The Metro: Legendary Detroit DJ John Collins talks techno history ahead of Movement

Collins will perform at Movement Electronic Movement Festival on Monday, May 27, at Hart Plaza.

John 'Jammin' Collins, a pivotal figure in Detroit’s techno scene, joined "The Metro" on Monday, May 20, 2024,.ahead of his set at the 2024 Movement Electronic Music Festival.

John 'Jammin' Collins, a pivotal figure in Detroit’s techno scene, joined "The Metro" on Monday, May 20, 2024,.ahead of his set at the 2024 Movement Electronic Music Festival.

Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival is more than just a music event, it’s a celebration of a genre that transformed the global music landscape. 

Originally known as the “Detroit Electronic Music Festival,” like the roots of techno itself, Movement is deeply intertwined with the city’s rich cultural tapestry, echoing the sounds and spirit of Detroit’s 1980s nightlife.  

One person who embodies this legacy is DJ and producer John “Jammin” Collins. As a pivotal figure in Detroit’s techno scene, Collins has not only witnessed but also helped shape the evolution of techno music.  

This weekend, he will continue this legacy when he performs at Movement. Collins joined The Metro on Monday to talk more about his contributions to the Detroit music scene and the festival itself.  

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He says having a career as a DJ was never a goal. He majored in biology at Wilberforce University and fell into the craft as a way to make more money.    

“My first job out of college was at the Michigan Cancer Foundation in the department of epidemiology. And I wanted to get another job because I wasn’t making enough money. I went to a club and saw a young lady DJing and I’m like, this would be a fun way to make money,” Collins said. “So I’m like, my goal is to do it for five years, and I was out. That was it. But one thing happened after another. And before long, I’m DJing at the popular clubs in Detroit. You know, playing on the radio, WJLB back in the day.”

Being a DJ isn’t about playing the music you want, but playing what the crowd connects to, Collins says. 

“Now, you may have an idea of what you want to program, but for me, my job is to take the crowd on a musical journey. So I connect with the crowd,” Collins said. “Like, you can feel the energy coming from them to me and it goes back out to the crowd. It even gets to the point where, based on what you’re playing, the energy of the crowd, they can almost point you in the direction of what you should play next.”

Use the media player above to hear the full interview with Collins.

More headlines from The Metro on May 20, 2024:

  • The Detroit Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects is hosting a Project Pipeline Summer Camp. The program is meant to upgrade the architectural skills of over 200 metro Detroit students. NOMA President Kendal Bowman joined the show to discuss the camp. Applications for the free program end May 31.
  • The Detroit Diaspora Day Party aims to complement the Movement experience, providing another way to enjoy electronic music while celebrating the strong connections and Detroit’s importance to the genre. Founder Drake Phifer and ‘Diviniti,’ a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and DJ who will perform this year, joined the show to share more about the event.
  • For the first time since the 1950s, Detroit’s population increased.  The U.S. Census Bureau recently found that Detroit gained over 1,800 residents in 2022, bringing the total population to more than 633,000. WDET’s Bre’Anna Tinsley spoke with Wayne State University Urban Studies Professor Jeff Horner about what these numbers mean.
  • The 2024 Mackinac Policy Conference is about one week away. And that means a lot of Michigan’s political establishment is preparing itself to go up to the island to cut deals and move their projects forward. On the latest episode of MichMash, host Cheyna Roth and Gongwer News Service’s Zach Gorchow spoke with Detroit Regional Chamber’s Vice President Brad Williams about what to expect at this year’s conference. WDET will also be broadcasting live from the conference, set for May 28-31.

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