Not all superheroes wear capes and Paces is the proof
2017 is teaching us that, for better or worse, anything is possible and everything will happen. You gotta be awake and you gotta be ready. If you blink, even for one second, you could miss that golden opportunity that will change your life. However, there comes a point where you stop waiting for opportunities to come to you, and you go and make them yourself. And that, through and through, has been the raison d’être of Mikey Perry, otherwise known as PACES.
Having recently hit a three year anniversary with record label ETCETC MUSIC, Paces is breathing in retrospect before setting his sights firmly on his future – which for the rest of the year means embarking on his massive tour in support of his equally massive new single ‘Creepin’. Through the rollercoaster that the Gold Coast producer has been riding for the past few years – the release of his debut album Vacation, earning production work with some of the country’s biggest artists (Guy Sebastian, Tkay Maidza) and the insignificant, non-important lifestyle change of now being a father – it seems that the man often referred to as the nicest guy in the industry is finally letting go of the safety bar and letting the rushing gusts of life whirl through his fingers.
With the sun glistening down upon me and listening to his tropical bops to gear up the interview, it seemed only fitting that I call the man of the hour from outside assuming he’d be basking in QLD’s glow as well. But, true to form and something I should’ve pre-empted, Paces was hard at work – “I’m having my first day in the new studio.”
I did see that on Instagram, how is it?
Yeah, it’s so cool. I haven’t really gotten heaps of work done because I’ve spent a lot of time getting Chilli (his adorable lil dog) used to everything. Whenever she hears a sound, she’s like “what the hell was that?!” and I’ve gotta show her that there are different sounds here to what there are at home. Yeah, we’re getting there. This time next week, it’ll be normal.
What was the inspiration for getting your own studio space?
I’ve always just had a home studio in my second bedroom. That was great, but since Koa (his adorable lil child) was born it’s been far more difficult to get momentum happening during the day. Gabi, my partner, is so good at looking after him during my work hours but you just can’t help jumping up and giving her a hand and that really breaks your momentum. If I hear him crying for ages, you just can’t help but ask, “Do you want me to hold him for a bit?” 20 minutes later you come back to the desk and you forget what you were working on, then it takes another 20 minutes for you to get back into the zone. I’m the sole breadwinner so it’s pretty important that I’m being productive and it was actually Gabi’s idea to try and put me in a studio. She probably just wants me out the house.
Hahaha, I was actually about to ask. After being a parent, which is really one of the biggest lifestyle changes someone can have especially working in an industry that’s so volatile and unpredictable-
How has it shifted your approach to making music or the way you work?
To be honest, that’s the only major change. I’ve always been super focused and disciplined about how I work. Having Koa hasn’t changed any of that. I still get up super early. Make sure all other stuff is done so I can sit down to work at 9. All that stuff has stayed the same, I just do it in a separate location now.
Is keeping that regimented schedule hard when you’re, essentially, running your own business and does it inhibit creativity?
Nah, not for me. I look forward to it so much, man. Each night when I’m going to sleep I’m so excited for it to be morning so I can get stuck back into music again. It’s rad. I really look forward to it so that has made me have the schedule I have rather than, “Oh, I better do this.” It’s more just like, “I love it so much that I better create hours so I’m not doing it all day and all night.” Keeping my hours to restrain how much I do it, in a way.
Just switching gears a bit, buddy. The Creepin’ tour is about to kick off. How pumped are you?
I’m so psyched, man. I just took four months off from touring when Koa was born.
Yeah, it’s been a minute.
Totally. Playing shows is one of my absolute favourite things in the world. I’ve missed it over those past four months, I’m really psyched to get back out there and build a bigger show than I’ve ever had before.
One thing I’ve noticed from seeing you a few times now is that your production value of your shows – even when it’s just a festival set – it’s so big compared to what a typical producer or electronic artist would do. You’ve got dancers, you’ve got the sickest of visuals. Was that always a conscious decision of yours to make your shows as big as possible?
