Prose and Consoles
Techno Rebels should be required reading for all lovers of dance music.
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 05.27.10
This past Memorial Day weekend, for the tenth year in a row, the world’s electronic-music enthusiasts converged on Detroit’s Hart Plaza for Movement, a yearly celebration of the Motor City’s invaluable contribution to electronic music: techno. An often-misunderstood genre, techno grew out of Detroit and its surrounding areas in the early ’80s. At the time, journalist, author and advertising creative director Dan Sicko was buying his first records as a teenager growing up in Ann Arbor.
Sicko’s love affair with the sounds that would later become known as techno inspired his definitive history of the genre, Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk, published in ’99; the second, updated edition hit shelves in April (Wayne State Press, $19.95). The book begins with Detroit’s pre-techno days in the late ’70s and early ’80s—when high-school kids threw all-night parties mixing early electronic artists from Europe, like Kraftwerk and Alexander Robotnick, with artists like Parliament-Funkadelic. Sicko then delves into the genre’s migration to Europe in the ’90s, where it spawned scenes in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. Finally, Techno Rebels returns to Detroit in the new millennium as the city gave birth to new-school labels like Ghostly International.
In the new edition, Jeff Mills, who had previously declined interviews, opens up about his role as radio jockey the Wizard and founding member of Underground Resistance. There’s also more detail on Movement (founded in 2000) and the Ann Arbor scene, including quotes from Ghostly founder Sam Valenti IV.
Speaking from his home in Detroit, Sicko, 41, points to the 1988 compilation Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit as a defining moment for him: “That was the first time I realized [techno] was much bigger than I pictured it, that there were dozens of people here doing this.” The album focused on the trio credited with techno’s creation: Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson—dubbed the “Big Three” (a nod to the city’s auto industry). The compilation announced Detroit techno’s arrival and helped it become the international phenomenon that eventually birthed rave culture.