Juan Atkins (born December 9, 1962) is an
He is widely credited as the originator of
music, specifically Detroit techno
along with Derrick May
and Kevin Saunderson
. The three, sometimes
called the Belleville Three,
attended high school together in Belleville, Michigan, near Detroit.
Detroit, Michigan, United States as the son of a concert promoter, Juan Atkins
learned how to play bass, drums, and "a little lead guitar" at an
early age. Atkins, along with school friends Derrick May
and Kevin Saunderson, tuned in regularly to WGPR to hear DJ
Charles "The Electrifying
Mojo" Johnson's genre-defying radio show.
At age sixteen, Atkins heard electronic music for the first time,
which would prove to be a life-changing experience. In late-1990s
interviews, he recalls the sound of synthesizers as being like
"UFOs landing." He soon had his first synthesizer and abandoned
playing funk bass.
Deep Space Soundworks
He bought his first analogue synthesizer, a Korg MS10, and began
recording with cassette decks and a mixer for overdubs. He
subsequently taught Derrick May to mix, and the pair started doing
DJ sets together as Deep Space. They took their long mixes to Mojo,
who began to play them on his show in 1981. Atkins, May, and
Saunderson would continue to collaborate as Deep Space Soundworks,
even starting a club in downtown Detroit for local DJs to spin and
The 1982 single "Cosmic Cars" also did well. Cybotron recorded
their debut album, Enter
, and were soon signed to Fantasy
Records. One track, "Clear," struck out in the direction that
Atkins would pursue with what would later be called his "techno"
music. Instead of merely reworking elements of Kraftwerk, "Clear"
fused them with club music.
Atkins considered Cybotron's most successful single, "Techno City"
(1984), to be a unique, Germanic, synthesized funk composition.
After later hearing Afrika
's "Planet Rock
(1982), which he considered to be a superior example of the
style he was aiming for,
he resolved to continue experimenting, and encouraged Saunderson
and May to do the same.
In 1985, Atkins left the group due to artistic differences with
bandmate Rik Davis. Davis wanted the group to pursue a musical
direction closer to rock
, while Atkins
wanted to continue in the electro
-style vein of "Clear
Atkins began recording as "Model 500" in 1985 and founded the
friends Eddie Fowlkes
, Derrick May,
and Kevin Saunderson all recorded singles on the label.
Atkins' first single as Model 500, "No UFOs," was a hit in Detroit
and Chicago. He followed it with a series of landmark techno
tracks, earning him the nickname "the godfather of techno." Within
a few years, Atkins' work was rereleased in Europe, influencing
another generation of technocrats.
Over the years, Atkins has also released works under the name
Infiniti. He explained the difference in a 2007 interview: "Model
500 is really a continuation of Cybotron. That's one thing that
I've always stayed the course with and I've always wanted to not
deviate when I do stuff with Model 500. In the past year it's
probably what Cybotron would have done had the partners not split.
Its more song-oriented with melodies, not just dance track - that's
always been my experiences with Model 500. Now if I do stuff under
the name Infinity [sic], that would be the more straightforward
form of pure techno, the purest techno what is deemed as techno
right now in North America and in Europe."
Atkins' earlier works are generally considered electro
Over the years, his sound matured and grew in complexity, and many
of his more recent works are heavily layered rhythmic soundscapes.
Today, this techno
is considered its own genre.
Atkins and other Techno artists have cited the long-running Detroit
radio show of Charles "Electrifyin' Mojo
" Johnson as a
musical influence. Mojo, a local legend in radio, played an
eclectic mix of music including Kraftwerk
, The B-52's and
. Atkins and May
got their start recording from
the radio and remixing for the radio, specifically, Mojo's show;
after this apprenticeship, they began producing original
The Detroit Sound
techno coming out of Detroit had more of the black experience
involved, and of course what we've grown up with is soul music and
R&B stuff, and then there's funk itself," Atkins told Melbourne magazine Zebra in 1999.
be only natural that more of these elements would show up."
- as Cybotron, with Rick Davis (1981–1983)
- "Alleys of Your Mind" (1981), single
- "Cosmic Cars" (1982), single
- "Clear" (1982), single
- Enter (1983)
- "Techno City" (1984), single
- Clear (1990), digitally remastered re-release of
- as Model 500 (1985–present)
- "No UFO's" (1985), single
- "Night Drive"" (1985), single (includes "Time Space
- Sonic Sunset (1994)
- Deep Space (1995)
- Body and Soul (1999)
- as Infiniti (1991–1995)
- Skynet 1998
- "The Infinit Collection" 1996
Catalog No.: PLX-029
Director: Gary Bredow
Length: 64 minutes
Summary: HIGH TECH SOUL is the first documentary to tackle the deep
roots of techno music alongside the cultural history of Detroit,
its birthplace. HIGH TECH SOUL focuses on the creators of the genre
-- Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson -- and looks at
the relationships and personal struggles behind the music. Artists
like Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Eddie Fowlkes and a
host of others explain why techno, with its abrasive tones and
resonating basslines, could not have come from anywhere but
- Juan Atkins Biography - AOL Music
- Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno
and Rave Culture Routledge, 1999.
- Atkins shifted from playing funk bass to synthesizer
because it conjured a reverse image of "what it would be like if a
UFO landed in the front yard."
- Juan's first group Cybotron released several records at the
height of the electro-funk boom in the early 80's, the most
successful being a truly progressive homage to the city of Detroit,
simply entitled 'Techno City'. At the time, he believed the record
was a unique and adventurous piece of synthesiser funk, more in
tune with Germany than the rest of black America, but on a
dispiriting visit to New York, Juan heard Afrika Bambaataa's
'Planet Rock' and realised that his vision of a spartan electronic
dance sound had been upstaged. He returned to Detroit to renew his
friendship with 2 younger students from Belleville High, Kevin
Saunderson and Derrick May, and quietly over the next few years the
three of them became the creative backbone of Detroit Techno.
- Juan Atkins
- Juan Atkins Interview - Godfather of Techno
- Motor City Man, Andrez Bergen. Zebra, Inpress, June, 1999.