for other artists (as diverse as Inner City, Dr. Robert & Kym Ma zelle, Coldcut, Yazz, Fine Young Cannibals, Seal, Tom Tom Club, The Beloved and Style Council), but his own artistic output wasn't exactly prolific in those days. On top of that, most of his records were hard to find, lacking proper distribution and prom otion. It wasn't until the beginning of the nineties, when Model 500 came to R & S Records, that releases like

the Classics compilation and the brilliant mini-album Sonic Sunset received the attention they deserved. Juan's first real full-length album Deep Space finally came out in May 1995, and a whole new generation of dance enthusiasts came round to discoverin g one of the prime movers of the genre they love so dearly. The record was one of the most acclaimed dance albums of recent years, and the single The Flow, with its seductive vocals by Aisha Jamiel, added greatly to the notoriety of Mr. Atkins.

Juan Atkins is a musician who thinks carefully about sound and composition. As a result, his releases always sound highly crafted: it's music made to last. His skills as a DJ he acquired by listening to mix shows on the radio when he was still a teenager . Later he went on to making music himself, inspired by the emergence of synthesizer technology. "That introduced me to the whole scene, the whole thing", says Juan. "You don't really know a synthesizer unless you own one, I guess. I learne d about oscillators and waveforms, and things of that nature." His vision has not wavered since, his target remains, his perception fixed. As for the place where it all began: "Detroit is still a post-industrial city, and still somewhat boring. I think that leads to a lot of creativity, because there's no clubs to go to, there's not a lot of things to do, so folks just sit home and make music."

Techno has moved beyond the aurascapes of the inner cities, has left its birthplace and colonised an entire generation across the world. And it's still evolving: "The music is becoming more focused on the person behind the machine as opposed to the m achine in the sound", he affirms. "The emphasis is definitely on creativity now. People know this technology: everybody has a JD-800, everybody has a Roland 909 or an 808. It's what they do with the equipment that counts. I think the people who stand out are the truly talented, thinking people." You can be sure Juan Atkins is one of them. Check out the brand new single I Wanna Be There, out on April 29th and including brilliant remixes by Wax Doctor, Dave Angel and the artist himself.

April 1996


The Belleville Three
The three individuals most closely associated with the birth of Detroit techno as a genre are Juan Atkins (The Initiator), Kevin Saunderson (The Elevator) and Derrick May (The Innovator), also known as the "Belleville Three". These three high school friends from the Detroit suburb would soon find their basement tracks in dancefloor demand, thanks in part to seminal Detroit radio personality The Electrifying Mojo. Ironically, Derrick May once described Detroit techno music as being a "complete George Clinton and Kraftwerk caught in an elevator, with only a sequencer to keep them company."
Kevin Saunderson was born in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of nine he moved to Michigan, where he attended Belleville High School in Belleville, a town some 30 miles from Detroit. In school he befriended Derrick May and Juan Atkins, both of whom had been born in Detroit but later moved to rural Belleville. At the time, the three were among the few black students in their high school.

