Detroit Techno Star Jeff Mills Finally Going Home

DJ/producer will play highly anticipated show in Motor City, where his career was launched 15 years ago.

After an aborted attempt at a homecoming performance two years ago, Detroit techno mastermind Jeff Mills will finally play a Motor City show March 1 at the State Theatre.

Following by a full decade his last Detroit appearance, the event, titled Mecca 2001, marks the momentous return of perhaps the city's most famous techno star to the place where his career was launched some 15 years ago. Mills had planned a similar event close to Thanksgiving 1999, but it was canceled due to poor ticket sales, the DJ/producer said at the time.

The bill's lone performer, Mills will DJ in his signature triple-turntable style for five hours as the Wizard, the radio alias he employed for eight years on Detroit airwaves beginning in 1986. During his time on the air in Detroit, Mills helped to establish the city's techno scene as the world's forerunner.

Mecca 2001 is already evoking great anticipation from the local community, according to Mike Himes, who has owned Record Time, one of the city's premier techno shops, since it opened in 1983.

"He was the biggest DJ in the city because of his radio show," Himes said. "If you stocked what he played you did pretty well, because even back then people were emulating him and wanted to have the skills he has. Around here he's become quite a legend."

The store will host a meet-and-greet with Mills on the day before the event.

"I still remember the day he first came to our store, I was so proud that day," Himes recalled. "I went, 'All right, the Wizard's shoppin' at our store.' That would've been 1987."

Along with radio DJ the Electrifying Mojo and programs such as "Deep Space Radio" and "Fast Forward," Mills not only highlighted burgeoning local techno artists such as Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins, but he also cut up the sounds of hip-hop, electro and house in a blistering mix style that became legendary. His set at Mecca promises to both revisit that era and look forward to the music's future, according to a spokesperson for the event.

In the late '80s, Mills co-founded the staunchly independent techno imprint Underground Resistance, which continues to be a mainstay of Detroit's scene, although he soon left the fold to begin releasing highly influential tracks on his own Axis and Purpose Maker labels.

An early-'90s stint as a weekly resident at the New York club Limelight — where he is scheduled to return for another weekly residency in March — was followed by a rise to international prominence for Mills, a Detroit native, who became one of the world's most revered DJs and, eventually, live techno performers.

Following his recent composition of a score to a version of Fritz Lang's futuristic 1926 film, "Metropolis," the producer is set to release a new 43-minute piece based on "War of the Worlds" author H.G. Wells' 1894 time-travel novel, "The Time Machine." The project will come out on Mills' own Tomorrow imprint, which was launched last year as a home for more abstract recordings. The most recent releases on Tomorrow were two volumes of an ambient-style series called Every Dog Has Its Day.