Techno pioneer Saunderson recently relaunched influential US techno outfit Inner City, whose first two albums had combined sales of more than six million, for a new album due early next year. We find out more about the 47-year-old New York DJ.
He really wasn’t cut out to be a pop star. ‘It was a bit bizarre, because I had no intentions in that direction. I just wanted to produce music. I didn’t want to be on Top of the Pops. I didn’t see myself as any kind of typical band, but all of a sudden I was being looked on as typical because I had commercial success. I made it very clear in the beginning to my managers that I didn’t wanna do this, and they were like, “You’ve got to do this, this is important to the record, and this is how it works.” So even now, I’m not gonna be on every tour with Inner City. I’m gonna be at home making music, while they might be out performing. I’ve grown, and if we can’t do it this way, I won’t do it. That’s the difference between then and now. I was young, a little naïve.’
He hasn’t updated his equipment much since the old days. ‘I might work with two or three plugins, until I wear them out. It’s easy to say, well, that sound doesn’t work, let me try that one, or this one. That’s the more conservative approach. It’s not easy – it takes time, but when it comes you appreciate it. Some people never experience that, so they never know that.’
He doesn’t listen to music much any more. ‘People would be surprised, but I don’t listen to music like I used to. I play a lot of music, because I’m DJing, but I don’t sit at home and put on my favourite tracks. That’s not to say there’s something wrong with the quality of what’s out there, it’s just not my thing. If I run into a track I love, I’ll ask who it is, but I don’t generally follow music.’
Britain’s early-’90s acid house revolution blew his mind. ‘I saw things move so quickly, coming to the UK in the early part of 1988 and then later that year: it transformed. It blew me away. It was like a virus! Truthfully. This big phenomenon started happening around it. It was very special. That’s something that just doesn’t happen. You can’t just go out and say, I’m going to make something like this happen!’
He doesn’t think that could happen again unless something else happens first. ‘We would have to have some massive thing happen. If half the world got blown up and society was recreated, that’s what it would take for us to come up with something like that, because your experience was so deep that you were on another level of recreating humanity and yourself through creativity. That’s the only way something like that’s gonna happen. I ain’t saying it’s not going to happen, but we should hope that it ain’t happening, ha ha!’
He thinks black people have been deleted from house history. ‘Definitely. I don’t know how much it was remembered in the first place! Because when this music was first created, it was all black people dancing to it. A black people. It’s amazing how it went from all black people to no black people. I was in a college fraternity called Phi Beta Sigma, we did these parties, a thousand black kids on campus partying. They were all progressive. They weren’t into what was on the radio, they were getting it! All these black kids, smoking these German cigarettes, calling themselves preppy, dressing all cool. Between when I released “Big Fun” [in 1988], and about ’92, it totally flipped. And now on the college circuit, all the white fraternities, they’re booking Tiësto and David Guetta!’