Kevin Saunderson - Biography
Kevin "The Elevator" Saunderson is an American musician who, as one of the "The Bellville Three," is co-credited for inventing techno music. Although he's made music under a variety of monikers (including Tronik House, The Reese Project, E-Dancer, Essaray, and Reese & Santonio), his biggest commercial success came as one half of the "techno-house" act, Inner City.
Keven Saunderson was born on September 5th, 1964, in Brooklyn, where he was the youngest of nine children. When he was a boy, his family moved to Belleville, Michigan where later, as a student at Belleville High, he befriend fellow students Derrick May and Juan Atkins. The three were all heavily influenced by DJ Charles’s “The Electrifying Mojo” Johnson’s influential stint on the radio where he freely mixed disco, electro-pop and funk. In 1981, the three friends formed Deep Space Soundworks, a DJ collective that entertained at parties and clubs. But whereas Atkins continued his musical career as part of the electro act, Cybotron, and May began DJing, Saunderson enrolled at Eastern Michigan University where he studied telecommunications and playing American football.
By 1984, Saunderson began to reconsider his path, accompanying May to Chicago and New York where he was exposed to house and garage, respectively. When they returned to Detroit after an extended stay, Deep Space Soundworks started their own club, the Music Institute. Saunderson’s recording debut was in 1986, as part of X-Ray (with Derrick May and Juan Atkins) who released “Let’s Go” on Atkins' Metroplex Records. That year, Saunderson formed his own label, KMS Records. Working with Atkins, Saunderson recorded “Triangle of Love” which Saunderson released under the name Kreem, on Metroplex in 1987.
For a subsequent recording, Saunderson wanted vocals. A Chicago producer Terry Baldwin suggested a local singer, Paris Grey (née Shanna Jackson). That year Grey and Saunderson formed Inner City, who would go on to chart in the UK Top 40 eight times and sold more than six million albums. Their first hit was “Big Fun,” which was picked up by British Neil Rushton for his UK compilation Techno - The New Dance Sound of Detroit (Virgin Records).
The follow-up single, “Good Life” was an even more massive hit in 1988. After relocating to England, he released the mix, Prelude to Rave (1988 KMS). In 1989, Inner City signed a major-label contract with Virgin Records and released their debut, Paradise (Virgin 1989) [re-titled Big Fun in the US]. Pressured by Virgin to make a more commercial album, Inner City responded with Fire (1990 Virgin), which moved in a slightly more dance-pop direction akin to Soul II Soul.
The following year, Saunderson unveiled a new project, the gospel-oriented Reese Project, who opened for Inner City on their tour. Reese Project released their debut Faith, Hope & Clarity (1992 Network Records) and Inner City released its third album, the garagey Praise (1992 Virgin). After the final Inner City release Testament '93 (1993-Virgin), Saunderson returned mostly to DJ-ing and releasing mix albums.
From 1993 through ‘94, Saunderson, Atkins and May hosted the Deep Space radio program. The mix album Kevin Saunderson Presents the Party of the Year (1995 KMS) was followed by a compilation The Faces & Phases (1997 Planet E) which included Saunderson releases as Reese, Tronik House, E-Dancer, Kreem, Reese & Santonio and Inner City track. In 1998, Saunderson began his X-Mix series and released a compilation of other artitsts’ word on Studio !K7. As E-Dancer, he also released his proper solo debut, Heavenly (1998 Planet E).
More live and mix albums followed, including Trust the DJ: KS01 (2002 Trust the DJ), Live at Inner City in Amsterdam 12-22-02 (2002 KMS), Trust the DJ: KS02 (2003 Trust the DJ), Space Techno (2003 Trust the DJ), Live in Copenhagen (2003 KMS), Live in Space: Ibiza, Spain (2003 KMS) and Ekspozicika 07: the Detroit Connection (2007 Explicit Musick). In more recent years he’s focused on his History Elevate series, releasing History Elevate 1 EP and History Elevate 2 EP (both 2007 Planet E), History Elevate 3 EP and History Elevate 4 EP (both 2008 Planet E) and History Elevate 4 EP (2009 Planet E).
In November 2012 his mixing board went on display at the Detroit Historical Museum.