I am by no means the first person to say this, but for some reason, there’s this prevailing belief techno and the proceeding electronic genres that it laid the groundwork for are a mostly white, European innovation. The term “techno” probably did come from Germany, but the music itself was created by a group of mostly black people in Detroit in the 1980s.
People seem to write Detroit off these days as a has-been city with its best years behind it. I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn’t the case. Since the 80s it’s made just as meaningful contributions to counter-culture art as any city outside of New York and L.A. (I don’t think that either of these cities is “the best,” they’re just the most consistent in this regard). I also don’t buy that a city that didn’t just have a thriving warehouse techno scene, but created the concept of it could just fully recede as a worthwhile place.
I guess D.C. and Boston have lost a lot of the cred they accrued in the 80s for their punk scenes. Any DIY art that’s being produced in Detroit though might be ailing because of the rough economic situation for the city, but it’s probably also not being smothered to death either by persistent gentrification.
A few years ago, my brother met a bunch of Parisian kids when he was studying abroad in college and said that they all got so excited when he told them he was from America. Not because he was American, but because there was the possibility that he had been to Detroit. They all wanted to go to Detroit. They thought it was the coolest part of America. It was gritty and represented the potential for rebirth, which in their minds were the most American things possible. I don’t want to be glib about it. Detroit isn't gritty, it’s suffering. But maybe they’re onto something that most of us in the U.S. aren’t.
If I’m still writing this by the time I finally make it there, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, we can all listen to maybe the most pivotal guy in creating techno, Juan Atkins. I put some of his newer, easier listening stuff with Moritz von Oswald at the top, and then his older, higher energy stuff underneath.
Legends, Volume 1 - 1 hour, YouTube
Detroit Boiler Room Set - 1 hour, YouTube