Detroit. 1985. It begins. Post-industrial revolution, Detroit crumbles as businesses close and its motor industry implodes – but from its decaying streets the sound of the future is born when genuine human spirit becomes entwined with technology to prevail in the face of economic decline. After the split of his group Cybotron Juan Atkins utilises the synthesiser technology at his hands to usher in a new wave of electronic music. Inspired by European pioneers Kraftwerk, and the novels of Alvin Toffler, Juan sets about creating a futuristic electronic soundscape and names this new sound techno. But he needs an outlet for this revolutionary sound… In the wake of rejection from numerous big labels, Juan embraces the enterprising spirit of his hometown Detroit to create his own label, Metroplex Records… Read more
The first release on Metroplex was No UFOs, a classic slice of techno that bears all the hallmarks of Juan’s early innovative experiments with electronic music – full of funk, soul and energy. It became a favourite on Detroit’s famous TV show The Scene, one of many Soul Train imitations that were broadcast across the United States. With his follow-up release Night Drive, Juan had music lovers across Detroit immersing themselves in his sound. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to hear ‘Time. Space. Transmat.’ emitting from cars all over Motor City as techno quickly became Detroit’s soundtrack. Later, Juan enlisted the assistance of childhood friend Derrick May and, buoyed by the early success of Metroplex, they became an unstoppable force and Godfathers to a form of music that is still as relevant today as it was back then. Timeless recordings like I Wanna Be There, Future, Sounds Of Stereo, Neptune, Technicolor and countless more made Metroplex the vanguard of a forward-thinking movement within electronic music. The first label of its kind, releasing an entirely new form of music – conveying emotion, oozing sex, soul and funk – Metroplex creator Juan Atkins was a true originator in the way electronic music was produced.
In years gone by Motown had been the sound of Detroit, but the future came in the form of techno and it continues to transcend generations inspired by Juan and his magical creations. Spreading across the globe, the contagious techno sound engulfed America and soon hit Europe spawning armies of musicians and an explosion of club nights in every major city.
In 2011 some say the heart and soul of electronic music has been lost. We live a world overrun by technology, where musicians have an endless supply of sounds and equipment at their disposal but somehow many are unable to express that raw emotion that came through in the music Juan released over two decades ago. The Metroplex owner’s visionary quest was to simply soundtrack the future, a future where, unbeknownst to him, emotions are slowly being eroded away. How fitting then, that his recordings transmit so much soul when much of 21st century planet Earth is tapped into the information superhighway, becoming increasingly muted in their sense of self-expression and communication.
Thankfully those early sounds have permeated down through the generations inspiring today’s electronic music prodigies to continue Juan’s noble legacy. Though humanity may be dissipating in some aspects of society, music continues to reinforce our spirituality and our innate desire to express our feelings and emotions. The recordings of Metroplex are a reminder that technology can still have a heartbeat, a feeling… a soul, and that the human spirit is still very much alive and well.
Biography courtesy of Metroplex Recordings
01 – Juan Atkins & Kimyon feat. Tricia – Work For Money (Luis Baro Mutha Funk Mix) (EP, 2009)
02 – Cybotron – Alleys Of Your Mind (7 Inch, 1981)
03 – Africa Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock (12 Inch, 1982) (Snippet)
04 – Cybotron – Clear (12 Inch, 1982) (Snippet)
05 – Model 500 – Starlight (Echospace Unreleased Mix) (Starlight, 1995)
06 – Inner City – Good Life (Paradise, 1989) (Snippet)
07 – Juan Atkins – Track Ten (Kirk Degiorgio Remix) (Back To Basics: Part 1, Single, 2004)
08 – Cybotron – Techno City (12 Inch, 1984)
Background music during the interview:
Eddie Kendricks – Keep On Truckin (DJ Spinna Remix), Phuture – Acid Tracks, Cybotron – Cosmic Cars, Cybotron – R-10, Model 500 – No UFO’s (Vocal), Model 500 – Starlight (Echospace Dub), Inner City – Do You Love What You Feel (Magic Juan’s Smoking Remix), Infiniti – Thought Process (Original Mix), Juan Atkins – Tango, Cybotron – Cosmic Raindance