Formed in 1987, Inner City is getting another facelift. Featuring the vocals of Chicago native Paris Grey and propelled by Detroit Techno pioneer Kevin Saunderson, Inner City has to date sold more than 6 million records combined. One of those hits, “Good Life” (with “Big Fun”, probably the tune that Inner City is best known for) is now getting the remix treatment with new edits by Paul Anthony and ZXX and a live tour remix; another Inner City track, Future was released with new remixes in November by Orlando Voorn.
But Kevin Saunderson (facebook, myspace, twitter) ain’t the kinda guy to rest on his laurels. I talked to him last week about what’s coming up for 2011 – the Inner City remixes, A&R for his reborn KMS Records and his 2011 four-deck tour with fellow Belleville Three pioneer Derrick May.
I saw you just played last month at the D25 party in Detroit, how did that go?
Good! I’ve done a few different D25 events at locations throughout the world, but it’s good to bring it back home.
I’m curious – what’s the crowd like in Detroit for those? Is it strictly local or do the promoters rely on folks from outside the area?
It’s the homegrown crowd. In Detroit people don’t come out to party every single night. You do have big events like when Richie Hawtin played around Thanksgiving, but it’s not the consistently big nights that you’ll have in Europe. There might be a big party two months in a row and not another for two months after that.
I noticed there was an uptick of new releases on KMS after you finished your History Elevate project. Were the two related?
Not really. The Elevate project was what it was – I wasn’t actually sure what label I wanted to release it on when I conceived it, whether my label or a different label. But releasing new music was my personal objective, to get out tracks that I like.
As far as doing A&R work and keeping up with trends, are there any young bucks out there you admire or like?
I don’t know if I’d use the word “admire”. I’ve never really followed names as much as selections of new stuff as well as old stuff. There’s a lot of groovy stuff out there right now that can be played both with Techno and House.
I mean this with respect – how do you stay creative as you get older? Whether they have less time or are less hungry, many artists are much less creative than when they were 20 and trying to conquer the world.
It’s a part of my lifestyle. It’s not as easy when you have kids and a family, plus a label and a touring schedule. It’s about balance, you know? I don’t have stipulations on when something has to be released, so I have the freedom to put it out there when it’s done.
As far as the label, if I’m working with a new artist, they’re probably good for three or four releases a year. We have four or five Inner City tracks completed – and of course that’s a lot more work because you’re collaborating with different people and working on melodies, lyrics and other things that don’t come into play with an instrumental track.
And there’s my nephew I’ve been working with, Kweku Saunderson – introducing him to the record industry, training him. He’s got more free time than I do!
Releasing music also isn’t quite such a process as it was. It was a lot more difficult in the past. We use mostly digital distribution models with certain releases going to vinyl.
What does your production rig look like these days?
It’s similar to how it’s been for awhile, though there’s definitely not as much analog stuff. I have a Mac tower, a big old computer, and use Logic and ProTools – Logic for creating and ProTools for mixing. I use a few different synths and a few plug-ins. Generally though I create music at home, in the basement, and then take it to be mixed in a big studio. And there’s of course more analog gear there for outboard mixing purposes.
Tell me about the upcoming tour with Derrick May you’ve got coming for 2011.
Yeah, we’re setting up dates now. We’ll be tag teaming with four decks. If you know our story, we’ve known each other since we were 11 or 12 years old and there’s a lot of history there. We’ve done a few shows in the past with four decks and have always gotten a great response.
Headline photo by Lars Borges.