Techno Tuesday: MK talks Detroit techno and Halloween
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
Few people have been in the scene as long as Marc Kinchen, known to most as MK. Looking no further than the hundreds of releases under his name, it is obvious that he has clocked in his time as one of the underground’s top tastemakers. His catalog and career, spanning over three decades, features both commercial and underground successes. MK is one of the very few acts lucky enough to have learned from two of techno’s founding fathers in Detroit — Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson — and also work as Will Smith’s in-house producer.
His story is one that many people already know, as Kinchen remains quite the legendary figure. From his his humble Detroit roots, the artist has gone on to create a slew of chart topping tracks. He initially found international acclaim in the 90s, with singles like “Always” and “Burning ’95” gaining commercial success — especially in the United Kingdom. However, MK’s star-power lies in his ability to craft an amazing remix. From Bobby Brown to Nightcrawlers, Disclosure to Lana Del Rey, and countless more, the producer has the capacity to add his sound to almost any song he sees fit.
Now a seasoned veteran DJ, he can spend some of his time simply observing the culture around him. He has seen the recent growth in the city of Detroit, while also noticing the growth of a certain fall holiday in the UK. Dancing Astronaut had the chance to sit down with MK for a quick chat about Detroit, Berlin, and a DJ’s role in the social sphere, all ahead of his performance at Los Angeles’ extravagant and well-curated “Minimal Effort” Halloween event (tickets here).
You grew up in Detroit, which is the revered and recognized home of US Techno, how would you describe the difference in the vibe over in Berlin, birthplace of ‘European techno?’
It is incredible how different both cities are from each other. Even though the music from both cities have common threads, the scenes are so different. Techno in Detroit started in the clubs like the Music Institute where on any given day you could see people like Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes, Kevin Saunderson, Mike Banks from Underground Resistance or Derrick May, it was about dancing and sweating and just losing yourself in the music. The scene was influenced by Detroit life and culture, but in Berlin it always seemed like it was a bit darker a little more industrial. The dark mysterious vibe probably had something to do with the actual city of Berlin (after all thats where the Germany was split up with the old wall) Also, there was a huge underground art the scene in Berlin influencing the music, it brought us a lot of industrial techno in the beginning and then there was Kraftwerk, who were a part of the German trailblazers for Techno, it became a movement and a lifestyle.. Both cities were great for nurturing early techno and I think that is what matters the most.
While we are still on the subject of Detroit, what do you think about the changes you see over there in the city?
I don’t live there anymore, but my sister and brother and their families do so I go there several times a year. The differences are really incredible, I can see it changing every time i visit. A lot of new construction, renovation and new businesses popping up. A lot of kids come there to live especially music and arts peeps, the rent is still pretty reasonable and you can still get enough space to have your music or art studio. I love going there, it’s like new discovery every time.
The event you are going to do “Minimal Effort” is an annual sort of Halloween celebration. We all know what Halloween is like over in the States, but what is it like overseas? Do they dress up and make a huge party like we do in the states?
When I first started going to the UK around Halloween, it was not a really important or popular holiday, but in the last five or six years it has gotten bigger and bigger. Everyone dresses up and they are really creative and serious about their costumes and parties over there. I think it might even be getting bigger over there now than it is in the States. It’s a lot of fun though. Those English love to dress up.. haha (they call it fancy dress)
It’s really hard not to talk about all the devastation the US has just gone through with the hurricanes, floods and storms affecting so many people. Why is it that more DJs don’t talk about these tragic events or discuss the different that affect us all?
I wish i could answer that better, I don’t really know. I definitely think about it a lot and we all talk about these things when we are together. Trust me, we care, we all care. I mean to see all the suffering and then feel like should i say something or should i not; will i sound preachy or upset anyone even more. After all, a big part of what we do as producers and DJs through music is try to provide an escape from all the bad stuff. And to make it worse, I have been on the road while all these things are going on and day after day i would wake up and hear about the earthquakes in Mexico and all the hurricanes, flooding and devastation. It is all so overwhelming and hard to process, it would actually be great for some of us to talk about these things to see how we could help not only deal with it but also help with the recovery efforts in some way.
We see you have a new single out “17.” It seems self explanatory, but why don’t you give us some little background on what it’s about.
Oh, you know when you are like 17-ish, that is just the way it is, most of the time you have a best bud or a few of them and sometimes even a crew. everyone is in it and everyone is together and love of friends and loyalty are everything. You know i got your back and you got mine. It’s also about the first big love, it’s about remembering being seventeen and taking a peek backward
If you dress up for the party, what are you going to be?
I am not going to tell you because then you will know it was me… you will see soon enough.