The remastered double 12-inch includes an unreleased 13-minute version of "Hand Over Hand."
Network was founded by Neil Rushton, the UK soul DJ who helped bring techno to Europe with the legendary compilation, Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit, which he compiled as an A&R for Virgin. He'll relaunch Network, 30 years after its first release, with an expanded, double 12-inch version of May's Innovator. In addition to remastered versions of classics like "Strings Of Life" and "Nude Photo," the reissue includes a never-before-heard 13-minute version of "Hand Over Hand."
We spoke to Rushton about his history with May and his plans for the resurgent imprint.
Tell us about your decision to relaunch Network. Why now?
Network started in 1990 so 2020 will be (incredibly!) the 30th anniversary. There's a lot of interest and affection for the label out there, so I thought it would be a good thing to celebrate the anniversary with some nice releases.
When did you first come into contact with Derrick May? What sets his music apart?
We had the Kool Kat label in 1987 and were looking for records to put out. I am a fanatic about Detroit '60s soul and had been there searching for records, the more obscure the better. When Detroit house records—nobody was using the term techno then—started being imported into the UK, I was intrigued because of my love for Detroit soul. I was mesmerised by Rhythim Is Rhythim's "The Dance," so I rang up the phone number on a Transmat label.
I had assumed from the artwork it was some kind of corporate setup but it was Derrick who answered and he explained it was a one-man operation—he made the music and released it on his own label. We clicked immediately and I told him we had the label and had endless enthusiasm and ambition but no money. I asked Derrick to come over to England and stay with me and my family over Christmas 1987.
Derrick got a passport and we raised the air fare and asked him to bring a couple of boxes of "Strings Of Life" which we would sell and put towards the costs of the flight and hotels! Derrick arrived and we got him three remixes so he made some money from the trip and he asked me to manage him. He explained what was going on in Detroit with Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins having their own labels. That got me thinking and I did a deal with Virgin for me to licence them a Detroit compilation, that became the 10 Records Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit album that is now regarded as iconic. Inner City's "Big Fun" exploded from that and I managed Kevin and Inner City.
What set Derrick's music apart? Where do I start?! When we released the Innovator EP In 1991 we came up with a subtitle "Soundtrack For The Tenth Planet" because it sounded like it had come from another world. I call Derrick the Detroit techno philosopher, and to me his philosophy was to create dance music which was frenetic but also had an emotional agenda. He created cerebral dreamscapes combined with urgent complex dance rhythms. His agenda is dance and dream. I love the fact that it can be so melancholy and a dance record at the same time.
Can you tell us more about the unreleased mix of "Hand Over Hand?" Why wasn't it released in 1991 and how was this version completed?
I remember the record being made. There was a vocal version done too, and I can recall being very excited about the potential of that. ZTT Records were interested in signing Derrick and Juan and we got to contract stage and "Hand Over Hand," in an uncompleted stage, was on their radar.
I am not sure when it was actually finished or why Derrick did not release it on Transmat at some stage. I am releasing the full 13-minute-long recording. The version that came out some years ago on the Japanese CD compilation was just a shortened edit.
I had been meeting up in Detroit with Derrick in recent years, and he agreed on the re-release of Innovator and when I asked about "Hand Over Hand" he came up with the tape and said I could add it to the release! I was very very pleased.
What's next for Network?
A series of releases in 2020 to mark the 30th anniversary. In addition to Derrick's release, there is a three-track EP by Nexus 21, Made In Detroit, on the way. The recordings were done at KMS in Detroit in 1990 with MK on percussion.
They sound amazing and I don't know why we did not release them at the time, especially as I remember being in the studio and feeling thrilled how the sessions had gone. This will be their first release ever! We are also re-releasing the very first Network release, Neil Howard's Indulge. And we are putting together a new Bio-rhythms compilation. There will be a lot of other 12-inch re-issues too.
Listen to clips from the new version of Derrick May's Innovator over at Above Board Distribution.
A1 The Dance
A2 Strings Of Life
B1 Beyond The Dance
C2 Nude Photo
D Hand Over hand
Network Records will release Innovator on February 7th, 2020.