In our latest interview, we chatted with Stuart Mclellan, co-founder of the iconic Pacific Records imprint, to discuss the label's history and releases, along with discussing their recent relaunch and what the future holds.
We often review music from the 90s here on Endless Grooves, with our fascination for the era defined by the sheer quality and scope that certain individuals and labels were able to achieve. Out of the endless sea of labels, producers, groups and movements, there are a select few labels that have, for us anyway - and probably many others - really shined through, based on the quality of the music being crafted, and indeed the vision of the label and how everything tied together. One label that truly captures the essence of these statements is UK House and Techno label Pacific Records, which during the 90s carved out an incredible narrative for itself. Founded by Stuart Mclellan and Justin Deighton and releasing its debut back in 1994, the label would oversee the release of some fundamental records from some of the best in the business, with so many special moments being found within their discography that makes the overall picture so strong. Largely involving themselves within the sounds of House and Techno there was plenty of variations found within that helped to transcend the music beyond into new spaces and places. The label finished in its original run around the turn of the decade, yet its legacy remains set in stone, a perfected blend of rhythm and melody that still rings true with clubbers and music lovers across the globe, with the timing now seemingly perfect for the label to make a comeback. In light of their recent relaunch, we sent some questions over to Stuart, regarding the history of the label, the motivations behind its foundation and the audial identity of the label, and its comeback, and we couldn't be more thrilled to share this conversation with you all.
So sit back, relax, maybe pop on a record from the Pacific catalogue, and have a little read through our convo.....
Hello! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Lets maybe start at the very beginning - what kind of music were you into growing up?
Music that jumps to mind - Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Led Zeppelin, Brian Eno, Can, Andreas Vollenweider, The Clash, The Cure, The Stranglers, Talking Heads, KraftwerkThe Human League, Marvin Gaye, 80's /90's Hip Hop, Maze, Parliament, James Brown, Salsoul, Disco, Dub Reggae,...and whatever I heard at Glastonbury!
Electronic music really exploded during the late 80s and early 90s, and we are sure you very much got involved with that. What kind of nights did you attend? Which sounds were you particularly drawn to at the time?
Warehouse parties, Crazy Larry's and the Mud club were my earliest club memories and where I remember starting to hear the Acid house elements being mixed into to the Rare groove, Soul, Funk and Hip hop that was big in the clubs at the time. Suddenly all hell broke loose and it exploded...Raves such as Energy and Sunrise, Spectrum on a Monday night and then Phuture and Rage at Heaven , The Astoria, Ultimate bass, Club MFI, Confusion, and Enter the Dragon at the Park in Kensington on Fridays were going off. Lost was a Techno institution run by Steve Bicknell - I remember hearing Jeff Mills, Basic Channel , Mike Dunn, Armando, Luke Slater tear the roof off in the early 90's there.. There were a lot of smoke / strobe filled rooms drenched in the sound of 303's. Once you caught the wave of what was happening it was hard to get off it as aside from being so much fun and meeting new mates every week, the music being played was new and very special.
When did you get the idea to start a label? and what drew you towards owning a label and working in the music industry?
Between 1990-1993, I had been working as a vinyl import buyer for Great Asset Distribution in London, and then later moved to Sublevel distribution as a label manager. This was a golden time for dance music and vinyl, Everyone was a DJ at distributors back then and that's where I met and worked alongside Justin Deighton. We instantly clicked and started running our own Label, Pacific Records.
When you started Pacific Records, what was the kind of vibe you were going for? Were you trying to bottle a certain kind of energy or did you want it to be quite broad?
I think the vibe was very much what we loved playing out - a mix up of house and techno. The energy was within the music being created, and the energy was abundant, so we never considered it as bottling it...it 's just what was happening, we were going out most nights, and so we went with what we were hearing... we were very critical with the release quality control and we felt 'less is more' would make the label stronger as it grew.
When you started out, were there any particular artists/producers you were keen to work with? and were some of the artists you ended up working with some of the ones you had a keen ear for?
We were big fans of US producers from Detroit, Chicago and NY, and yes we ended up getting remixes from Carl Craig, Mike Dunn, Damon Wild, Claude Young, Stacey Pullen and Dan Curtin from the US. We also had solid UK talent such as Charles Webster (Love from San Francisco) Pure Science, Fretless AZM and Mark Broom on board with remixes.
The labels first record, ‘Solid Fuel’ by Berkana Sowelu, came out in 94’ - how did it feel to release the first record on the label?
It was definitely memorable getting the first Test Pressings and then finished copies with the labels was a buzz. The Berkana track 'Solid Fuel' was by a very good mate of ours Matt Evans, and we managed through Tim Taylor of Missile records to get Damon Wild in NY to do a remix for us. Damon had Dennis Ferrer in the studio with him at the time and they collaborated brilliantly on that, our first label remix. All the music files in those days were sent by post or courier, so it used to take a few days to file transfer!
The end of 94 and going into 95 saw the release of three Sunrise Society records, plus a certain record we will get onto later. Tell us how the relationship with the guys from Sunrise developed and how it felt to work with them on the entirety of their catalogue.
