There are a multitude of false idols amid the modern music industry. At a time where to mount the musical pedestal is as easy as uploading a YouTube video, you can forgive the now commercially attainable Dance music industry for spitting feathers as far as its integrity in sound and manner are concerned. But awakening the sense of dutiful grandeur and solid floor heritage, 2012 has marked the return of a genuine innovator and overtly passionate contender. But Dan Carter is proud to report that amid his return to the throne, there is enough promising noise to assert that House music still has its dignity intact where one Detroit legend turned Inner City maestro Kevin Saunderson is concerned.
On the other end of the line, Kevin Saunderson is relaying a story that has been told 1000 times. The fact that the industry and its avid followers alike have shown few signs of losing interest in the tale that defined American Techno and its fabled founding fathers, however, remains a testament to the globally acclaimed ideal that somewhere along the line, The Bellville Three changed Dance music.
Saunderson, however, is still happy to retell his part in the trials and triumphs of Detroit Techno. For the most part, it has become one of many lots in life. ‘There is something very positive about being idolised in this industry,’ he explained. ‘People see me as a survivor and that is exactly what I aspire to continue doing. I am who I am.’
Ditching college football in 1983 to pursue his love for music, it was a collective surge of enthusiasm from schoolyard peers Derrick Carter and Juan Atkins – now bonafide idols for their parts played as the highly acclaimed ‘Bellville Three’ – that truly set in motion the abrupt rise to fame of a very middle class revolution within Electronic music.
But it wasn’t a simple overnight success for Saunderson and his enigmatic peers. ‘Because we were the beginning of the genre we were making this stuff for the DJ rather than the record store, so it took a while to see the bigger picture that people talk about today,’ he admits. ‘Every day there was new elevation and we were truly fighting for the recognition. It seemed like a relatively short process because we were practicing day and night to perfect what we were doing.’
Written and aural history suggest that the Bellville three hit the spot that their New York and Chicago peers just couldn’t scratch and it wasn’t long before each player found his opportunity to sell, though much to the surprise of Saunderson. ‘I loved what I did, but I never thought it would sell, it was just cool to do records that people liked and play them in the clubs,’ he explained.
It would be too easy to bridge off at this point into an authoritive biographic of the living Detroit legend. But to the relief of fans across the board, his lot in life has not been limited to the telling of a damn good tale. Amid the triumphant return of his soulful diversion Inner City, a flame of hope has been reignited for those uninspired by the real-time repetition that is now collected on the digital market. Despite his time away from the limelight, Saunderson has not let this pass him by. ‘I am constantly hearing things in the present that were already familiar to me back in the day. Twenty-five years is a long time to be in the game, there were bound to be some imitations and regurgitations of the old stuff. As a basis it is flattering but when you are sat there listening to your own track with a new beat, it feels a little weird.’
In turn, the explosion of back-on-track anthem ‘Future’ was music to the ears of old school veterans and their junior peers alike. ‘We both wanted to wait until we were ready to make our return,’ he explained. ‘This wasn’t something we could ever consider rushing, but when we got back to the studio the gears just started turning perfectly again and ‘Future’ was one of the definitive moments of that.’
But with the addition of a well-oiled soundtrack to the return for Defected Records, there is something in the air that celebrates the Detroit don’s rich hometown heritage while giving it a back seat for the futuristic guise for the New Year. ‘‘My roots and heart are always deep within Detroit, but the message I wanted to get across was that I can do it all. The mix is full of elevation and as the mix progresses it gets a lot deeper and heavier, but at the soul of it these are tracks from across the board that I personally like.’
From the early-relics of the original drum machines to the technological jungle of weaponry now available, Saunderson prides himself on remaining in sync with his studio gadgetry. ‘Even us old timers still love to have all the toys,’ he laughs, with a sense of dignified dotage. But you won’t find any party trick effects or ultimately insubstantial effects on his proud mixing return for Defected Records. In a tip to the old times, his organic tune stylings and sharp cutting mark an age of DJ we have lost amid the rigorous development of the craft. ‘There are no tricks or mad effects; just straight good blending like it was back in the day. There is a time and a place for that and in my live sets when I want to diversify I will go all out and change that stance, but for me it felt right to go all-natural for this record.’
While Kevin has found both spiritual and reputable strength in his passionate exploits, heartlessly cashing in on the hype has never been on the agenda. Playing by their hearts as far as integrity and control are concerned, Saunderson has galvanised his time within the industry with fair play.
He explained: ‘In the early days when we began seeing success there were a lot of short bad guys offering sweet deals. It was tempting to take 20k and sign on the dotted line, but it just felt like they were seeing the fame before we did.
‘It was a lot of money at that time but that wasn’t the point. We were proud to stick to our guns and remain in control of destiny’s and essentially our music.’
With integrity in hand and the flame for his turntable dexterity rekindled on a global scale, there is a forward motion to Saunderson’s overtly eclectic knack for fueling the industry with his undying spirit. ‘At the end of the day I want to continue re-inspire other fans and artists to make music, this is what I have always tried to do and I intend to continue.’
History may not be to the taste of every aspiring producer. But there is little doubt that Kevin Saunderson has not only earned the right to tell his tale of innovative proportions with all the pride at his mercy, but continue to build on this legacy for years to come. In an industry full of big talk and little action, Saunderson remains a walking embodiment of the original House trailblazers still at large to reinspire. That’s just what he does!