Underground Resistance (commonly abbreviated to UR) are a musical collective from Detroit, Michigan, United States. Producing primarily Detroit techno since 1990 with a grungy four-track musical aesthetic, they are also renowned for their militant political and anti-corporate ethos.
First formed in 1989 by “Mad” Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, and Robert Hood. UR related the aesthetics of early Detroit Techno to the social, political, and economic circumstances which followed on from Reagan-era inner-city economic recession, producing uncompromising music geared toward promoting awareness and facilitating political change. In contrast to techno that preceded UR, UR tried to appeal to lower class African Americans in Detroit. UR’s tracks created a sense of self-exploration, experimentation and the ability to change yourself and circumstances.
Additionally, UR wanted to establish a means of identification beyond traditional lines of race and ethnicity. By targeting lower class African Americans, UR intended to inspire black men to get out of the poverty cycle in the city. It was about providing new ways for lower class African Americans to form their identities. The Underground Resistance’s politics extended to providing alternative identities to inner city African American youth, other than the hyper-masculine, hard and violent identities existing within the city. This was a gendered group, however, and the UR focused their attention on young black men. Another form of UR’s rebellion concerns the rejection of the commercialization of techno. This is evident in the messages scratched in UR vinyl, lyrics and sounds expressing economic independence from major record labels.
As with Public Enemy, there have been intimations that UR’s subversively ‘militant’ approach to music was related to the activities of the Black Panthers in the 1970s. Mills in a 2006 interview responds to that claim: “All the black men you see in America today are the direct result of those actions: all the freedoms we have, as well as the restrictions, refer back to the government and the Black Panthers in the ’70s”. Mills continues: “So we make music. We make music about who we are and where we’re from. Of course there are going to be links – that’s why we had songs with titles like Riot. Because that’s indicative of the era we were born in, and the things we remember. As time goes on, naturally I think the messages will get further away from that. It’s not a coincidence. There is a reason behind UR and Public Enemy and these people.”
Many of UR’s earliest output would be the product of various experiments by Banks, Mills, and Hood – both solo and in collaboration. “The Theory” and “Eye Of The Storm” (Sonic EP) were among the two earliest UR tracks to be released in 1990, followed by a stream of EPs and singles including “Riot”, “Acid Rain”, and “Jupiter Jazz”. The trio also recorded under the aliases X-101 and X-102, releasing both EPs such a “Sonic Destroyer” and “Groundzero (The Planet)” and the albums “X-101” and “X-102 Discovers The Rings of Saturn”.
When Mills and Hood moved on from the collective in 1992 to achieve international success as solo artists and DJs, Banks continued to lead UR releasing EPs during the mid-1990s such as “Return of Acid Rain”, “Message to the Majors”, and excursions into Nu Jazz on “Hi-Tech Jazz” as Galaxy 2 Galaxy. Increasingly acclaimed artists such as DJ Rolando, Suburban Knight, and Drexciya also joined the collective.
1998’s “Interstellar Fugitives”, the first full album credited to Underground Resistance, saw Mike Banks redefining the collective’s sound as “High-Tech Funk”, reflecting a shift in emphasis from hard, minimal club Techno to breakbeats, Electro and even occasionally Drum and Bass and down-tempo Hip-Hop.
Down below you can listen to the compilation album “Revolution For Change” that contains tracks from various UR 12″ vinyls recorded in the early 1990’s.
Listen to Underground Resistance members Dex Nomadico and Mark Flash performed over at Nowadays in New York City HERE!