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Six By Six: Kevin Saunderson

The Detroit hero picks 36 of his all-time favourite tunes

2009 Aug 01     
2 Bit Thugs

The word 'legend' is bandied around far too lightly these days, but Kevin Saunderson, a producer who's been there since the beginning, warrants that accolade more than most...


Inner City - Good Life (Virgin, 1988)

"We had to follow up Big Fun and I don't think we could have done any better than this. Trying to follow up Big Fun was quite daunting but not only was this quicker and easier to make, we had the basics done in about an hour and a half and it went on to become a much bigger record."

Inner City - Big Fun (KMS, 1988)

"The first successful vocal record I made. I never wanted to just make underground instrumental club records: I was inspired by people like Chaka Khan and Stephanie Mills, so making vocals was important to me from the beginning. Big Fun was about my second shot at it and it led on to me having an actual career in music for 20 years!"

Inner City - Ahnongay (6x6 Records, 1994)

"This was a bit of a departure for Inner City. We were in the studio doing a cover of Back Together Again for 6x6 Records and we had a bit of extra time, so we just started messing about and this is what came out. It only ended up as an Inner City record because it was recorded on an Inner City budget but it was good to change it up anyway."

Inner City - Pennies From Heaven (Virgin, 1992)

"This is a favourite because I've got all my favourite singers on the one record. Paris [Grey] was the lead vocalist; Rachel [Kapp] who sang all the Reese Project stuff was there; and then Ann who was my wife at the time wrote it with Paris. The whole crew is on the one record and it came out really well."

E-Dancer - World Of Deep (KMS, 1997)

"This is my favourite E-Dancer tune without a doubt. When I made it it just had so much character the way the strings work and the 'cries' as I call them... it's quite a unique record."

Reese & Santonio - The Sound (KMS, 1987)

"This was basically like 'I'm going to make a record for the Paradise Garage' and it WAS played at the Paradise Garage. It's a real simple record, just this one sound with some drums under it but it got real big in New York and hearing it at the Garage was just amazing! It was a dream come true, the best feeling in the world."


Hans Zimmer - Now We Are Free (Gladiator Theme) (Decca, 2000)

"This is a great mood-setter. It's just a beautiful creation and it gives you that dining vibe, I guess! I don't know, this is kind of a different situation for me, so I was just thinking what's kind of nice to hear and you can chill out and sit and eat. It's not like these are records I listen to every day."

Philip Glass - Koyaanisqatsi (Island, 1983)

"I've never seen the movie, I've only heard the soundtrack. It's just nice atmospheric background music; it sets moods it makes you feel good. It's stuff that you feel almost subconsciously. It can just be on in the background yet you still grasp a vibe from it."

The Art Of Noise - Moments In Love (ZTT, 1986)

"Just a great piece of music that sets a great vibe... that's about it, really."

Grace Jones - Slave To The Rhythm (Island, 1985)

"Obviously Grace is unique anyway, but this song is one that, when I was a young man in college, or maybe just after, if I wanted to chill out and invite a girl over to eat, this is one of the songs I'd have on my list to chill out and dim the lights and, well, you get the idea."

Peech Boys - Don't Make Me Wait (West End, 1982)

"The same as above, and obviously there's a message in the lyrics there too! Peech Boys had their own unique sound and vocal style and it just works as a record."

Rufus & Chaka Khan - Tell Me Something Good (ABC, 1987)

"This switches things up a little and lifts the mood, it's for when you're finishing your dessert and getting up and leaving the table."


Norman Connors - You Are My Starship (Buddah Records, 1977)

"Just a real nice tune, and very soothing... I can't really describe it any more than that."

Raw Silk - Do It To The Music (West End, 1982)

"Just for that main vocal hook which always just grabs you. It's one of those records that just holds onto you forever. When I started making music, it's because of records like this that with Inner City I created tunes with so many vocal hooks and musical hooks. This is what inspired me. And it's not only soothing, it's a great dancefloor record too - it can work both ways."

George Benson - Nature Boy (Warner, 1977)

"A lot of George Benson's records are pretty soothing - too smoothing at times! But his style was real original - it definitely had its moments, its place and time."

The Isley Brothers - Summer Breeze (Epic, 1974)

"Oh come on, how the hell you want me to say anything about this tune? It just fits, man. It just works."

Jose Feliciano - California Dreamin' (RCA, 1968)

"Jose Feliciano is a Puerto Rican guitarist and this is a folky kind of track that's really soothing and really beautiful."

Marvin Gaye - Always And Forever (Tamla, 1973)

"This is more of a dining record maybe, but yeah, it's soothing too. It's just a real nice tempo kind of thing."