Totally. I appreciate you noticing, man. That’s definitely one of the goals behind my live shows. I’ve always wanted to make it as much of an event as possible. I’ve never wanted to be just that guy standing on stage with a laptop and just playing some music. I’ve always wanted it to feel like you’re at this crazy carnival and there’s all these surprises. My yardstick for what I’m shooting for is somewhere around a Major Lazer/Hermitude/Flosstradamus level of production.
Oh yeah, I definitely see that!
The showiness and the emphasis on the live aspect that they do is what I reference when I’m trying to put together ideas for the next tour.
When I think of Major Lazer, especially, it’s almost a spectacle. It’s such an awe-inspiring thing to behold and experience as opposed to just seeing Diplo there do his thing.
Totally, and they could so easily just be lazy, bring one visuals operator and just stand there and play a DJ set. But instead they bring dancers, guests and they have so much production going on. It really sets them apart. Whether you’re super into their music or not, I think everyone can appreciate what they put into their show.
It sets them apart, and in the same way, it sets you apart from other producers working in Australia. Of course there are so many things permitting – obviously not every artist can have dancers and stuff like that – but I feel like you’re utilising your resources really well and making it fun for everyone who sees it.
Thanks man. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making a silly decision by putting so much of the money back into the shows when I could just do a stripped down thing and keep more of the pay. But I think it’s important to find some sort of way to stand out from everyone else because there’s a lot of people doing it.
I think it’s working, and everyone else I’ve spoken to about it loves it too. The last time I saw you live was at Hot Dub Wine Machine back in March. It’s been a while. But that gig you brought out some unknown artist called Guy Sebastian. He’s pretty underground, he’s alright.
[Laughs] I do what I can.
That element of surprise is something that really works. You look at Coachella and every artist is bringing up some other artist or they include some element in their show that makes people talk about it. So, is bringing out live collaborators something you like to do?
That’s the dream outcome. You can’t always get the same person who was on the song to come out because everyone has schedules and different agendas. But when it happens, it’s so cool because it feels like you’ve gone full circle on a project. From coming up with an idea, making a rough demo version, getting in the studio, doing it properly, having it released, watching the release cycle and then actually performing it live together. It makes it feel worth it.
I imagine that would be insane. But, on that note, you’ve got some special guests coming on the tour that everyone is excited about it.
Totally, man. It’s such a dreamy lineup for me.
Did you handpick FEKI and MUKI to support?
Usually, I have a list of potential people I’d like to bring along. I generally start at the top and work my way through, depending on everyone’s schedules and stuff like that. I got lucky with this one – the people that were at the top of my list were down to do it. Feki’s been one of my favourite producers since he started. So much love for that guy, such a great dude and such a brilliant producer. I feel like there’s a lot of crossover between our audiences. A lot of people who like one of us will probably like the other. Muki, on the other hand, is a good mate of mine who I’ve worked with before under a different name. Now that she’s launched her Muki project, I just think she’s one of the most exciting upcoming acts that are around at the moment. I was so sure that I wanted to bring her along. It’s cool, too, because she can jump up during my set and sing a song or two. Our two worlds work together.
It’s a really good combination of realms that makes for a really diverse viewing experience for anyone who watches the whole show.
That’s the plan!
So obviously this tour takes up a good chunk of the next two months, and somehow 2017 is almost over. The success of ‘Savage’ has just been absolutely bonkers. Has that been the highlight of your professional year so far?
I really liked that song when I made it but I had no idea it would do as well as it did. I just found out that ‘Savage’ has hit 7,000,000 [plays]. Every time I hear a stat like that it’s such a surprise. I’m always blown away.
Let’s quantify it – is it hard to fathom 7,000,000 people listening to your song?
Yeah, exactly. The number doesn’t mean anything because I can’t comprehend how massive it is.
