The Detroit Series at Netil House
Wednesday 20th June 2012 by Tom Watson
Netil House, 1 Westgate Street, Hackney, London E8 3RL
Friday June 29th
JUAN ATKINS (Model 500 / Metroplex / Cybotron)
Simian Mobile Disco (DJ Set)
Dave Congreve (Soma)
Charles Drakeford (Boiler Room / NTS)
Lixo (Get Me)
Friday July 13th
KEVIN SAUNDERSON (KMS)
Factory Floor – Live Electronics
Bradley Zero (Rhythm Section / Boiler Room)
Flora Yin-Wong (Dazed)
Friday July 27th
DERRICK MAY (Transmat)
JD Twitch (Optimo)
Waifs & Strays (Futureboogie)
Jon Rust (Standard Place / NTS)
Nic Tasker (Phonica / Boiler Room)
‘The public really wasn’t ready for it until about ’85 or ’86. It just so happened that Detroit was there when people really got into it…’
These are the reflective meditations of Juan Atkins – also referred to as The Originator. All modesty aside, even in this closing speculation, he seemingly captures the provenance of a sound that would consequently devour dance for decades to come. With the accompaniment of two equally significant producers, Kevin Saunderson (aka The Elevator) and Derrick May (aka The Innovator), Atkins et al ignited from electronica’s embers a genre of such profound importance to the history of music, it would define a generation. Separately, and under their group alias, The Belleville Three, the trio were conjuring the future. Techno may have been founded on the airwaves of Detroit, but has since become an international, bilingual harbinger for innovation, elevation and, of course, the true origin of modern club culture.
Ironically, while Detroit is credited by the three as the source of techno, the group grew up together on the outskirts of Detroit’s Metro area. In the rural town of Belleville, some 30 miles from Detroit, the trio observed their inner-city scene from afar. Their influences leaked from the hub of a budding urban landscape as their ears fell to the accessibility of local radio. The high school friends would regularly tune in to WGPR to hear DJ Charles Johnson’s crucial show ‘The Electrifying Mojo‘. It was here they heard the synthesizer for the first time (Atkins described the sound as like a ‘UFO landing’). In their own Suburbia they listened to their sonic ancestors from the likes of Parliament, Kraftwerk, Mojo, Bootsy and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Derrick May regarded their early years listening to music as not just for sheer entertainment but as ‘a serious philosophy’.
Following Detroit’s economic downturn and the departure of the city’s aggrandised Mowtown label in the late 80s, the club scene became increasingly integrated. Perfect timing for The Belleville Three to discharge their tirade of success, which they did with veracious prolificacy. Individually, Atkins, May and Saunderson were churning out seminal classics by the BPM. Atkins, performing under one of his many titles, Channel One, released Technicolour – a harsh blitzkrieg of snares and blips fighting over strident synth lines. The tune assisted in permitting underground techno to see the light of mainstream prosperity. Saunderson’s Inner City project was a commercial sandstorm of club-centric records – Good Life being one of the most definitive dance tracks ever conceived. May as Rhythm is Rhythm kick-started Detroit Techno’s endeavour to reach ‘archetypal’ status. Nude Photo championed the clubs from ’87 onwards, combining Chicago’s psyche-disco with his hometown’s trademark tech. Yet, it was together as the unrestrained amalgam, The Belleville Three, that their solo efforts were truly acknowledged as visionary.
Now, with over twenty years of techno’s unlimited sub-genres blossoming from one radio station to the next, Dollop have accumulated The Belleville Three again for a succession of weekends (spanning over the next month) to celebrate the inception of Detroit Techno and all of its universal influences. The group are set to play at an unannounced East London warehouse between Friday 29 June, Friday 13 July and Friday 27 July. The Originator will be first up, next Friday, and will be joined by analogue powerhouse, Simian Mobile Disco, acid-house bigwig, Dave Congreve and other tech hungry acts. Friday 13 will see The Elevator headline with a solid backup from Boddika and the highly praised Factory Floor. Finally, Friday 27 will witness the closing chapter with The Innovator singing off after a deep serving of electronic noise from Optimo cofounder JD Twitch and house duo Waifs & Strays.