Juan Atkins

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Juan Atkins
Model 500.jpg
Atkins performing as Model 500 at DEMF in 2007.
Background information
Also known as Model 500, Infiniti
Born (1962-09-12) September 12, 1962 (age 52)
Origin Detroit, Michigan, United States
Genres Techno, electro
Instruments Korg M3, Korg R-3
Years active 1980–present
Labels Metroplex,
Om Records
Associated acts Cybotron

Juan Atkins (born September 12, 1962) is an American musician. He is widely credited as the originator of techno music,[1] specifically Detroit techno along with Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. The three, sometimes called the Belleville Three, attended high school together in Belleville, Michigan, near Detroit.

Early life[edit]

Born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of a concert promoter, Juan Atkins learned how to play bass, drums, and "a little lead guitar" at an early age.[2] Atkins, along with school friends Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, tuned in regularly to WGPR to hear DJ Charles "The Electrifying Mojo" Johnson's genre-defying radio show.

At the age of sixteen, Atkins heard electronic music for the first time, which would prove to be a life-changing experience. In late-1990s interviews, he recalls the sound of synthesizers as being like "UFOs landing." He soon had his first synthesizer and abandoned playing funk bass.[3]

Deep Space Soundworks & Cybotron[edit]

He bought his first analogue synthesizer, a Korg MS-10, and began recording with cassette decks and a mixer for overdubs. He subsequently taught Derrick May to mix, and the pair started doing DJ sets together as Deep Space. They took their long mixes to Mojo, who began to play them on his show in 1981.[5] Atkins, May, and Saunderson would continue to collaborate as Deep Space Soundworks, even starting a club in downtown Detroit for local DJs to spin and collaborate.

The 1982 single "Cosmic Cars" also did well. Cybotron recorded their debut album, Enter, and were soon signed to Fantasy Records. One track, "Clear," struck out in the direction that Atkins would pursue with what would later be called his "techno" music. The song took Kraftwerk-like electronic elements and fused them with club music.

Atkins considered Cybotron's most successful single, "Techno City" (1984), to be a unique, synthesized funk composition.[6] After later hearing Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" (1982), which he considered to be a superior example of the electro funk style he was aiming for, he resolved to continue experimenting, and encouraged Saunderson and May to do the same.[6]

In 1985, Atkins left the group due to artistic differences with bandmate Rik Davis. Davis wanted the group to pursue a musical direction closer to rock, while Atkins wanted to continue in the electro-style vein of "Clear".[7]

Model 500[edit]

Atkins began recording as "Model 500" in 1985 and founded the Metroplex label. His friends Eddie Fowlkes, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson all recorded singles on the label.

Atkins' first single as Model 500, "No UFOs," was a hit in Detroit and Chicago. He followed it with a series of landmark techno tracks, earning him the nickname "the godfather of techno."[8] Within a few years, Atkins' work was re-released in Europe.

Infiniti[edit]

Over the years, Atkins has also released works under the name Infiniti, Infiniti consists of Juan Atkins & Orlando Voorn. He explained the difference in a 2007 interview: "Model 500 is really a continuation of Cybotron. That's one thing that I've always stayed the course with and I've always wanted to not deviate when I do stuff with Model 500. In the past year it's probably what Cybotron would have done had the partners not split. Its more song-oriented with melodies, not just dance track - that's always been my experiences with Model 500. Now if I do stuff under the name Infinity [sic], that would be the more straightforward form of pure techno, the purest techno what is deemed as techno right now in North America and in Europe."[9]

Musical style[edit]

Atkins' earlier works are generally considered electro. Over the years, his sound matured and grew in complexity, and many of his more recent works are heavily layered rhythmic soundscapes. Today, this techno is considered its own genre.

