Detroit techno doc “God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines” debuted at Tribeca
Twelve years in the making, a Detroit techno documentary has touched heights of anticipation that few films about dance music ever reach.
God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines is a feature-length documentary from Washington Hill Pictures and XTR. It tells the story of the Black DJs from Detroit that invented techno in the 1980s through the stories of Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes, and Santonio Echols. The film also features a cast of dozens of Detroit and Detroit-adjacent artists, both the living and the legendary. (For instance, The Electrifying Mojo and his influential role as a frequently unseen mentor on the radio for a group of young men without any experience in the music industry.)
The film made its world premiere at New York’s Tribeca Festival on June 11 2022. It is probably fair to note this is the most prominent debut for any of the electronic music documentaries that have emerged in the last twenty years which purport to document some or all of the history of the scene.
Mike Huckaby is on camera christening the film with his fable of angels blessing the deprived youth of Detroit with a righteous arsenal of 909s.
The film — whose title is inspired by a line in the film from the late Mike Huckaby — is produced by Jennifer Washington and directed by Kristian R. Hill and was developed by the filmmakers to “correct the history of techno music’s true Detroit origins,” according to a release. Tribeca’s associated programmer Dan Hunt called the film “a vibrant and nostalgic music documentary that showcases the beginnings of techno music and how Detroit, Michigan, was the creative and cultural hub for the creation and development of these beats. This lively exploration takes viewers from Detroit to Chicago to London and Berlin, tracing Techno’s origins in the African American, and not the German, community. Focusing on the talent of a group of young Black artists, God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines is a compelling, rarely showcased history of mismanaged success, damaged friendships, ascendant beats, and raw inspiration.”
5 Mag has been avidly following the production of the film since we first became aware of it via a $30,000 Kickstarter campaign back in 2018. 5 Mag‘s Terry Matthew spoke with Washington and Hill just after the Tribeca screening, which Hill told us was a triumph. Keep a look out for our next issue when we delve into the making of a film that’s documenting the history of our entire culture.
Photo: Juan Atkins, still from God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines