Juan Atkins at DEMF
The man who invented one of the most influential forms of modern music plays Shanghai tonight. Juan Atkins, from Detroit, USA, first started tinkering with synthesizers and drum machines back in the early 80s, and played the leading role in creating a brand new genre of futuristic, forward-thinking and cutting-edge music which would later become known as “Techno“.
Now, nearly thirty years later, China gets the chance to catch up with the man who is generally regarded by all musical scholars as the founding father of electronic music.
Void and Free The Wax Presents: Juan Atkins @ The Shelter, 5 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Lu 永福路5号,近复兴路.
Tonight, 10pm. 60rmb at the door.
Picture of Juan Atkins courtesy of The Beej
Like many artists on the edge, Juan Atkins’ name is not particularly well known to the mainstream, and nor are his guises Model 500 and Cybotron. Of course, being nowhere near the Top-100 DJ list, he is a virtual unknown amongst Chinese electronic music fans. Ironic considering that, alongside his “Belleville Three” co-horts Kevin Saunderson (later to find fame with Inner City) and Derrick May, the influence of his music can be clearly heard anywhere in the world where electronic music is played today. Not only was he fundamental to the genre known as Techno, but almost every sub-genre of electronic music, be it trance, drum and bass, electro-house, tech-house, progressive, owes its very existence to Atkins work. Even outside of electronic music his influence can be directly heard. Next time you are at Windows Jingan-Temple of commercial Hip Hop, dancing to Missy Elliot’s “Loosing Control”, that’s Juan Atkins you can hear her sampling there, from his seminal Cybotron’s track “Clear”.
To get an idea of the significance of Atkins work, Shanghaiist spoke to some of the city’s music promoters to garner their views on the man known as “Magic” Juan. Archie Hamilton, MD of Split Works, the promoters who brough Faithless to Shanghai, said “He was right there at the beginning, pioneering a new Motown. It was the beginning of electronic music as we know it. And so everyone that we look to now, like Daft Punk, Simian Mobile Disco, Digitalism, they are all accolytes of Juan and the Belleville Three.
“For China, I worry that it will be a bit over their heads, I mean lets face it, he’s over most people’s heads but I think it will be important for those people who really care to know him, and to find out more about him, ‘cos they will lead the others out of the darkness that is Chinese pop and that’s all I have to say!”
A bit of a Pioneer herself, DJ Siesta has worked tirelessly to promote Drum & Bass in China over the last few years through her Phreaktion Crew. She said of techno’s influence on Drum & Bass, “Techno started it all didn’t it? That’s how it triggered the hardcore scene in the uk, then from it became jungle techno then jungle then Drum & Bass.”
DJ Ozone, mastermind of the long-running Antidote Parties at Cs Bar and The Shelter, took a different view. “I don’t really care about his music, to be honest. They were classics, influential, blah blah, that’s been written up to death, But — he’s one of the best DJs I’ve ever seen. the first time i saw him, me and a friend decided to go home and make techno track. We literally did, he played on a friday and by sunday night we’d completed two songs.”
Shanghainese techno producer MHP revealed that Atkins was something of a deeply inspirational figure to him. “We are his music’s followers. He is the begining and the end of techno music.” MHP added that Atkins’ music resonated with his hometown’s imagery, adding “when I heard Atkin’s track “The future” I can feel it could have been written for Shanghai.”
The Void and Antidote member said Atkins was essential listening for any Chinese producers looking to make good electronic music. “His ideas are the root of techno music