JUAN ATKINS, Godfather Of Techno, returns in style
LIKE HIS protégé Derrick May, ‘Magic’ Juan Atkins – the man commonly referred to as the ‘Godfather Of Techno’ – has recently returned to the spotlight after a couple of low profile years.
It comes as no coincidence that Juan, who first pioneered electro in the early 80s as part of Cybertron before making the first Detroit techno records as Model 500 on his Metroplex label but then took his hiatus from the arena when it became an over-crowded circus. Derrick May says he is laying low, “watching the dogs kill themselves”. When pushed, the more modest Atkins will admit the same.
“People asked me and Derrick what we were doing over the past two years and the answer that I want to give is that we were waiting for everybody to catch up. In a way, that it is what it is. You can do things and be so up front and so ahead that nobody can appreciate it.
“At the end of the day, all of us are in it to sell records. This is all I do. I do it for the love of music but I got to survive. I got to eat. So I thought I’d wait a year or two and let people get into the techno thing and get used to being more receptive to what it is, as opposed to what it was in ’86 when nobody knew what the term was and everybody was scared of technology.”
During his absence from vinyl, Juan travelled the world with his record box spinning at techno hotspots in Europe. He saw hardcore take the pure space-foraging he had pioneered and construct the equivalent of ugly tower blocks on the moon’s surface. He never stopped recording, though, and never lost the Magic touch which made diamonds like ‘Ocean To Ocean’ and ‘No UFOs’ such timeless classics. Network has just released ‘The Passage’, recorded a year ago as part of a projected Model 500 album.
Juan also appears on the Indisc/33rpm compilation-collaboration, Panic in Detroit, has started remixing again (including Eon’s ‘Spice’) and contributed a Martin Bonds track from his Metroplex label (currently reactivating) to Infonet’s upcoming 313 Detroit album. He is also in the process of clinching a major record deal.
“Now I’m going to concentrate on my music and give my career more focus being with a company that understands what I’m doing.
“Definitely I have some ideas. There’s things that i want to try that haven’t been tried.”
Juan Atkins gave all the major Motor City movers their initial recording breaks: Saunderson, May and Fowlkes were all released first on Metroplex. Listening to the old Model 500 records now, you realise they haven’t dated at all.
Atkins never sidesteps into someone else’s sound. His gaze has been fixed firmly on the future.
“I’ve always been fascinated with science fiction…just that feel. When Star Wars came out and Kraftwerk came out that just did it. I just wanted more. There’s more imagination and possibilities to me with things to come. There’s always hope because tomorrow is another day. I’m always thinking ahead. I’ve always got something up my sleeve.”
© Kris Needs, New Musical Express, 7 November 1992