"It's less natural for me to make/play 'straight' rhythmically," says this formerly Melbourne-based producer extraordinaire. Keeping things conventional is something that Brian May, currently operating under the DJ Delay banner, doesn't do.
Recently migrating to Germany, DJ Delay is one of six projects he currently has on the go. The consummate producer-DJ hustler, manic May clearly has trouble remaining in one place or one genre for too long. It is May's lifelong musical pedigree that helps differentiate him from the endless parade of sound scientists. His time as a radio presenter, including a 12-year run producing the revered Into The Groovy on PBS, also helped broaden his horizons. "It certainly fuelled my addiction for seeking out new sounds. When making music it can get in the way."
May started his journey early and soon got the bug. "Playing an instrument from such an early age definitely means that playing live music is more satisfying." He is a world away from the big band genre he started in, admitting "musically the only thing that seems to have stuck is the swing aspect." While on paper it may look like a big muddled pot of beat juggling, it sounds quite clear when described by the man himself. "My solo efforts are split this way - DJ Delay DJs (several styles) and makes remixes. Beam Up makes mostly downbeat electronic tunes with a big dub influence. Sonical makes mostly 'pure' electronic music (club & experimental)." Word.
May's six running projects are not out of the ordinary in a scene known for workaholics. He says this has been "the norm in Melbourne during the 90s with the people I knew. Some friends had over 10 live acts running simultaneously."
The time: 1989, the place: Melbourne. A young Brian May ventures from the waters of the UK to the golden soil of Australia. It didn't take him long to become an important part of the Aussie dance tapestry, wearing the hats of promoter, publicist and performer. Leaving his mark on the still-rapidly growing Melbourne scene, he has ventured to another capital of pulsating rhythms and musical machismo, Berlin. Reflecting on his former home, May says "I'm assuming the house price madness of the last 15 years has had an effect Australia wide." He is pleased to know that the community he helped foster is still in fine form, "I've heard warehouse parties are back in Melbourne. Sounds good."
The purveyor of electro with a swing is now at work in his new homeland, cooking up something sure to be funky fresh. "I've started an electro project here in Berlin. It remains to be seen whether there will be much swinging electro here." From one bubbling hotspot to another, May's style is sure to fit like a glove in the home of Paul Van Dyk and Kraftwerk. "Superficially I can say Berlin now has a similar musical vibe to Melb in the 90s. Hyperactive, diverse and it's more affordable to live here than other cities."
Jokingly saying that he may sound like a diplomat, with his globetrotting ways, he has been exposed to a myriad of cultures and influences by not staying in the same place for too long. "Sometimes moving countries is down to circumstances, and others to get a bit of a kick-along. Moving countries definitely pushes you in different directions and can become a bit of an addiction, making it hard to stay in one place. The fact that Melb kept me for 15 years says a lot. You don't have to move to be inspired or get a new challenge, but sometimes it helps, when you have the chance."
Despite the current trend of music "beginning to mash into one homogenized blob," May doesn't think "much will change in the big picture with diversity." While genres and categories are seen as a crude industry tactic to box and sell music, he believes they are a necessary evil. "It helps record labels and media too," the DJ says. "For me genres are points of reference we create to try and filter what we listen to." At the end of the day though, it's the visceral response that counts. "Kids either jump up and down or not when they hear music - It's fun or not. Good to remember this once in a while!" Weak-ass DJs beware.
Over his years he has also seen and heard what hits the spot for his listeners in different areas. "Some things I've seen the last 2 years - In Poland people start dancing from the 1st needle drop, whatever the music. Berlin loves the kick drum. Switzerland and Hungary have been pretty fired up from the get go too."
In an ever-changing world, some things remain the same. "As the old music industry empire crashes to the ground," and the internet continues its stranglehold, May remains ever the globe trotter and experimentalist.
DJ Delay [BER] plays the Mercat Basement on Saturday March 5.