The location of Belleville was key to the formation of the Belleville Three as musicians. Because the town was still “pretty racial at the time,” according to Saunderson, “we three kind of gelled right away.” The rural setting also afforded a different setting in which to experience the music. “We perceived the music differently than you would if you encountered it in dance clubs. We'd sit back with the lights off and listen to records by Bootsy and Yellow Magic Orchestra. We never took it as just entertainment, we took it as a serious philosophy,” recalls May.
Belleville was located near several automobile factories, which provided well-paying jobs to a racially integrated workforce. “Everybody was equal,” Atkins explained in an interview.“So what happened is that you’ve got this environment with kids that come up somewhat snobby, ‘cos hey, their parents are making money working at Ford or GM or Chrysler, been elevated to a foreman, maybe even a white-collar job.” European acts like Kraftwerk were popular among middle-class black youth.
The segratory stigma attaching to Eight Mile Road was comparable to that of Watts in Los Angeles, The Bronx in New York or South Chicago. Although the Belleville Three lived outside the city limits, their influence in loft apartment parties, after hours and high school clubs and late night radio united listeners of progressive dance music from above and below Eight Mile Road. Even Techno-friendly regular hours clubs like The Shelter, The Music Institute and The Majestic were incubators Techno's progress from basements and late night radio onto the dancefloors of the world.
During the first wave of Detroit techno scene of the 80s, huge parties were held with upwards to fifty or more competing DJs. Most of the early party-goers were made up of middle-class black youths. However, as Detroit experienced heavy economic downfall, many of the middle-class white families fled to the suburbs in what is called the "white flight" of the early 70s while middle-class black families were displaced by the degentrification of once securely middle-class black districts.
Detroit Techno as a genre created a new-found, integrated club scene in Detroit that had not been felt in a general sense after the Motown label moved to Los Angeles. Television programs like TV62 - WGPR's "The Scene" - featured a racially and ethnically very mixed selection of dancers every weekday after school, but the playlist was typically jammed with the R&B and Funk tracks of the day, like Prince or the Gap Band. Breakouts like Juan Atkins's Technicolor, under his Model 500 moniker, eventually found their way onto The Scene, and helped to validate the burgeoning local Techno underground with the urban high school set, college radio programmers and DJs from Chicago to London and beyond. In addition, the advent of a huge circuit of local parties in Detroit spawned competition between a number of DJs, with a week's preparation for a party being common.
The club scene was as much in transition as the city they were in. The wide-spread popularity of techno across socio-economic lines led to a mixing between West Side and elite high school youths with ghetto and gangster "jits" (abbreviation for "jitterbug"). Unfortunately, the economic problems of Detroit and the prevalent social apathy and desolation led to a proliferation of gun violence within clubs and by 1986, the techno club scenes were wrought with gun shootings, fights, and acts of violence further compounding the sociological and economic recovery of Detroit.
This wave of violence, economic collapse, and socio-communal atrophy extensively affected the Detroit techno themes. Still influenced by the same Euro sounds, Juan Atkins and Rick Davis formed Cybotron producing Detroit hits like Alleys of Your Mind, Techno City, Cosmic Cars, and Clear before signing onto the Fantasy label. However, Cybotron's dominant mood of tech-noir and desolation played into describing the city's decline. "But for all their futuristic mise-en-scene, the vision underlying Cybotron songs was Detroit-specific... from industrial boomtown to post-Fordist wasteland, from US capital of auto manufacturing to US capital of homicide."By the end of the first successful wave of Detroit techno, the city's center had become a ghost town and the techno landscape was evolving into a more hardcore, militaristic frenzy of drug-infused rave and trance scene.
The three teenage friends bonded while listening to an eclectic mix of music: Kraftwerk, Parliament, Prince, and The B-52's. The electronic and funk sounds that influenced the Belleville Three came primarily from a 5-hour late-night radio show called The Midnight Funk Association, broadcast in Detroit by DJ Charles "Electrifyin' Mojo" Johnson on WGPR. Juan Atkins was inspired to buy a synthesizer after hearing Parliament. Atkins was also the first in the group to take up turntablism, teaching May and Saunderson how to DJ.
Early careers
Under the name Deep Space Soundworks, Atkins and May began to DJ on Detroit’s party circuit. By 1981, Mojo was playing the record mixes recorded by the Belleville Three, who were also branching out to work with other musicians. The trio traveled to Chicago to investigate the house music scene there, particularly the legendary Chicago DJs Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles.House was a natural progression from disco music, so that the trio began to formulate the synthesis of this dance music with the mechanical sounds of groups like Kraftwerk, in a way that reflected post-industrialist Detroit. An obsession with the future and its machines is reflected in much of their music, because, according to Atkins, Detroit is the most advanced in the transition away from industrialism.
First Wave of Detroit Techno
While attending Washtenaw Community College, Atkins met Rick Davis and formed Cybotron with him. Their first single “Alleys of Your Mind”—recorded on their Deep Space label in 1981—sold 15,000 copies, and the success of two follow-up singles, “Cosmic Cars” and “Clear,” led the California-based label Fantasy to sign the duo and release their album, Clear. After Cybotron split due to creative differences, Atkins began recording as Model 500 on his own label, Metroplex, in 1985. His landmark single, “No UFOs,” soon arrived. Eddie Fowlkes, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson also recorded on Metroplex.
Although the Detroit musicians—the Belleville Three were a close-knit group who shared equipment and studio space, and who helped each other with projects, friction developed. Each member of the Belleville Three branched off on his own record label. May's Transmat began as a sublabel imprint of Metroplex. Saunderson founded KMS based on his own initials. They set up shop in close proximity to one another, in Detroit’s Eastern Market district.
Presently Detroit has a genuine techno/rave scene with a varied cast of dedicated DJs, producers, promoters, fans, and dancers. No other city in the United States has an underground techno party scene as vibrant and fiercely protected and respected as the techno party scene/community in Detroit.