What good is the good life if you can’t share it? Kevin Saunderson — “the Elevator” as he’s known for his role as one of techno’s trailblazing triumvirate — is still focused on taking his fans and friends up, up and away. Perhaps that’s why his latest effort, the weekly Global Mondays at the Works, is just plane obsessed with a slogan that speaks of “weekly departures every Monday from the Global terminal.” With the club night and a small fleet of artists taxiing down the KMS Records runway, Saunderson ensures that Detroit artists bleep big on the international radar.
“We must support what’s around us,” asserts Saunderson, matter-of-factly. “There’s always young talent wanting opportunities. A lot of ’em aren’t ready at first, but if you continue working with them and giving them ideas, they keep coming back with something better. They’re hungry. Hopefully somebody can do something special again out of this city, but in order to make that happen, you need to inspire people.”
As one of techno’s accidental role models, Saunderson seems comfortable being a humble source of inspiration for the up-and-comers. Saunderson was techno’s first genuine pop figure. As the mastermind behind Inner City, his songs “Big Fun” and “Good Life” remain perennial block-party jams more than a decade later. Lately, though, Saunderson isn’t living to scrape his way back to the charts.
“I like songs with hooks, songs that are catchy. It’s possible that I could have another hit, but that’s not my intention. I do what I like, and I like underground, deep vibes. I’m not trying to be a hit maker. I’m trying to make music that feels good to me.”
This is hardly a new attitude. He’s never made music with the milk-it-for-all-it’s-worth pop-culture mentality. That just wouldn’t be Detroit of him. Yet Saunderson, who’s produced some of techno’s deepest cuts, has also moonlighted with little projects like remixing Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” back in the day — which he flipped into a proto tech-house track, complete with his signature wavy-synth bass line style. One gets the impression that music is much more important to the man than perception. “I’m content,” he says at one point while lounging in the swivel chair of his downtown studio.
But there’s a big pitch-control difference between content and complacent.
Sitting next to his gargantuan mixing board, Saunderson talks about doing movie sound tracks and how he’s working on his first album as Kevin Saunderson. Inner City aside, he’s put out records under several names — most notably as Reese and E Dancer — but never as himself. This lack of continuity hasn’t exactly stifled the guy. (Apparently, after your third gold single, the underground gets hip to pseudonyms.) His new album appears to be a relaxed project; Sanderson expects it to be out next spring. Until then, he’s tightening up the label.
A recent Global session celebrated the release of the latest KMS single, Das Closer’s “Live at Club Metropolis.” Upcoming releases by Gary Martin, Randolph Paul and D Wynn are also in the works. But Global, although understandably label-centric, isn’t above sharing the spotlight. Globetrotting locals including Stacey Pullen and Rolando have headlined; so have national stars such as Ron Trent and Gene Ferris (who capped off DEMF weekend at Global, moving bodies into the sunrise.) There’s no doubt that his name eases the booking process, but Saunderson’s more intent on getting people to the club, regardless of who’s on the decks.
“There are plenty of great Mondays going off all around the world, but people need time to get educated to it. I’m trying to establish a night where it’s not just about the DJs, but it’s about the [event itself]. I’m trying to give the locals a chance. Every now and then I’ll bring in big-time DJs — I did the night with Carl Cox and we’ll be doing one with Laurent Garnier — but in general, Global’s about keeping the [electronic music] scene moving forward outside of … the DEMF.”
So far, attendance has been inconsistent, almost mystifyingly so — a thousand one week, a hundred the next. But what the night lacks in formula, it makes up for in vibe. Global has only been happening on a weekly basis for a bit more than a month and will continue that way for the rest of the summer. After that, departures will be less common and you might have to wait longer at the gate. Time to rack up those frequent-flier miles.
Kevin Saunderson’s Global Mondays happens every Monday at the Works (1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit). For information call 313-961-1742.Robert Gorell writes about electronica for Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org