There’s a lot to be said about Kevin Saunderson: recording artist, label boss, festival promoter, true innovator in the pantheon of popular music, cultural champion, cracking DJ. His influence runs deep, through both adopted hometown of , and music culture as a whole: as one of the Belleville Three, the high school trio which also includes Juan Atkins and Derrick May, he irrevocably changed the face of electronic music; with Inner City, he gave it some of its most memorable tunes.
The genesis of today’s techno scene can be retraced straight to Kevin, Derrick and Juan, as their formative experiments on rudimentary hardware sketched a blueprint for a genre that was yet to exist. By absorbing , cutting-edge funk, local radio stalwart The Electrifying Mojo’s eclecticism, and all manner of new synthesiser and drum machine-led pop music, the Belleville Three broke new ground as musicians and DJs in the 80s.
Saunderson’s comparatively late start as a producer – kicking off in ’87 under the moniker of Kreem, with and two of the more well-known names to follow – inadvertently gifted him a headstart. With the eruption of house music a few hours down the I-94 in , Saunderson married Detroit’s raw sound to more tactile, pop-leaning sensibilities. Inner City was born, and global success followed.
Between “Big Fun”, “Good Life”, debut album Paradise and a number of follow-up singles, Inner City (Saunderson and vocalist Paris Grey) amassed 12 UK top 40 hits and over six million records sold worldwide during their peak. His nickname of ‘The Elevator’ is apt: for his role in transporting Detroit’s new sound to a wider audience; as anyone who has seen him perform live can attest, his high-energy, high-spirit and high-impact DJ sets; and for spending the past 35 years of his life progressing the culture he helped create.
In the intervening years Kevin has been the prime mover in some of the most ambitious and remarkable dance music projects of the last few decades: chronicling the early footsteps of artists like R-Tyme, Blake Baxter, , Chez Damier, Derrick Carter and on his own imprint. A special 12” series in 2008 called History Elevate, released in tandem with fellow polymath Carl Craig’s Planet E label, brought contemporary names like Mathew Jonson, Simian Mobile Disco and Loco Dice into the fold, proving his nous for fostering relationships with each new wave to come through techno’s gates.
Undeniably, Kevin Saunderson is one of dance music’s very best. Still touring as a solo DJ and with the latest iteration of the world-renowned Inner City project, Kevin remains at the top of his game both as a producer and a performer - a veritable legend of the electronic scene.