How did you meet Juan and Derrick?
I met Derrick in North Junior High in Belleville. We played on the football team together. I met Juan through his brother Aaron. That’s how Derrick met Juan as well. Because we were only a few Blacks that lived in the neighborhood. After football practice we would go over to Aaron’s house and hang out a little. That’s how I ran into Juan.
I read your relationship with Derrick had a rough start.
Me and Derrick, we did a bet, and he lost the bet. He is like, I am not gonna pay you. It was a 10 Dollar bet. After I was trying to get my money a few times, I came up to him and slugged him in the jaw. Derrick gave me some mutual respect and from that point on we got along well.
Did you grow up completely segregated? You did not have any white friends?
Not really. It was a couple of guys in the neighborhood who seemed cool. You talked to them a little on the bus. It wasn’t like I was alienated but it was definitely only a couple.
How did Juan and Derrick strike you when you met them?
Derrick was just another athlete, in good shape. I looked at him like I looked at myself. He was this goofy kid, always wanted to joke. Seemed like he needed a lot of attention back then. Juan was totally different. He didn’t really talk. He did even not wanna talk to you. It wasn’t like Juan and me were really friends, I just knew him. When I went over to the house, I was really friends with the brother and Juan just lived there as well. He would just say what’s up and that’s it. There was no conversation between Juan and me until years later, until maybe my 11th grade [age 16-17]. That was four years later. Juan was two years older. When I was at 7th grade he was at 9th grade, he went to High School. I have only seen Juan that past year. When I went to high school, I hadn’t seen Juan for two years. As I got older, the connection between us got a little better, but it wasn’t musically besides he was making music at the end when he was 17, maybe 18. At that time developed stuff started changing.
When did you realize Juan was producing music? He released his first record in 1983, when he was 19.
Derrick moved into my house when I was in 11th grade. That’s when I became aware Juan had this project, Cybotron. When I went over to his house I saw he had equipment. But I didn’t really pay attention that much but it looked kind of cool for back then. Derrick moved in with me because his mother moved back to Detroit. He stayed with me for like four months to finish up school, and that’s how I found out. We used to listen to Electrifying Mojo [on the radio]. Mojo used to play Juan’s music and everything else: Prince, Funkadelic, Depeche Mode. It was quite an educational experience.
That must have been a surprise: your friend from High School’s music was played on the coolest radio show of the city.
Oh yeah, I was like: Wow. This guy is making music! And it was cool. And at the same time my brother, who was still living in New York, was doing stuff with [the disco acts] Brass Construction and B. T. Express. They were a proper live band with synthesizers. He was their tour manager, not a real band member, but he wrote one song. My brother, Juan, Mojo and Derrick: that was the inspiration that got me into music.
Did you still go to New York?
I went back every summer. I stayed with my father and with my brothers because they were all older.
Did you realize what was going on in New York’s nightlife?
Oh yeah. I went to the Paradise Garage when I was 17, at least four or five times. I went to The Loft as well. It was mind-blowing to me. You went there at one or two at night and you were walking out on the next day at noon. It was daylight and you didn’t even know it. And you saw all these different men. It was a lot of men because it was gay. I didn’t even know about gay at that time really, I did not think about it. You see them dancing like they were in a trance. You became lost in the music. I learned about a lot of music Larry Levan was playing, a lot of vocal records, Chaka Khan, Evelyn Champagne King, Stephanie Mills or Sister Sledge.
Didn’t you feel lonely and bored when you went back to Detroit after experiencing this?
No. I think it was sports that saved me. If you are an athlete, you go to school and you do your sport. And I did every sport, I played football, then I went to basketball, then I went to track & field. And I had my summers off. That was basically it. In the summers, I got to go to New York and to Paradise Garage. And I got used to going fishing and doing stuff that is more relaxing giving you time to think.