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Juan Atkins

United States // Detroit, MI


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Biography


Model 500

 Juan Atkins (born September 12, 1962) is an American musician who is widely credited as the originator or “Godfather” of techno music,

Early Life

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. Atkins, along with school friends Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, tuned in regularly to WGPRto 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.

“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.”

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.

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 Cybertron’s most successful single, “Techno City” (1984), to be a unique, synthesized funk composition. 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.

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”.

Model 500

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. Within a few years, Atkins’ work was re-released in Europe.

Musical style

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

Atkins and other Techno artists have cited the long-running Detroit radio show of Charles “Electrifyin’ Mojo” Johnson as a musical influence. 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

“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.”

Discography

  • 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

  • High Tech Soul, 2006

 

HIGH TECH SOUL is the first documentary to tackle the deep roots of techno music alongside the cultural history of Detroit, its birthplace. Released in 2006 by Plexifilm and Directed by Gary Bredow the 64 minute documentary 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.

Music


Booking


Agency MetroPlex Records

Phone +1 313-822-6980

Email bookings@metroplexrecords.com

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