Dance Music Cities – Detroit
Detroit – Stacey Pullen

One of the biggest Techno DJs of all time hits DMC

Big new album coming out celebrating 2020Vision’s 15th Anniversary. But we’ll come to that later. Going way back then – born in 1990 in Detroit, tell us what family life was like back then, we hear it was one big house of music…
“Oh yeah, but I don’t wanna sound like a cliche, but my dad was in the group called The Capitals – they did a song called ‘Cool Jerk’. My Aunt dated Smokey Robinson in High School and her husband, my uncle, was the drummer for various local Motown groups.”

What one record changed your life and made you decide to go down the progressive route?
“It has to be ‘Numbers’ by Kraftwerk, that song was and still is pure electronic music.”

You were 15 when Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins were the first wave of techno forming their network of Detroit based labels. What did this radical new sound reveal to your generation of musicians?
“This new music form gave us expression in the inner city, it was a way of life, the way we dressed, what people we hung out with, being independent and most of all – being an artist. Now that we look back on it, they did not know what they were doing was revolutionary.”

Over in Chicago, it was the more vocal vibes thumping out courtesy of Farley Jackmaster Funk, Ralph Rosario and JM Silk – were you keeping an eye on them too, listening to what they were doing?
“Oh yeah! When I was in college I used to trade mix tapes with the Chicago guys and we use to critique them. WBMX Radio in Chicago was the shit man, I’m telling you. Even Bad Boy Bill had a show which was one of the top shows and I can’t understand how he has lost the quality of music that he use to play. How can he not acknowledge his roots by playing what he does now, it’s like he was never there.”

How important was attending Derrick May’s Music Institute Club? What did you learn there and what other DJs we know today went through those doors?
“I used to make the eight hour trips home from college just to go to the Music Institute. It was the first time I saw people of all backgrounds go and be free, we accepted each other regardless of who you were. It was only the Detroit guys playing at that time, you have to remember that this was way before out of town guests were introduced into the scene. On Fridays it was Techno with D-Wynn opening for Derrick and when Derrick was outta town you would have guys like Mike Huckaby, Juan would come down, Anthony Shakir as well. On Saturday it was more House and Disco, sort of what ‘Body & Soul’ does now and that was with Chez Damier and Alton Miller. I remember seeing Derrick & Carl walk in the club with a Reel To Reel in their hands and tested the track, what we know now as ‘Drama’.”

Before Techno, or ‘progressive’ as you liked to call it then as it was the sound moving with the times, it was Hip Hop dominating the streets of Detroit. How did this new sound go down with the Hip Hop headz?
“It was a gay thing to like Techno, House or Progressive back then ’cause we dressed different. If you were not sporting Kangos like LL Cool J or rocking some Adidas like Run DMC then you were an outcast or called a Preppy dude. But tracks like Model 500’s ‘Technicolor’ and Cybotron’s ‘Clear’ were and still are big songs in Detroit.”

So you quit college in Tennessee to return home to make music (listening to MC Hammer over and over would have made me go mad, not go home!) and virtually lived in the seminal club The Music Institute where people like Alton Miller and Chez Damier helped you progress – why was The Music Institute so good? What are your fondest memories of the club?
“It was the first club to play this music that we all now call Techno. It was found by the creators, originators and innovators in a black city that has such a deep and profound history of music. It was open until sometimes 5am which is now unheard of in Detroit. My fondest memories was listening to Mayday (which is what Derrick use to go by) dropping the track D-Mob ‘We Call It Acieed” about three times and everybody was screamin ACIEEDDD!!!”

After the release of your first Silent Phase track ‘Ritual Beating System’ as the Bango EP on Fragile, you were truly part of the whole Transmat, Metroplex/KMS team – all working in one building on three floors. There must be a whole host of un-released gems hidden away somewhere…?
“Oh yes! My first track that I gave Derrick has not and will not ever be released. I have remixes that I did for Kevin that will never be released and they are all on cassette tapes with Chicken Scratch. I still have whole tapes of Carl Craig’s BFC project in demo mode where the music just stops and starts at any given time.”

‘Envy is the religion of the mediocre’ – was there any ever any resentment within the Detroit Techno mafia, or did you guys just wanna push the sound you all loved together?
“Back then we needed someone like Judy Weinstein, because we had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. We had no marketing, no game plan. Someone with her knowledge would have at least helped, but we were young and all over the place. But we did have Neil Rushton who believed in us. Many of us had and still have egos, we were living on our own island and would only come together for compilation albums and there were many of them.”

You moved to Amsterdam to join Derrick who by then, was spending less and less time in the US due to overseas DJ commitments. Your first DJ show in Europe had a little hiccup though…?
“Hee hee hee. I was just talking about this in Berlin with a friend. Picture this. My first time in Europe, taking a plane to Basel in Switzerland for gig #1 and when I say #1 – I mean NUMERO UNO!!! My plane from Amsterdam to Basel gets cancelled because of fog in Amsterdam so I had to get re-routed though Geneva, the whole airport closes and there are 100s of flights delayed and cancelled. Finally four hours later I take my flight to Geneva and then have to take a train from Geneva to Basel but the train station in Basel was somewhere in the opposite end of town so the promoters’ mother had to pick me up and we drove maybe an hour or so to my gig only to show up with no records!!! Through all of the re-routing with my flight and cancellations of other flight and bags from other passengers, my records got lost in the shuffle. So i played my first gig with the local DJs and promoters records and I had no clue about any of their records.”

