Interview: Stacey Pullen
An innovator from the second wave of Detroit techno, Stacey Pullen grew up under the mentorship of Detroit’s legendary three: Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson.
A skillful producer who values quality over quantity, Pullen made his name via collaborations with Chez Damier and Kevin Saunderson before setting about crafting his own style that bridged the gap between house and techno and led to 2001’s artist album ‘Todayisthetomorrowyouwerepromisedyesterday’. As a DJ, he has spent more than two decades playing everywhere from intimate sweatboxes to the biggest festivals, and was an early guest in the hallowed DJ-KiCKS and fabric.
Stacey Pullen is an enduring artist who has never been subject to the pitfalls of the hype spotlight; he continues to be highly sought-after the world over and now, with the esteemed Balance series snapping him up for his first official compilation in six years, he does not disappointed with his multifarious selections.
With Balance 28 coming up (On November 6, to be exact – Pre Order here) we thought it was high time to catch up with Stacey Pullen to discuss the mix, as well as everything from the over saturation of online streaming, to Detroit, his set at the 10th anniversary of Movement Torino, and more.
Aside from Movement Torino, Stacey Pullen will also be part of the Decade of Saved celebraion on London on November 7 at FIRE. Stacey will be joined by Nic Fanciulli, Andrea Oliva, and more.
“They are waiting for something to happen [in the music] that they are used to hearing in pop culture, but the music we’ve been playing all this time is not geared toward that. It is a culture. It is a groove. It is a feeling.”
Before you were asked to contribute, what had been your impressions on the Balance series? Did you have any “favorite” past edition?
As they grew, I realized Balance looked for an eclectic style to DJs compiling their mixes. I realised they wanted to give the DJ freedom to compile music that inspired them; music that wasn’t always “peak”. For me, I’ve always had a strength to compile music in these situations. I grew up in an era where Detroit DJs had radio shows. They played music they wanted to play. Not music that the stations wanted them to. That was one of the strong points for me in getting excited about Balance, because I could present music that I don’t necessarily get to play on the road, or things I like, that I get as promos, I enjoy throughout the day.
Some of the Balance mixes I enjoyed, and got an idea of what the series was all about, were Radioslave’s from a few years back. Even Magda. She put some interesting tracks on her’s as well. I took that as a blueprint for the things I wanted to compile. I think it’s good to show a different side of my DJing rather than doing the typical Detroit techno set or what people think I am going to compile. I mean, if you listen to the mix you will still hear the Detroit influence, with melodies, drum patterns, and emotion, but there is also a whole array of music on there.
For me, the Balance I always reference is Joris Voorn’s edition from 2009 (I believe). It was one of the first times, if not the first, I had heard such a multi layering of music. He managed to put over a 100 tracks in there and, I think, really solidified his place as a forward thinking DJ with it.
Speaking from a structural perspective, what was the starting point of the mix for you? Was it a certain track or idea? Where did you begin?
It was more of a feeling. In my opinion, a lot of music that’s out are not single tracks and many of the 1000s I get would be good as album tracks. This doesn’t necessarily mean they should be released as singles. We are in this digital age where the album market has diminished and it’s all about the single or the remix so my starting point was this other music I was getting. Music I don’t play when I am DJing but I still love. I used this as my foundation combined with giving people insight into how I feel from an emotional standpoint. I like a good melody. Being from Detroit, we’ve always made music based on emotion and feeling. Once I started compiling the tracks, and found those that would make a good compilation, I went from there, including things that are old, new and Detroit.
It’s funny though, because some of the Detroit guys are still underground. They don’t want to have their tracks put out there like that. They are still independent based. It’s the Underground Resistance. They want people to search for them, rather than me putting them out there to gain commercial success.
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I remember asking Kölsch, about his Balance edition, on what was the most difficult aspect of putting a mix like this together. Without much hesitation, he said it was the licensing process. Did you encounter a similar issue?
Yes, definitely! Specifically, I would say about 10 or 11 tracks didn’t make it, that I wanted. 5 or so were from Detroit guys who said flat out “no” or didn’t respond at all, but there were also some others.
Balance did give me a nice time frame to go through the clearing process and, if I needed, find alternatives, so I didn’t have trouble compiling tracks even after some were rejected.
See also: Interview: Kölsch
As this is the first official mix you have done in 6 years or so, what criteria do you base these decisions on? I am sure you get offered mix opportunities all the time so you must have a certain decision making process here?
With Mixcloud, Soundcloud, and DJs posting their sets online through those sites, it has diminished the mix compilation approach. Now, you can just search a DJs name and find his set from years ago to yesterday. It has lost the nostalgic value of mix compilations and DJs presented in a mix format. What I thought when Balance approached me, as the first thing they said was “don’t worry about making people dance”, was that they pride themselves on the DJ having complete creative control.
With the market being flooded with mixes and music, I like to take the quality over quantity approach when I release things. That goes for when I am approving mixes that are online are not even affiliated with any label. I am very picky on what I approve to go out there. I like to make things special. I like to make it an adventure. Every now and then I may do a radio show or post an hour of a set, but I have to like the club or the other DJs or promoters.