Paces is the Gold Coast's very own go-to future beats guru.
An early interest in producing hip hop beats eventually lured Mikey Perry and his buddy Benjo into the clubs as Surecut Kids. After cutting his teeth with a healthy dose of trap and Baltimore, Perry broke off on his own and reinvented himself as the Paces we know and love today. Nowadays, you can find him in the producer's chair for artists like Tkay Maidza, pumping out killer remixes of hits from artists like Hermitude, Alison Wonderland, Benson or Years & Years, or – just casually – touring around the country in support of his brand spankin' new album. 'Vacation' is a thirteen-track goldmine of tropical synths, jubilant drops and eclectic features from Rye Rye, Jess Kent, KUČKA, Oliver Tank, Reija Lee, and Guy Sebastian. Yep – the original Australian Idol. Oath!
We checked in with Mikey just a couple of days out from the release of 'Vacation' to ask about his massive 'Ship ~ Shore' boat party tour, the intricate process behind the album, what he can't stop listening to at the moment, the shifting relationship between dance music and the mainstream pop world, the power of social media, and his badass dog Chilli.
Best Before: Mikey! How are you doing?
Paces: Good thanks, man. I've been at it for a while. I was up at six, took my dog for a swim, and now I'm ready to work.
That doesn't really suit the classic DJ trend of staying up all night and then sleeping through the day.
P: *Laughs* Yeah, it definitely doesn't work well with the tour life, but it's great when I'm at home.
We're only a couple of days out from the launch of your album 'Vacation'. How are you feeling?
P: Yeah, wow. It's all getting so hectic now. I guess everything has been leading up to Friday. The media and touring has been gradually getting more and more intense. Hopefully people end up caring about the album. *Laughs*
How are your 'Ship ~ Shore' boat parties going so far?
P: So, so fun. SO fun! It was a bit of a risk – we thought people may have dismissed it as a corny idea, but everyone's been really receptive and genuinely into it. So far, it's been exactly what I wanted it to be.
A photo came up today in my newsfeed of a girl crowdsurfing in an inflatable raft over the dancefloor. That confirmed the loose times for me.
P: *Laughs* We actually got busted for that! The security guards were devastated because people were crowdsurfing. I brought those along strictly as decorations, but you know what inevitably happens when everyone gets a little bit drunk...
Where did the idea for the tour come from?
P: It was actually my manager's idea. He's a real 'ideas person', and he thought it would be a cool concept to play my main set at sea, and do after-parties on land. We all agreed.
Do you get seasick? Was this a raw deal for you?
P: Luckily, no. But because each weekend has been a four or five hour boat trip and then a few hours on a plane to the next city, I've definitely had that feeling of standing on dry land but still feeling a little confused. I've had a serious case of sea legs. *Laughs*
I've been listening to 'Vacation' quite a bit this week, and it's definitely got that beachy, sunny, tropical flavour to it. Is that a result of growing up and living on the Gold Coast?
P: I think so, yeah. It's all in the environment. There's not really any music scene to support what I do here, so you do end up spending a lot of time outdoors. I definitely did try to capture that sunny feel.
The 'drop' – or the moment in a song where people are going to be dancing the hardest to – is what everyone seems to be holding out for now. We're not sitting in pubs and having sing-alongs anymore. We're going out and dancing.
That seems pretty far away from your high school aspirations to play guitar in a famous punk band.
P: *Laughs* That was actually my first step into music. Let's be honest, I just wanted to be in Blink-182. That eventually led to in interest in hip hop music, actually. I bought some turntables and started off as hip hop scratch DJ.
How did you learn to produce beats and hooks?
P: A friend of mine from Melbourne taught me the basics of how to sample tracks on Logic. It was something I only tinkered with originally, but then I gradually become more and more involved until it completely took over my whole life. Now it's everything to me.
Was there a particular moment where you knew that you wanted to produce electronic music?
P: I think it was more of a slow burn. Before I was doing Paces, I was in a DJ group called Surecut Kids. We would play club and party mashups of hip hop, trap and Baltimore beats. Even then, I knew that music was going to be my life. I just wanted to somehow live off it, because it was what I genuinely loved. When I started making music as Paces, things started falling into place, and I felt like the world was telling me to pursue this career.
Do you miss making the heavy stuff?
P: Paces has 100% of my attention now, and it's probably a lot closer to what I listen to at home anyway. I will admit, though – I do miss wilding out to hip hop in the clubs. I'll always love that gnarly shit. *Laughs*
Speaking of what you listen to at home – what's been on your playlist as of late? I saw you tweet about listening to the new Kanye album during a plane ride the other day.
P: I was planning to listen to it, and then my phone download didn't finish in time! I just didn't want to blow it or dampen the experience. You know that all-important first listen ritual? I value that.
What else have you been enjoying lately?
P: I've been really into the latest album from Jeremih. I'm loving his particular flavour of RnB. I've also been eating up the new material from Tourist.
Me too. We have the same taste!
P: You must have good taste then. *Laughs* His new track "To Have You Back" is the one. It's just one gradual build up through the whole song, as opposed to the normal club format, which leaps back and forth from build up to drop. It's like he just doesn't give a fuck about what other people are doing. He's just doing what he wants to do. I love it!
