People occasionally ask me why I give journalists in the dance music world a hard time. The question is even posed directly by some of those journalists. And my answer is always the same – because they’re failing to do their jobs properly. Their duty is to ask questions and scrutinise what happens within the scene.
That job sometimes means asking things which will make some people uncomfortable, but needs must. Yet the writers and journalists in dance music are often reluctant to do the job – mostly because they don’t want to upset the apple cart which pays their wages. And one time they’re especially disinclined is when they’re facing their subjects directly.
Kevin Saunderson – one of the so-called Belleville Three – gave an interview recently to Attack Magazine. They asked him about whitewashing within the world of techno, his new E-Dancer project, racism within agencies and even how he defines Detroit techno. These are all perfectly fair questions to ask, incidentally – but my issue is the one question that the weirdly nameless interviewer didn’t put forward.
Namely, what the hell does Kevin Saunderson think of the situation which surrounds his friend Derrick May? This would have been a brilliant opportunity to ask Saunderson about it, and his reply would have been big news within the scene. But the journalist in question declined to give the question to him.
Talk about ignoring the (balding, 58-year old, mostly out of work) elephant in the room…
Some businesses out there, despite making their name in a particular area, seem to know next to nothing about their market. Eventually, everyone else notices. I can’t quite work out what other explanation there is for this goof up from the Panasonic owned Technics.
Their turntables aren’t as good as they used to be – and don’t take my word for it. Take, instead, the word of Richard Talmage, an engineer with over 30 years experience of fixing things from turntables to military hardware. He wrote a review on Facebook of the Technics SL-1200MK7 – and was absolutely scathing.
And by the looks of it, they don’t know the dance music scene very well, either. This is where Technics made their name years ago with high quality turntables which were built to last and built with professional DJs in mind. To this day, you’ll barely read a criticism of them – because they lived up to the hype.
Derrick May’s name now appears on a page promoting the SL-1200 turntables on their own website. For a company like Technics to actually use an endorsement from a man accused of numerous sexual assaults is just staggering. They either pay no attention at all to what happens in the dance music scene, or they don’t care. Technics have been approached for comment on which one it is.
His fawning review appears next to that of Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez, one half of Masters At Work. For Gonzalez, his next move should be to contact Technics and ask what the hell they’re playing at – but given he believes that the so-called Detroit techno originators are “my brothers”, this doesn’t seem likely.
But there was one detail of May’s past with Technics turntables which, curiously, didn’t make the final cut. According to Michael James, “Derrick May didn’t mention that he stole plenty of Technics’s products using a credit card scam in the 1980s”.
This blog can’t possibly imagine why this detail didn’t appear in the testimonial…
The news coming from my sources in Detroit get more and more surreal with each passing day. And the latest one is possibly the strangest yet. Derrick May’s friends have been talking about how he could rehabilitate himself in the dance music community – and it’s hard to tell whether they’re being serious or not.
According to a source, who confirms May was not present for the discussion, he said “A couple of us got together about a week ago and the topic Derrick came up in conversation. He’s been boasting about having a busy weekend on the way, and someone joked that he wasn’t going to have many.”.
He went on: “So another guy asked how May was going to come back from all this. And the idea came about that he should do an interview with some sympathetic journalist. But talk soon turned to jokes about how terrible an idea that was”.
Only it turns out one person in that room didn’t get the hint. Apparently, he’s been contacting every person in the journalism world to talk about the prospect of a rehabilitatory Derrick May interview. Which, let’s face it, is an highly amusing prospect.
The sight of May crying crocodile tears whilst saying how sorry he’s pretending he is for the way he’s treated women in the past – whilst not actually admitting to any of the allegations, of course – is one which would give me several days of content alone. But this person clearly hasn’t thought about how this interview would be received, nor had a single thought about what the victims would make of it all.
Whether May knows anything about what his friend has been doing is unknown. But is this plan even remotely feasible? I put the question to a former editor of one of the dance music magazines.
Speaking strictly off the record, he simply said “Er, there isn’t a f***ing chance it would happen. I don’t know who’d honestly be the most stupid if this went ahead”…
Time was that booking Derrick May was amongst the ultimate achievement for any venue which played techno. His name came with history and commercial appeal in a genre which, ironically, sees itself as the antithesis to it. Just putting his name on a flyer sold tickets – and to be fair to May, he is an exceptionally talented DJ.
But these days? Following numerous allegations of sexual assault and rape, booking Derrick May for an event is an increasingly fraught process – and it’s not just because you have to weirdly email his former manager to do so. You soon discover the highly convoluted process to contact his boss is actually the easy part.
Once you’ve booked him and have a date and time, you find you can’t actually promote it. This is because the moment that this blog, Michael James or any other number of people – I practically got contacted by a small army when it emerged last week he was appearing at Weetamix – who will come along and ask why he’s been booked.
Cue an onslaught of negative comments online surrounding his appearance. This gives you two options. One is to back down and cancel his booking, quite possibly at significant cost. The second is to tough it out – stop people commenting and so on. But this reduces engagement with the post hurting them once social media’s algorithms start to twig.
Hence why Italian club Audiodrome only mentioned his appearance tomorrow night at the club yesterday…
The few venues which are prepared to book May are also limited in what they can do with any pictures or footage from the event. Weetamix, for example, has posted no photos from their event on Friday night – and it’s now Sunday. Audiodrome – which have a real penchant for Instagram stories – might want to brace themselves for negative responses if they’re similarly keen to publish footage of May’s appearance.
Oh, and on another note – as I’ve said previously, I understand at least one complaint about Derrick May was previously filed with the police in a European Union country. Seeing Italy is in the EU, May might be forgiven for feeling a little nervous if he sees Italy’s polizia…
It’s been a busy old day behind the scenes. After the revelation yesterday that Derrick May has a gig on tonight at Weetamix in Geneva, the club has been doing its utmost to ignore the inevitable onslaught of criticism which comes with booking a man accused of rape and sexual assault by numerous women.
Quite what May thinks of the online furore is unknown. However, the disgraced DJ might, in fact, have another reason for wanting to travel to Geneva which isn’t work related. And it’s not just, as Michael James reports today, because he wants to replenish his much-depleted bank account – true as that unquestionably is.
No, it appears he’s been thinking about making up with ex-girlfriend Sofia – whom he fell out with a while ago. A source in Detroit tells me “He’s starting to think he was a bit hasty when things ended. He really seemed quite keen to get them talking again, so Derrick left her a message. I don’t know if she ever replied.”.
Sofia’s silence about her whereabouts today on her usually very prolific Instagram account has not gone unnoticed. We shall find out soon enough whether things are back on for the woman he used to call “my passport”…
Since this blog started writing about Derrick May, one question which I’m frequently asked is why more people aren’t speaking out against him, particularly from within the scene. Reasons vary – some actually believe his treatment has been “unfair”, since there hasn’t been a criminal conviction against him. And others have their own skeletons to hide.
Whereas some simply don’t care. So long as there’s money to be made, they couldn’t care less about what that person gets up to. Weetamix – a club based in Geneva, Switzerland – fits firmly in the third category. They’ve booked Derrick May to appear for them tomorrow night, and he’s due to play for eight hours straight.
Quite how he’s going to fare remains in question – will he have the same stamina in the DJ booth as he used to? A source in Detroit told me the other day that “Derrick hasn’t done a set in months – and it shows. Blunt truth is he’s getting fat. He prides himself on being fit and healthy, but he’s let himself go over the past few months.”.
Jokes aside though, questions remain over how he got the gig. They have the internet in Switzerland, so they definitely have the means of accessing all those articles which appeared about him last year. A source tells me that May has connections to Switzerland – partly thanks to former manager Patricia Altisent being based there – so it looks to me like the old boy network has been busy…
Right now though, the only question is will Derrick May still have this gig tomorrow evening? And this remains to be determined…
Back in 1989, the world knew very little about Derrick May. Other than the spin put out about the Belleville Three by journalist Neil Rushton, he was in many ways an unknown quantity. Many who were into house and techno could name his tracks, but few knew the man behind the records.
For years, literally the only glimpses we got into their characters and the way they ticked was the few interviews given to the press. Journalists writing these had a difficult balancing act – they wanted enough material to make for an interesting read, but they also needed to keep that person on side. Musicians and egos are often close friends – especially so in the case of Derrick May.
An easy way to find out is to ask the people who they’ve worked with. Such as veteran house and techno producer Cisco Ferreira. In 1989, he released a song called “Why Don’t You Answer” on a three-track EP for Transmat’s sub-label Fragile. As I understand it, Ferreira only found out about the release several months afterwards and never got paid for it.
Rumours persisted for many years that May was something of a womaniser. This was a topic he addressed in an interview with Muzik Magazine in June 1998, where he declared a wish to change his ways, saying he didn’t “want to f*** little girls anymore”.
Derrick May is not a man who thinks a great deal of white people. When allegations surfaced last year in the mainstream press – months after journalist Michael James started talking about the subject – he responded by claiming he was the victim of racism.
Unfortunately for the beleaguered DJ, he has other problems too – aside from all his gigs being cancelled, his glasses recently broke. In August, he went to do a show alongside Juan Atkins and Ash Lauryn – and was photographed making a spectacle of himself wearing, well, spectacles with a big crack on one of the lenses. You only get one pair of eyes, so I’d imagine this is a problem he’d want to resolve.
Judging by Instagram, May appears to have gone down to the opticians and become friends with two white gentlemen who also wear glasses…
One of them, Scott Gordon, appears with him quite frequently at the moment – and this hasn’t gone unnoticed. A source in Detroit says “Derrick seems to spend a lot of time with Scott these days. He tags May in everything now. It’s just weird”.
A quick glance of his Instagram profile reveals that Derrick May is hashtagged in almost every post – despite him only actually appearing in a very small number of them. And his reminiscence to previous May accomplice Mike “Planker” Weston has been mentioned too…