Derrick May

Who is Derrick May?

Play Video

Early Life

May was born in Detroit in 1963. By the age of 13, he attended school in the suburbs of Belleville, Michigan. This is where he met Juan Atkins. They soon began to exchange mixtape. This is when May was introduced to a wide range of music including George Clinton's Parliament Funk. Later on when he moved to Chicago, he stayed with his friend Kevin Saunderson. In the 1981, the two had been introduced to the craft of DJing by Atkins. Eventually the three formed Deep Space Soundworks: they joined together to share their favorite at clubs and parties.

The Music Institute

Tired of his academic life in college, May returned to Detroit, where a developed an appreciation for house scene, which made him feel a sense of community. In collaboration with Atkins and Saunderson, he created the Music Institute. This was a club aimed at the coming together of the residents of a community for the admiration of techno music.

His Recorded Music

In the early 1980s, May had only made a few recordings unlike his friend Atkins who had received great success with his 1981 local group Cybotron. However, it was because of this success that May was influenced to start seriously recording. He recorded his first song "Let's Go" on Atkins's Metroplex Records. From this point, May created his own record label called Transmat. (A subsidiary of Atkins's label). Then he released "Rhythm Is Rhythm" along with the Transmat single "Nude Photo". He later produced songs like "Strings of Life" "Freestyle" "It Is What It Is" and "Kaos"

Impact in Britain

He crossed over racial, ethnic, and even national barriers with his music. His singles like "Strings of Life" was extremely popular in Great Britain in the late 1980s during the House music scene. Because of this, he became one of the most famous techno artists touring England at this time.


Singles & EPs

DJ Marcello & Derrick May-Serenity    100% Pure (1995)

System 7/ Derrick May- Mysterious Traveller- Limited Sampler  A-Wave (2002)

Nitzer Ebb vs. Derrick May  NovaMute (2003)

System7* & Derrick May- I Travel Ep (4xFile, MP3, EP, 320) Groovin’ High Records (2009)

Detroit 2001, Unreleased> 05 Days Off Live Mix (12″, Mixed) Not On Label (Derrick May)

In 87 (Acetate, 10″ W/Lbl) Not On Label (Derrick May)



Rhythem Is Rhythm/ Derrick May- Innovator Network Records, Transmat (1991)

Innovator  Transmat, Transmat (1996)

System 7/Derrick May – Mysterious Traveller  A-Wave  (2002)

His Life in the 1990's

He had hoped to create a music group with his friends Atkins and Saunderson that would be called Interlex. This group would be a Kraftwerk styled techo group. This was supposed to be his big compact after he experienced a few personal life setbacks and after his fame in England started to die down in the late 80’s.

However his attempts and negotiations he made with ZTT Records eventually fail through as far as the group was concerned.  So, declined offers to sign with other record labels and it is said that he quit producing music all together. Although he did assist with making music for Steve Village’s debut album called Hillage’s System 7

He continued to DJ around the world. And, his label Transmat was still extremely successful as it featured tracks from Juan Atkins’s Model 500, Stacy Pullen’s Silent Phase, and Carl Craig’s Psyche. 

In 1995, he accepted an offer by Sony to use one of his tracks Rhythm Is Rhythm for their game Ghost in a Shell.

Author's Opinion And Work Cited

Author's Opinion: I enjoyed this deep study of techno influencer Derrick May. I had not known about the trio Atkins, Saunderson, and May. And, now I am greatful for the knowlegde that I have acquired throught this intensive research.
Audra Davison
Work Cited:

What's your password?

Login to your account

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.