Lately I've been thinking about how popular music has widened and embraced a drop as the main pull of a song, rather than a catchy chorus. It's like you don't just need a strong chorus anymore – you can build a song around a single good hook or drop. Is that something you've noticed?
P: Yeah, definitely. That's just a testament to how much dance music has bled into popular culture. The 'drop' – or the moment in a song where people are going to be dancing the hardest to – is what everyone seems to be holding out for now. We're not sitting in pubs and having sing-alongs anymore. We're going out and dancing.
It's interesting that you namecheck Tourist, because you have a song with Oliver Tank on 'Vacation', who I feel is in a similar vein. How did that come about? You two exist in such different realms in the EDM world.
P: Oh, man. I'm such a big fan of Oliver's music. His EPs are constantly playing at home. They're just beautiful lullaby anthems. He makes either amazing headphone music to concentrate on, or perfect bedtime music to have on quietly as you're drifting off. I've been a huge fan for a long time. I just took a longshot, and shot him an email out of the blue in the hopes that he would respond, let alone collaborate with me. It turned out that he knew my material, and was keen to work with me too. I sent over a track I wrote with him in mind, and he was really cool about it. Normally with vocals, I do all the processing on my end, but because that's such a big part of his sound, and he has all his own hardware that he loves to use, I left it all up to him. He worked his magic, and that was the track. I didn't want to mess with his sound. It ended up being a meeting point of our two styles, and I thought it worked out really well.
[Social media is] everything to an artist these days. It would be pretty unheard of to have any feasible level of success without some sort of online presence. How would anyone know about you otherwise?
When you select a feature vocalist like KUČKA or Jess Kent for a song, do you send them the bare bones of a track and they sing over it, or is it the reverse?
P: It could be either, really. Most of the time, I end up sending someone an instrumental with a reference where I really like the vocal or the vibe, just to help them understand what I'm after. Usually we'll go back and forth from there. On a track like "Sometimes" though, that actually started out as just an isolated vocal demo. It really depends on the song. You have to be ready to work in any way, shape or form if you're going to collaborate successfully with other artists. You have to be flexible.
You released "Nothing's Forever", your collaboration with KUČKA, quite a while ago. But I heard that you hadn't even met her in person until you guys played some shows recently!
P: *Laughs* Yeah. We met in real life way after the song had been released. We did a show together in Perth one night, and that was actually the first time we'd met face to face.
Was it a special 'emotional connection' moment?
P: Yeah, it actually was. It's so cool. I don't know if it's the same for everyone, but when I make a song with someone, it's inevitable that I'll form a connection with them. You get to know them in a pretty real way. When you meet them in real life, it's such a 'holy shit!' moment. I really do try to make friends with anyone I work with in real life – if it's in any way possible, of course. *Laughs* It's especially awesome when you can play shows together.
Do you find your relationship with social media and the internet has been instrumental in your success so far?
P: Absolutely. It's everything to an artist these days. It would be pretty unheard of to have any feasible level of success without some sort of online presence. How would anyone know about you otherwise?
Do you enjoy tweeting, gramming and sharing? Do you take the reins on that yourself for Paces?
P: Yeah. I love it! I love being able to connect with my fans. It's a channel of communication that we never had in the past; if someone comes to my show and has a great time, and then they message me on Facebook letting me know, I can get right on their level and reply directly. It's vital.
I think the internet has played a key role in the rise of Australian electronic music in particular. I mean, look at the tracklist of your album – it's pretty much a collection of everyone who's killing it right now.
P: *Laughs* Thanks man. It's funny – when I make a track with someone in mind, I never really really expect them to be receptive, or even respond. It's such a pleasant surprise.
Speaking of pleasant surprises – how did you end up with Guy Sebastian on your album?
P: Oh, man! That was the craziest collaboration of them all. It was a total surprise to me, but Guy was actually a fan of Paces. He asked me to come down to Sydney for a week and work on his album in his studio, which is incredible. He is such a legend. He's such a normal, down-to-earth dude. We got along so well. After that, I had the instrument for "Desert" done, and there was a reference vocal in place, because the vocal is actually written by Alexander Burnett from Sparkadia. I just had to find the right person to sing that vocal. I knew that Guy would be such a left-field choice, and I also knew he would absolutely crush it. I anticipated that it may cause a bit of a stir as well because he's a mainstream pop star. I ran it by him, and he was really cool with it. Of course, he smashed it.
Was there pressure to top "Angels Brought Me Here"?
P: *Laughs* Oh, yeah. I was freaking out. It's funny, though – he has this public image of being such an angel – excuse the pun – but he's actually just the realest person. He has such a great sense of humour, and he's just a normal dude.
I have to ask about your dog. I heard she's quite famous.
P: *Laughs* That's Chilli. She's two years old. She's a little legend, and my constant companion. She comes to the beach with me in the morning, and then she spends all day asleep on the floor of the studio until around four or five in the afternoon. Then she's bringing toys to me and begs for attention. *Laughs* She's a huge part of my life, so I'm also posting photos of her. Actually, everywhere I go, people ask me – "Did you bring Chilli?" *Laughs*
Has she been turning up with you at the boat parties?
P: *Laughs* No, but I'm sure she'd love all the attention. I don't know if she's ready to party that hard, though!
Paces' debut album 'Vacation' is out TODAY via etcetc – grab your own copy via iTunes.