Influences[edit]

Atkins and other Techno artists have cited the long-running Detroit radio show of Charles "Electrifyin' Mojo" Johnson as a musical influence.[10] Mojo, a local legend in radio, played an eclectic mix of music including Parliament, Kraftwerk, and Prince. Atkins and May got their start recording from the radio and remixing for the radio, specifically, Mojo's show; after this apprenticeship, they began producing original music.

The Detroit Sound[edit]

"Maybe techno coming out of Detroit had more of the black experience involved, and of course what we've grown up with is soul music and R&B stuff, and then there's funk itself," Atkins told Melbourne magazine Zebra in 1999. "It would be only natural that more of these elements would show up." [11]

Discography[edit]

  • as Cybotron, with Rick Davis (1981–1983)
    • "Alleys of Your Mind" (1981), single
    • "Cosmic Cars" (1982), single
    • "Clear" (1983), single
    • Enter (1983)
    • "Techno City" (1984), single
    • Clear (1990), digitally remastered re-release of Clear
  • as Model 500 (1985–present)
    • "No UFO's" (1985), single
    • "Night Drive"" (1985), single (includes "Time Space Transmat")
    • "Jazz is the Teacher" (1993), 12-inch joint production with 3MB
    • "Pick Up the Flow" (1993), 12-inch
    • Sonic Sunset (1994)
    • Deep Space (1995)
    • Mind and Body (1999)
    • OFI / Huesca (2010)
  • as Channel One, with Doug Craig (1986-1987)[12]
    • "Technicolor" (1986), single
    • "It's Channel One" (1987), single
  • as Infiniti (1991–1995)
    • Skynet 1998
    • "The Infiniti Collection" 1996
  • as Model 600 (2002)
    • Update 2002, single
  • as Juan Atkins
    • The Berlin Sessions 2005

Filmography[edit]

  • High Tech Soul, 2006

Catalog No.: PLX-029

Label: Plexifilm

Released: 09/19/06

Director: Gary Bredow

Length: 64 minutes

Summary: HIGH TECH SOUL is the first documentary to tackle the deep roots of techno music alongside the cultural history of Detroit, its birthplace. HIGH TECH SOUL focuses on the creators of the genre—Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson—and looks at the relationships and personal struggles behind the music. Artists like Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Eddie Fowlkes and a host of others explain why techno, with its abrasive tones and resonating basslines, could not have come from anywhere but Detroit.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Juan Atkins Biography - AOL Music
  2. ^ Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture, Routledge, 1999.
  3. ^ Shallcross, Mike (July 1997), "From Detroit To Deep Space", The Wire (161): 18  Atkins shifted from playing funk bass to synthesizer because it conjured a reverse image of "what it would be like if a UFO landed in the front yard."
  4. ^ Reynolds:1999
  5. ^ Bush, John. "Juan Atkins". 
  6. ^ a b Cosgrove, Stuart (1988), Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit (liner notes)  Juan's first group Cybotron released several records at the height of the electro-funk boom in the early 80's, the most successful being a truly progressive homage to the city of Detroit, simply entitled 'Techno City'. At the time, he believed the record was a unique and adventurous piece of synthesiser funk, more in tune with the rest of black America, but on a dispiriting visit to New York, Juan heard Afrika Bambaataa's 'Planet Rock' and realised that his vision of a spartan electronic dance sound had been upstaged. He returned to Detroit to renew his friendship with 2 younger students from Belleville High, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May, and quietly over the next few years the three of them became the creative backbone of Detroit Techno.
  7. ^ Shallcross, Mike (July 1997), "From Detroit To Deep Space", The Wire (161): 21 
  8. ^ Juan Atkins
  9. ^ Juan Atkins Interview – Godfather of Techno Interview
  10. ^ http://www.briefbio.com/pages/2496/Atkins-Juan.html
  11. ^ Motor City Man, Andrez Bergen. Zebra, Inpress, June, 1999.
  12. ^ Interview with Juan Atkins, Little White Earbuds #99 transcript, September 26, 2011

External links[edit]