Back we go on what is a Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK – and also my birthday, to top it off – to the subject of Alan Oldham. Now, regular readers might have already worked out he’s a touchy little fellow – and he certainly doesn’t like being scrutinised.
A few months back, you might remember that I started looking into Rebekah Teasdale and her struggling #ForTheMusic campaign. I posted she’d been working with Francesco Tristano, a known associate and friend of Derrick May. The association in itself should have been enough to put Teasdale off – she may not have strictly speaking done anything wrong, but even the mere appearance of her next to a May ally was a PR disaster.
Barely a week later, this blog exclusively revealed she’d been photographed with another one of Derrick May’s pals – Alan Oldham. The Detroit based DJ has been a long-time supporter of May, having been one of the first people to support his music in the city. I understand he’s also behind some of the artwork on a number of early Transmat Records releases.
Shortly after this, Oldham became aware of my posts on the subject and responded in that very modern way – not through engagement to get his point of view across, but by blocking this blog’s Instagram account. The people who answer those who pose legitimate questions by doing things like this fail to realise it inevitably doesn’t stop me from looking into them.
Last week, I started getting adverts on my Facebook timeline from a page called Finish More Music. This appears to be another outfit out there who spend their time trying to show producers how to produce records faster and more efficiently. The material in the course includes an interview with none other than Oldham himself – but the video accompanying the ad is a curious one.
In a video captioned “Staying Relevant”, he tells us “the number one thing is to focus on the work. Because a lot of cats get involved in external stuff and they comment on external stuff online. But to me, it’s about the work, man. It’s about the tracks. And it’s about the tracks you’re doing now.”.
Perhaps the full video explains his thinking better, but this excerpt just leaves me baffled. If any producer is seriously that distracted by the internet whilst trying to make music, put your phone down and disconnect. Still, it explains his refusal to engage with this blog, if nothing else.
Elsewhere, he talks about “There’s a lot of guys from the nineties and you know, they’re like, ‘Well, I made this stuff in the nineties. Why am I not getting booked? I’m a legend’.”. And this is something Oldham would know a lot about – many of his Detroit friends still live off past glories from decades ago.
Just look at Carl Craig, for example. Over the past few weeks, he was hawking a remix contest for a track he originally released in 1989. Or for another example, take Jeff Mills. He hasn’t exactly released a great deal of anything in the past two decades – preferring to use “The Wizard” name to his advantage whilst publicly proclaiming he isn’t.
But the biggest example of all? It surely has to be Mr Derrick May. This man, who openly admits he sees himself as an innovator and a genius hasn’t released anything since 1992. And more and more questions are being asked about how much of it he was actually responsible for in the first place.
One of his first glories, “Nude Photo”, was actually a Thomas Barnett production. And his biggest release, “Strings Of Life” was, in reality, based on a sampled piano loop taken from an eight-minute recording by Michael James. May has never explained just how much he actually contributed to his track.
So here’s a bit of kind advice, Mr Oldham. Your message of focusing on new records might have a little more credence if those people representing your home city took notice of it…