To reference ‘1993’ and your work with Tkay and your Hottest 100 entries, do you ever get used to people on a large scale listening to your stuff?
I can’t imagine how anyone could ever get used to it. It’s so weird. When you making these songs, most of the times you’re just in a room by yourself. You’re making some weird pop song with these sounds in it that you like but you have no idea if it’s gonna connect with a single other person, ever. When it really connects on that level, it’s such a weird surprise.
It must make it all worth it.
Totally, yeah, it’s so cool. When a song goes as well as that one, and then you get to play it at shows and people are singing it back to you, it’s overwhelming. It just feels like, “Oh, man, I’ve made some little blip of positivity in someone’s life.” If they have some positive memory attached to it, that’s the coolest thing about it.
From a personal experience, my major introduction to you was probably your production work on ‘Switch Lanes’ and from there I, like everyone else, have been keeping an eye on you. Your work always just transports me to this utopian, summery paradise.
Yep, that’s the idea.
Haha, I was gonna say was that ever the intention?
I really enjoy dark sounding music as well. Some of my favourite stuff to listen to is down the melancholic end of the scale, but I think what I’m trying to do when I’m making music is just trying to bring joy to people, man. Same with the shows – I just want people to take an hour off of whatever their problems are and just enjoy partying together, you know?
Completely get it. Going back to Woodes, Feki, Muki, what I’ve noticed is that you really immerse yourself in new and upcoming artists – like really new. Is that something that’s really important to you?
It’s so important. I mean, yeah it’d be nice to drop $100,000 for some feature from some huge pop star, but it feels more important to be connecting with the new generations. The most exciting thing to me is when you discover someone that’s so dope and not many people know about them yet. You think, “Fuck, we could make something really cool!” and if they’re keen it feels like there’s no pretence or pressure yet. You get to do something really out of the blue together.
I guess in that respect, is it sort of retrospective on your come up in the industry? Do you feel like you were welcomed with open arms?
In a way. It’s been hard work – nothing was handed to me. I’ve always had a really good team around me, and that’s made all the difference. Even just at the start when I just had a booking agent, then it got to a point let’s bring on a manager and now it’s like label, publicist, and the whole thing. That’s where I’ve really felt the welcomeness. Each person that’s been added to my team has been the right person and that’s opened so many doors.
On a final note, you recently had your three year anniversary with the legends over at etcetc. Obviously your career has taken such a crazy trajectory in that space of time. Looking back now, what would you say to 2014 Mikey?
Don’t you wish you could go back and do that? I wish I could just reassure myself that I am doing the right thing. Don’t be so stressed and anxious about it. It’s such an unstable career – you wake up every day and worry if people aren’t gonna like your music anymore.
Or you can wake up tomorrow and have 50,000,000 streams.
Haha, exactly! The big demon that you have to battle is that uncertainty. It’s blind determination that keeps me going. All I’d say to younger Mikey is just, “Chill out, you’re doing the right thing.”
Do you still get anxious about decisions you make or are you letting it happen?
Still getting anxious around big decisions, but less so than what I used to. I’ve been through enough of a roller coaster so far that I’m starting to relax into it. Plus it’s boring if you get too used to it. That’s why I left my office job. I knew exactly what was going to happen every day at work. Things still happen that make me freak out, but the next bit of good news is always around the corner. And I was miserable at that job anyway.
Well are you happy now in your current job?
So happy, now. So happy.
PACES – ‘CREEPIN’ TOUR DETAILS
with guest vocalist Woodes and special guests Feki, MUKI
Ticket details available here.
Friday 13 October – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday 14 October – Fat Controller, Adelaide
Thursday 19 October – Uni Bar, Wollongong
Friday 20 October – Academy, Canberra
Saturday 21 October – Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Sunday 29 October – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay
Friday 3 November – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday 4 November – This That Festival, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 10 November – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
Saturday 11 November – Elsewhere, Gold Coast
Words by JACKSON LANGFORD