From the outside, Mikey Perry’s transformation from part-time house party DJ to Triple J regular with an upcoming Australian-wide tour appears effortless. His laid back Gold Coast disposition distracts from the risks and the years of groundwork he’s invested in forming his career as headline music producer Paces.
StartUp Creative sat down to talk to Mikey about the peaks and valleys of pursuing his creative passions full-time, his greatest influences and what it feels like to reach the critical turning point in your career.
Q) You’re obviously passionate about making music – where did that come from?
A) I started out as a DJ playing locally at parties, which eventually grew into getting a couple of bar gigs and then headlining as a DJ and touring. The natural next step after that is that you want to be able to make the music. I was kind of doing that on the side and t hen I started this whole project which is what I’m doing now: Paces. I’ve been doing Paces for three or four years now.
Q) Did you have day jobs at the same time?
A) Oh yeah, always. Before this I was a graphic artist. I used to do graphic art for Element Skateboards and Billabong. Before that I managed a skate shop in Melbourne. I’ve always done those things until I could live off music and then I quit the jobs and put all of my time and energy into music. Everything got better after that because I had more time for it. Because you found your real passion? Yeah, I just couldn’t concentrate on work and I was always thinking about the music side of things and it was just so obvious to me that that’s what I needed to spend my life doing.
Q) Was there ever a time where you thought this wasn’t a viable career?
A) Heaps of times. Being in this sort of a job – and I’m sure this is the same for any creative industry where you’re self-employed – it’s just always peaks and valleys. Sometimes things are going great and you’re getting amazing gig offers and money is coming in and you’re living comfortably and thinking this will be fantastic forever. And other times it’s scraping by and you have to borrow money to pay your mortgage. Somehow it never got so critical that I had to give up on music; I was always scraping through somehow and got up to the next peak.
Q) Has it levelled out a bit more for you now being on Triple J?
A) At the moment things are going better than they ever have before. I still have crazy peaks and valleys but the valleys are more comfortable. Even in the valleys I know that all of my bills will still get paid and I’ll be able to buy groceries. It’s not panic stations anymore but I am still aware that it could all disappear.
Q) How long ago did Triple J start playing you?
A) I was getting spot plays after about the first year of Paces and then the second year is when I started to get some songs on proper rotation. A lot of the presenters there were aware of me from my previous projects, so I guess I at least knew how to approach them.
Q) Was that a big turning point for you?
A) Yeah massive. Not so much financially, but it opens doors for you; you become more valuable to promoters who are putting on shows.
Q) When did you start building your team?
A) That came bit by bit. The first part was the booking agent, I already had a booking agent with the other project so that was cool because right from the start I had somebody out there negotiating gigs.
Q) Would you say that’s a good move for an up and coming musician?
A) Yeah, if you want to play shows it’s crucial. Not everyone is good at negotiating, especially when it’s about yourself. I’m terrible at it, it’s so hard to say to someone I’m worth this much money. It’s nice to have somebody on your side who will go out there and chase up those opportunities for you. That was the first thing and then a year later I got a manager.
I’d been working with my manager for about 6 months when I got a record deal offer from out of the blue with “etcetc”. They’re an offshoot of the Ministry of Sound. I really liked their label and what they were about.
Q) Did they approach you?
A) Yeah, they actually got me to do a remix of one of their artists beforehand which was probably to test the waters. After that they offered me a deal; I’ve never been offered anything like that before.It all felt pretty real then.
Q) What’s it like being on the road and being out there and how has it changed things for you?
A) There definitely has been huge change in the last year. I’ve always loved doing shows and I’m sureI always will but in the last year it has just gotten so different. Everyone just knows the music and I’ve started doing ticketed shows.
Q) How many people are you playing to in your own ticketed shows?
A) I haven’t played any big ones yet, the Melbourne show I just did on this tour was about 250 people.
Q) Is it scary to have to put yourself out there?A) Yeah. I would never do anything like that without my manager pushing me because my default mindset is I can’t afford it so I won’t do it. I’m optimistic about most things but I’ve never had the money to do bigger and better stuff. So without my manager pushing me to do things I would’ve missed out on a lot.
Q) Who is your inspiration when it comes to making music or doing what you love?
A) I’ve got a lot of inspirational figures in terms of music producers. But in terms of being entrepreneurial probably my parents really. As far back as I can remember they’ve been trying different businesses and trying different things just so they can always be on their own path.
Q) How do you stay in your creative zone?
A) Luckily I still love the creative process and really look forward to it. I usually get up early, take my dog for a walk along the beach and then come home and make a nice brekky and by the time it’s 9am I’m feeling wide awake and usually ready to go. But there are also other things I do; I’m on planes a lot, so whenever I go to fly somewhere I usually try to have some new music to listen to and producers and not that many people make a living off it. I realised it was a bit of a pipe dream but I try to listen to it really actively, as opposed to passive listening where it’s in the background. I try to listen to what works about it and what I like about it. I take notes in my phone and that’s where a lot of my ideas come from.
Q) Who is your favourite artist at the moment?
A) There’s a guy named Cashmere Cat. He’s probably been my main inspiration for quite a while now.
Q) What’s the achievement you are most proud of working as Paces?
A) I think just getting played on the radio, that’s been the biggest buzz. I’ve had good moments of good shows and things like that but just hearing your song come on the radio every now and again, I don’t think that will ever get old for me. My current single has just crossed over to commercial radio.
Q) Were you in the Hottest 100?
A) Not last year but the year before I was in there – I produced a song for a rapper called Tkay Maidza and our song got in the Hottest 100.
Q) Do you play on the Gold Coast much?
A) I probably only play here about twice a year, there’s just not much of a scene for my kind of music. There’s two clubs on the coast that do really cool music in my opinion and those are the ones that I’ve played at. Beyond that there’s not too much of a demand for me here. At this stage no matter where I live I’m going to be flying every weekend anyway so I may as well live in this beautiful place that I love, where my family is and where I live across the road from the beach.
Q) Have you come up against any haters?
A) Yeah for sure. I find that quite a positive thing though because when you’re not that well known you don’t really get any haters at all. The bigger your reach becomes statistically, you’re going to get more and more people hating on you for different things. I don’t get heaps of them but every now and then I do get some hatred. Like Facebook stuff? Yeah like they will leave a comment on Facebook or SoundCloud or something. At first I used to take it to heart but then I realised you’re never going to please everyone. If you look at it that way and then you just remember that it means your reach has improved, you don’t lose sleep over it at all.
Q) What’s the next goal for you?
A) I’m going to put on a big tour for my album in a few months. That’s going to be my next goal to try and conquer because it will be bigger rooms than I’ve attempted to sell tickets to before. I’m going to be playing more instruments and have dancers and I’m just going to try and put on more of a show.
Q) What would be your advice to any up and coming people in your industry who want to be where you are? What are your three top tips?
A) 1. Have your own sound.
2. Surround yourself with a good team.
3. Don’t be lazy.
Paces’ debut album Vacation is out now. To check out national tour dates or to have a listen, you can visit their Facebook or SoundCloud pages: