For more than 30 years the Belleville Three has been a vague umbrella moniker for Detroit techno pioneers Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May. Now it’s an official group name.
The trio — whose name comes from the Detroit suburb where they met as youths — played at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and will celebrate its union at Detroit’s Movement electronic music festival this month over Memorial Day weekend with both a main stage appearance and an after-show party. The Belleville Three has tour dates booked throughout the summer and Saunderson tells Billboard this is only the beginning of much more to come.
“Right now it’s a DJ tour, some electronic drum machines involved but nothing major,” he says. “Our goal is to evolve to a complete live show and not just do festivals but do theaters around the world where people get to experience us playing our music live, with the whole visuals and impact of our vision of how we want to be seen or portrayed.”
Saunderson adds the trio will play “some new tracks along with all of our classics” from their individual careers and that they’ll also “work on a few [new] tracks continuously and just put things out as we have ’em.”
So what took so long for the Belleville Three to join forces like this? “I think it’s just the right time,” Saunderson says. “There was a time back in ’89, we had an opportunity to sign with ZTT, Trevor Horn’s label. We came very close to doing it back then, but maybe it wasn’t our time at that time. It took time for this electronic music to get to the point it is now. So maybe [the group] gives us something different to be inspired about for our next 10 years of making this music.”
Saunderson — who still lives in the Detroit suburbs — says he, Atkins and May are looking forward to the Movement show and presenting their new collaboration in front of a hometown crowd, some of which no doubt came to the Music Institute club the three once operated in downtown Detroit (all three have also been actively involved in the festival since it launched in 2000). “I think we may have a little more anxiety than we probably would at any other gig ’cause it’s home,” he says. “It’s our second show, so it’ not like we’ve done it so many times. We’re still learning each other and how to play with each other. At the same time you have magical moments within it that we look forward to between us and between us and the crowd.”
In addition to the Belleville Three, Saunderson is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his KMS label and recently released a new album, Heavenly Revisited, for Kevin Saunderson As E Dancer, which plays its first live show on May 28 at Movement. And his reactivated Inner City, which now includes his son Dantiez, has released a new song, “Good Luck,” with plans for more in the future as well.
“You’ll be seeing continuous records coming out from Inner City,” Saunderson says. “That group is on fire right now.”