Juan Atkins

There are few people in this world that can truly be credited with being pioneers in the Electronic Music scene, Juan Atkins is one of them!

 

Born in Detroit, Michigan in the early '60s as the son of a concert promoter, Juan quickly began to learn how to play the Bass Guitar, Drums, and even a little bit of Lead Guitar. Atkins and his school friends, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May, would religiously listen to the legendary WGPR's DJ Charles "The Electrifying Mojo" Johnson, who would play a mix of the latest releases by artists like Parliament, Prince, Kraftwerk, and the B-52s.

 

Juan Atkins was first exposed to Electronic Music at the age of 16, something that he later recalls as being like "UFOs landing on a record". Synthesizers had such an impact on Atkins that he soon dropped playing Funk Bass and got his first keyboard, a Korg MS-10. Learning how to record by using a cassette deck and a mixer, he soon rounded up May and Saunderson and formed Deep Space Soundworks, a DJ Collaboration group which eventually began to be featured on Mojo's WGPR show. They also started a club in Downtown Detroit, which would bring local DJs in to play and collaborate with one another.

 

In 1982, Juan teamed up with his friend Richard Davis aka 3070, forming the duo Cybotron and releasing their first single, "Cosmic Cars", on their own imprint, Deep Space Records. The song did so well, later in that year Cybotron went on to record their debut album "Enter" which was signed to Fantasy Records. One particular song on the album, "Clear', would stand out as the blueprint for what would become Atkins' so called "Techno music". With this song, and the others like it that would follow, Atkins didn't just re-work Kraftwerk's style, but rather fused it with the sound of Dance Music that had already been taking the world by storm after the release of "Planet Rock" and other such hits.

 

Juan Atkins would continue on an incredibly successful and influential music career, with projects like Model 500 and Infiniti, even starting the legendary label Metroplex. Still to this day, Atkins' music is as relevant as ever, with many of today's most respected producer's crediting him for having been one of the most powerful influences over the direction that Techno and Electro Funk would take over the years, specially the new Electro sound that would later emerge called Techno Bass. Juan Atkins' discography has led him through an immense number of releases over the past 3 decades with the latest being a collaboration on the infamous Ninja Tune label with Coldcut, as well as a re-release of the song "Starlight", as Model 500, on the Tresor Mix Vol. 5 compilation.

 

No matter where life takes a musician, whether they quit or continue writing, whether they deviate from their path and become less than what they used to be or out do themselves, in the end, what can never be taken away from them is the hard work and dedication put into almost 30 years of pioneering and re-inventing a sound and the lasting impact on society that can even change the course of history, not just in music, but altogether.

 

 

Written by: Santino Fernandez 
 

Edition: 
July 2009