Interview: Perc

Over the last five years, Perc has solidified himself as an icon of hard and minimal techno. Not shying away from “negative beauty,” he has come to embrace the use of noise and drones in his recent productions, reminding us of Birmingham techno from the last couple of decades. His upcoming release “A New Brutality” exhibits his mastery of this style, and is due out on Perc Trax on June 29th, 2012.

perc interviewSo let’s dive right in and talk about the fresh EP “A New Brutality,” coming out on Perc Trax on June 29th. We’ve been listening through the EP for the last week or so, and have come to the conclusion that the naming is resoundingly appropriate. The title track is some of the hardest, most brutal techno I’ve heard since the hay day of the British Murder Boys. While you’ve always remained adamant about the use of hard-hitting percussion, the incorporation of abrasive noise has been a theme in your music that has grown over the course of the last two years, now reaching new heights. What has drawn you to this sound? Are there any non-techno sources of inspiration for this, such as “noise music” or noise rock groups?

Ignoring the obvious early industrial influences of Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Einstürzende Neubauten etc there are current artists such as Vatican Shadow, Roly Porter and Cut Hands that I listen to a lot. Their mix of rhythmic, melodic and noise elements resonates with me more than pure noise/drone music. I am aware that there is a whole noise scene out there around artists such as Merzbow, but at the moment I am not that knowledgeable about it. For me there has to be rhythm and some sense of arrangement and progression through a track, pure aggressive noise that slowly evolves over time is something I am still getting my head around. One of the key things about this EP is that it is not just an escalation in my experiments with noise, it is not just 4 tracks like ‘A New Brutality’ promoted as ‘Perc’s harshest and noisiest EP yet’ – that does not interest me at all. The only way a track like ‘A New Brutality’ can exist on this EP is because the melodies and space of ‘Cash 4 Gold’ and ‘Before I Go’ are there to balance with it and provide moments of relative calm. Balance is key, not just blindly charging in one direction, trying to out-testosterone other artists.

On that same train of thought, you’ve recently been collaborating with Giorgio Gigli on some incredible drone techno works under the alias “Endless.” Similarly, tracks like “Pre-Steel” on your “Wicker and Steel” LP show your commitment to the incorporation of drones. Have you found yourself listening through “classic drones,” such as those of La Monte Young as a source of inspiration for this, or did this develop organically from the trajectory of where your music (and techno as a whole) was headed?

It is just the sum of a multitude of influences that are swimming about my head. Aphex’s Ambient Works 2 would be the starting point for my more drone-based tracks as that was the first album of this type that I experienced. Like I said about the noise music in the question above, an hour long album of pure drone music would probably bore me to tears, but elements of that music over a rhythmic foundation is something that is much more interesting.

How did the Endless duo come about?Perc

I was talking with Giorgio on skype once and we agreed to try to make some music together, there was never a plan to create a new ‘act’ or to tour together. We chose to work with Electric Deluxe as it was a label neither of us had worked with before and of course Speedy J as a producer and the label itself is very widely known and respected. Endless for me is something that happens when the time is right. We have no grand plan to do a certain number of EPs a year or work towards an album, but when the time and ideas are right there will be more Endless music. We did recently have a remix out on Terence Fixmer’s Planete Rouge label and there is one more remix due out on Silent Steps after the summer, right now that is all the Endless music that is scheduled.

What has the creative process been like for the Endless releases? Are you guys emailing DAW files back and forth, or spending long hours in the studio together?

We have only met once and that was when we were in Berlin to play a 5-hour set together at Berghain. One person normally starts a track and takes it to the stage of fairly full 8 or 16 bar loops and then other takes over and completes the track, maybe adding some suggested tweaks as they go along. One of my issues with that is that I can still hear the difference between an Endless track that I finished and one that Giorgio has finished and this is something I would like to somehow eradicate in the future, so the Endless sound is more consistent and recognisable.

You’ve also been putting in hours over at Stroboscopic Artefacts, a label with a very distinct new sound that pairs well with your own. With all of these releases on a variety of labels, does the sound and style of the label that the track will be released on influence the end product?

Maybe it does with a remix, so on Perc Trax I would probably not release something that was too glitchy and IDM influenced, but for Stroboscopic that kind of thing is more fitting and I am happy to dip a toe into those waters. My remix of Xhin for Stroboscopic is a good example of that. For tracks however I never have an idea of the label when I start the track and would never try to make a track that I thought might appeal to the owner of a particular label. That said there are occasions when half-way through a track I can hear which label it might fit with and then they will sent the track first.

A noticeable trend amongst labels is a focus on being “prolific,” taking a somewhat aggressive approach to consistently producing and promoting material at a rate that one would think would be hard to maintain for an extended period of time. From what you’ve told us, Forward Strategy Group’s “Labour Division” is the only LP that was planned for 2012. Considering that many labels are going with the ‘as much as we can, as fast as we can’ plan of attack, was this a strategic move to limit releases?

Yes, many producers and labels and releasing too much. Last year I saw an artist release his debut album and then the next week he had two other EP’s out, it just makes a mockery of trying to convince people that there is a value to your music. I really believe in the album format as a statement from an artist, one which will punctuate their recording career at key points. Because of the recent run of high-quality techno albums from Tommy Four Seven, Xhin, Lucy, Shifted etc there are many other labels trying to join in, many of which do not realise that there is a lot more to an album and its release than uploading ten bangers to Beatport instead of the normal three or four and hoping for the best.

I want Perc Trax releases to be special and to be something people look forward to, not just something that appears in front of them and then are forgotten about a day or two later.

‘Labour Division’ is Perc Trax’s only album this year and it means the label can focus on it 100%. I think Perc Trax could do two albums a year, as it did last year and do a good job with them, but no more than that. Finding the right artists with the right music for an album is of course another issue. Right now there seems to be a glut of identikit dark/dubby techno coming out both on vinyl and digitally. People need to take more chances and risks, but I see this happening less and less right now. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Good music does not inspire me; it is the crap, the fodder, the unimaginative generic bland techno, solely produced to get gigs that inspires me to push forward to try to do something different both as a producer and a label owner.

Let’s wrap things up with one final, somewhat cliché question. What artists are you listening to right now? Any up-and-coming producers that deserve a shout-out?

vatican shadowIn terms of what I listening to it would be Surgeon (as always), Vatican Shadow, Emptyset, Grimes, the new-ish Shackleton album, D’Marc Cantu. New guys…Steven Porter, Mondkopf and Mick Finesse are all doing good things, plus one new American artist that I can’t mention yet, but whom you will see on Perc Trax in the next few months.