Juan Atkins needs no introduction. In the world of techno, his twenty-something year reign as one of the founding fathers of techno remains unchallenged. From his early days playing in local clubs in his native Detroit, to worldwide tours, and collaborations with some of the biggest names and labels, Juan is now back home and headlining at Movement 2012. Clubbersguidenewyork caught up with him to chat about getting and keeping that warm feeling!
CGNY: Juan thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Back in Detroit and headlining at Movement. Excited?
JA: Yeah, very excited about that!
CGNY: Movement Detroit is really the only festival dedicated to only techno. Heading into the 13th year, 6 under the Paxahau banner! And you and your friends helped get this sound off the ground! How did you get started in music?
JA: Well music was just something I knew I always wanted to do. I can’t remember exactly what event sparked it off. I’ve always loved music. I remember the first record that I bought was “A Family Affair” by Sly and the Family Stone. And I guess you could say subconsciously that track was the inspiration. That was the first record that I actually took money out of my pocket for and was old enough to actually go in a store by myself and buy…
CGNY: Which is always a big deal I think, when you’re a kid and buying your first record, the beginning of cultivating a musical taste!
CGNY: You’re known as one of the originators of techno –which is a weighty title to have. And your music has obviously changed and evolved over the years but your sound is still very true to your original roots. It’s an obvious question I suppose but how do you maintain integrity in your sound and continue to make quality music?
JA: Well it’s just a thing I love to do! It’s just something that was born and bred in me. It just comes naturally. There is no specific thing that I go through or format or anything like that. It’s just me!
CGNY: That’s real; that’s as good as it gets! And I was reading a bit about your influences growing up, people like Kraftwerk, Prince, Gary Numan. Is there anyone out there now that you’re listening to in your down time?
JA: Not really. There are no new artists now that really pique my interest. Things are so different now; with me being a dj and having to sift through so much music; usually I just go back and listen to some of my old jazz music. Gino Vanelli or Return to Forever, things of that nature that have a soothing effect, that kind of puts me back when I was a teenager when I didn’t have any worries or responsibilities!
CGNY: You tour a fair bit and you’ve been to New York a lot recently playing the MoMa party and at Francois K’s Deep Space at Cielo. How does playing in New York compare to other cities?
JA: As far as the USA is concerned, New York is probably one of the best places to play! I know I’ll probably get some flak from my friends on the west coast and in the south but musically I think a lot of trends start on the east coast, not so much from the west…
"From the beginning, even when I started, Detroit’s always been a fertile ground for creativity. Especially for dance music. It’s the surroundings. We’ve got a rich history. And there’s something about the factories, the smoke from the factories probably gets in our lungs and does something to us."
CGNY: There does seem to be a resurgence of interest in techno here – lots of good parties and acts happening here now. You’ve seen many changes over the years.
JA: Yes, the technology behind the music has changed a lot. You’ve got computers that can simulate live machines – so ultimately the production of a track is faster. I still use all kinds of technology to produce tracks; not any one thing. I like to keep up with technology
CGNY: Which reflects in your djing?
JA: Yes I play vinyl, CDs flash drives; whatever. I like to be flexible. Go into a club and fit seamlessly into the environment. Sometimes you go to a club and there isn’t room to set up a laptop or a controller so you’ve got to be ready with everything. I bring it all; some vinyl tracks that you can’t get digitally, I like to have those in my collection.
CGNY: “Clear” is considered a seminal techno track and a start of the whole techno movement. I was listening to it again this morning and it still sounds really fresh – just made!! What do you think is the key to making a classic track?
JA: A good track stands the test of time – it still gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Like when I listen to A Family Affair; which was made something like 30 years ago, I still get that warm feeling!
CGNY: So in terms of your gig in Detroit or any gig that you’re preparing for, what do you like to do –prepare a set or just see what the crowd feels like?
JA: Well people hire djs for their personality and the tracks they play reflect that. But what I love is the spontaneity of the event; the ability to respond to the crowd, read them and the environment you are in. You can’t play the same music for a younger crowd as you would an older more cultivated group of people. So I’ll maybe have a couple of tracks that I’ll bring and then I like to stay open and flexible to see what the crowd is feeling.
CGNY: Sounds like a good plan! I look forward to checking you out in Detroit in a few weeks! Thanks again Juan!
For more information about Movement – check out the website at www.movement.us
And for more info about Juan Atkins go to https://www.facebook.com/MagicJuanAtkins