Jun 12, 2013
interview
Kevin Saunderson & Sons

Kevin Saunderson is considered to be one of the founding fathers of Detroit techno, and now his sons Damarii, Dantiez, and nephew Kweku are following in his musical footsteps. LessThan3 got to catch up with this techno family at this year’s Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit to talk past, present, and the future of techno.

Inner City - Good Life [KMS]
LessThan3: As one of the genre’s originators, why do you think techno took such a hold on the city of Detroit and gained the popularity that it did?
Kevin: The city has a lot of history. Techno took a really long time for it to evolve like it should have–going to Europe, coming back. It took a while for the younger generation in the States to catch on. In Europe, everybody caught on quickly–young generation, mid-age, everybody. It finally happened here in the ’80s.
LessThan3: What would you say are the key characteristics of “Detroit techno,” and how does it compare to Berlin-based techno or Nortec (Tijuana) Techno?
Kevin: Detroit’s groove is different, a little funkier. I wouldn’t say it’s faster, but back in the day, the BPMs were faster. That’s kind of changed now. We got early influences from people like Derrick Carter, then Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen, then Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, and it kept going on to the new people like Kyle Hall. Then you’ve got Richie Hawtin, who’s right across the border, who was influenced by us then started his own thing. Everyone added their own thing to the mix.
LessThan3: Have you found any difficulties in following in your family’s footsteps, Damarii and Dantiez?
Damarii: It has been difficult because of who he is and what he’s done for the musical industry, but at the same time, I think we’re all up for the challenge. We all want to do different and inspiring things. We’re all working on our own individual projects; my brother here is playing the festival tomorrow.
Dantiez: I know we’ll all be up there some day.
LessThan3: Do you have any upcoming family collaborations?
Kevin: Definitely! I had a track started that my son is currently working on. Kweku and I have already done a track or two together, and there is definitely going to be some cross-collaborations and probably some performances with all of us in time. We keep evolving. We’ll be here for a while.
LessThan3: With the current EDM mainstream movement flooding the states and bringing in a younger generation, what is your view on the direction of techno since the ’90s, and where do you see it going in the next 5-10 years?
Damarii: Techno has been under-appreciated for a very long time, and now people are finally understanding what this music can do for you–the joy and happiness it can make you feel. If you’re having a bad day, you can come out, listen to some techno music and dance, and erase any bad memories you had.
LessThan3: Do you think it will ever turn mainstream?
Dantiez: When I think of EDM, I think of mainstream and underground as a whole. I don’t feel EDM is technically mainstream. It’s just generalized into one. You can say you’re going to an EDM show and Richie Hawtin is performing, you know? It’s just a name.
Kevin: You’ve got people like David Guetta and all that stuff going on, which I think helped kick it off in a bigger way to get people talking about EDM. It’s definitely over-commercialized, but in a way it helps at the same time because people who listened to one style didn’t necessarily listen to another style, then they learn about it in their own way. Once the door opens up, you can go any which way. Some music is meant to be commercial, some music is underground that goes commercial, but EDM is a legitimate, real team-leader in music–probably the first time since I’ve been doing it.
LessThan3: Kevin, Can you think back to your early career days and tell us about one of your favorite sets that you played?
Kevin: My first DJing opportunity was at a club called Taboo. It was out here in Detroit off the river. I was DJing and performing live, so I was real nervous to perform my songs. I had these tracks, Bounce Your Body To The Box and You Can’t Tell Us How To Play Our Music, where I actually had to use a mic so I was real nervous, but thinking back to it, it was a magical moment. I really believed in myself after that.
LessThan3: You see a lot of young people trying to make their way as DJs and producers. If you could send a message to today’s influx of young, aspiring DJs and producers, what would it be?
Kevin: Make music from your heart. You’ve got to learn the technology, learn something about the history too, and you can’t worry about if someone likes your track or not. I don’t like all of my sons’/nephew’s tracks, they don’t like all of my tracks, but that’s not what’s important. You don’t want to change something because someone said “I don’t like that, change that.” I’d give my family advice like I would give anybody else advice–maybe how to make the sound quality better, how to mix better–but I would never try to touch people’s music. Don’t let anybody touch your music. It should be what you think it is and what you see it being.
LessThan3: With the potential zombie apocalypse coming, if the world were ending in LessThan3 minutes, what would your final music selection be and why?
Kevin: Strings Of Life Rhythm is Rhythm, and I would play Good Life just because it’s been a good life.
LessThan3: Describe your sound in LessThan3 words.
Kevin: Dark, underground, Techno.
Kweku: Funky, groovy, electronic.
Dantiez: I’m trying to put those three words together how I like them.. hmm… soulful, electric, funk.
Kevin: Or maybe High, Tech, Soul. That’s the performance that i’m doing at the festival. High, tech, soul is also another way to describe techno.
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