Stacey Pullen has been a leading ambassador of Detroit’s techno machine since emerging as part of the city’s so called Second Wave back in the early 90s. Under the watchful eyes of Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, and Derrick May his name soon became hot property in its own right, attracting crowds to clubs and major labels to the table.
In between then and now there have been countless classic 12” cuts and mixes for Fabric and DJ Kicks (to name but two), while the business behind the music has altered dramatically. Interested to discover how one copes with the unstoppable waves of change we gave Pullen a call to ask about producing tunes, innovation in a time of saturation, and, of course, the dates he’s booked to play in Ibiza this summer…
Spotlight: Hi Stacey, how are you today?
Stacey Pullen: “I’m good, just here in Detroit trying to keep cool.”
There’s supposed to be a heat wave in the US, is that right?
“Yeah dude, I’m loving it. Just one more day to go before I head out on tour though so I need to take full advantage of it.”
So where do you go to first?
“Miami, then I fly to Paris, and then Sunday in Düsseldorf. All in all I’m going to be away a couple of weeks.”
And what have you been doing while back at home?
“I’ve been trying to fine-tune a tune that I have made with Mirko Loko, so we have been going back and forth with that. I’m also re-doing my studio, putting in some new audio treatments, and I’ve been trying to finalise my next release on Black Flag, which is a follow up to Get Up. So I’m trying to be productive with what little time I’ve had off.”
In terms of production, has your approach to the studio changed over the years?
“Yeah, of course. Now it’s a different generation, so I have been lucky enough to watch a generation shift and change, which has helped me to have longevity. So now when I approach music it’s a little different.
“But with me being from Detroit, and still in Detroit the focus remains, so I’m able to hear what’s going on, and there is so much music coming out- it’s an over saturated market if I’m being honest. That’s a good thing in some ways though, because it keeps you going to find out what’s the album or track of the hour… whereas it used to be ‘of the moment’!”
All Detroit heads strive to be considered innovative. How hard is it to be an innovator in 2011?
“I think, you know, being from Detroit we have that in us, and nothing can take it away; that’s the most important thing. But still trying to stay relevant is really just about fine tuning what you’ve already got. And hiring a PR helps!
“It was interesting, because back in the days it was all about being mysterious, and doing music under new pseudonyms, always keeping people guessing… ‘who’s this track by, what artist from Detroit made that?’… That was good when there was good competition and camaraderie amongst us here in Detroit.
“But nothing stays the same, you know. There are a lot of people from Detroit who have left, people like myself that still live here but spend so much time travelling all they have chance to do when they’re in town is relax. That said I think so long as we keep our ears to the streets, and educate the younger people to know that this didn’t happen over night it’s alright. And we also need to say we want to be educated too. I do especially, otherwise things stagnate.
Was it difficult making the transition from elusive to public persona?
“Yeah, but by default. I had an album out on Virgin around 10 years ago where I signed and in the process held myself back from producing under my own name. So I had to release stuff under different names, and only recently finally got the rights back to my own name.
“It’s a different ball game these days though, so I have to approach it differently, while letting people know it’s still one goal, one mission. So I got the experience of being mysterious, but now there’s so much everywhere it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, which means having a consistent name is essential.”
There’s been another wave of artists from Detroit in recent years with noticeably slower styles. Does that reflect a change in the city?
“Not really. One thing I do think is that from the young hipsters’ perspective this new, slower style has opened the doors. Some people will go that extra mile and find out why the music is slow, and discover it used to be much faster. That's how people get a chance to learn.”
Away from America, you’re booked for dates in Ibiza again this year. What was behind the decision of where to play?
“Well I was out there last year, and the year before, and wanted to play parties with people that I liked, and ones that were successful summer club nights. Detroit has always been about keeping it underground. That’s still part of who we are, but not necessarily how we work.
“I mean, being in the business for a while now you build up relationships, understand the market better, where music is going and how it is changing. Me, and the people I work with, so far as management and the agency goes, we have kind of zeroed in on the best gigs in terms of party and profile. We could talk for hours on how it wasn’t like this ten years ago, but the reality is this is how it is now.
“Playing with people like Luciano and Loco Dice, these guys have been around for a minute, but they have also been real influential in the music we have been doing too. Those guys name check us and we them as the people who have really got it going on right now, it’s just one of those things that happened naturally, but also we made it like that.”
So has your opinion of Ibiza altered as you have spent more time there?
“Well, I mean, it’s just recently there has started to be more of techno following out there. Cocoon has been doing it for a while now, but anything else was real scarce. So it’s good to see techno and the more purist music making a wave out there over the past few years.
“The Cocoon guys really stay focused on what they were doing, and try to get the right DJs involved to make a full movement. You know, Sven has been DJing for around 30 years, and I have for not quite as long, but still a while so it’s just understanding what he needs to do to keep competitive on the island, especially as there’s so much going on there.”
And, finally, what else is going on for you?
“Well, like I said there’s the new release on Black Flag. I’m also going to be re-releasing the old vinyl catalogue, digitally, and re-releasing my albums Silent Phase and Cosmic Messenger, as I have the rights to both again. There’s also a new artist who’s a real up and coming guy that I’ve kind of taken under my wing. He’s more of the young hipster type, but we need that around the city and the label to keep things fresh.
“I’ve always been an avid believer in making music that’s close to your heart but also straight from the soul of the city, you know. So now we’re in a different time, with a different generation, we have to keep that tradition, but also not be afraid of change. A lot of people love us here in Detroit because of what we have and continue to do, but you have to realise that the day has changed and so should we. So I guess that’s everything in a nutshell really- I’ve been busy for 12 years and more, and still am, which is cool.”
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