Can Juan Atkins play? As Michael James $4k prize pot goes unclaimed, Detroit sources have their own theories…

A few months ago, journalist Michael James – he who started writing up the allegations against Derrick May months before anyone else did – began asking new questions about Juan Atkins. He queried whether Atkins was able to play the keys and started a competition – anyone who could film footage that confirmed he could play would receive $1000 of his own money.

No footage was forthcoming, so James raised the money on offer to a more tempting $2000 – and a fellow collaborator matched his offer, making a total of $4000 available in prize money. Yet despite the dough on offer being raised by 300%, footage of Juan Atkins using his hands to play chords remains illusive. Even a search of material online by the Ears To The House team has yet to bear fruit.

So what’s going on? We would, of course, never dare to suggest the reason the footage doesn’t exist is that Atkins can’t play – our deep respect for the man himself prevents us from even thinking that. So we reached out to our sources in Detroit, several of whom know Atkins personally.

Their responses were much more mixed than expected. One told us that “I don’t know if Juan can play, actually. I know he knows his way around a studio because I’ve worked with him in one a few times. He’s really good on those old drum machines. He was brilliant on the mixing side and making everything sound just right, too. He definitely knew how to use those synthesisers, but I somehow never saw him playing chords.”.

Another said “He can play. I’ve seen him do it. I don’t know why he doesn’t just call out Michael James by posting a video of himself playing some keys on his Facebook page. Juan could even troll James by playing the ‘Strings Of Life’ chord progression and get $4000 out of it. Maybe it’s Juan’s pride stopping him from doing it. He can be stubborn like that.”.

Curiously, only one of our sources told us that Atkins could play – the rest didn’t know for sure either way. But even more curious was the fact none responded by saying he definitely couldn’t. For now, it therefore appears the mystery remains unsolved…

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