Detroit .:. Memorial Day Weekend:
Being the uber busy world-traveler and action fiend that he is, Derrick May is possibly one of the hardest people to hold down for a solid interview, but you know how the ladies of Fusicology are… making it happen, always. So we seized the opportunity to pin down our old friend Derrick at the Detroit Movement Festival 2009 right around his closing night set for a few, and then again later during a visit to the still-standing Transmat Records HQ on Gratiot Ave aka “Techno Boulevard.”
A full decade has passed since he and his colleague Carl Craig, along with festival producer Carol Marvin, took the reigns and made the first Detroit Electronic Music Festival happen, continuing for the 5 years after the inception of the now legendary Detroit music festival to push it through, regardless of the difficulties they faced. It seems that, finally, a symbiotic partnership is now taking shape between the Techno forefathers and foremothers, and the current festival production powerhouse and seasoned rave promoters, Paxahau.
We thought now would be a great time to get a glimpse of how Derrick sees the festival and the city of Detroit changing – or changing the face of its environment – during this monumental time in contemporary culture, and the dance music industry in general… (*exclusive video with Derrick May below*)
F: What is your perspective on Detroit’s role in the music industry as a whole right now?
DM: It’s not in a good a place at the moment… we don’t have the young artists stable like they need to be… the creative youth need to know they can approach their forefathers and foremothers… and be given the inspiration… Like, I don’t have a single demo from a young Detroit kid right now. I mean, I know that Juan (Atkins’) nephew has been working on some stuff and wants to start making music now, but that’s about all I’m aware of…
F: We know that the music industry is changing in a major way very rapidly right now… in your opinion, what do current artists need to focus on and/or invest in as a priority if they are looking for longevity in their career?
DM: Well, first of all, you actually have to be making quality music, to start. Yeah, good marketing is important, but if your music is whack, that’s only going to get you so far.
F: You chose to name the Detroit Electronic Music Festival “Movement” several years ago the year the you became director… do you feel that the festival today still represents what you meant the name “Movement” to mean when you dubbed it that? Do you see it to mean something else now, the same, or something more?
DM: When I had to re-name the festival, I chose “Movement” because it was this idea of having all these thinkers coming together and doing what it took to make it happen… and that was the whole idea. But, originally, I didn’t want to do it at a place like (Hart Plaza), originally I wanted to do a festival like this in teh warehouse district and take each building and turn it into a different venue and invite not only Detroit artists, but artists from all over the world to play.
F: Tell us a bit about what it takes to get your “idea factory” and your “product” OUT THERE… meaning, what are maybe 3 core things someone, especially a Detroiter, must be sure to do (or not do) to get to the next level (i.e. CONCEPT —> FRUITION), yet retain creative control?
DM: I mean, it’s pretty simple – the basics haven’t changed – you make a record or Cd, master it, invest in some process of promotion… it takes money. But there’s not real math or science to it… its fairly cut and dry… the formula is still pretty much the same. It’s the influencers, or the way the music reaches the people that has changed alot. The DJ used to have alot more influence – they were stronger, their job was righteous. Radio used to be reliable. Not anymore.
One problem is, alot of people listen only to their own music too much, you have to pull away from it… I don’t listen to other people’s music for direct influence… but I do have to pull away from my own head sometimes in order to get another perspective.
F: Was there anyone or anything behind you or working in conjunction with you during your earliest phases that you would not have been able to achieve what you have achieved without? Say 2-3 people or things over the course of your first 5 years or so?
DM: For me, Mojo and Ken & Greg Collier were huge influences on me… them and Jeff Mills and a slew of others… they gave me the guts to really stand up and do it.
F: Why do you still call Detroit home, when you could live anywhere in the world?
I believe in myself and the people around me… and I feel compelled to represent something…
I know that the people give it the potential to be the powerhouse it once was in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many don’t realize or remember that Detroit was at one time a testing ground for radio – early 80s – (Mojo for example) – there was a much larger population first of all, there were still over a million people here, there were a number of nightclubs playing quality music, varied music… it hasn’t been like that in some time now… but we need the youth to be inspired and motivated to make something like that happen again…
*Exclusive video courtesy 6 Minutes TV Detroit*
— Jocelyne Ninneman for Fusicology.com