TF Archives

Kevin Saunderson: Techno's Original Fratboy Keeps on Fighting

Author: Jonty Adderley
Saturday, April 19, 2003
"All these English and German artists were given massive marketing budgets and were pushed, while nobody wanted to release music by Detroit artists. Especially in our country, here, we had no profile, while these other people's careers were developing."

Chatting down the line from his home of Detroit, original techno founder Kevin Saunderson admits he's less than satisfied with the respect, or rather, lack of respect, he still gets in the States. By rights the man who, along with school mates Derrick May and Juan Atkins, practically invented today's worldwide genre, should be an American hero up there alongside Dr Dre or Emimen. In reality, however, his position is closer to true hip hop inventors Grandmaster Flash or Kool Herc; adored by the cognoscenti and unknown by the masses.

Though mild rather than bitter, he appreciates his massive success with Inner City (the band sold 6 million albums in the 80s, internationally) and has also just signed up to promote Detroit's upcoming Electronic Music Festival, alongside old mate Derrick May and fellow techno superhero Carl Craig. He also continues to tour, and prosper, internationally and recently released a new mix CD for compilation series, TrusttheDj,com, reflecting his current taste in techno.

Chatting to Skrufff's Jonty Adderley though, he was as happy to talk about music as about his bizarre and race riddled route into dance culture, via the racially segregated student fraternities of his college days.

"When I started DJing in the 80s I didn't DJ for any whites, it was all black people at the parties," said Kevin. "It was crazy."

Skrufff (Jonty Adderley): You're hugely busy on loads of different projects, how much time and energy did you put into doing the new TrustTheDJ mix CD

Kevin Saunderson: "I mixed it at home initially then took it into the TrusttheDJ studio and redid some edits there, in total I spent maybe five hours actually doing it. Which was longer than I'd like it. These days it's actually easier playing out than doing mix compilations. Because doing a compilation I might pick 40 tracks to start with and maybe 20 of those tracks will work well together. Then you have to licence them so sometimes you really have to work the mixes to make the pieces work so it takes a little longer. I actually started about three months ago on the track selection."

Skrufff: A phrase on your latest biography describes you as still 'working your ass off', what drives you to take on so many projects such as the Detroit Music Festival-

Kevin Saunderson: "I think I'm the right person to do it, because I've been around for a long time, I'm still inspired by electronic music and I still want to inspire others. I like to keep my mind stimulated with what's going on in the music world. Right now I'm still at the point, where, though I've had success, I still haven't reached my top plateau, as far as I'm concerned. I'm still seeking more success and I think that the moment you feel content with success, that's when it stops."

Skrufff: You've had huge commercial success in the past with Inner City and critical acclaim for your role in pioneering techno, by what criteria do you judge success-

Kevin Saunderson: "I'm a competitive person and this Detroit festival for example, represents a new level for me, I've not done something like this before. It's something that I hope I can say I helped develop that comes out of Detroit and makes a difference in people's lives. It helps our economy here in Detroit and helps educate people about electronic music, which is still not completely accepted in America. Hopefully this festival will show that the city and local politicians are trying to do something innovative, to renovate Detroit."

Skrufff: Detroit and techno are two words that go together in clubland, is there much of a weekly techno club scene in the city-

Kevin Saunderson: "For the amount of artists that live here, I'd say No there