May 05 2016

Derrick May, The Innovator

New York-Le Bain
We sat down with the Godfather of Techno before he plays all night in Le Bain's booth on Saturday, May 14th.
LE BAIN: We asked Kai Alce about one highlight of his experience at Detroit's seminal club, The Music Institute, and he told us about the time you tested your remix of Inner City’s "Good Life" out on the system. Do you remember that moment? 
DERRICK MAY: I don't unfortunately, but this does not reduce its importance. There were so many important moments happening at that time that it’s impossible to remember them all. The Music Institute was ground zero for this music. It was magic in a bottle. It was maybe the best time of my life.
Rhythm is Rhythm's "Nude Photo" (Transmat)
Produced by Derrick May, 1987

The Music Institute might be at the core of the techno mythology and history, but it is less documented than other 
seminal American clubs. Could you share one of your own highlights there?
Playing "French Kiss" by Lil' Louis for the very first time in the club while being one of only 10 or 20 people in the world that had a copy of the record, and watching people go absolutely berserk, and then playing the record again minutes later. I actually think I played the record 4 times in a row.

Your friend and techno pioneer Juan Atkins once said, “I’m more interested in Ford’s robots than Gordy’s music.” (He was more interested in the new technology of Detroit's Ford auto factories than in the traditional R&B musical output of Berry Gordy's Detroit record label Motown.) As you reinterpret your body of work with orchestras around the world, how would you describe your relationship with technology today? 
I would describe it as respectful and cautious, unlike most people that do not understand and are oblivious to the true power of what they don't understand.
Rhythm is Rhythm's "It Is What It Is" (Transmat)
Produced by Derrick May, 1988

You said you would like a movie about techno to be made. If you had to choose your perfect Hollywood cast, who would you hire?

I think unknown actors would be best in all these roles, and I'd pick a young producer who is not afraid of the industry and is compelled to tell what really happened to us and how we truly came to this point.

What’s your favorite movie with Detroit as a background? 
True Romance.
Rhythm is Rhythm's "Strings Of Life" (Transmat)
Produced by Derrick May, 1987

Seth Troxler told us he believes Detroit is ready for a renaissance. What would you say the city needs for a rebirth?

Not to turn its back on those that have been living in the city waiting and looking forward to being a part of the renaissance. The people that have been a part of this community will be a part of this community in the future, too.

Berlin techno entrepreneur Dimitri Hegemann of Tresor Club in Berlin has plans to restore part of the Packard Plant in Detroit and make it into a hotel and club. Do you think he’s got a chance? Is it the kind of investment the cultural scene of Detroit needs? 
No. Detroit needs such investments, but as I said before, it needs to come from within the community.

On Saturday, May 14th, Le Bain presents
Derrick May (Transmat) all night
Doors open at 10pm | The Standard, High Line
#LeSummer16