Juan Atkins - Biography



Juan Atkins, as part of the so-called Bellville three, is one of the main proponents and pioneers of techno music. He was born in Detroit in 1962, and at early age, learned to play bass, drums and a bit of guitar. Atkins went to the same high school as Derrik May and Kevin Saunderson, in Belleville, Michigan. The three friends regularly listened to WGPR’s Charles "The Electrifying Mojo" Johnson, a categorization-defying DJ who played soul, funk, new wave, rock and electro-pop for a mostly black listening audience. Hearing electronic music for the first time at sixteen, Atkins abandoned bass and began producing music with his first synthesizer, a Korg MS10. He taught May to mix using cassette decks and the two began DJing together as Deep Space. In 1981, they submitted some of their efforts to The Electrifying Mojo and he played them on his show. The duo were soon joined by Saunderson and, now as Deep Space Soundworks, began operating a club called The Music Institute in Detroit.

 

The same year, while studying music in college, Atkins met Richard Davis and the two formed Cybotron. Their first single was “Alleys of Your Mind.” “Cosmic Cars” followed in 1982 and was more successful. Cyboton’s  debut album, Enter (1983 Fantasy) was released on Fantasy. The minimalist electro track “Clear” pointed in the direction in which Atkins would subsequently move. “Techno City” was released in 1984 and gave a name to the music Atkins sought to make. The following year, Atkins left Cybotron over artistic differences. Subsequent Cybotron releases would reflect Davis’s desire to make more electro-rock whereas Atkins went on to refine his vision of what came to be known as “techno.” 

 

In 1985, Atkins began recording as “Model 500.” His first single was “No UFOs” which was a hit in Detroit and Chicago. It was followed by the dystopian “Night Drive,” originally intended to be released by Cybotron.  A collection of early singles, Classics (1993 R&S) and the mini-album Sonic Sunset (1994 R&S) were released on Belgium’s R&S, as was Model 500’s final album, Body and Soul (1999 R&S).

 

At roughly the same time as Atkins recorded as “Model 500,” he also released music as “Infiniti.” What distinguished the two was that Infinit was generally more layered, complex and less accessible than Model 500. Infiniti primarily released singles, many of which were collected (along with more obscure tracks from 1991-1994) as The Infiniti Collection (1995 Tresor). In 1998, Atkins finally released a full-length Inifinit albu, Skynet (1998).

 

A 2002 single, “Update” was credited to Model 600. Three years later he released The Berlin Sessions (2005 Tresor) under his own name. The same year, a comprehensive retrospective of his career, 20 Years of Metroplex 1985-2005 (2005 Tresor) was released.The following year he was featured in the documentary, High Tech Soul (2006 Plexifilm), which traces the culture of Detroit from the race riots of 1967, to the techno scene, which more than any other person, Juan Atkins can take credit for creating.

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