There’s no particularly polite way to put this, so we’ll just come out with it. Juan Atkins, now he’s nearing his 61st year on this earth, is turning into Detroit techno’s equivalent of a grandad who tells stories you suspect are being somewhat embellished.
For example, he once told the tale of how Roland Corporation apparently ensured the first TR-808 drum machine to arrive in the United States went to him personally. It’s a mysterious claim – according to Roland themselves, the first act to use it was Japan’s Yellow Magic Orchestra, who used it for a live performance of their track ‘1000 Knives’ in 1980.
His friend Derrick May once informed the world that Atkins was apparently the first person to use a Roland TR-808 and TR-909 together – with literally no evidence whatsoever to back up this bold claim. Or need we remind you of the time Atkins said he believed the music industry launched the compact disc in order to stop independent artists like him.
But shortly before Movement this year, Atkins revealed a new story – and this one easily tops the rest. He claimed that, when he was 10 or 11 years old, he went to a Parliament-Funkadelic concert and got to meet George Clinton. Assuming Atkins is correct, this means he would have met him between September 1972 and August 1974.
Our research found that the only concert in Detroit that Funkadelic performed within this time period was at Cobo Arena on August 3rd, 1973. Here are his own words on what happened as the concert ended…
“I was backstage like a groupie, waiting for them to come off the stage. George came past and for some reason, he rubbed my head. I must’ve been like 10 or 11 years old. He came by and just rubbed the top of my head like I was a good little boy or something. He just kept on walking past. I don’t think I shampooed my hair for about a month after that!”
How would anyone even attempt to fact-check this stuff? On the face of it, this tale by Atkins sounds ridiculous – but we can’t entirely dismiss the possibility that the whole thing might just be true. Ears To The House will hold judgement on that question.
But we do find it odd that he hasn’t told anyone this story before. Take this unearthed interview that a 26-year old Juan Atkins did back in 1988 – not only does he not reference the story of George Clinton allegedly rubbing his head, but several things are in here that aren’t consistent with his current story.
For instance, he mentions in newer interviews that Roland gave him a TR-808 – but this interview mentioned they brought the drum machine to a party no earlier than 1984. Atkins also says he purchased a Korg MS-10 in the summer of 1980 and used that to program drums at the time.
And a 2014 interview that Atkins gave to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, he says he “bought” the first TR-808 to arrive in Detroit. Quite how he did this when they cost around $1200 at the time of release isn’t explained – and quite how The Guardian failed to pose this question is even more of a mystery.
Just what is he going to come up with to top this one? We’re half expecting him to say that he went on the Apollo 13 space expedition to the Moon at this rate…