With over fifteen years of dedication to house music, Manchester’s Pirate Copy has a DIY approach when it comes to making raw, innovative dance tracks. Lee Spence has won over the ears of thousands of techno and bass enthusiasts all over the globe. His organic and down-right likeable persona has played a huge part in his journey so far, as he fast becoming one of the most in-demand artists around.
His impeccable production has led to a trademark sound that is now recognised worldwide. Whether it’s a remix or an original track, Pirate Copy carefully craft every melody, bassline, sample and beat to produce some of the most solid sounds in the business. Music like this doesn’t go unnoticed, and as a result they’re constantly being championed by the likes of Hot Since 82, Anja Schneider, Pete Tong and many more. Boasting a deep, rolling tech vibe, with a generous dose of underlining groove, Pirate Copy’s sound has a distinctive energy, one that has resulted in an onslaught of performances dotted around the world.
He continues to conquer venue after venue, including Fabric, Parklife Festival, The Warehouse Project, Warung Beach Club and BPM, as well as performing in Ibiza, Uruguay and a back2back show with Waff and Richy Ahmed at Cordoba in Argentina. In recent years, Pirate Copy has earned himself a string of releases on the likes of Natural Rhythm, Materialism, Elrow and Get Slow, however his latest HQ, Kaluki Music, has proved to be the perfect home for his next wave of releases. Remixing Carlo Lio’s ‘Ill Shit’ has also been a massive success, gaining spins all of over the White Isle already, not to mention their current EP ‘Call Me’ -which is also taking a battering around the circuit. Pirate Copy abides by a simple formula that pays off time and time again.
So, I grabbed the opportunity to speak with Lee about the Kaluki brand, both the label and events. Lee had recently played at Forbidden Forest Festival over the weekend and I managed to grab a few moments in his downtime post bank holiday antics.
Hi Lee. It’s great for the opportunity to chat with you. I’d like to talk to you about the challenges that you face trying to develop as an artist whilst running a very recognisable brand like Kaluki? Lee explains –
“Yes, I guess having a brand like Kaluki is a great start as it gives you a platform to play and to release music, but you’re right in the sense that you don’t want to be known just as ‘the guy who runs Kaluki”.
“I’ve made a conscious effort this year to target some new labels with my music and to try and retain some independence as an artist away from Kaluki; I’ve been able to do that with some nice releases on Solá, Moon Harbour and Relief already this year. Aside from all that, yes – most of the time I just wanna be in the studio, but I have to keep up with all things Kaluki and my business partners, so it’s about finding a balance to keep everything moving”.
Manchester has a very rich music heritage. Would you say had you have lived in any other city in the U.K things may have turned out different to how they have now? “Yeah Manchester certainly does have a long history in music, but who’s knows what would have happened if I hadn’t grown up here – but I’ve lived here all my life apart from a few years in Germany when I was young as my family were in the armed forces in the 80s. Becoming a promoter and DJ at 19 in Manchester was a lot of fun and it seemed like what I wanted to do with my time and with my friends at the weekends just spawned into this lifestyle and career that I have now really. I had started a career in IT support at one point, but it was clear that my heart lay in the rave from the start”.
The Kaluki brand is becoming widely established around the world but first I would like to ask you about where it was first founded at Sankeys Soap Manchester in 2006. How important was the venue to you and furthermore to the U.K scene? Lee explain –
“Yes, it was one of the best clubs in the UK for sure and maybe even in the world. Going way back, people like Daft Punk played early shows there for Bugged Out. It was kinda like my university experience I guess – I was already doing my own events at other Manchester venues that were really good, but when Sankeys owner David Vincent and Kirsty Smith approached me about becoming a new resident and overseeing the marketing, I knew I had to go for it. Over the next 10 years together, David and I programmed and built Sankeys – even scooping up awards from DJ Mag for ‘best club in the world’ (not to everyone’s liking)”.
Kaluki was formed in the midst of all this and was just to fill a date initially. It was supposed to be a one-off, but the party took everyone by surprise – it sold out with no headliners, just residents, and we went monthly later that year! Once Nick Yates, my business partner and friend, really established the Kaluki sound that we have today, things really kicked off in a big way; Kaluki started selling out Sankeys every time with acts like Visionsquest, Solomon, Heidi, Richy Ahmed, Oxia, Jamie Jones, Cluade Von Stroke and eventually we had to move the party to the Warehouse Project because Sankeys was simply too small a venue for us”.
It has undoubtedly been a resounding success but can I ask how does having the success of Kaluki affect the decisions and direction you take as an independent artist? “I’m not sure it does to be honest; as a producer I will try to be creative and innovative, and make music I love and believe in, so I don’t know what effect Kaluki may have on that – if it does, maybe it’s subconsciously”. And with the recent release on Moon Harbour, remix duty on Kaluki Musik for DJ Sneak and a remix about to drop on Jacky & Friends EP how do you plan in your studio time amongst your other responsibilities in the running of the Kaluki Brand? “This year I have worked in phases where I will work hard on music for a solid month – maybe twice a year and be really focused and try and block everything else out to a degree. That way I can create a bank of releases to fire out to potential labels. Of course, it never really stops with ideas always on the go on the laptop, but I have found having some dedicated time also without the distraction of touring and meetings and whatever else getting in the way really helps”.
