Content warning: This article is about sexual assault.
The organizers of Paris Electronic Week have removed Detroit techno figurehead Derrick May from their 2020 event. Their decision follows allegations of sexual misconduct involving the DJ and producer that have recently come to light.
Seeking to expose May for a series of alleged misdeeds is Michael James, a sports writer from Detroit who has worked for The Detroit News, New York Daily News and ESPN. Among other things, James has accused May of using the promise of career opportunities to lure women around the world back to his hotel rooms to rape them in frequent Facebook posts dating back to Thanksgiving Day 2019.
The allegations did not immediately gain traction. James had initially cited anonymous secondhand accounts, causing some commenters on his posts to suspect that his current agenda against May stemmed from a longstanding feud between the two. James has said May owes him royalties for contributing the piano riff in his 1987 breakout single, “Strings Of Life,” one of the definitive first-wave Detroit techno works.
A week after the death of Erick Morillo, however, James made a post that served as an inflection point in his ongoing campaign. By comparing May to Morillo, who was awaiting trial in Miami for a sexual battery case, he introduced the allegations against the former artist to a broader conversation about sexual misconduct in the electronic music industry.
In the week that followed, at least two of May’s alleged victims publicly accused him of sexually assaulting them. Selector reached out to one individual, and at their request we will not disclose their identity or the details of their statement. The other has yet to respond.
Meanwhile, James has been criticized for sharing information shared with him in confidence by Ashleigh Lauryn, a Detroit DJ and journalist who said that May made inappropriate comments to her during an interview for Resident Advisor (that were left out of the published piece). While acknowledging the recent accusations against May as “valid,” she wrote that James betrayed her trust by sharing about them against her will in a post to her personal blog.
On September 14th, Paris Electronic Week announced that Derrick May would not appear at this year’s event.
“[Event organizer] Technopol is committed to ensuring of a safe and inclusive party for all. This is why questions related to security in party circles and consent will be widely discussed during the Paris Electronic Week that we are organizing on September 24th and 25th,” they tweeted. “In light of this, and following the recent accusations of sexual assault targeting the DJ and artist Derrick May who was to appear as part of our event, we have made the decision to cancel his presence pending a clarification of the situation.”
In a phone conversation with Selector, May said that he had not seen James in 24 years and argued that their dispute over royalties “spilled over” into the accusations. “We have a discrepancy over ‘Strings of Life’ that has spilled over into this very unfortunate thing which I don’t understand myself,” he said. “I would say that he is the one who should be asked the questions because I don’t have any of the answers to any of the things that are going on here. He started all of this, he put it out there, and he needs to be the one to explain this.”
May also addressed Technopol’s decision to pull him from the 2020 event. “I think that any promoter that gets caught in the middle of this, this is a business first and foremost so I understand their decision – I respect their decision – because they have to make money, they have to appease their fans, and that’s what this is all about, so don’t feel bad about me not working,” he said. “This is a business and I totally understand what’s going on here. I’m dealing with Michael James.”
“Michael James is getting himself in very deep water,” wrote May’s attorney, Kyle Dupuy, in an email to Selector. “He is making patently false, malicious statements regarding May without a shred of corroboration from May’s alleged ‘victims.’ His actions are calculated to ruin May’s career. The impetus behind James’ actions appears a to be a dispute over royalties. Legal action against James and anyone who recklessly parrots his allegations will be forthcoming.”
“The story is not about me and doing the right thing should be normal, not celebrated,” said James, who claims to have gathered almost 30 sexual assault allegations against May spanning 30 years, over Messenger. “That is what I wish to convey.”
Selector encourages anyone with information regarding incidents of sexual misconduct in the electronic music industry to email info@Selector.news with guaranteed confidentiality. We will provide more information on the Derrick May allegations as it becomes available.