DERRICK MAY: Power to the People


Recording as Mayday, and Rhythim Is Rhythim on his own Transmat Records label, headquarted on Gratiot Ave., in downtown Detroit, May's "Strings Of Life" helped break Detroit techno overseas. A world-class DJ, Derrick May's club performances can be near religious experiences. An ambassador for Detroit and techno, May's Transmat label continues to break new acts in electronic music, including Aril Brikha, and Indio.

Why Detroit?

You know what it is? Detroit makes you feel like you can make something happen here. So I stay here for that reason. I look around and I see a lot of ambition. Maybe other people just see a lot of dilapidated demolished buildings, a lot of neglect - but I see a lot of opportunity.

I travel around the world, and whenever I come home, I feel depressed. Really depressed. And then I sit here in the window for awhile, and I start to realize all the opportunities that sits in these buildings and sits on these streets, and I stay downtown. That's it. That's my reason.


Why Movement?

I don't know why the hell I'm doing this (laughs). Okay getting it back in the hands of the artists, that was cool. But I did it because I just thought that we had to set an example in the community to take back control of the community. We have had some resistance. And as if it isn't already hard enough to put the event on, arrange everything in four months time, deal with the licenses and the learning curve - then we have to deal with people judging our abilities - not on what we're doing, but on what they think might go wrong. It's this typical Michigan mentality. People sort of expect things to fail here, they sort of accept it. "Oh, it's not going to be that good." Or "It's too crowded, I don't want to go."

That's been Detroit's legacy. It's a town that was never finished. They started building a downtown - first down on Woodward, then in the New Center area. They tore up the streetcar system cause they wanted people to drive cars, then they tore up the neighborhoods for the freeway. It's just a city that seems to have had no real consistent development. And there's this sort of antisocial mentality of the car that creates this environment where people can't believe in anything. They look around and all they see is what Detroit was, not what it could be.

The way to overcome that? You do the festival. You live downtown. You make it happen. You dream when other people sleep.

Detroit does not have to stay like this. But it's not going to change unless young people make it happen, because ain't nobody old going to do nothing.


What do you think about the future of Detroit?

Right now, you've got a mayor who's in his thirties, you've got an infrastructure full of opportunity. You've got a city that sits on the border with Canada. It's an international city if it wants to be. People just need to see the envelope, open it up and see that there's an invitation here. Come on down.

But if it doesn't happen in the next four or five years, then it's not going to happen for a long time, because people will establish families elsewhere, and their kids will establish families elsewhere.
It used to be people moved to the suburbs to escape the city. Now, people live in the suburbs because it's nice and clean, and their shops are over there and everything is right at their fingertips.

So for kids to come down, it's going to have to start with a sense of inspiration. The independence you feel living here, you won't feel anywhere else - and at the same time, it makes you feel like you're part of something. But the kids have to be enterprising too. It can't just be these bohemian kids smoking weed, you know? They've really got to be enterprising and driven to change this city.


What are your hopes for the future of Movement ?

The festival needs to be an experience that goes on and on and on and stretches out to the schools, and to the kids and the community and inspires people. They need to be able to look at ...the people involved in making the festival happen, and realize that we're just like them. We live on Gratiot, we live here, we live there. And we made it happen. That's where you start to develop something more than just a festival - when you can bring people together, and they go back in the community feeling inspired, and flip (inspiration) into cafes, and restaurants, and opportunities for a lot of people in the city who feel like there isn't shit going on. What I can't handle is the idea that this thing could fail - because it was misunderstood. For the last three years the festival hasn't benefited anyone. Being headquartered on Gratiot, being put together downtown - there will be a reaction to this. There will be a reaction.

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