Kevin Saunderson is a name well known to anyone with more than a passive investment in dance culture. Apparently, not all leading booking agents meet that description.
That is, according to a recent Billboard interview with Saunderson. Conversations about race and dance music are as relevant as ever with Black Lives Matter protests raging on worldwide, and their questioning reflected that. When asked if he had been personally affected by industry gatekeepers shirking their responsibility to book more black artists, Saunderson recounted a conversation with a prominent figure in a “leading global agency.”
Saunderson said the exchange took place when he was rebooting his ’80s group Inner City – so likely in 2016 or early 2017. After a friend referred him, he left them a message and they called him back. “I said, ‘This is Kevin Saunderson and I wanted to talk about maybe doing some future business and touring together,'” Saunderson recalled. “He said, ‘Well, who are you? I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know who you are.'”
Outside of the agent (whose name and company he didn’t mention) not bothering to look into his career before their call, Saunderson said he took issue with their tone. “The point is that he’s very arrogant, and I didn’t know if it was a color thing or what,” he said. “But he was like, ‘I don’t know your music, I don’t know who you are, and we take top artists around this agency.'”
For fans of house and techno, at least, Kevin Saunderson needs no introduction. Around the same time he co-founded Inner City in the late ’80s, he garnered worldwide renown as a member of the Belleville Three, a trio credited for shaping the sound that would come to be known as Detroit techno. Saunderson was often referred to as The Elevator for his role in exposing the genre to a wider audience, while Juan Atkins and Derrick May were called The Originator and The Innovator, respectively.
The Billboard interview was not the first time in recent memory Saunderson has discussed matters of racial equality. As protests surrounding the death of George Floyd erupted in cities across the U.S., he voiced his solidarity for the movement. “I stand with them,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m a peace-loving person and not one for violence, however, we the people have had enough. We’ve had enough hatred and bigotry. We’ve had enough systematic racism. We’ve had enough of killing us.”
Prior to the Black Lives Matter protests, Saunderson shared that self-quarantining after being diagnosed with COVID-19 gave him the opportunity to work on new music. He has yet to formally announce upcoming releases resulting from his time indoors.