So when you finally got on the decks with your own tunes – what did you make of our European clubbers? What clubs rocked?
“It was nothing like Detroit which was cool because I was a student and a teacher because I was teaching the Europeans about the Detroit sound and I was learning and listening to music that was not coming to Detroit. The clubs that rocked were ‘Lost’ in London, The Rex in Paris and The Roxy in Amsterdam.”

So moving to present day. The new 2020Vision album. The Leeds based posse headed up by Basics’ Ralph Lawson is one of the most credible labels around the globe. The label started in a farm in the Yorkshire countryside, where after DJs’ guest slots at Basics, everyone was dragged back there to party and once you all came round on a Monday, were invited into the studio to make some music – were you part of that crew? What are your memories?
“I have two words to describe this time…Dave Beer! Need I say more?”

What are the big 10 tunes you’re currently causing havoc on the dancefloor with?
Spencer Parker ‘The Beginning’ (Michael Cleis mix) on  Buzzin Fly Records
Quince ‘My Life’s Rhythm’ (feat. Paris The Black Fu) on Delsin Records
Ben Anderson ‘Casa Peruana’ on Econ Light Records
Metrica ‘One Night’ (System of Survival mix)  on Budenzauber Records
Dunkle Dummies ‘I Can’t Don’t Resist You’  on Sleep Is Commercial Records
Tyrone  ‘Touch Sensitive’  on Siteholder Records
La Pena ‘Kenya’ on La Pena Records
Mri ‘Lipsy-Fieber’ on Resopal Schallware
Matt Brown & Alex Moments ‘Yakamoz’  on Below Records
Reset Robot ‘Continue’ on 8 Sided Dice Records

You quickly became what can only be described as simply a unique DJ ( a DJ’s DJ!!) after beginning to play globally – you are renowned for playing a banging techno monster followed up perhaps by a soulful house piece of bliss, a Disco hands in the air gem or a slab of Belgian Nu-Beat. Were you aware you were blowing all of the UK beat-matching DJs away and why did you/do you think playing such a variation is important?
“I owe my broad unique DJ skills to the electrifying Mojo and to Jeff Mills. These were two DJ’s who were on the radio and they played everything from the B52’s ‘Rock Lobster’ to Prince to Cybotron to A Guy Called Gerald to the Talking Heads. It’s very important to play across the board, why do you think Laurent Garnier is so successful?

What are the best 3 Techno records ever made?
“Joey Beltram ‘Energy Flash’, The Martian ‘Star Dancer’ and Model 500 ‘No UFO’s”.

So the new album – Stacey Pullen’s 2020Vision – some monsters on there, please talk us through the album and what are your highlights?
“‘Body Music by Wulf N’ Bear is my favourite because it was one of their first. I love the Simon Baker track ‘Way Out Of My Head’ because it’s definitely the sound of 2020 and Volga Select’s ‘Les Annees des Plombs’ because it’s so 80’s and it reminds me of what I was listening to when I was a teenager.”

What is your one ‘guilty pleasure’ tune or artist? Some music that we may never have known you were playing behind closed doors?
“Anything by Jon Hassell. A guy named Jan Van Den Berg from Antwerp in Belgium turned me on to him back in ’93 and I if I knew how to contact Jan, I’d tell him that. Jan if you’re reading…thank you!!!”

Why do you think 2020Vision has remained such an important force in clubland?
“It’s because of their versatility and their consistency in pushing the music forward.”

What DJs from around the world do you really respect and enjoy playing with?
“I like what Luciano does, he kinda reminds me of what Derrick was like when I first heard him. I like Adultnapper, he’s really deep. Davide Squillace is someone  who I was impressed by also.”
Best ever Ibiza and Miami WMC moment?
“The Ibiza moment was two years ago at DC 10 with myself, Damien Lazurus and the whole Circo Loco crew inside and Luciano and his friends outside in the back. I was running a lil’ late for my set and rushed to the decks, I played an intro right after Damien finished and then came in with a perfect Techno track that took the gig to the next level and Damien looked at me and said “wow, what an intro”. I rocked them for the next 90 minutes.”

Best WMC moment was the Planet E party a while back with myself, Carl Craig and Rolando, it was probably one of the best Detroit gigs of WMC. I played a Beanfield track that was perfect at that time and Carl asked me who/what is this track? Whenever a DJ asks you that it makes you feel good when you know they are digging what you are playing.”

Okay, putting you on the spot. We book Space in Ibiza put on Sasha, Laurent Garnier, Frank De Wulf, Carl Cox, The Chemical Brothers and Derrick May going head to head – who is going to get the crowd going the craziest? Who would you put your money on?
“Deep down I wanna say Derrick because he’s my mentor, but I would have to give it to Laurent because of his versatility.”

Best and worst thing about Detroit?
“The best thing is the cheap cost of living – and Kenny Dixon Jnr. The worst thing is not having good public transit and having Kwame Kilpatrick (the ex-mayor) here.”

And finally, what’s next from Mr Stacey Pullen?
“I’m releasing my next single called ‘Alive’ which is out in September on my label Blackflag Recordings. I’m also doing remix work for Om Records and re-releasing my back catalogue. Plus I’m also executive producing a new up and coming guy called Phil Agosta. It’s all good.”