Everybody needs to start somewhere. It can be said for anything, and with the techno scene often stigmatized as snobby or gatekeepy, the doors may appear not appear to be always open. Today we have the goal of kicking that door open to anybody who wants to step into the massive realm that is techno. It’s a genre that we haven’t showcased very often in TSIS’s history, but with so much to offer, we thought an introduction was necessary.
We’ve compiled a list of 20 DJs and producers that you need to know right off the bat. These are the headliners, the label-heads, and the pioneers; acts that should immediately catch your eye if you’re looking for something good. Hopefully, each one of these artists can launch you in a new direction, allowing you to discover more on your own.
Below you can get started on your techno studying with a list of 20 artists you should know, each along with a hand-picked mix. Enjoy!
Perhaps the most iconic person in the entire industry, Carl Cox must be on your radar first and foremost. He’s an ambassador of techno (and house), using his charm and talent to spread the genre around the world. His wide range was birthed by the beaming acid house scene of the UK in the 1980s. Carl Cox has over 30 years of experience as a label-head, promoter, and producer, but perhaps most prominently a DJ. Not many DJs talk on the mic during their sets, but his famous “Oh yes, oh yes!” phrase is often shouted during his.
Charlotte De Witte
Once just a raver in the crowd in Ghent, Belgium, Charlotte De Witte has become a global techno stalwart. Her career actually began with the alias Raving George, to evade negative misconceptions about female DJs at the time. In 2015, just two years after dropping her debut EP, Charlotte reverted to using her own name and was a certified superstar by the turn of the decade. She now runs her own label, KNTXT, pushing dark, stripped-back, acidy techno.
Maceo Plex’s sound has evolved distinctly over the course of his long career. His earliest hits like “Love Somebody Else” could be classified as deep house, but his most streamed tracks like “Conjure Dreams” are heavy techno weapons. He also produces electro under the alias Mariel Ito. A producer most prominently, you’ll find him playing most of his own tracks during his sets, but his DJing talents always keep us coming back for more (with often with a rare cut from his deep library of gems).
Jeff Mills is one of the most important techno pioneers who’s still very active today. A founder of the collective Underground Resistance nearly 30 years ago, it was Mills (among others) who helped bridge the gap between Berlin techno and Detroit techno. He has an astounding 38 solo studio albums under his belt, most released through his won Axis Records. His vinyl mixing skills are rarely matched, and sometimes he can even just jam on a Roland 909.
Richie Hawtin is another techno OG that is still killing it today. No stranger to headlining large-scale festivals, Hawtin’s current sound is heavy, loud, and industrial. Even though he lived in Canada, he was a short trip away from Detroit, where he was an essential figure during the “second wave” of American techno artists (like the aforementioned Jeff Mills). Hawtin’s specialty at that time was minimal techno. He’s active on all fronts of the music scene today, releasing music, touring, and helping to develop new hardware.
Stephan Bodzin is able to summon such massive amounts of energy in his live sets using a custom-made MIDI controller that he crafted around his 2015 album, Powers Of Ten. The classically trained German producer is one-of-a-kind. His sound ranges from beautiful, euphoric downtempo to dark, sci-fi-inspired techno. He famously performed for Cercle high up in the Swiss Alps back in 2018.
Beautiful, dreamy grooves or guttural techno and electro. Peggy Gou’s DJ sets can go in either direction. It’s what caught everybody’s ears back in the mid-2010s, and since then, Peggy has amassed several world-renowned hits like “Starry Night” and became one of the most sought-after acts in the biz. Her stage presence and style also add to her unbounded coolness. She also currently runs Gudu Records, which is home to most of her own music, as well as records from DMX Krew, Mogwaa, and more.
While Mall Grab may have seen his initial success as a lofi-house producer, that didn’t stop him from pushing his sound in different directions. With the launch of his label Steel City Dance Discs (which neighbors his other label, Looking For Trouble), he created a platform for his harder-hitting tracks. Soon after, it became one of the most sought-after labels for techno producers. Today he’ll serve up anything from banging electro, howling techno, acid house, and everything in between.
