Derrick May (musician)

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Derrick May
Derrick May.jpg
Derrick May (2015)
Background information
Also known as Rhythim Is Rhythim, MayDay
Born (1963-04-06) April 6, 1963 (age 53)
Origin Detroit, Michigan, United States
Genres Detroit techno, house, techno, electronic dance music
Occupation(s) Musician, DJ
Years active 1986–present
Labels Transmat

Derrick May (born April 6, 1963), also known as Mayday and Rhythim is Rhythim, is an electronic musician from Belleville, Michigan, United States. He is an only child[1] born to a single mother in Detroit. May began to explore electronic music early in his life. Along with his high school friends Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, commonly known as the Belleville Three, May is credited with developing the futuristic variation that would be dubbed "Techno" by Atkins.[2] Derrick May is the Innovator of Techno Music which set the groundwork for modern Electronic Dance Music, EDM. Derrick May is a refreshing reminder of the skill and innovation that electronic music is famous for.[3] "Derrick took the Euro-electropop crystals of Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode and New Order beyond its own horizon, infusing it with house, experimental synthesizer work and just plain soul. Derrick is also considered the Miles Davis of Electronic Music."[4]

Early life[edit]

At age 13 Derrick began attending Belleville high school, and became friends with Juan Atkins in 1981.[5] Atkins taught May and Saunderson the essence of DJing as well, formed a trio, Deep Space Soundworks, collectively existing to present their favorite music at parties and clubs.[6] In an interview with a french magazine Derrick explain that people use to laugh at the ideas that they were entertained by Kraftwerk and disco sounds, we did our thing and continued to believe in ourselves, regardless.[7]

He attended Belleville, Michigan high school with friends Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, commonly known as the Belleville Three. May met Kevin Saunderson when the two were fourteen. May had decided not to pay Saunderson after losing a bet and, one day at school, Saunderson punched May in the face, knocking him out cold and giving him a concussion.[8] After the altercation, May and Saunderson became best friends.[9]

During high school, Saunderson and Belleville High School classmate Juan Atkins were fans of DJ Charles "The Electrifying Mojo" Johnson.

When career's took off, the three young men opened their three individual record labels, Metroplex belonging to Juan Atkins, KMS and Inner City for Kevin Saunderson and Transmat/Fragil all on Gratiot Ave, in Detroit's Eastern Market, this was known as Techno Alley.[10] Transmat is still there today.

Derrick is very much a Detroit Techno Rebel who does not accept oppression as Alvin Toffler noted, “providing the soundtrack to an alternative future—where the people reclaimed technology for the benefit of the community.”[11] "See that is the problem, when people start doing what other people what them to do, they become completely programmed. We refused to be apart of that game.”[7]


When Derrick was a teenager he worked part-time in a video arcade.[12]

May's career started his production career in 1987 with the release of a record called "Nude Photo" (co-written by Thomas Barnett), which helped kickstart the Detroit techno music scene. A year later he was following it with what was to become one of techno's classic anthems, the seminal track "Strings of Life," which was named by Frankie Knuckles.[13] It "hit Britain in an especially big way during the country's 1987-1988 house explosion."[14] May's best known track, which, according to Frankie Knuckles, "just exploded. It was like something you can't imagine, the kind of power and energy people got off that record when it was first heard. Mike Dunn says he has no idea how people can accept a record that doesn't have a bassline."[13] The song was featured in video game Midnight Club: Street Racing[15][16]

Opening in 1988, The Music Institute in Detroit was where they held their residency.[17] Derrick describes the place as a spiritual place for music. “We had a young beautiful black crowd and I mean beautiful in the sense of spirit mind and soul. We had white kids coming, Spanish kids coming, gay kids coming, straight kids coming."[5] Derrick describes the space was to be like a dark room with a strobe light in the High Tech Soul Documentary film.

Derrick was a mentor to many great artists such as Carl Craig and Stacey Pullen, who mentioned that Derrick had 2 labels Fragile and Transmat the difference is on Transmat 100% creation and Fragile is where the artist can do creative sampling, for a little creative push. May also ran a side-gig collective known as KAOS, a separate and lesser-known endeavor from Deep Space. May's Transmat Records label was the home of his best material, cuts like "Nude Photo," "Strings of Life," "Kaos" and "It Is What It Is," most produced from 1987 to 1989 as Rhythim Is Rhythim.[18] And though his release schedule all but halted during the 1990s, he continued DJing around the world and helping other artist to release their music honed Transmat into one of the most respected techno labels in the world.[12] Although widely associated with Europe, techno music was invented in Detroit by three African American young men, little did they know what they were confidently building upon was going to be an essential musical movements of the 20th century.