Stevie Wonder - Living For The City (Tamla, 1973)

"If you're a young black man growing up in Detroit - even though I'm kind of from New York as well - you look at Stevie and he was a young black guy from Detroit too, plus he was BLIND... how could you possibly fail to be inspired? Plus the lyrics are so positive as well."

Stevie Wonder - Superstition (Tamla, 1972)

"Not so much the lyrics this time, it's just inspiring the way he put it together. Watching him play it as a kid, the energy and movement he put into it... it's inspiring in a musical sense."

Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (Motown, 1971)

"Just an amazing record that touched you in just about every way possible and really made you think. It's quite a political record, too, but that's not something I've ever really wanted to do with my own records. Our records are more spiritually uplifting in the music rather than having a message in the lyrics."

Rhythim Is Rhythim - Strings Of Life (Transmat, 1987)

"The best record Derrick May has ever made. I went to school with him, I grew up with him and I watched him make this. It actually started out as a ballad! It was this slow, beautiful piano part and those one-stab strings with no drums... it was definitely inspiring to watch him develop that and turn it into what he did. That was amazing."

Mr Fingers - Can You Feel It (Trax, 1986)

"This was inspiring because it came out in the early days of house but it was more than just a house tune. It wasn't just driving, it wasn't banging, it was just this beautiful piece of music with this vocal that floated in and out. Ron Hardy or Larry Levan would play it on these amazing soundsystems for like 15 minutes and you wouldn't get tired of it."

Inner City - Till We Meet Again (Ten, 1991)

"To me, when I listen to this today, this is the best piece of music that we ever put together. The lyrics that Paris wrote, about when you see someone again and you haven't seen them but you've still got that special bond between you, I think they're beautiful lyrics and I think the music supports them really well."


A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray (Rham, 1988)

"I remember hearing this back in the day as one of the first house records to come out of the UK. It was kind of different from what everyone else was doing but it fitted in well and it had its own place. It still kicks - it's stood the test of time and it's just real good to ride on."

Secret Cinema - Rita & Lynn(Hey! 2008) 

"This just a great driving tune. To me a driving record needs to give you a boost, like if I'm driving to New York I want records with energy records that will keep me alert. This has that kind of energy."

Slam - Eterna (Soma, 2001)

"Slam had this hypnotic kind of vibe, very melodic, very hypnotic, very underground. It seems to work for them and it works well when you're driving late at night."

Argy & The Mole - Can't Stand Love Get Away (Poker Flat, 2007)

"A good party record with a good vibe and nice vocals. It's one of those tunes that never really took off but it's a great tune and I think it's been produced incredibly well."

Kraftwerk - Autobahn (EMI, 1978)

"The Electrifyin' Mojo used to have this radio show here in Detroit and that's where new artists would break. When I first heard this I was sitting in my car at this park called Belle Isle... I must have been about 17/18, around there somewhere."

Giorgio Moroder - The Chase(Casablanca, 1978) 

"It's all about the bassline with this! A great track to ride on, it's just got that driving vibe to it."


Kraftwerk - Computer Love (Warner, 1981)

"This was just unique when it came out and it still sounds unique now - it hasn't dated at all. It's hooky, it's sexy, it's a record that inspired me and it's a record that works now, which means it's a record made back then that would work in the future!"

Funkadelic - Flashlight (Westbound, 1973)

"We're back to the days of the Electrifyin' Mojo again! I grew up in high school listening to Parliament and Funkadelic and Flashlightin particular was a massive party record a record that gave you energy. I'd be hearing it thinking 'How the hell did they make a record like that?'."

808 State - Pacific State (ZTT, 1989)

"What they did here to me was make a great Detroit record. I never really sounded similar to Derrick, I never really sounded similar to Juan. Derrick could sound similar to Juan and vice versa but I never sounded similar to either of them; I tried to but I couldn't do it! And then 808 State came along and they sounded similar to Juan and Derrick... they'd managed to do something I couldn't do!"

Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy (Wild Bunch, 1991)

"They had a sound that was completely unique to them. Again, it was one of those records you hear and you're thinking 'How did they do that? What were they thinking and how did they do it?'."

Hans Zimmer - Now We Are Free (Gladiator Theme) (Decca, 2000)

"I know this is already on the list but I actually use a bit of this in my intro piece when I'm DJing, just a bit of the strings and the flute. I want to score movies one day and if I score a movie I want to do a track like this."

Cybotron - Cosmic Cars (Fantasy, 1982) 

"Again, how do you make a record like that? How do you even think lyrically like they were thinking? You gotta be on another planet to make a record like this. I'm not actually sure that Juan is human to be honest with you. But the album's great, the concept is just so unique."