We had a great vibe with Andy and Simon from Sunrise Society from day one. We loved their sound, fresh and unique and we spent a fair few hours in their studio in Luton going through their catalogue and new material. Top Boys!
You also released a number of records by Hot Lizard , 100 Hz. and Access 58. Did you feel like it was important to work alongside artists on a regular basis to help foster the Pacific Records sound?
It was important to have a family vibe within a small independant label. Each of the main four artists Hot Lizard, Sunrise Society, 100Hz and Access 58 all had at least 3 eps out with us. We started out in my basement flat in Ladbroke Grove, West London in 1994, and moved to an office in Strongroom studios, East London in 1996. It was a vibrant, welcoming and extremely creative environment at Strongroom, with The Prodigy, Orbital and Jamiriquai all being recorded there at that time.
l-r : Stuart Mclellan (Pacific Records), Paolo Nascimento (Access 58), Philippe Quenum (Access 58), Justin Deighton (Pacific Records), Gary Marsden (Hot Lizard)
Plenty of Techno greats, such as Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen and Claude Young, have all featured with amazing remixes on a number of the Pacific catalogue. Tell us a little bit about the importance of including these artists on the label, and how they were selected for the tracks they remixed.
These were artists that very much influenced our musical direction and we felt they were breaking boundaries and I remember being so blown away when they accepted our offers to remix. We were a small label with a limited budget, and getting their mixes in was one of the highlights.
A number of Various Artists releases came out on Pacific Records during the 90s, which showcased the label’s wide reaching sound. Tell us a little bit about the importance of these records, and what you aimed to highlight with them.
We loved the unique sound each of the Pacific artists had, which I suppose was in the spectrum of what we played out as DJ's. We also liked to release music we believed would still sound relevant in 20 years time, which we feel it has.
The label concluded around the end of the 90s. What exactly were the reasons behind it ending? Did you feel like you had reached a natural end point?
We naturally moved on to other paths, I was pretty nuts partying a lot, and moved to Paris. It was right at the time, but always felt like unfinished business and so here we are again...
The Pacific Records discography, in our eyes, is incredibly strong, and really tells a story through the various releases. Reflecting on it now, how do you feel about the legacy of the label?
To release everything digitally and get it heard by a whole new bunch of people was a key element in restarting the label, and the fact it all sounds pretty fresh today, sums up the quality of the back catalogue.
A revival of the label was announced earlier this year - could you talk us through some of the motivations that guided this decision?
Unfinished business really, it was always such a passion and recently, having moved back to the UK from Bali it gave me the opportunity to restart it.
There has been much focus recently placed on amazing music from the 90s, including a lot of the records that were released under the Pacific label. Was this perhaps a reason behind re-issuing some of the music, to re-conextualise it and make it available to a new generation of music lovers?
Yes, absolutely one of the main reasons.
So far you have reissued 7 records - is the plan to reissue everything that came out on the label? Will there records reissued on vinyl also?
Yes that's the plan - in between new releases - the first is on the 24th September : Express Yourself by Quenum who was one half of Access 58 with remixes from 100Hz/ and Marsden from Hot Lizard
The latest up-coming reissue, ‘The Theme’ by Hot Lizard, is perhaps one of the most beloved records on the label. Tell us a little bit about how you felt when this record came out at the time, and what kind of impact it can have today.
It was our first double pack 12" vinyl release - and the promos were flying out the shops. We were lucky to have a brilliant remix package, from 3 incredible producers. All top of their game then and still are, 27 years later.
'The Theme’ consists of an original mix plus remixes from Carl Craig, Love From San Fransisco and Mark Broom. Tell us a little bit about the decision to have three remixes, because all of them do a fantastic job at reconsidering the original!
Charles Webster was one of the 3 Hot lizard members and always did a Love from San Francisco mix for us. Carl Craig was for Justin and I the obvious first choice, and Mark Broom's productions were blowing our minds at the time, so it felt like the best combination.
Are there any unreleased projects from during the label's original timeframe that you might be considering to reissue?
Na, no DAT's were found with unreleased demos sadly.
Considering that the label has focused on reissues so far, have you thought about perhaps releasing new music from contemporary artists? Or indeed even from artists you worked with in the past?
Yes, in between new releases - the first is on the 24th September : Express Yourself by Quenum who was one half of Access 58 on Pacific with remixes from 100Hz/ and Marsden from Hot Lizard. After that 100Hz - EP4 in November. (24 years after EP3 came out on Pacific!) Both will be Vinyl and digital releases.
Finally, where do you see the label growing from here? Do you have any up coming projects you wish to share with us?
Just to keep on releasing music we love, alongside some cool merch and repressing up vinyl of the in demand classic back catalogue. We are always looking to get some new talent in on the label and potentially getting some of that back catalogue remixed.
thank you very much!
We would like to thank Stu for his answers. You can check out the Pacific Records Bandcamp for all the digital reissues so far here:
and check out the rest of the discography here on Discogs: