EXCLUSIVE: Just what was the setup for Derrick May’s orchestral shows? Technical rider comes to light – but with no mention of whether the man himself can play

With May’s recent failure to complete a challenge where he had to prove that two instruments playing in a different key on the same song wouldn’t result in a horrific mess, the question has to be asked. Just who has been in on this?

The dance music press are probably aware of it, for starters. But I imagine there was more money in propagating the Belleville Three myth than in telling the truth – and I suspect that’s still the case.

Conductor Dzijan Emin would almost certainly have been made aware of the fact May cannot play. What is in question is when he found out. Was it at the very beginning, or did he only find out late in the day?

A number of emails have gone out to try and get these questions answered. I’ll hopefully be coming back to that one soon.

In the meantime, an anonymous friend (oh, how I love my anonymous friends!) has sent me this document. It makes interesting reading. It tells you what instruments are needed for the orchestral show, where they should be tuned to and so on.

The show is quite complicated to put on. Around 80 microphones are switched on at all times, with an orchestra which can have no less than 40 members, but no more than 67. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of monitoring that goes into doing a show of this size.

But what exactly does Derrick May do? Well, I was disappointed to learn that the rider does not stipulate that he uses a Fisher Price keyboard. No, the rider states he must be provided with a Yamaha Motif XF6 and a Nord Lead 3.

They must be also be wired into channels 48 and 49 – apparently part of a small stage desk. Presumably because May doesn’t actually do anything. He just seems to bash the keys randomly like an overexcited toddler, thinking he’s the next Miles Davis.

And what’s even more of a mystery is that May doesn’t seem to know the basics about how an orchestra works. In an interview with Mixmag in August 2019, he said:

“They [the orchestra] will not play over 90 minutes, most people are not aware of that. That’s the law in the orchestra business. 90 minutes. If they go any longer than that, it’s virtually impossible. They just will not do it.”

A cursory Google search reveals that this is nonsense. The majority of orchestral shows are between 90 minutes and 2 hours long, with an interval around the middle. Not for the first time, Derrick May is talking out of his excretory organ.

These shows were big, complicated juggernauts. A lot of people would have been involved. It’ll be interesting to see whether any of them wants to talk. My details can be found on my Contact Me page