Perc is a name that is synonymous with gritty, fast-paced, and teeth clenched techno.
From his earliest demos to his current position as a key figure in the global techno scene, Perc has taken the established forms of music he loves and twisted them into something new and fresh. Whether it be through his own productions, his DJ sets, his live sets, or the material released on his own Perc Trax imprint, you know anything coming from Perc will be innovative, experimental, and near groundbreaking.
From the release of his debut album Wicker & Steel, Perc has been on a meteoric rise to the top, lifting him to a new level of respect and recognition amongst an extremely strong international techno scene. We sat down with Perc ahead of his sold out show at the Sub Club on December 15th, to talk about politics in music, the rave era, and personal meanings behind albums.
Hey Ali how’s it going, what have you been up to recently?
Hi there. I’m doing well, thanks. Recently I’ve been gigging a lot including my first ever gigs in Brazil, Colombia, Iceland, Norway and Bulgaria, releasing the new Ansome EP and getting everything ready for the release of the remixes of track from my ‘Bitter Music’ album.
Some of your tracks take a sarcastic tone in their titles, like ‘David & George’ alluding to the previous Conservative leaders in the UK and ‘Unelected’. Does politics play a big role in how you construct your music, like inspirations or tones? How?
Everything going on in my world is reflected in my music, from politics and global issues to what I see and experience on my travels. I don’t like to ram politics down people’s throats and I’d never let it get in the way of the music itself, but especially on albums where you have a longer amount of time to play with, then bringing in some political elements is something I like to do. Techno really doesn’t need any more albums about space does it? Especially when there is so much, both good and bad, happening on earth that should be discussed.
You have carved out such a niche with your aggressive style – are you trying to have a direct impact on the audience through this? If so, what is it?
Of course, I am always looking for a direct impact and a physical and emotional response, but any aggression or anger in my music is always focussed and channelled, it’s not just aggression and chaos for the sake of it. I want people to react and interact with the music, I want it to grab them by the throats and not let them go. After my recent set in Sofia, Bulgaria someone commented that they did not have time to breathe during my set, that’s what I am looking for, I want to hold people’s attention not have them wandering off to the toilet or bar because they know there will not be a change to the music for another 20 minutes.
I’ve been hearing a lot of rave-era tracks in your sets as of late, as well as a lot of other artists. What’s your opinion on the comeback of rave culture and rave tracks? Do you think you’d explore that era in your productions more so in the future as well?
I’m generally more up for playing older rave tracks than new tracks that feature old rave sounds. I think producers now should be looking for new sounds for their productions, not recycling the same old breakbeats, stabs and vocals that were originally used in 1994. It is rare to hear a track of mine that leans heavily on these tried and tested old skool sounds, but as I said I’m happy to play the original tracks every now and then. A knowledge of rave and dance music history is always good but producers have to keep pushing on into new territory and finding new ways to configure what we know as techno, otherwise the genre is doomed.
Your albums have been released on your own label Perc Trax, which I assume has some level of freedom without the looming nature of deadlines. Do you find this hinders or enhances your creative process? In what ways specifically?
It gives me a freedom of expression that I would not get on any other label. If I am asked to do a track or EP for another label then the sound of that label and the taste of the owner is always in the back of my mind. With Perc Trax I can just write whatever I like. If I like it enough to release it then great, if not it stays unreleased or saved for a future project. The downside to all this is there are no deadlines and sometimes a long time can pass without finishing any tracks that I am happy with, let alone completing enough tracks to make up a release that I think is worthy of going out on Perc Trax.
For someone that is known for both their club-friendly tracks as well as more left-field experimentations, do you ever feel like there is a pressure to create more club-friendly tracks that other people can mix, or to get more promotion on recent works? Why?
My EPs are generally more club friendly, whilst my albums generally lean in a more experimental direction with just enough dance floor tracks that I still have something to play in a club to introduce people to the album. I would never feel like I need to add a certain type of track to an album to achieve a certain promotional aim or reach a certain audience, that’s not how I think at all. I generally try to avoid surrounding myself with people that see music in terms of brands, demographics and social media numbers.
I read you once stated that you think albums have to personal but not so much EP’s. Do you still have that outlook? Why do you feel that is?
With an album you have more tracks to play with, more space to explore different ideas and a more opportunities to commission and display artwork ideas as part of the release. You can really stretch yourself and express yourself in new ways. With an EP I am generally looking more towards the dance floor and the quick hit of energy. For an album I would generally do more interviews and press stuff which in turn gives you more of a platform to explain the ideas, influences and experiences behind an album. It just makes for a more rounded release and one that is more personal. I often think about only putting out an album every few years and stopping to release EPs, but then a track comes along that does not sound like an album track or that you want to get out without writing nine other tracks, so an EP starts to form again.
You’re a big fan of the eerie voiceover. Has this been a concept you’ve always loved in techno or something you picked up along the way? Why do you like it so much?
I’ve used quite clear, audible vocal samples at the start of the first track on each of my three albums, but apart from that my use of spoken vocals is generally more subtle and the voices are often distorted and pitch and frequency shifted. I like a vocal sample to set the tone for an album but I’m also wary of not using them too much in case it becomes preachy. Purely instrumental music has a special magic and of course works for everyone, not just an English speaking audience, which is always worth bearing in mind.
I read you prefer to leave interpretations of your tracks and their titles more ambiguous as the connections people make are interesting. Can you expand on this? Why do you think this and what specific experiences have you had?
Well I don’t like to spell something out too clearly. I like track titles that are actually words rather than leaving things untitled or with just a sequence of numbers or random letters as the title. I’d rather not know what people think the track titles mean and in the same way I don’t want to explain them too deeply. Titles such as ‘Wax Apple’ or ‘After Ball’ (from ‘Bitter Music’) both have deep meanings to me, but I’d rather just keep it all close to my chest until I write my memoirs!
What are you most looking forward to ahead of your Australian tour?
Maybe just a break from the pace and chaos of London. Hopefully I’ll see some countryside as well as just cities. Plus I’ve always enjoyed the gigs in Australia and this is my biggest tour of the country to date, and I’m going to New Zealand for the first time. It’s all exciting.
Catch Perc on his tour of Australia and New Zealand this December, full dates here.