With almost one month to go until Bloc 2012 takes place in London pleasure Garden’s on the 6th and 7th July, the excitements starting to build. In what is sure to be a no hold’s barred all out auralgasm. In the start of our interviews leading up to the weekend of the summer, we’re extremely delighted to kick things off with techno stalwart Perc. An absolute cracking producer and DJ, he’s absolutely killing it at the moment. Whether it’s running the immense Perc Trax label or producing some blisteringly dark techno, he can’t put a foot wrong. Bloc 2012 sees Perc Trax teaming up with one of London’s finest clubnights Plex to deliver the serious line up of Surgeon, Monolake, Truss, Perc, Cosmin TRG, Lucy, Objekt, James Tec and Luke Handsfree. To say I’m excited is an understatement. So we’ll leave it to the man himself to chat techno, remixes and what’s in store for the night.
What was it that initially got your interested in making music?
I was in indie bands from a very early age, maybe 13 or 14. After buying records by the bands we followed it just seemed natural to have a go ourselves. I was always interested in the gear/technological side of it, the amps, keyboards, effects pedals etc. The band splitting coincided with me listening to more electronic and dance music so the next step was to set up my own small home studio to make that kind of music. I also found the band to be a never-ending compromise, so to make music on my own and be 100% in control was a revelation to me.
Producing is a very solitary experience. How do you find this when touring or is it something that you enjoy?
To me producing and touring are two sides of the same coin. As you say, producing is a solitary experience whilst touring can be both. You can spend 12 hours travelling on your own and not talking to anyone and then suddenly you are in a busy club where the focus is very much on you and people want to meet you and talk to you. It all balances out in the end for me. I am happy in my own company and could spend days in the studio working on my own but of course it is a pleasure to meet like minded people and talk about my music and the music of others that I love.
How do you approach a remix? Have there been times when you’ve preferred to keep what you’ve contributed to release as a Perc track?
I generally look for a key element in a track that I can expand upon, though if the general atmosphere or mood of the track interests me then it is much easier to get inspired to create the remix. Right now I am really cutting down on remixes as they are something that I have always done a lot of but the idea of taking a techno track and turning it into another techno track is really boring to me right now. Of course the remixes where you absolutely love the track already, such as Tommy Four Seven’s ‘Ratu’ or Surgeon’s ‘Muggerscum Out’ are a pleasure to do, but both these tracks had strong sonic identities to start with. Currently I am getting asked to remix a lot of non-descript slabs of Berghain-friendly kick/hat/stab techno and I can’t get excited about this at all, if my heart is not in a remix then it is not at all pleasurable to work on.
As a techno fanatic myself I’m interested to know what is it about the sound that appeals to you so much?
Hmmm that is a hard one and believe me I have a love/hate relationship with techno. Most of the time I do love it but the complete lack of independent thought and creativity shown by so many producers and labels makes me look elsewhere for inspiration. That said, every week I discover a track, old or new, that makes me fall in love with techno once again. When it is done right techno is a juggernaut, powering forward, carrying new ideas to people. No other music genre has such a wide spectrum of sounds and whilst I don’t love them all, techno’s ability to surprise and inspire keeps pulling me back.
Have you produced any music that doesn’t fit under the techno umbrella?
Before my first tracks were signed I was making techno and drum & bass in equal amounts and recently I worked on 4 or 5 tracks of jackin’ Chicago house. Not for release, just for the fun of making it. To some people my ambient and drone tracks, like those featured on the recent Stroboscopic Artefacts ‘Stellate 1’ release are not techno but to me they are. They share the same mindset as my most dancefloor focussed tracks, they are just constructed to be listened to in a different environment at a different time.
I’m really looking forward to the Perc Trax VS Plex showcase at Bloc this year. What have you got planned for it?
We have a big space at Bloc, a great time on the Saturday and a line-up packed with artists we love, most of whom are already friends of ours. This is very important to me and will really make the atmosphere on stage perfect. So (deep breath) we have Surgeon,Monolake, Truss, Objekt, Lucy, Cosmin TRG, myself and Plex’s own James Tec andLuke Handsfree. As you can see our area has a wide range of artists but also a cohesive sound, I really can’t wait for Saturday 7th July.
I love the Wicker And Steel remix album. Everyone really added their own stamp to the tracks. How did this come together?
I was always thinking of doing one final 12” after the album with some remixes that threw new light on some of my favourite album tracks, but it just grew and grew. As soon as I finished ‘Start Chopping’ I know Tommy had to remix it and around the same time The Black Dog asked to me to remix them so it made sense to have them onboard as well. It just kept growing and works well as a companion to the album rather than something that challenges the original mixes in any way. If anything that would be my one reservation about these large scale remix packages which are popular right now, they need to stand on their own two feet and not dilute the message and impact of the original album.
