As the “elevator of techno” and part of the backbone of the festival’s creation, Saunderson is one of the few who have truly been there from the beginning. We caught up with him for a bit before his set Monday evening to find out where he’s at now, the real history of the festival (no holding back), and where techno is headed.
ON HIS CURRENT MUSICAL CAREER AND TRAVELS I just had a track out called “Future” with Inner City- it did real well in Europe. I’m working on an E-Dancer track, MORE Inner City stuff. You know, traveling the world as always. It’s hard to make music, because I’m always traveling and DJing. It’s like a non-stop tour, only until I say that I need a few days off, or even a week off. I leave here tomorrow and then I’m back at the end of June. Then I’m back for a few days of summer, then it’s off to Australia. I call it a continuous tour because it’s not like I tour for two months and then stop- it’s three or six. I stay busy!
ON THE HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL: FROM DAY ONE TO THE PRESENT The history of the festival, it started with- well, conceptually, it started with an idea between myself, Juan (Atkins), Derrick (May), Carl (Craig), and a lady named Carol Marvin. It then evolved, somehow, like that! Carol Marvin had this reach, and all of a sudden, it just kind of popped up. Carl was kind of working with her. If you look at the beginning, you know, it was free. Hart Plaza was the best location for it. It (the festival) was the right thing to do. Nobody knew how it was going to succeed, but Carol was being paid by the city at the time, so it was funded.
That changed when Derrick took over. It was still free, but nobody was supporting it financially. So, we had to go out and get sponsors to make it work. It was always a battle each year to try and keep it alive. People like Derrick and myself, we’re go-getters… so we tried to make something happen, whether or not it WOULD happen. There were a lot of people who put in a lot of hard work to get the festival to that stage.
Then, there was the next stage, where I took it over for a year. We were having issues with the city still- February would approach, and they hadn’t gotten back to us yet. I had told them a month before, ‘You know, if you want me to do this, I need time! I need to plan! I need to get some money to fund this!’ And that’s how it became a charged festival, because I wouldn’t do it unless it was.
So, that’s the next evolution, right? It became a charged festival. I brought Paxahau in to run a stage. With me traveling and being so busy, I resigned- and Paxahau took it over. Now, Paxahau has this festival that has been built up… and they’re here, they’re based in Detroit, they’re ALWAYS here. It was the best solution to make this festival succeed. And we were over the hurdle of being able to pay. The artists, production, everybody working- could finally get paid. And it just kept getting better.
That’s the point it’s at now, and it’s here to stay. People want to come from all around the world. Electronic music is getting bigger in America, too, so people are coming from all different places. And that is the history of the festival.
ON ELECTRONIC MUSIC BECOMING MORE MAINSTREAM I think America has finally caught up. It’s more commercialized, but that’s OK, because with all underground music, there’s a commercial part. I think it helps the underground, though. Now, people hear it, and it’s not so foreign. They’re not scared of it anymore. They’re more understanding of it. I think it’s better for it to be where it’s at now, than where it HASN’T been all these years.
ON THE FUTURE EVOLUTION OF TECHNO It’s hard to say where techno is headed, because there are all these different breakdowns of it. Technology really has a lot to do with where it goes, too. It (technology) is kind of like your assistant, you know? It can take your thoughts and your ideas and use them in a different way. Techno has gone in so many directions and will continue to do so, but some of them will fade. I’m not even sure about minimal techno- is minimal still around? Is it still big? I don’t even know. I remember at one time minimal was big, and I kept thinking, ‘Pfft. That’ll never last!’ But it did, like, forever- at least in my opinion. I mean, I think it’s still around, but it’s not at the level it was before when people thought it was going to be the new music that took over.