No, it’s not some sort of musical fairytale or geeky daydream, it actually happened just a couple of days ago. German synth sultans Kraftwerk, had a face-to-face encounter with the holy trinity of Detroit techno, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Juan Atkins, popularly known as The Belleville Three. Kraftwerk, who are on tour in America, had come to the Motor City to perform at the Masonic Temple Theatre. But apparently, after they rearranged the heads of many Detroit fans with their performance, there was still more excitement to come.
An after-party took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and Saunderson, Atkins and May mixed it up with Ralf Hütter and others, making for a historic moment in electronic music. It’s the sort of what-if moment that’s probably been imagined by fans millions of times, but there it was real as life. Now if only it were possible to convince the two crews to make a record together!
It’s been years since Kevin Saunderson, the techno titan of many faces (Reese Project, Kreem, Tronik House, et al), took on his E-Dancer alias — in fact, it was 1998 when he released Heavenly album under that name. But now the Detroit dynamo is reviving it in the service of his new single, “Foundation.” Set for a July 6 release on his KMS label, the record brings together some of the best loved items in The Elevator’s arsenal — big, bold beats and electro-inspired synth lines that achieve an insistent but almost otherworldly kind of propulsion.
Those who have been keeping a close eye on Saunderson’s work lately know that he recently brought his Origins stage back to Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival, letting the spirit of classic Motor City techno speak to an ever-increasing audience through a broad array of artists.
Saunderson will be bringing his own brand of Detroit sounds around the globe this summer too, stopping everywhere from Ibiza to Paris along the way. But whether you’re able to catch him in action or not, the tracks Saunderson serves up on “Foundation” should still give you plenty to chew on.
Last summer a video of Matthew Dear produced by General Electric surfaced where the global technology giant invited the esteemed DJ/producer to forge a song, which was later dubbed “Drop Science,” on found sounds emanating from its state-of-the-art machines. Motor City car maker Ford has embarked on a similar project, inviting Detroit techno legend Kevin Saunderson into its assembly plant to look for sounds.
The three-minute video recently posted to YouTube finds The Elevator searching for inspiration as he mills about the factory floor, microphone-in-hand and listening for the sounds of the production process while people and machines manufacture cars.
“It’s the same tone; it’s the same frequency,” observes Saunderson. “Then to just hear that there — it was probably used for a totally different purpose — but to hear that, it connected. It was love at first sound.”
The clip is worth a look, especially as you get to see the techno icon going through the motions in front of his array of gear.
The video ends with a slightly cringeworthy comment from Saunderson, one which we’re going to guess was penned by an eager copywriter: “Henry Ford moved people with cars. I move people with music.”
We profiled legendary Detroit DJ/producer Kevin Saunderson last year around the time he released his latest effort Elevate. Saunderson told us an interesting story of remixing his first track in 1988 for Wee Papa Girls [“Heat It Up”]. As Saunderson recalls, you never forget your first time.
“The Wee Papa Girls remix was my first and something special. As the remix as we know it today, I feel like I’m responsible. Back then it was guys like Shep Pettibone, Jellybean Benitez and other producers who did some edits, maybe added some drums, but really just extensions of the album mix. When I did the Wee Papa girls remix for Jive, I didn’t even listen to the track first. At the time, I just though about doing a remix as it was done. Maybe edit it, make it longer, make a break and make a vamp at the end. When I listened to it I didn’t like it. I realized I only liked the vocals.
So I was in this big studio and was a bit intimidated by all the buttons. I’m used to eight tracks and was in this studio with 48 tracks! So I used the vocals and created my own whole new tracks. I made the vocals work with my music. I just got a 24-hour block and got it done. We had 24-48 hours back then and there’s wasn’t this two-three month waiting time like today. When I gave the label my remix they thought I was nuts. My manager talked to them and convinced them to send out some test copies and they got a great response.
They ended up releasing my remix and then made a radio edit for top 40 radio. So how about that—quite interesting for a mix that was never liked in the beginning. Because they were clueless, and I was ahead of the time.”