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Interview: Perc Talks Techno And Influence

Interview: Perc Talks Techno And Influence

Keepsakes / Tuesday 5th December, 2017 2:20PM

Ali Wells under his Perc moniker has been a force within techno that has been difficult to ignore over his fifteen year career. With early releases on dance music powerhouses Kompakt, Drumcode, and CLR, the UK producer has also helped define the harder side of the techno scene in recent years through his increasingly essential imprint Perc Trax, while also maintaining a busy international touring schedule. Ahead of his first visit to our shores this Friday, Haven co-founder and New Zealand crunchy techno export Keepsakes interviewed Wells on his recent album Bitter Music, the influences behind his music, and staying fresh in an often derivative scene...

Hi Ali! So this is your first time touring in New Zealand, which is very much a small scene that is still developing in many ways. What has been your experience playing shows in smaller, developing scenes during your touring life? How does it compare with the larger shows the you get in Europe?

Even this year I've played everywhere from tiny basement clubs to bigger festivals in front of a few thousand people. I like playing in new places, it brings new challenges and experiences. You don't know what to expect and a smaller club means a closer connection with the audience. Nashville, USA and Stoke on Trent in the UK are two small scenes that I've played that jump into my mind. Both were interesting, not packed, but a lot of energy. My first residency was at a club with a maximum capacity of 60 people, so I know all about smaller gigs. Just because a scene is smaller or younger does not mean that people know less about the music. Any gig where there is a general love for the music and where people want to let loose rather than just chin stroke and spot tracks and equipment is fine by me.


I read that your album released earlier this year, 'Bitter Music', began its development on old BBC Radiophonic Workshop gear at EVE Studios in Stockport. How did this influence the overall direction of the record? Do you usually tend to start projects and tracks with a particular sound palette in mind, or do things develop more spontaneously?

I was looking for new sounds and a new environment to create them in. Around the same time I'd started listening to a lot of older early electro-acoustic  music and some more contemporary classical music and I did not really have the sound sources in my own studio to move in the direction that these new inspirations were pushing me. 'Bitter Music' was the first album (or project of any kind) where I put together a palette of sounds before any composition or arranging occurred, but I was happy by the way it finally turned out.

While your influences from the originators of dance music are clear, some may not recognise the other music from earlier eras that has helped shape your sound. Do you have any particular genres, movements, or artists that have particularly inspired your work other than from the traditional house and techno scenes?

Any early experimental acoustic or electronic music from the far gone past is always interesting to me. Stockhausen of course, but also the piano experiments of Harry Partch plus Cage, Henry Tudor and all that stuff. I came through school listening to a lot of grunge and US rock, so whilst that's a bit of  a teenage cliché I still have a lot of love for Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden and even people like Sonic Youth and Faith No More. Often it's not the sound that directly influences me, more their attitude and approach to music making and the music business.


Your career in techno has spanned over a decade. What are the differences have you noticed in the genre and surrounding community from when you began compared to now?

In the past many people had great ideas but few could produce them to a high standard. Now everything is produced to a high standard but there is often a serious lack of new ideas. Maybe people are scared to try new things, maybe everything that can be done in techno has already been done but I really don't believe that.  Outside of the music itself then downloading, streaming, social media, smart phones and many other things have changed the business in ways I never would have expected. Communication, travel and collaboration are easier than ever and the barriers of entry are lower than ever before. Is that leading to better music... I'm really not sure.

Techno is a genre that, while often brilliantly creative and interesting, is vastly populated by music that is largely derivative and unimaginative. What advice would you give to aspiring producers and DJs to help avoid this common pitfall?

Push for your own sound. There are million YouTube tutorials about EQing or sidechaining but no one can give your music its own character and personality but you. If you stumble across a patch or rhythm that sounds like one of your heroes then discard it and push for something of your own, don't use it as a sign to continue down the same road as someone you admire. This is why the Ansomes and I Hate Models of the world rise up so quickly from the thousands of producers sending out demos. It's because they have their own voices and they are not afraid to take risks.

Is there any new, interesting music or artists we may not have heard that you are feeling at the moment?

Hmmm, Scalameriya is not exactly brand new, but just keeps getting better. Watch out for him in 2018. Pessimist is great as well, not purist techno, but more of a London fusionist sound and all the better for it. Deapmash as well is always worth keeping an eye on.


Perc and Keepsakes are performing this Friday 8th December at Auckland’s Backroom Bar, for more info see here.

Links
facebook.com/PercTrax/

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Fri 8th Dec
Whammy Backroom, Auckland





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