The Record Keepers: Juan Atkins

The DJ is still unboxing his 1,500-piece vinyl collection
juan atkins - vinyl
Photo: IStock

Juan Atkins’ records are in boxes. The man who co-created Detroit techno with a group of his high school friends informally known as the Belleville Three — Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson — moved into a new home about a year ago. However, he has yet to find the time to excavate his vinyl collection, which he estimates to be around 1,500 records.

But the 40 or 50 most recent vinyl records Atkins has purchased travel with him for his DJ events since, unlike many peers, the 57-year-old music legend still prefers to blend vinyl mixes in with his digital offerings.

“I started playing records, and there’s something about slapping that vinyl down and putting the needle to the groove that lends to your performance,” Atkins recently shared “It’s something about how you can play a record that you can’t play on a CDJ or a laptop. You know how a car rides better on a full tank of gas?”

The Model 500 and Cybotron maverick cites his own ground-breaking works as among his favorites to spin — anybody gonna be mad if his 1980s classics “Comic Car” or “No UFO’s” drop in a set? — but Atkins says DJs need to keep their sets fresh.

“There’s something about playing records, especially for dance music, you can only play it so much. A lot of records I’ll put to the side and come back to it a few years later,” he says. “There’s a few records that I will never get rid of, and they’ll always make their way back into my [set]. You take a record like ‘Strings of Life’ from Derrick [May] and ‘Big Fun’ by Kevin [Saunderson] — it’s always good to play records like that every two or three years.”

You just can’t keep the Belleville Three in a box.