How your favourite genre got its name - - Mixmag

How your favourite genre got its name

Explaining the origins of house, techno, dubstep and more

  • Mixmag crew
  • 6 July 2016
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Techno was originally the label for a completely different genre than the one we know today. Pioneering Detroit trio The Belleville Three - consisting of Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson - were initially happy to be grouped in with the Chicago house scene. Although Atkins had used the term in 1984 release ‘Techno City’ from his Rick Davis-collaborating project Cybotron.

Soon it became clear that The Belleville Three’s Kraftwerk-inspired, futuristic music that took inspiration from the post-industrial cityscape of Detroit was its own distinct phenomenon. Northern soul DJ Neil Rushton convinced Virgin Records subsidiary Ten to license their tracks for release in the UK as part of a compilation. The working title was ‘The House Sound Of Detroit’, but in an interview with NME prior to its release Atkins stated “We call it techno”. May was in favour of naming the style ‘hi-tech soul’, remarking that “To me techno was the stuff coming from Miami. I thought it was ugly, some ghetto bullshit”, but Atkins won the argument. When the compilation landed, the title boomed ‘Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit’.


Trip hop is a Mixmag original that was published in June 1994 and coined by the magazine’s own Andy Pemberton. First used to describe DJ Shadow’s ‘In / Flux’ track, trip-hop was the combination of soulful, r'n'b-styled tunes and swaggering drum break beats. It took root in the UK, with London labels Mo' Wax and Ninja Tune releasing it, and in Bristol, where outfits like Massive Attack and Portishead helped progress it.

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