I try to research the venue, the promoters and the size of the room I am playing in. Of course I want to play what I want to play and not just serve up what I think the crowd wants but after a few tracks I try to get in sync with the people there and their reactions will leads me in new directions around the music I have to play. At every gig I am trying out new tracks, from myself and Perc Trax plus promos from other artists. I guess it is a mixture of preparation and improvisation. I always find it interesting when I have more than one gig in a weekend and I play a completely different set on both nights from the same selection of tracks. That teaches me a lot about myself and how I react to situations. It also teaches me a lot about the creative effects of sleep deprivation.
What is it that you look for in a producer/artist when releasing them?
They have to be doing something that only they can do. Whether that is a hybrid of existing styles or something completely leftfield then it has to be something new. I’ve turned down demos and the producer has got back to me saying ‘but it does the business on the dancefloor’ – so what? If that is the very best you can say about your music then it is not something I am interested in. After an initial interest in their music then I have to get on personally with an artist, we don’t have to become best friends, but someone who is intelligent and can actually form a sentence or two is always a bonus. One final thing, an artist being prolific is not something I am at all interested in. Of course it is a good for an artist to be associated with big labels, especially those of a higher profile than Perc Trax, but a demo from someone saying they already have 7 or 8 EPs lined up for release, thinking that is impressive, really turns me off.
Forward Strategy Group have a release out on Perc Trax this summer. How did this come about and what can people expect from it?
Whilst I try to keep on top of all significant techno releases occasionally something slips past me. I remember a few years ago reading the now closed blog of Richard Brophy (‘Test Industries’) and he was talking about Forward Strategy Group and his description and enthusiasm for them really got me interested. Normally I then check out some clips of the artist’s releases and they are miles away from what I imagined, but this time they were perfect for me and Perc Trax. So I approached them to remix my track ‘BCG’ which led to an EP, then another and now their debut album ‘Labour Division’ is set for release on 28thMay. It is Perc Trax’s only album this year and I have learnt a lot about albums from the success of ‘Wicker And Steel’ so I am looking forward to seeing the public’s reaction to what I believe is one of the best electronic albums to be released in the last few years.
You release a lot of vinyl on Perc Trax. How important is it for you to keep releasing this way?
Vinyl is important to me as I like to offer the label’s music on as many formats as possible. Vinyl is also important as it offers a physical artefact to remember the music by and shows the intent and seriousness of a label. I have no problem doing digital only releases and they provide an essential testing ground for new artists and ideas, before they step up to doing vinyl releases. That said, if I was losing so much money on the vinyl that it endangered the whole structure of the label then I would have no problem shifting to just doing digital releases. CD sales have been the big surprise recently with Sawf’s album doing as well as I expected on CD but Wicker And Steel had really surprised me with its CD sales and is now just about to sell out of its fifth CD pressing.
The music industry has changed so drastically the last couple of years and really the best way to get yourself out there these days is independently. What advice would you have for someone starting their own label both digital and physical?
Try to be unique rather than aiming to be another label working within an already established and crowded sub-scene. It is hard to get the mix of new artists and established names right as both are essential to a new label. Throwing money at big names for remixes is ok if they take you seriously and do a good job but at some point you have to stand on your own two feet and put your faith in new artists. For the digital side, even though it is a lot more work, having direct contracts with the big download stores gives you a much better pay back rate and means it is easier to set up label promotions with them. Physically all I can say is make sure your first few releases are as strong as possible. People will take your releases more seriously if they are on vinyl but just the fact that it is on vinyl does not make the music any better or make it more likely to be played and charted.
What artists are you really excited about at the moment?
I love questions like this, as many of the big name DJs say ‘techno is so amazing right now’ but then conveniently refuse to name any actual artists, just in case mentioning someone else takes away tiny part of their oh so precious PR hit. But I am not like that so here we go…Truss has been making great music for a few years now and but his forthcoming releases on Perc Trax, Our Circular Sound and a few other labels are pretty amazing. Ancient Methods, Steven Porter and Mondkopf are three artists doing something interesting in the area where techno and industrial meet. There is also an increasing amount of fodder being released in this area of techno, which is driving me away from it, but these three artists really excite me. Outside of techno then I listen to a lot of Hype Williams, Zomby and Actress right now, yes there is a lot of hype around this stuff but I think they all have the music to back up the column inches. As well as all the above there is Objekt, Factory Floor, Orphx, Tommy Four Seven and many others all doing their own thing very well.
What releases/remixes can people look forward to this year?
The start of 2012 has been pretty quiet for me with just my remix of Mick Finesse’s ‘They SexMachinas’ and my contribution to Stroboscopic’s first ‘Stellate’ release coming out, but now there is a lot in the pipeline. I have a split 12” withXhin out this month, then there is a full 4-track EP coming from me on Perc Trax on June, which is my first full Perc release since my album last June. