When Fedde Le Grand produced the massive club smash "Put Your Hands Up for Detroit," it was a tribute to legends like Juan Atkins, often called the Godfather of Techno; his releases as Cybotron are often referred to as the first techno records. Recently headlining the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Juan stays busy touring the world, DJing and producing new music under several guises – Cybotron and Infinity.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: So you headlined the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, how
did you get involved with that?
Juan Atkins: It was pretty much because of me the whole thing started. This is the seventh year of the festival and even if I don't choose to play one year, it wasn't too complicated for me to get involved.
RS: Where do you see the electronic scene in Detroit going right now?
Juan Atkins: Well, Detroit has always been more soulful and more melodic in its approach to electronic dance music, so I don't see it going too far away from that. Of course, there's new technological advances that enhance the musical production across the board, but I think the one thing that remains a constant in Detroit is the soul and the funk.
RS: Detroit is known for being the home of techno and Chicago is
known for being the home of house. With Detroit having the soulful
background, why do you think techno sprung from Detroit?
Juan Atkins: People have been trying to answer that question for the last ten to fifteen years. That's a question I can't really answer. I think it's something about the climate and atmosphere in Detroit that makes it very unique where anybody making music wants to start something new. I couldn't give you an exact description of what that formula is but there's something in the water here.
RS: Obviously, if it's spawned people like you, Derrick May, and
Kevin Saunderson. How did the three of you guys meet up?
Juan Atkins: We all went to high school together.
RS: It's just amazing how so much of the history of dance music
sprouts from that one high school. When you first made the Cybotron
record, the one that people called the first techno twelve-inch, did
you have in your mind to create a new sound? What was your
Juan Atkins: I knew it was a new sound. I was a kid, sixteen/seventeen years, so it was my first foray into the music business. I was planning to be around for a while so anything that I'm doing, I'm thinking forward. The track to me felt like the hottest thing to do - make a hot electronic, dance, funk, high-tech trip. I had no idea that it was going to have the influence and the ramifications that it had around the world.
RS: When you made the track what gear was you using?
Juan Atkins: I was using one of the first affordable Korg synthesizers, the Korg MS series, with a Roland RS-09 string and a DR-55 rhythm machine. That was the whole set up back there.
RS: Fast forward to today, when you're working on music what
gear are you using?
Juan Atkins: Right now I mean I'm using whatever I can get my hands on. I work in different studios with different musicians and different artists, so it's no one particular things. There's so much stuff out there and then you have computers now that have such an impact over a lot of music production that it's not even about the gear, it's more about what kind of software and what kind of computers you use. I can run down stuff for the next two or three hours, but I don't want to get into that one.