Inner City's Kevin Saunderson Talks Legacy, New Music, and Current Lineup Ahead of Movement Festival


Thirty years after releasing its definitive first singles, "Big Fun" and "Good Life," Inner City is launching a new era.

The version the venerated dance music group that takes the stage on Memorial Day during the Movement festival in Detroit will feature faces both familiar -- founder Kevin Saunderson, longtime member Tommy Onyx and original music director Dennis White (aka Static Revenger) -- and new, including Saunderson's son and chief Inner City collaborator Dantiez and singer Steffanie Christi'an in place the "retired" Paris Gray. There will be new music, too -- last year's single "Good Luck" as well as a new track called "Heavy" -- and what Kevin Saunderson calls a new sense purpose and mission.

"It's evolved," the elder Saunderson, who will also be curating his annual Origins Elevation daylong program at Movement, tells Billboard. "During the last year we've probably worked on seven, eight records. Our goal is to do this first live show in Detroit as a testing ground, and then go out not this year but next year and do a kind 30-year anniversary tour and do about 10 big festivals and have records following.

"This is the beginning, a relaunch and all that. Everything is good."

Saunderson says that his son really inspired him to kick Inner City back into active gear. "He's been working on his production skills," Saunderson says, "And one day I heard him working on a track -- the first track we actually did together, 'Good Luck.' He sounded like me, to be honest. He reminded me me, some the melodies and the chords he played. I felt like, 'Why don't we continue Inner City and find a new path?' So that's what we're doing."

"Heavy" has not been ficially released yet, but has been serviced to select, supportive DJs around the world. Other singles will be serviced in a similar fashion, and Saunderson expects future Inner City material to surface on a song-by-song basis. "We're working on tracks you could say I consider to be part ] an album, but that doesn't mean we're actually going to release an album," he says. "These days, everything is streamed. It's not really an album-driven market anymore, but we have several records already and plan on working on more. We will, at some point, bring it all together in something like an album, but until then, everything is pretty much going to be release after release after release. That's how the young generation people listen to music now."

Inner City was, course, part that cutting edge period back in 1988, fusing elements House, the Techno that Saunderson helped pioneer in the Detroit suburb Belleville with friends Derrick May and Juan Atkins, and more conventional songcraft and dance music. "Right out the box, I wanted Inner City to be a dance group that DJS could play in the club, but that people could also sing to," Saunderson recalls. "It opened people's eyes in all kinds different ways. There are a lot people] who came in after us, following our path and using those electronic] elements in their pop songs."

There will be a bit nostalgia involved when Inner City plays at Movement. "Because it's 30 years, I wanted to bring everybody back together as much as I could," Saunderson says, particularly about including White, who won a Grammy Award this year for his remix Depeche Mode's "You Love." But he's hoping to make Inner City's next phase as, well, big fun as its first.

"It doesn't feel like 30 years," Saunderson says. "Time, as they say, moves quick. I can't believe that it's been 30 years since we released our first record, and here we are now, still releasing records. It's gone fairly quick, I would say. We've had some amazing times, amazing moments, great success through this 30 years. Hopefully there'll be another 30 years."