The musical landscape for electronic artists in Australia has blown wide open in the last decade. Gone are the underground days of the ‘90s or the burgeoning time of the noughties. The last ten years have seen the genre climb to the very top of the Australian musical skyscraper and it’s not going anywhere in a hurry.
Mikey Perry, AKA Paces, has been climbing the ladder for the last 15 years and is nearing the peak of his game. The Gold Coast-based producer has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Australian music: Tkay Maidza, Jess Kent (1993 (No Chill)), Kucka and the one and only Guy Sebastian for triple j’s Like A Version, as well as his own original tracks culminating in the release of his debut album Vacation last year, capping off 2016 by picking up the inthemix Award for Breakthrough Artist Of The Year.
Perry liked punk as a teenager. Blink-182 and Millencolin would have been found on his Discman and he even dabbled on guitar. “I was adequate, I’d say. I was probably good enough to be in a punk band,” he jokes. But it wasn’t until Perry and good mate Benjo decided to go halves on some DJ turntables that the future course was set. A couple of years and some dodgy house parties later the pair, now known as Surecut Kids, were honing their craft and becoming staples on the DJ and festival circuits.
But Perry wanted to diverge. “I got to a point where I was more interested in this other type of music than what we were doing,” he admits. “I was getting more interested in this future-based stuff.” This is where Paces was born; in the bedroom with Logic Pro, experimenting without rules. “I would make a track every day. It didn’t matter if it was no good!”
But they were good, and as he shared his creations online, people latched on. Nothing’s Forever, featuring Kucka has nearly two and half million plays on Spotify at the time of writing, and the hits have kept coming with 1993 (No Chill) featuring Jess Kent and Loop. His beats are bright, tropical and infectious, and attending a Paces gig presents a live experience different to other electronic musicians. Utilising an MPD (Midi controller) on stage, he performs his original tracks completely live – that requires mad skills and some bloody good rhythm. He’s still learning, too. “I’m nearly finished this Berkeley College course, a songwriting course that focuses on harmony.” Twelve weeks of chord theory is no mean feat to fit into a busy schedule. “I just want a better understanding of the craft of songwriting,” he says.
His passion to improve and learn shows in his progression as a songwriter and in his ability to pick vocalists to collaborate with. His latest track, Savage, features little-known Nyne on vocals. After hearing her on Allday’s Sides he reached out: “That night I went home and wrote a really quick basic version of the track that became Savage. I sent it to her out of the blue and asked ‘Would you be interested in jumping on this track?’” Days later a demo came back and the song was born. “Three or four of my most successful tunes that I’ve had have come from me just hitting someone up out of the blue!” he laughs. Does it always work that easily? “Not really,” he explains. “I do this all the time. Almost no one replies, but the ones that do end up being Savage!”
Hitting his mid-30s, Perry is contemplating where his career is heading. “I feel like my endgame is that I would like to end up as a producer that vocalists come to when they want someone to produce their single… I’d love to do something with Grimes or La Roux.” His humility shines through when he suggests “really, I’m most excited by the people I’ve never heard of. The up-and-coming acts that have some unique sound that don’t exist yet.”