Maya Jane Coles
Maya Jane Coles does it all. The British-Japanese artist writes, produces, and engineers all her own music and will often provide top-line via her singing, too. Similar to a couple of other names on this list, her earlier work displays a more melodic, moody sound. Her DJ sets, however, are filled with pumping, high-energy techno. She even made a new alias, CAYAM, as a home for her techno-leaning productions.
If you’re looking for something seriously eerie and spooky, Berlin-based Recondite is your guy. His tracks sound like they could have been concocted in the Chamber of Secrets beneath Hogwarts. While dark, the music isn’t necessarily aggressive. It’s hauntingly welcoming. Take a look at his set for Cercle, which couldn’t have been placed in a better location.
Another Berliner, Ellen Allien is a veteran who isn’t just a producer/DJ but one of the most iconic artists of her generation. She’s been releasing tracks and making moves in the techno scene for over two decades now and still delivers some of the most fresh-sounding music to date, whether it be through her DJ sets or record label, UFO Inc.
Seth Troxler has a style that will constantly keep you on your toes. His collection of records (both vinyl and digital) seems limitless, allowing him to do whatever he wants in any setting. He’ll play out a crowd-pleaser in his sets every so often, but you’ll be getting deep, underground cuts for the most part. He’s not a shabby producer either. He’s probably the most house-leaning artist on this list.
Adam Beyer is responsible for bringing techno into the mainstream. His leading label, Drumcode, isn’t just a platform for some of the world’s most beloved tracks but a recognizable sound all around the world. Cinematic builds, rumbling bass, and heavy kick drums are the signature elements of Beyer’s movement. Originating in the Swedish underground, Adam Beyer is now one of the most important artists of modern techno. He also leads one of the genre’s biggest parties, Resistance, which is a staple at Ibiza and festivals around the globe.
Some might think drum & bass when they hear Nastia’s name, but she truly is a master of it all. The name of her game is energy, and she can wield it like few others can. She’s one of Ukraine’s finest exports, and you can find her leading the charge with her label, NECHTO, which is home to all sorts of ravey, underground weapons. In the set below, she sits firmly in control of a rowdy crowd by way of 150bpm+ techno.
Joseph Capriati says he’s a DJ first and foremost, but that says a lot, considering his comprehensive discography. The Italian stallion of techno, Joseph Capriati brings an always fresh dynamic to his sets, incorporating different hardware that allows him to manipulate tracks to his pleasure. He often bounces back and forth between house and techno.
Tiga is one of the godfathers of Montreal’s club scene and the label head of one of the most fruitful and forward-thinking house and techno labels, Turbo Recordings. Expect lots of clever vocals, filthy bass lines, rave-ready energy, and acid. House heads may already be familiar with his heavily-rinsed classic “Mind Dimension.”
Tale Of Us
Hailing from Milan, Italy, Carmine Conte and Matteo Milleri (also known as Anyma and MRAK) make up the colossal duo that is Tale Of Us. Heads of the tastemaking label Afterlife, the duo has championed a slow-burning yet intense style of melodic techno that has taken over the scene. Expect long, emotional build-ups, slow BPMs, and cinematic elements.
The daughter of a club owner, ANNA played her very first show when she was just 14 years old. After years of dedication to her craft, ANNA finally saw a major breakthrough with her hard-hitting, psychedelic sound and became one of Brazil’s finest exports. Her specialty lies in her mastery of synths and other hardware.
The definition of a world-class selector, Dixon always has that left-field goodness. He won’t blow you away with heavy bangers but hypnotize you with an array of mind-altering synths and off-kilter rhythms mixed together flawlessly. Once Dixon gets you locked in a groove, there’s little chance of escaping.
Monika Kruse is one of Europe’s true techno pioneers. She’s been active since 1991, when she was organizing raves in abandoned bomb shelters. At the turn of the millennium, she launched her label Terminal M, which is a hotbed for emerging techno talent—many of which end up seeing stardom. Today she still runs around the festival circuit, blessing some of the biggest stages in the world with her energetic style and infectious smile.