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Soul goes Hi-Tek with Derrick May

by Richard Smart

“Basically I’m trying to save the world from bad . . . soulless music in whatever form that may be,” 44-year-old DJ Derrick May says on his Web site. So its pretty safe to say there will be no remixes of Spice Girls songs in his set at the Hi-Tek Soul events to be held Nov. 3 and 11.

May is a Detroit legend who achieved royalty status in the early dance music community when he released the “Strings of Life” single under the pseudonym Rhythim is Rhythim in 1987. The song was seminal, combining soulful piano and classical strings with house percussion, and its popularity has endured to this day, with new remixes of the song played at clubs worldwide almost every year. After its release, along with school mates Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins, he is credited with establishing techno and helping Detroit gain a reputation as a major city within dance music.

Perhaps because of his negative views of the money-hungry record industry, in 1991 May pretty much stopped producing music. Since then, the odd collaborative track has appeared and he has released the occasional remix, but his main focus has been on DJing, making May something of an underground hero.

Expect soulful music made on machines from May’s set at Hi-Tek Soul. His music rarely gets as heavy and industrial as some of his Detroit counterparts, notably Jeff Mills, but also manages to stay away from cheese. As the man himself says, his goal is “to expose creative-minded people around the world to a high-performance dosage of exceptional-quality music,” that is produced out of love for dance culture, not a need for money.

“I’m taking no prisoners on my mission,” he says. “A superhero’s work is never done.”

Hi-Tek Soul Japan Tour stops at Yellow, Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo on Nov. 3, ¥4,000 with one drink, ¥3,500 with flyer, (03) 3746 2368; and waRter, Kashiwa, Chiba on Nov. 11, ¥3,000, ¥2,500 with flyer, (04) 7145 0150.