Platinum-selling recording artist, label boss, festival promoter, true innovator in the pantheon of popular music, cultural champion, cracking DJ: there’s a lot to be said about Kevin Saunderson.
His influence runs deep, through both adopted hometown of Detroit, and music culture as a whole: as one of the Belleville Three, the high school trio which also includes Juan Atkins and Derrick May, he irreparably changed the face of electronic music; with Inner City, he gave it some of its most memorable tunes.
The genesis of today’s enormous techno scene can be retraced straight to Kevin, Derrick and Juan, as their formative experiments on rudimentary hardware sketched a blueprint for a genre that was yet to exist. By absorbing Kraftwerk, cutting-edge funk, local radio stalwart The Electrifying Mojo’s electicism, and all manner of new synthesiser and drum machine-led pop music, the Belleville Three broke new ground as musicians and DJs in the 80s.
Saunderson’s comparatively late start as a producer – kicking off in ’87 under the moniker of Kreem, with E-Dancer and Reese two of the more well-known names to follow – inadvertently gifted him a headstart. With the eruption of house music a few hours down the I-94 in Chicago, Saunderson married Detroit’s raw sound to more tactile, pop-leaning sensibilities. Inner City was born, and global success followed.
Between “Big Fun”, “Good Life”, debut album Paradise and a number of follow-up singles, Inner City (Saunderson and vocalist Paris Grey) amassed 12 UK top 40 hits and over six million records sold worldwide during their peak. A dancefloor-dominating remix by Luciano in 2008, and a globetrotting reunion tour in 2012, underscores the longevity of Inner City’s classic sound.
His nickname of ‘The Elevator’ is apt: for his role in transporting Detroit’s new sound to a wider audience; as anyone who has seen him perform live can attest, his high-energy, high-spirit and high-impact DJ sets; and for spending the past 35 years of his life progressing the culture he helped create.
Operating in tandem to his golden run as a producer in the late 80s and early 90s, Saunderson’s own KMS record label – a remarkable 30 years strong in 2017 – has chronicled the early footsteps of R-Tyme, Blake Baxter, MK, Chez Damier, Derrick Carter, Bicep and even Saunderson’s son and regular DJ partner Dantiez more recently.
A special 12” series in 2008 called History Elevate, released in tandem with fellow polymath Carl Craig’s Planet E label, brought contemporary names like Mathew Jonson, Simian Mobile Disco and Loco Dice into the fold, proving his nous for fostering relationships with each new wave to come through techno’s gates. 25th anniversary compilations and numerous reissues have followed suit.
Saunderson has a behind-the-scenes role to play, too: he is intertwined with the history of Detroit’s flagship Movement (formerly Detroit Electronic Music Festival / Fuse-In). Having produced the event in the mid-2000s, the last handful of years have seen repeated invites from Movement to display his ORIGINS showcase at the festival, bringing acts like Delano Smith, Phuture and DJ Minx under his curatorial umbrella.
And of course, with a stacked international touring schedule over the decades, playing in nearly every country and at nearly every festival or club worth mention, he has not stopped pushing the feeling of techno on and on.
The Groove That Won’t Stop, indeed.
Kevin Saunderson & Dantiez On KMS 30 EP2
Off the back of their …
Kevin Saunderson And KiNK Release ‘Idyllic’
Kevin Saunderson has teamed up …
Kevin Saunderson has teamed up with Techno’s man of the moment, KiNK, for a collaborative effort celebrating the 30th anniversary of Kevin’s KMS label. ‘Idyllic’ will be one of three tracks released, alongside new material from Dubfire & Marc Houle, out October 9. Mixmag have the exclusive premiere below.Listen here
Kevin Saunderson with Gilles Peterson
Kevin Saunderson recently featured on …
Kevin Saunderson As E-Dancer Releases ‘Heavenly Revisited’
As part of KMS Records …
As part of KMS Records 30th Anniversary, founder and label owner Kevin Saunderson will deliver ‘Heavenly Revisited’, a reissue of his classic E-Dancer LP, first released in 1998, now remastered and remixed with more recent E-Dancer material added. The first EP, featuring three tracks available on vinyl and digital, lands May 5.
Inner City Release ‘Good Luck’
Inner City are back with …
Inner City are back with a new release, ‘Good Luck’ feat. LaRae Starr on KMS Records. The track sees Dantiez, son of Inner City founder Kevin Saunderson, joining the fray, thus marking a new phase for the group with Dantiez as a now permanent feature. With vocals from LaRae Starr woven through production by Dantiez & Kevin Saunderson, plus remixes from Sure Is Pure, Chuck Daniels and DEAS, ‘Good Luck’ shows Inner City have remained a vital part of the scene’s avant-garde for almost three decades. Check the track below!