About the film

Detroit is a city of struggle.

Historically, economically, and artistically, Detroit has had to fight for survival. And it’s had to fight even harder for recognition. The spirit of that fight is epitomized by GOD SAID GIVE ‘EM DRUM MACHINES, a documentary which traces the birth of techno music to its unlikely origins in the D.

Detroit’s African-American cultural roots cultivated musical movements like jazz, Motown, and disco. By the late ‘70s, DJs like Ken Collier were infusing underground clubs and public airwaves with radically danceable sounds, and in the early ‘80s groundbreaking technology like the infamous Roland TR-808 was falling into the hands of a new generation. The merging of these artistic and technological forces would bring about one of the most significant musical breakthroughs of the modern era.

GOD SAID GIVE ‘EM DRUM MACHINES tells the tale of the young visionaries who made that breakthrough happen. Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes, and Santonio Echols were the vanguard of a new musical style they dubbed “techno,” which would soon become the most celebrated and profitable genre in the world.

And yet their names are largely unknown to most fans of that very genre.

Despite the best efforts of musical historians and journalists, the story of how a handful of black kids from Detroit invented techno has never fully been told. It’s a story of damaged friendships, mismanaged success, and broken dreams. But it’s also a story of inspiration. While the originators of techno may not enjoy the fame and fortune of those who cruised to success in their wake, they have seen their music touch lives around the globe. And they find comfort in knowing their creation will live on for generations to come.

Like Detroit itself, the artists who created techno struggle for survival and recognition. GOD SAID GIVE ‘EM DRUM MACHINES documents their fight, and hopes to help them achieve both.

The Pioneers

JUAN ATKINS

In the underground, Juan Atkins is known as the “Originator” of Techno and is even responsible for coining the term. He led the way by making futuristic dance records in the early 80’s and soon helped his friends to do the same.

EDDIE FOWLKES

Eddie ‘Flashin’ Fowlkes, a high school and college DJ, was a friend of Juan Atkins. Eddie was right in the mix of it all when the talented group of friends that included Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, started working and feeding off one another. Juan’s Metroplex records had been formed after successfully produced several hits and Eddie became his first protege. Eddie came out with his first single “Goodbye Kiss” which was a massive hit in Detroit.

DERRICK MAY

Derrick May has been referred to as the “Miles Davis” of Techno. He is also credited as one of the innovators of the genre. Through his relationship with Juan Atkins, May produced one of the most influential records in electronic music history, "Strings of Life" in 1987. He soon gets a chance encounter with some enterprising Europeans, who took all of them and the music to places they never thought they would ever be.

BLAKE BAXTER

Once considered “The Prince of Techno”, Baxter was the true artist that befriended Derrick May when he was running Juan’s MetroPlex record label in the mid 80’s. As part of the group of artists that were selected for the Virgin 10 Compilation Techno! The New Sound of Techno which introduced his music to the world, he was destined for superstardom. But, the fast track proved too much for the man. He soon returned home parting ways with the rest as their stars continued to rise, and his health started to fail.

KEVIN SAUNDERSON

Widely known as the “Elevator of Techno”, Saunderson, too was an up and coming DJ/Producer in the early 80’s. By 1987 he started his own record label and began releasing his own style of Detroit Techno music. After meeting with record label owner Neil Rushton, Kevin was on his way to having his first mainstream crossover hit with “Big Fun” and took Detroit Techno “above ground”, landing on MTV in 1988.

The Production Team

Kristian Hill

Director

Motor City native Kristian Hill is celebrated and respected as one of Detroit’s most talented creative professionals. Excelling as a filmmaker, videographer and rising director with more than 20 years of experience in the business, Kristian has long cast his own distinct glow in the Film, Video & Entertainment industries.

Jennifer D. Washington

Producer

Straight out of the controversial, yet dynamic Motor City, Jennifer Washington was inspired as a child by her musical family. Today, Washington’s most pressing mission is to help uplift her hometown’s image in the media. As a film producer, she is exploring the expanse of Techno music and documenting its influence all over the world.

David Grandison

Producer

David is an award-winning multimedia producer. He is currently Dir Of Instructional Design for Yellowbrick where his team has created innovative video/VR education projects pairing brands like Complex Media, Billboard, and TeenVogue with institutions like FIT, NYU, and Columbia. He has led production on thousands of award-winning educational animations for AMAZE.org and BrainPOP.com. He is also co-creator of DIYdoc, an iOS App that enables anyone to crowdsource the creation of short films. David specializes in creating interactive content that makes learning fun.

Chris Riley

Impact Producer

A native Detroiter, Chris has over two decades of strategic planning, on the ground community organizing and social activism experience across issues of women’s rights, economic justice and LGBT civil rights. She has consulted for various political campaigns and organizations, and served as Field Director for both MassEquality and Equality California.

Mary O'Byrne

Production Team Assistant

Far from her home in Queens, NY, Mary O'Byrne's finishing her final year at the University of Michigan studying Film, Television, and Media. She's bridged her passion for film and music through working on GSGEDM, interning at Jam in the Van, and by photographing and making videos for Empty Mug Records and the Michigan Electronic Music Collective.

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