Derrick May can’t play – and nor can Juan Atkins!

Last year, Ears To The House posed a simple question – can Derrick May play? Whilst his skills as an occasional DJ were not in doubt, no one knew whether the man himself could play any instruments. We did some digging and even spoke to a staff member who actually worked on his orchestral show a few years ago.

They confirmed to us he could not – adding that whatever he did attempt to play was “gibberish”. But somehow, we never thought to ask the same question to Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, the other two members of the so-called Belleville Three. Mostly because we’re only a small team and we can’t be everywhere at the same time.

Fortunately, Michael James – who started detailing allegations of sexual abuse by Derrick May months before the mainstream press did – is on hand. He wrote a lengthy Facebook post on Friday night comparing Juan Atkins unfavourably to Milli Vanilli – having run a series of posts recently questioning how much Atkins contributed to the Model 500 project with Rik Davis.

James links to a video from Boiler Room’s YouTube channel of a performance by Model 500 – without Rik Davis, naturally – and says “Here, Atkins, during an hour-long show where his keyboard doesn’t work at all, fakes playing alongside Mark Taylor – who cues up the actual recorded tracks on a sequencer – and additional keyboardist Milton Baldwin, aka DJ Skurge.”

“Also submitted is a little cheat sheet I’ve created so that you can jump to precise points in the video to see for yourself that Atkins appears to not even know which keys to press and never actually even positions his hands like a real musician accustomed to playing. The overall result is that Atkins uses the keyboard much more like an elderly person uses a walker – as something to hold onto to maintain his balance. The audience, enraptured by the sound, however, is none the wiser.”.

Here’s the video itself, with a few cue points helpfully provided by James himself below…

With various members of the Ears To The House team having watched the footage a few times over the weekend, can anyone work out if Atkins is actually doing anything other than speaking into the microphone here? Because goodness knows we certainly can’t.

We just wonder whether anyone else was in on this blatant scam…

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