Juan Atkins

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Juan Atkins
A man with electronic musical instruments performing at an annual electronic dance music event.
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 57)
OriginDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
Occupation(s)Record producer
Years active1980–present
Associated acts

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.[2] 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.[3] After moving to rural Belleville, Michigan, Atkins met Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. The three were among the few black students at their school, and would later be known as the "Belleville Three", and the originators of Detroit Techno. As teenagers, they were exposed to electronic and funk sounds from a five-hour, late-night genre-defying radio show called "The Midnight Funk Association" on WGPR, hosted by DJ Charles "The Electrifying Mojo" Johnson.[4]

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.[5]

When I first heard synthesizers dropped on records it was great… like UFOs landing on records, so I got one.…It wasn't any one particular group that turned me on to synthesizers, but 'Flashlight' (Parliament's number one R & B hit from early 1978) was the first record I heard where maybe 75 percent of the production was electronic.[6]


Deep Space Soundworks and 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.[7] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Atkins considered Cybotron's most successful single, "Techno City" (1984), to be a unique, synthesized funk composition.[8] 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.[8]

In 1985, Atkins left the group due to artistic differences with bandmate Rick 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".[9]

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.[citation needed]

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."[10] Within a few years, Atkins' work was re-released in Europe.[citation needed]


Over the years, Atkins has also released works under the name Infiniti, consisting of him and Orlando Voorn. Atkins 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."[11]

Style and influences[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.[citation needed]

Atkins and other techno artists have cited the long-running Detroit radio show of Charles "Electrifyin' Mojo" Johnson as a musical influence.[12] Electrifying 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 and remixing for the radio, specifically, Mojo's show; after this apprenticeship, they began producing original music.[citation needed]

"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." [13]


Studio albums[edit]

  • Deep Space (1995) (as Model 500)
  • Skynet (1998) (as Infiniti)
  • Mind and Body (1999) (as Model 500)
  • The Berlin Sessions (2005)
  • Borderland (2013) (with Moritz von Oswald, as Borderland)
  • Digital Solutions (2015) (as Model 500)
  • Transport (2016) (with Moritz von Oswald, as Borderland)
  • Mind Merge LP (2017) (with Orlando Voorn, as Frequency vs Atkins)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Classics (1993) (as Model 500)
  • The Infiniti Collection (1996) (as Infiniti)
  • 20 Years 1985 - 2005 (2005)


  • The True Techno EP (1992) (as Model 500)
  • The Future Sound EP (1993)


  • "No UFO's" (1985) (as Model 500)
  • "Night Drive" (1985) (as Model 500)
  • "Testing 1-2" (1986) (as Model 500)
  • "Play It Cool" (1986) (as Model 500)
  • "Technicolor" (1986) (with Doug Craig, as Channel One)
  • "It's Channel One" (1987) (with Doug Craig, as Channel One)[14]
  • "Sound of Stereo" (1987) (as Model 500)
  • "Make Some Noise" (1987) (as Model 500)
  • "Beat Track" (1987)
  • "Interference" (1988) (as Model 500)
  • "The Chase" (1989) (as Model 500)
  • "Ocean to Ocean" (1990) (as Model 500)
  • "Jazz is the Teacher" (1993) (with 3MB - Fehlmann & von Oswald))
  • "I See the Light" (1993) (as Model 500)
  • "Sonic Sunset" (1994) (as Model 500)
  • "The Flow" (1995) (as Model 500)
  • "Starlight" (1995) (as Model 500)
  • "I Wanne Be There" (1996) (as Model 500)
  • "Be Brave" (1998) (as Model 500)
  • "Update" (2002) (as Model 600)
  • "Outer Space" (2004) (as Model 500)
  • "OFI" / "Huesca" (2010) (as Model 500)
  • "Control" (2012) (as Model 500)
  • "Riod" (2016) (with Moritz von Oswald, as Borderland)


  • High Tech Soul (2006)


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "LIVE: Life Fest". Chart Attack, August 28, 2001 Reviewd by: Darrin Keene
  3. ^ Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture, Routledge, 1999.
  4. ^ [2][permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Shallcross, Mike (July 1997), "From Detroit To Deep Space", The Wire (161), p. 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."
  6. ^ Reynolds:1999
  7. ^ Bush, John. "Juan Atkins". Globaldarkness.com. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  8. ^ a b Cosgrove, Stuart (1988), Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit (liner notes)
  9. ^ Shallcross, Mike (July 1997), "From Detroit To Deep Space", The Wire (161), p. 21
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 15, 2008. Retrieved April 5, 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Wolfgang Gartner Interview - Interview with Wolfgang Gartner". Dancemusic.about.com. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  12. ^ "BriefBio.com". Briefbio.com. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  13. ^ Motor City Man, Andrez Bergen. Zebra, Inpress, June, 1999.
  14. ^ Costa, Franklin De. "LWE Podcast 99: Juan Atkins – Little White Earbuds". Littlewhiteearbuds.com. Retrieved 2016-06-05.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]