Over the past few years, No Way Back has been a dependable source for an amalgam leftfield disco, classic house, and old school techno parties in SF. This Friday, November 16, they celebrate their third anniversary at Mezzanine with a live performance from Juan Atkins and “Mad” Mike Banks as Model 500.
Widely known as a godfather of techno, Juan Atkins is one of Motor City’s dance music innovators, grouped with fellow peers Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May as part of The Belleville Three.
In fact, the word “techno” comes from a release he made with his partner, Rick Davis, as Cybotron, called Techno City. It wasn’t until Virgin took interest that the term was coined after naming a compilation he mixed on their sub-label 10 Records, Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit!
During high school, Atkins read Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. Encouraged by Toffler’s ideas, he followed up his reading with The Third Wave, a book forecasting the effects of technology and how it affects life. It was through this lens that he imagined the future, and in turn, played out his fantasies through music.
His introduction to music started when his father bought him a guitar when he was 10. He later took interest in synthesizers when New Wave, synthpop, and funk off-shoots started making their way into parties across suburban America and especially around Detroit. Radio hosts like The Electrifying Mojo exposed him to George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic, Lena Levitz, and The B-52s. It was through his radio show, in particular, that Atkins came across Kraftwerk’s seminal Computerwelt.
It then so happened that The Electrifying Mojo eventually lent a helping hand to Atkins’ career in years to come when he aired Cybotron’s first release, Alleys of Your Mind. An instant hit, as Atkins recalls, the attention he garnered was instrumental to the success of their following release, Cosmic Cars, which was distributed worldwide on the Berkeley-based label, Fantasy.
Eventually, Cybotron split up and Atkins left Fantasy over miscommunications, but he kept busy with a slew of other projects, including his Infiniti, Channel One, and Model 500 monikers. Atkins is the mastermind for Model 500, but he enlists help from a handful of friends for his live act, namely a few well-known names from the second wave of Detroit techno: DJ Skurge, “Mad” Mike Banks, and M. Taylor of Underground Resistance. For No Way Back’s anniversary show, you can expect Model 500 with this usual line up.
Model 500 plays No Way Back at Mezzanine Friday, November 16. Support comes from Josh Cheon, Conor, and Solar. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here.