Diverging music punctuated the air at Movement, as I sat down to speak with an innovator who helped launch the scene surrounding us- Kevin Saunderson himself. It was an amazing opportunity to speak with one of the people who has been involved with making Detroit the epicenter of techno.
Sitting alongside him were his sons Dantiez and Damari, and his nephew Kweka. We talked about his role as a creator of techno and its evolution, performing with Derrick May in Detroit, and how Kevin saved Movement from collapsing.
Kevin Saunderson is a humorous and personable guy, who, for starting an entire genre of music, is pretty laid back about it all. Under the tents, away from the stages where musicians performed to crowds of over one hundred thousand- Kevin spoke about the techno scene as it originated, so close to where he was sitting this evening.
As one of the indisputable creators of techno, Saunderson has accomplished a feat only a handful of artists will ever know- to create an entire genre of music. Yet when asked about how it felt to be known as one of the creators of techno music, he was nonchalant and humbly responded that it was a “gift that was given to me,” a gift that he was “thankful” for, and that he “embraces it” fully. He ended with the sentiment that he felt “happy to give back to the people” with the music he created.
When the conversation delved into what led to him creating techno music he credited it to “being around Derrick May” who he had been spending a lot of time around in Belleville, where they both grew up. Kevin said his interest grew as he watched Derrick as he “created his first record and I was inspired by the technology.” Saunderson found that he could produce sounds himself, using electronic equipment, and he excitedly continued- “I could use technology and do it myself with a machine” without the need to play an entire group of instruments. He then stated of that experience: “it was seductive.”
THE EVOLUTION OF TECHNO
When talking to Saunderson about the beginning- his continuous enthusiasm even today, is apparent; the excitement he felt in the 80s can still be heard in his voice as he talks. He stated that where techno music began 28 years ago has evolved to something very different from its original roots.
He noted his surprise that techno now reaches an entirely different fan base than it had initially. He went from creating music for small groups of students to inspiring massive crowds of people. He said “we were playing fraternity parties for black urban kids” and it took off and went in an entirely different direction. He continued that the “black audience abandoned it and went to hip-hop and the white audience embraced it.”
Kevin Saunderson has been openly credited as taking the helm of a sinking ship when the electronic music festival was struggling, saving it from impending disaster. When asked about saving Movement from ending for good, he casually replied “somebody had to take it over.” He continued “the city begged me and I got it to the where they could charge.” Saunderson could boast about this feat, but again, he played it off as no big deal, something that is all in a day’s work.
The crowds that are swarming around the festival grounds tonight may be unaware of how close this festival came to being canceled years ago, but would certainly be appreciative if they knew that one man single-handedly kept it going. He left it in the hands of a company he had worked with closely previously- Paxahau, eventually growing Movement to what it has become today.
SHARING THE STAGE WITH DERRICK MAY
Kevin speaks with high regard for his friend Derrick May. When he talked about performing at Movement on Monday with his childhood sidekick he said “we’ve done it before, but there is still some anxiety.” Saunderson said he is excited to perform and that he is looking forward to the “great crowd experience” that always comes when performing at Movement. He ended that his set with Derrick “go down in the history of Detroit.”
Watch the event that will go down in Detroit history- Kevin Saunderson performing live on stage with Derrick May on Monday May 26. This performance is one of the most anticipated acts at Movement this year and will take place on the Red Bull Music Academy stage at 10:30 p.m.