Deep Space Radio inaugurates a series of portrait of electronic music artists with Blake Baxter.
The American techno musician is a part of the very first wave of techno music, alongside artists like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Eddie Fowlkes. Although he is an absolute reference for techno history, Blake Baxter still remains underrated today. However, The Prince of Techno – nickname that came from his fascination for Prince and their musical similarities, especially in the vocals referring to love, sexuality etc. – marked the history of techno music.
The electronic musician starts by mixing records then recording himself in the mid-80’s. As he explains in a rare interview in the magazine Spannered: “I was working on music since I was sixteen and my first track came out when I was nineteen. It came out in Chicago because I was really influenced by that sound and I was commuting back and forth. I wanted to do a combination of Giorgio Moroder and Prince, but with a poetic influence.” The same poetic influence that led him first to write poetry, “from political things to things about love or whatever. I used to go to bars and write and recite poems.” Among his musical inspirations, he cites Prince, Barry White, Unlimited Orchestra, Giorgio Moroder and Teddy Pendergrass. Parliament/Funkadelic, as with many of the Detroit techno artists, were one of his main musical inspirations to create electronic music, mostly for their brilliant and huge use of keyboards in their songs.
Blake Baxter, Get Laid
Blake Baxter recorded some of his early tracks on Chicago record label DJ International. As he recalls,“the thing about that was Detroit was always commuting to Chicago because they had a better scene than we did as far as their underground Chicago style house.” He then recorded on legendary Detroit record label KMS Records, Kevin Saunderson’s record label, or Underground Resistance. His 12-inch “The Prince of Techno UR-06” is still considered today as one of the most iconic releases of the UR repertoire. Blake Baxter also became an iconic figure of the Majestic at this same period, an historical music club in Detroit. Dan Sicko, author of the reference work on Detroit techno in this book “Techno Rebels” describes: “More established clubs like the Shelter and the Majestic kept techno flowing through their sound systems into the early 1990s. The Majestic was home to Blake Baxter, a skilled DJ who painted a broad palette of dance music styles for the equally diverse Friday night crowd. Everything from acid house and S’Express to Section 25’s hazy industrial classic “Looking from a Hilltop” bounced around the Majestic’s cavernous interior.”
While techno was becoming more and more famous on the other side of the Atlantic, it “brought new life to careers of many Detroit artists” for Sicko, who explains: “Santonio Echols, Eddie Fowlkes, and Blake Baxter were among the club’s first bookings. Tresor, the label, was also built on a few dozen releases from Detroit, starting with the 1991 X-101 project from Underground Resistance.” Blake Baxter toured Germany and released tracks on the emerging record label, Tresor. Underground Resistance played a role to introduce Blake Baxter in the European electronic music scene, although the artist has always had a more housey sound than the techno collective. As he recalls, “If it weren’t for them… They got me over to Germany. Dimitri [Hegeman, Tresor’s boss] was doing a UR-tour and they hired me to DJ. If I had wanted to I could have done more projects, but I wanted to be a solo artist and do more housey stuff”.
The Prince of Techno UR-06
The artist is living in Los Angeles, and is playing less than in his heyday. Although he totally dropped the techno sound, Blake Baxter is still playing and loving house music, so for the newest techno generation, we can still hope to see him play in Detroit or in Europe, where his popularity continues. He also does a weekly radio show on Deep Space Radio, Wednesday’s at noon US/ET.