Detroit techno before Detroit techno, by Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson & Eddie Fowlkes
Between 1981 and 1988, electronic music worked its way little by little into the clubs and student nights of Detroit and the surrounding area. The shaping of the new techno sound was no smooth ride though, far from it. Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Eddie Fowlkes take Trax back to the formative years which saw the birth of techno.
Global Techno, the book serving as a reference for the genre in France, is a beautiful one.This article overlooks certain crucial moments in the creation of the music, and relates the messages of one of the founding trio, who excluded the fourth.Let’s return with Eddie Fowlkes, Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson to the origins of a genre which set the world dancing even now.
In early 80s Detroit, three friends – Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Eddie Fowlkes, the famous ‘Belleville Three’ – tune in to the radio show of a certain mister Mojo, who plays everything from Kraftwerk to Funkadelic to the B-52’s… And suddenly it clicks. Juan Atkins puts all these influences together to form Cybotron, then his own label Metroplex where he releases the song ‘Techno City’. It’s 1984 and the word techno makes its first appearance.
This is followed by the compilation Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit, released 1988 on Virgin, where England and soon Europe discover the work of the three chums. Techno was the music with a repetitive kick which the English, Belgians and Germans would go on to adopt and develop, each in their own style. The new generation lead off on a dance which has never stopped since.
In Detroit, Eddie Fowlkes and Derrick May become flatmates. Eddie works in the daytime and Derrick the night, and the Deep Space nights carry on. One evening, while Juan Atkins is DJing, Eddie passes out. Waking up, he has only one idea on his mind: he should make a record too.
‘One day, I said to Juan that I was ready. We finished with the song and he said to me: “Okay man, I’m going to make you a tape, mix and master it.” I asked him what mastering was, and he replied “it doesn’t matter!” After three weeks, Eddie starts to worry about his tape and Juan replies that he talked about it to Derrick, and that he too wants to make records. A while later Kevin Saunderson wanted to start as well. ‘We were all releasing records at the same time, on Metroplex’ Eddie concludes. ‘That was the start of it all. I was the trigger, after this epiphany that made me want to release a record. And guess what happened? Guess who my flatmate was?’
‘Eddie Fowlkes deserves just as much praise as Derrick and Kevin. He was there, he was there the whole time.’ -Juan Atkins
‘Goodbye Kiss’ was released in all its raw techno glory by Eddie Fowlkes in 1986. This was followed some months later by Kreem (the three others) and their release ‘Triangle of Love’. It was rather more soulful techno/house with a deliberate nod to New Order. Funny that the names of these records would foreshadow the future relationships between Eddie and the trio… But first Juan and Eddie leave again for Los Angeles to try to launch a label.
‘We went a year and a half before the first compilation even came out,’ Eddie recalls. ‘Egyptian Lover was waiting for us at the airport, we met NWA and Coolio… Juan was a favourite in every town in the United States with Cybotron because so many Latinos thought he was Mexican or Puerto Rican. But when they saw that he was black, all the black people got interested. People don’t realise quite how big Juan was in the US and the L.A. label made him a contract for all of his releases. We tried to meet up with Egyptian Lover again to force the record companies to give us a deal and a video.
Read More Source: TRAXMAG MAY. 2019
1981-1988: The true story of Techno in Detroit, by the pioneers