Techno History Part One: It Started In Detroit

Just as early House music was happening in Chicago and New York, there was another sound bubbling up in Detroit that was entirely different. The sound of Detroit was more futuristic and cold; it was the sound of a city in decay and drifting in outer space.

In the 1980s, a group of producers began using Roland 909 and 808 drum machines with synths like the Yamaha DX100. They drew inspiration from the contemporary synth music of the time like Yellow Magic Orchestra and Kraftwerk but also drawing from the raw funk of Parliment and early Prince.

This was the beginning of Techno as we know it today and in it’s original form referred to as Detroit Techno for its origin and definitive sound.

The initial blueprint for techno developed during the mid-1980s in Belleville, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit by Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May (the so-called Belleville Three), all of whom attended school together at Belleville High, with the addition of Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter and James Pennington. By the close of the 1980s, the pioneers had recorded and released material under various guises: Atkins as Model 500, Flintstones, and Magic Juan; Fowlkes simply as Eddie “Flashin” Fowlkes; Saunderson as Reeses, Keynotes, and Kaos; with May as Mayday, R-Tyme, and Rhythim Is Rhythim. There were also a number of joint ventures, the most commercially successful of which was Kevin Saunderson’s group Inner City, which saw collaborations with Atkins, May, vocalist Paris Grey, and fellow DJs James Pennington and [Arthur Forest]. The Electrifying Mojo was the first radio DJ to play music by the Detroit techno producers Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson. Mojo refused to follow pre-established radio formats or playlists, and he promoted social and cultural awareness of the African American community.