Metroplex was a brainchild of techno godfather Juan Atkins in 1985. In the early days of Techno, the “First Wave” of Detroit Techno artists, set up their studios at the intersection of Riopelle Street and Gratiot Avenue. These buildings housed Derrick May’s Transmat and Atkins’ Metroplex. The lab where they synthesized the sounds of the future was housed in a small two-story building made of red brick. Next door was Kevin Saunderson’s label KMS. The part of the six-lane avenue Gratiot was called “Techno Boulevard”. They envisioned a future in which this area would thrive on the music they laid the blueprint for.
“Techno Boulevard is where Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins all had their studios. It was Derrick’s idea to call the street Techno Boulevard because everybody was doing something to do with techno at that time, and this is where they were all living during that period, Derrick really felt it should be called Techno Boulevard so all the basketball and baseball companies would use Detroit music when they won games. But they didn’t. When The Pistons, Detroit’s basketball team, were winning the championship they were playing I’ve got the power whenever they won, the could have been using Inner City’s Good life.” – Carl Craig, an artist in the of the second wave of Detroit Techno artists.
Metroplex releases from Atkins have been recorded under many different monikers from Model 500, XXX to Infiniti. Metroplex has been home to artists like Eddie Fowlkes, Anthony “Shake” Shakir and Aaron Carl who have all released Detroit Techno classics on the imprint. Metroplex also had a sub-label of Interface Records on the 1990’s that released a string of underground electro and booty tracks. At one time, Metroplex shared a block with Transmat and KMS Records, making up the legendary “Techno Boulevard” in “Eastern Market”, the heart of downtown Detroit.
The earliest location of the label was the Chatsworth Tower Apartments which is on the campus of Wayne State University. It is currently used for housing graduate and professional students. This address was listed on some early releases by this Juan Atkins imprint:
Transmat is the record label of techno musician Derrick May, started in 1986. For years the label “released the tracks that would fuel the Techno boom”. Artists included Rhythim Is Rhythim, James Pennington, Joey Beltram, and more. Transmat includes the sub-label Fragile Records.
“Detroit and its story has been told and like all legendary tales, those who have paid attention know more than the average person tuning in.- DJ Frankie Bones about Rhythim is Rhythim’s “Nude Photo”
In recent years this block has undergone a renaissance with sales of buildings on this block going to artists or businesses engaged in the arts — a fitting resurrection for a block that’s hosted artists and their studios since the 1970s. All but a handful of buildings in the block have artists as owners, tenants or both since this time.
The new owners are making improvements to their buildings, and many more plan to install new businesses in them. The block is set to take on a brighter look as façades improve and doors reopen. New investment is bringing more attention to a creative community that has flourished under wraps on this block on Gratiot Ave for decades.