Kevin Saunderson (Innercity) inspired by Hugh Masekela

It’s an impossible task to discuss the origins and pioneers of dance music without talking about the city of Detroit. And whether under one of his many aliases (including the heralded Inner City project) or his own name, Kevin Saunderson‘s cutting-edge contributions to electronic music over the last 25 years are pretty much peerless (save for those of Juan Atkins and Derrick May, natch). As such, we tapped the legendary producer, DJ, and KMS Records head to contribute a chart to our Icons and Their Inspirations series, and while he was at it, we took the opportunity to ask him some questions about the early days of dance music.

What was the first record that turned you on to electronic music?

One of the first records that turned me on to electronic music was “Alleys Of Your Mind” by Cybotron.

Do you remember what sort of system you played it on?

I actually heard it at Juan Atkins‘ house in Belleville, Michigan. I don’t remember what kind of speakers they were; they were just speakers in his house.

Who were your first favorite electronic artists? Any favorite songs?

At that time, my favorites were groups like Kraftwerk. I even liked the B-52s a lot. They were kinda punk rock, “Rock Lobster” and stuff like that. As time went on, I grew into stuff like Marshall Jefferson‘s “Move Your Body” and a lot of early Chicago house stuff like Lil’ Louis‘ “French Kiss.” Even New Order was something I listened to early on. I also liked Parliament-Funkadelic. They were more funk but still electronic and synth-based. Those were the early days for me, coming from listening to disco and then on to this new sound. Songs like Afrika Bambaataa‘s “Planet Rock,” Twilight’s “Electric Kingdom,” and most Hugh Masekela—all that kind of stuff was in the same circle.

How do you feel their legacy has impacted music—including yours—over the years?

I think that genre of music was powerful because it was the beginning of a technology. I don’t think it was the beginning of dance music; I think we kind of changed the face of it to make it dance music. But without them there to make that earlier stuff—to show us that music could be made by one or two people rather than a traditional band—that was really important. It had a unique sound, too; some of the sounds were just never heard before. That was all very important in influencing me towards a creative state where I could be releasing and recording on my own.

Have you at any point met these artists in real life?

Some I’ve met and some I haven’t. I’ve met George Clinton and Kraftwerk. Never met Hugh Masekela.

What were your first pieces of electronic-music-making gear?

My first pieces were a DX100, a 909, an 808, a little four-track sequencer by Roland, an eight-track Fostex recorder, and a two-track Fostex deck to record my mixdowns. I think I had a Casio CZ1000 and a Roland Juno 106, too.

Did you have any mentors when you were starting out?

I guess I did have a little bit of a mentor in Derrick May, even though we were the same age. I looked up to him because he looked up to Juan, and what he had learned from Juan I then learned from him. I had my brother, too, Ron Saunderson, who was the road manager for Brass Construction, B.T. Express, and Sky. He had some early music experience, so he definitely was more on the music technology side and helped me get through working with the equipment.

Tell us about your first big break, musically.

I think my first break musically really was when Juan Atkins came over and showed me how to mix down “Triangle Of Love.” At the time, I didn’t have a clue, but from there I started a label and was really off on my own—I just needed to understand how to finish a song; I could create songs. That was a very important break. Another was going to England in early ’88 to make a remix, and being brought to Jive Studio. When I got in the studio, I’d never seen one so big. I was doing a Wee Papa Girls remix and got started that evening and was finished by morning. It came out great and when that record was released, it was big. Around that time, “Big Fun” [by Inner City] and other stuff was coming out, too, so that was a big break because it seemed like after that point, everything just exploded. From September ’88 onwards it just took off for me in a big way.

Your early work definitely had a big effect on Marc Kinchen (a.k.a. MK). Can you tell us about your early interactions together and how you mentored him?

Marc was a kid. I think I met him through Anthony Pearson (aka Chez Damier). We were all working on music and on projects, we just had a great vibe going on there at the KMS labs. Marc was just a young kid that was just inspired and very talented. I used to sleep in my studio and I remember many nights where he’d be working next door and I would get up and say, “That’s hot! I like that!” and it was just banging, right next to me (the spaces weren’t soundproofed). He went on to be an outstanding producer and person.

Tell us about your Icons and Their Inspirations chart—any specific approach you took to assembling it?

My chart is just made up of records that I was influenced by. It’s not my top ten songs of all time, but these tracks are definitely favorites of mine.

Who are your favorite new artists these days?

I don’t have a favorite artist like I used to—I used to follow a lot of artists and listen to their music. I listen to good music, I play good music as a DJ, and I respect a great track, but there aren’t any newer artists that consistently make me say, “Wow, this blows me away.” With that said, there are many great producers out there doing really good stuff.

Source: Beatport

Comments are closed.