An undisputed Detroit legend, Stacey Pullen is the Kosmik Messenger. Recognised as a pioneer of electronic music worldwide, he’s an undisputed Motor City icon with a legacy that stretches back nearly 20 years. Growing up under the mentorship of Detroit’s legendary three - Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, it’s no surprise he is described as an innovator from the Second Wave of Detroit techno, alongside other heroes such as Carl Craig, Jeff Mills and Octave One.
Pullen holds a strong influence on modern day techno, with his Blackflag Recordings imprint remaining a fierce contender in the erratic world of electronic music since its founding in 1998. Its debut release was none other than Pullen’s alter-ego Black Odyssey, with “Sweat” which was considered a future classic, 15 years on the track was re-released in early 2013 with a raw remix courtesy of a Beatport sponsored competition. 2013 was an outstanding year for Pullen, with the continued success of his revived Blackflag Recordings, a career first Boiler Room appearance, multiple remixes and track releases in collaboration with Desolat boss Martin Buttrich and Nicole Moudaber to name a few, plus an incredibly strong summer in Ibiza which included a residency at Marco Carola’s Music On at Amnesia plus playing for Luciano & Friends at Ushuaia and Cadenza in season.
Sunday the 20th April sees an extended set from Pullen in Liverpool for Rubix’s Easter Sunday extravaganza. Also on the bill is Italy’s Unlocked residents White Brothers, plus Rubix residents Chris McGee b2b Phil Fearon, Lee Charnock and Tom Buck.
SWITCHED spoke to Pullen in preparation for the Easter festivities…
Hello Stacey! It’s really an honour to get the opportunity to interview you for our website. Can you begin by telling us were your love for music began? We’ve heard you were quite the flute player from a young age! When did you begin to start experimenting with mixing and producing? Can you remember your first set up?
My Dad was in the group called The Capitals and my aunt dated Smokey Robinson in high school. I started getting interested in mixing in the early ‘80s, listening to the Electrifying Mojo and I began to DJ in 1985.
What was it like having the legendary Detroit three as mentors? Was there any advice in particular that they gave to you which has stuck over the years?
Derrick showed me how to enjoy the success of being an artist, Juan was responsible for all of us and Kevin showed me that you can cross genres; having commercial success even when you’re still underground.
Tell us about Blackflag Recordings, why did you decide to start your own label and how have you found the past 15 years? If you were to start a new label now, is there anything significantly different you would do that you wouldn’t previously have done?
Initially I wanted to just release my own music, sort of like Jeff Mills has done with Axis, but I after I got jaded with the whole major label thing, I realised that I didn’t make enough music to have a release every month so I looked elsewhere for music. I also didn’t want be just another Detroit label where I only release Detroit artist and music, so I started putting the word out that I was accepting demos and now here we are.
You’ve released under multiple monikers, does each name produce a different style of music? How does a Stacey Pullen track differ from a Kosmik Messenger track? With trends changing and the popularity of certain elements in electronic music constantly changing and evolving, how do you go about upkeeping your own signature style?
Yes when I wrote my last Stacey Pullen album it was the time when I was reading Miles Davis’s autobiography and was influenced with the world of jazz. Kosmic Messenger is no nonsense four to the floor techno tracks.
Being from Detroit we’ve always had a sense of melody in our music, so when I go into the studio I never forget the basics of what got me started in the first place so I never loose the focus when I produce my sound.
The first time I saw you play was at Amnesia in Ibiza on the 5th July last year, in fact my friend and I spent the majority of the night in the Club Room we enjoyed it that much. How did you find your residency at Marco Carola’s Music On last year? Aside from playing for various events throughout the White Isle in the past, was this your first summer residency on the island?
Music On has been the highlight of my recent years in Ibiza. I have to admit that it’s pretty difficult because Marco and I usually play at the same time but in different rooms, but it’s good honest competition. There was a party in particular back in August when I played in the Main Room that was one of my highlights of the year and I had others saying it was very special for them too, so we are rocking it from two different angles. I played the very first Music On opening party in 2012.
The 20th April sees you return back to Liverpool for the first time in years, what are you looking forward to about playing for Rubix on Easter Sunday? When was the last time you were in the city?
I’m looking foward to rocking the dancefloor I can’t really remember when I was in Liverpool last but this Rubix gig will be a night to remember.
Your first DJing gig being back in May 1985, you described the experience as “It was that gig that let me know how tough it was to be a DJ. We set up the whole thing, brought the sound system, rented the hall, loaded in, loaded out and went home with 20 bucks a piece in our pocket. But it was more than money, to have that outlet - to have that power and make people respond to the music that we played” nearly 30 years on it’s inspiring to young producers how far hard work can truly get you. Speaking to our readers that aspire to earn a career like yours, what advice do you have for them?
Just stay true to what you believe in and the rest will follow, it doesn’t matter what type of music you make or interested in, but you must also do you homework and know the history just jump on the bandwagon because this is the hot sound of the moment.
What’s in store for 2014? Blackflag is set to release tracks from the likes of Youcef Elaid, Elio Riso and Sergio Fernandez; but what about yourself? Any big events or releases you’d like to tell us about?
Why yes of course I’m working on my next single, it’s gonna come in the early summer. I’ve got the Movement Festival in Detroit coming up in May, gonna be starting on some remixes on Desolat, Crosstown rebels, and form records coming up later this year.
And on a final note, can you name your five favourite tracks right now?
Elio Riso “It’s Alright”
Brothers In Progress “Emontionique”
Stacey Pullen “Get Loose”
Ellroy “Whatcha gonna do”
Re Us “Move On”
Thankyou very much for taking the time to answer our questions, we look forward to seeing your extended set on Easter Sunday!
Don’t forget to get your tickets for the Rubix Easter Sunday Special with an extended set from Stacey himself, plus Italy’s White Brothers plus residents Chris McGee b2b Phil Fearon, Lee Charnock and Tom Buck from Skiddle.
For more information on latest gigs and releases, follow Stacey on Soundcloud, Twitter and Facebook.
By Louisa Newton.