Your time management and planning must be pretty on point then. Can you explain your daily or weekly tasks in a bit more detail? After Lee laughs for a few seconds he answers “I’m not very routine at all so literally no two weeks are the same. But I work from home on emails in the day, more on music on the evenings. I live with my mate Reedy who helps with all things logistics and admin and keeps my life running to a degree. When I’ve been away at the weekend touring, it takes a bit of time to recover, but generally I have a few meetings a week in London or Manchester and the rest I’m working on the phone and email from wherever I may be. Sometimes I like to get outdoors to work and often go on fishing trips and work from beside a beautiful lake”.
What is the meaning of the name Kaluki? “I get asked this a lot. It’s a tricky one to answer. Let’s just say it’s a card game”. I did try to Google it but didn’t find a thing haha. OK, can you talk us through your label feature mix next? “Yeah sure” Lee continued –
“The mix starts with older tracks from the back catalogue and finishes with some future unreleased tracks; I think it works well as a mix and have listened to it several times over the past week and enjoyed listening back, something which I often find difficult as I am very critical. It was recorded on 2 x CDJ 2000 and a DJM 900 mixer in one take with no pre-conceived ideas about how it was going to go. I just followed instinct as to what might work, I hope people enjoy it”.
And did it provide you with a good reflection on the label to date? “Yes, it did actually – this was the first time I had tried to do a mix of this nature. It was tricky to fit everything in that I wanted to feature, but it did make me remember some music that I had stopped playing and revisit some stuff that still sounds really fresh”.
Who do you have scheduled to release on the label soon and is there anybody on your radar who you would love to sign and why? “We have a Yvan Genkins EP scheduled for May, a Sonar compilation featuring multiple artists in June, Ki Creighton in July, Prok & Fitch, Mihalis Safras. Plenty more but you’ll have to wait and see. I would love to get something off Eats Everything… Come on, Dan”. And the same questions really on the events side. Where are you planning your next parties? Are there any countries on your hit list? I know you were recently in Barcelona? “We have a new residency in Ibiza that we will announce next week, and US tours in the autumn. I am really hoping that we get out to Australia this year – it’s somewhere we haven’t toured yet and we have a lot of friends we need to visit along the way! There are also lots of festivals lined up for the summer – As you mentioned earlier there was also Forbidden Forrest and we are doing two parties at Hideout in Croatia next month”.
Keeping a healthy work/life balance can be challenging? What are your interests in your downtime when you need to switch off. Are there any leisure activity you strive to excel at? “Ha yes – most people don’t know that I’m really into fishing. I go out whenever I can, sometimes I’ll be fishing overnight, deep in the middle of nowhere chasing monster carp. But yeah, everyone kinda takes the piss and thinks it’s weird, but I don’t really care, I’m convinced that it helps me in this industry by relaxing me and re-energising the mind, it’s almost like my meditation”. It’s been great catching up with you Lee. Is there anything you would like to add? “No but thanks for the interview and some really good questions, I hope everyone likes the mix”.
Decoded Radio hosted by Ian Dillon presents Kaluki Musik with Pirate Copy.
Decoded Hot Picks Chart Countdown
#4 Alex Niggemann – Exos (Original Mix) [AEON]
#3 Maceo Plex ft. Maars – Mutant DX (Original Mix) [Correspondant]
#2 Third Son – Delirium (Original Mix) (Natura Sonoris)
#1 Undercatt – Damanta (Original Mix) [Diynamic]
01. Trikk – Vilara (Original Mix) [Innervisions]
02. Petar Dundov & Marc Romboy – Garden of Cyrus (Original Mix) [Systematic Recordings]
03. Matan Caspi & Ziger – Butterfly (Original Mix) [Outta Limits]
04. Eats Everything – Burn (Matador Remix) [Edible]
05. Riesen feat. Haptic Vulture Tourist (Original Mix) [Dear Deer Records]
06. Simply City & Michael A – Brabant (Original Mix) – [Sudbeat]
01. Citizen – Story So Far – Harvard Bass Remix
02. Matt Tolfrey – Hashtag (AJ Christou Remix)
03. Mihalis Safras – W
04. Max Chapman – Freekwancee
05. Kinnerman – Backbeat
06. Jey Kurmis – Peachy
07. Jey Kurmis – Margot (Solardo Remix)
08. Pete Zorba – Climbing Walls (Darius Syrossian)
09. DJ Sneak – Guttah Bucket
10. Inxec – Fill you up
11. Jamie Roy – Funkee Sound
12. Norwood Hills – Press 1 for Why
13. Kinnerman – Promised Land
14. Ki Crieghton featuring Shyam – Night Owl
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