In Surreal Underground Entertainment 1993 America, Carl Craig said he “doesn't want Americans to look back at the music and think of it as a down point in history. The majority of American artists sent their musical efforts to Europe because it is more accepted by a wider audience.”[19]

In the documentary about the Detroit techno scene, High Tech Soul, May notes that he saw people in Italy wearing Underground Resistance shirts and was surprised at the group's success outside of Detroit. He says, "People were going crazy over Underground Resistance, and it was like they weren't even there."[20]

Recently, May produced the music for the film of the popular fighting video game Tekken.[21]

For two years, in 2003 and 2004, he was given control of Detroit's popular annual electronic music festival.[22] Originally conceived by Carl Craig, Derrick May, produced for 2 years. He named his event Movement, replacing the Detroit Electronic Music Festival along the Detroit city riverfront. Derrick May claims Carole Marvin stole the idea of festival from himself and Carl Craig. Her actions created a rift in the electronic music community in the talking a self righteous stance, by firing Carl Craig.[23][24] In 2004 Kevin Saunderson and Ade' Mainor produced the Festival of Sound Electronically and International Nurtured, in short: Fuse-In for 1 year in 2005. Currently, the Detroit Electronic Festival is operated by Paxahau.

Derrick May also still maintains a steady performance schedule, playing internationally many weekends. A pioneer of techno, he produces what he calls Hi-Tek Soul or "George Clinton meeting Kraftwerk in an elevator."[13] He has also cited Yellow Magic Orchestra, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Ultravox as influences.[25]

May contributed to BBC Radio 6 Music's 6 Mix in May 2013.

With X-Ray

  • "Let's Go", 1986

As Rhythim is Rhythim

  • "Nude Photo", 1987
  • "Strings Of Life", 1987
  • "It Is What It Is", 1988
  • "Beyond The Dance", 1989
  • "The Beginning", 1990
  • "Icon" / "Kao-tic Harmony", 1993

As Mayday

  • "Sinister" / "Wiggin", 1988

As Derrick May

  • Derrick May: Innovator, 1996
  • Derrick May: Mayday Mix, 1997

With System 7


French Documentary Techno Universal, 1996[26] Interviews with Derrick May inside Detroit's Michigan Theatre, in the Michigan Building. Speaking on the inspiration of the music and how it blew up in Europe and was literally ignored in the United States. Interviews May's peers many others who have contributed to the burgeoning genre of music was recognized by the world.

Modulations, 1998 the Evolution of Electronic Music.[27]

May appears in a documentary film High Tech Soul (2006), which investigated the deep roots of techno music alongside the cultural history of Detroit, its birthplace. High Tech Soul focuses on the creators of the genre — Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson — and looks at the relationships and personal struggles behind the music.

External links[edit]

Media links[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Derrick May Biography
  2. ^ "Derrick May Bio, Music, News & Shows". Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Techno legend Derrick May makes cryptic 2015 announcement - Global Dance Music - Listen, Download, Dance, Free". Global Dance Music. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  4. ^ "Derrick May @ The Barn, 24-08-1989". Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  5. ^ a b Administrator. "Derrick May - The Secret of Techno". Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  6. ^ Bush, John. "". allmusic. 
  7. ^ a b Brunner, Vincent. "Heavenly - Les Inrocks". Les Inrocks (in French). Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  8. ^ High tech soul. Dir. Gary Bredow. Plexifilm, 2006. Film. High tech soul. Dir. Gary Bredow. Plexifilm, 2006. Film. (24:37).
  9. ^ High tech soul. Dir. Gary Bredow. Plexifilm, 2006. Film. High tech soul. Dir. Gary Bredow. Plexifilm, 2006. Film. (26:39).
  10. ^ Sicko, Dan (2010-04-15). Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0814337120. 
  11. ^ "Future Shock: The Emergence of Detroit Techno, Told by Wax Poetics - cdm createdigitalmusic". cdm createdigitalmusic. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  12. ^ a b "RA: Derrick May". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  13. ^ a b c "Interview: Derrick May - The Secret of Techno (archived)". Mixmag. 1997. Archived from the original on 30 April 2013. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  14. ^ Bush, John. "Derrick May". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "Midnight Club: Street Racing [Greatest Hits]: Information from". Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  16. ^ "Midnight Club: Street Racing - Credits". allgame. 2010-10-03. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  17. ^ "Detroit Techno Tourist: The Music Institute". Beatport News (EN). Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  18. ^ Telekom. "Mentors: Stacey Pullen On Learning the Ropes From Derrick May". Electronic Beats. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  19. ^ Chronicle, Michigan. "Michigan Chronicle - Electronic Music Festival at Hart Plaza". Michigan Chronicle. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  20. ^ "High Tech Soul". 2006. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  21. ^ [2] Interview: The List (Issue 594) - Derrick May, January 17, 2008
  22. ^ "Electronic Music Festival at Hart Plaza". The Michigan Chronicle. 
  23. ^ Collins, Lisa (May 22, 1992). "MetroTimes". 
  24. ^ "Clouds Settle Over Detroit Electronic Music Festival". MTV News. Retrieved 2016-04-11. 
  25. ^ "Derrick May on the roots of techno at RBMA Bass Camp Japan 2010". Red Bull Music Academy. YouTube. September 20, 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  26. ^ djhuggy (2011-07-24), [Documentaire - Reportage] Universal Techno (1996), retrieved 2016-04-06 
  27. ^ BassExpression (2011-12-31), Modulations - History Of Electronic Dance Music Documentary, retrieved 2016-04-06