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A history of Detroit techno

Parent categories: Detroit - techno

The canon: Strings Of Life (1987)

First wave: Juan Atkins - Derrick May - Kevin Saunderson - Eddie "Flashin'" Fowlkes

Second wave: Carl Craig - the Underground Resistance crew - Drexciya - Kenny Larkin

Third wave: Moodymann (Kenny Dixon Jr) - Theo Parrish - Terrence Parker

Early DJs: Ken Collier - Alton Miller

Related: EDM - Electrifying Mojo - Music Institute - black science fiction - black music - dance music

Techno is: "George Clinton and Kraftwerk stuck in an elevator" --Derrick May


The term Detroit techno refers to a style of techno music in the tradition of early (1985-1995) techno recordings from Detroit, Michigan, not necessarily indicating the music's geographic origin. A discriminating trait of Detroit techno is the use of analogue synthesizers and early drum machines for its production or - increasingly - the digital emulation of the characteristic sound of those machines.

Detroit techno is described as a combination of Kraftwerk and George Clinton thrown into an elevator by legendary DJ/producer Derrick May. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_techno [Apr 2005]

Dance avant garde

Because it's now accepted as undeniable history that Carl, Kevin, Derrick and Juan Atkins somersaulted dance and electronic music beyond disco, electro, Kraftwerk, Eno, Kraut Rock, P-Funk, New Romantic and New Order into something new. At the time they called it techno. --mixmag.net [Apr 2003]

Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit (1988) - Various artists

Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit (1988) - Various artists
image sourced here. [Apr 2005]

1 It Is What It Is - Rhythim Is Rhythim
2 Forever And A Day - Blake Baxter
3 Time To Express - Eddie 'Flashin' Fowlkes
4 Electronic Dance - K.S. Experience
5 Share This House (Radio Mix) - Members Of The House
6 Feel Surreal - A Tongue & D Groove
7 Spark - Mia Hesterley
8 Techno Music - Juan Atkins
9 Big Fun - Inner City
10 Ride Em Boy - Blake Baxter
11 Sequence 10 - Anthony Shakir
12 Un, Deux, Trois - Idol Making

"I was always a Northern Soul freak," says Rushton. "When the first techno records came in, the early Model 500, Reese, and Derrick May material, I wanted to follow up the Detroit connection. I took a flyer and called up Transmat; I got Derrick May and we started to release his records in England. At that time, Derrick was recording on very primitive analog equipment: 'Nude Photo,' for instance, was done straight onto cassette, and that was the master. When you're using that equipment, you must keep the mixes very simple. You can't overdub, or drop too many things in; that's why it's so sparse.

"Derrick came over with a bag of tapes, some of which didn't have any name: tracks which are now classics, like 'Sinister' and 'Strings of Life.' Derrick then introduced us to Kevin Saunderson, and we quickly realized that there was a cohesive sound of these records, and that we could do a really good compilation album. We got backing from Virgin Records and flew to Detroit. We met Derrick, Kevin, and Juan and went out to dinner, trying to think of a name.

"At the time, everything was house, house house. We thought of Motor City House Music, that kind of thing, but Derrick, Kevin, and Juan kept on using the word techno. They had it in their heads without articulating it; it was already part of their language." Rushton's team returned to England with 12 tracks, which were released on an album called Techno! The New Dance School of Detroit, with a picture of the Detroit waterfront at night. At the time, it seemed like just another hype, but within a couple of months Kevin Saunderson had a huge U.K. hit with Inner City's pop oriented "Big Fun," and techno entered the language.

--Jon Savage, The Village Voice Summer 1993 "Rock & Roll Quarterly" insert.

A complete mistake

Derrick May once described techno as "just like Detroit, a complete mistake. It's like George Clinton and Kraftwerk stuck in an elevator."

Who coined techno?

Note that Man Parrish was one of the first musical artists to use the word techno in 1982 on Man Parrish (1982) - Man Parrish with the track Techno Trax. --http://www.discogs.com/release/20044

The music's producers were using the word "techno" in a general sense as early as 1984 (as in Cybotron's seminal classic "Techno City"), and sporadic references to an ill-defined "techno-pop" could be found in the music press in the mid-1980s. However, it was not until Neil Rushton assembled the compilation Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit for Virgin UK in 1988 that the word came to formally describe a genre of music. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Techno_music#History [Apr 2005]

Electronic Dance Music

In the world of electronic dance music, "Detroit" is a word that carries as much aesthetic baggage as "Memphis" does to the genre of soul music, or "Chicago" to the blues. Simply put, Detroit equals techno, and those who choose to delve into that field labor in the shadow of Detroit techno pioneers such as Derrick May and Juan Atkins, as well as second-generation producers like Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen, Jeff Mills, and the Underground Resistance crew. All of which tends to obscure the work of Detroit's deep-house producers; isn't house from Chicago? Still a host of house talent is diligently puttering away in their Motor City studios: Theo Parrish, Moodymann, Terrence Parker, to name just a few. --By Brett Sokol


  • http://www.phinnweb.com/links/artists/ur/ Underground Resistance Detroit ghetto house.
  • http://www.phinnweb.org/313ctr0/
  • http://www.pub.umich.edu/daily/1999/apr/04-01-99/arts/arts3.html
  • http://www.hyperreal.org/music/library/discogs/?M=D
  • http://www.hyperreal.org/music/lists/313/ the original
  • http://www.snafu.de/~circonium/links.html future sound of berlin

    Knights of the Jaguar

    DJ Rolando aka The Aztec Mystic, grown up in the Mexican area of south-west Detroit, is one of the flag-bearers of the Underground Resistance crew, alongside founders ‘Mad’ Mike Banks’ and Jeff Mills. A collective of revolutionary techno-producers who react against all form of commercialisation. Last year he reached a peak with the whole ‘Knights of the Jaguar’-controversy. A rip-off version of this Rolando classic was released illegally by Sony Germany and than sold on to BMG. But this could not defy the strength of the Detroit collective and its underground-philosophy, built upon four key words: struggle, resistance, hope and anger. In search of their true descent the UR-producers fall back on the spiritual African/Indian/South-American roots, not avoiding regular deflections from the conventional 4/4-beat. A good example being DJ Rolando on ‘Jaguar’, released earlier this year: new remixes of the title-track by Jeff Mills, Octave One and Mad Mike, completed with previous ep’s ‘Mi Raza’ and ‘Atzlan’. -- http://www.5voor12.com

    Machine Soul

    More surprisingly, Kraftwerk had an immediate impact on black dance music: as Afrika Bambaataa says in David Toop's Rap Attack, "I don't think they even knew how big they were among the black masses back in '77 when they came out with 'Trans-Europe Express.' When that came out, I thought that was one of the best and weirdest records I ever heard in my life." In 1981, Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, together with producer Arthur Baker, paid tribute with "Planet Rock," which used the melody from "Trans-Europe Express" over the rhythm from "Numbers." In the process they created electro and moved rap out of the Sugarhill age. -- Jon Savage

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