Juan Atkins is the originator of techno, and a pioneer of the Detroit techno scene.
Born in Detroit and later raised in one of its suburbs, Belleville, Juan was at high school when he first got to know the two other pioneers of techno, Derrick May (the innovator) and Kevin Saunderson (the elevator). He describes himself at that time as a spacey child who was into science fiction and entranced by the televised NASA missions of the era.
Music was encouraged in the Atkins home - Juan's father was into Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis and the first record Juan bought was Sly & The Family Stone's 'Family Affair'. By then he had already begun playing the guitar and trying some beats on his brother's drum kit.
With the advent of cheap synthesiser technology in the late '70's, Juan finally found instruments custom made to give voice to the music he had in mind: soundtracks for UFO landings and space flights. He acquired a primitive Korg and set about inventing drum sounds and basslines which he would build up into tunes by multi-tracking the parts onto a cassette deck. Then one day he heard Kraftwerk's 'Man Machine'. The discovery confirmed he was on the right path.
At a community college, he met a Vietnam vet called Rick Davies. Rick heard Juan's low-fi experiments and immediately invited him over to his home. The place was piled high with the latest synths. Rick soon became Juan's mentor. As the pair started making music a cool motorik funk was born - and so was their band, Cybotron.
Drawing on the new European electronic minimalism and injecting it with Detroit funk Cybotron released their first single, 'Alleys Of Your Mind', on their own Deep Space label. It sold well and secured them an album deal with Fantasy. A subsequent album, 'Enter', mapped out blueprints for what was to become techno music. Nonetheless, due to musical differences, Juan decided to leave. He took with him the project name he was to record under for the next 15 years, Model 500.
It wasn't until the late '80s, however, that Juan's futurism finally meshed with the present. As the post-acid house cultural tidal wave tore through European clubs and parties, techno tunes that Juan had made a number of years earlier were to be heard nightly thundering through the strobe and dry ice mists. The public had finally caught up with Juan Atkins and in the process he became a fully fledged underground hero.
By now Juan was a frequent flyer on the international DJ circuit and much in demand as a remixer. Given his workload it wasn't surprising that it took a while for his first album proper to emerge. 'Deep Space' was one of the most anticipated dance albums of the decade and when it arrived in 1995 it scaled Juan's place at the heart of club culture. A new generation of kids who had been seduced by techno finally had a full length work by the originator of the genre.
Juan Atkins is still an active producer.
(see also Detroit techno, the innovator, the elevator)