Dance music’s history is one of those things that grinds our gears – mostly because our predecessors did an utterly appalling job of documenting it. Yes, we all know a lot of people were out enjoying themselves in those heady early days – but are we really meant to believe none of them thought it would last?
The result of all this is that a lot of what’s been written was just plain wrong – and there are few better examples than the Belleville Three fairytale. The story was originally scribbled up by Neil Rushton, a British journalist who was working at Virgin Records when they were compiling an album full of Detroit techno goodies.
The three men – Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May – were placed firmly at the centre of Detroit techno, and it was a status all three men greatly enjoyed. No one challenged the story for decades – and the dance music press continues to parrot it now, even when they know that much of it simply isn’t credible anymore.
One man who has certainly done very well out of Detroit techno is Carl Craig. Whilst most of his peers have done a pretty poor job of managing their money, Craig has become a wealthy man – thanks in part to the brains behind the operation, his wife Hagi. She has bargained hard for decades to ensure her husband got the best pay possible for tracks, remixes, and his live bookings.
Recently, Craig gave an interview to Vintage King – where he spoke about things like how the music industry has changed over the years, his studio setup, and the way he got started all those decades ago. A familiar narrative emerged quickly.
Speaking about his formative days in music, Craig said “For any musician that’s trying to get on, especially if you’re not rich, you’ve got to beg, borrow, and steal to get whatever you can to craft your work. So I had years of borrowing gear that I gave back and borrowing gear that I didn’t give back.”.
What Craig doesn’t mention is that many of those in Detroit had even more cavalier attitudes to the hardware of other people. Derrick May, for example, once sold a Roland TR-909 to Frankie Knuckles in the late 1980s – pocketing a cool $1000 from Knuckles in the process.
It actually belonged to Juan Atkins and had been sold without his permission. He wasn’t best pleased…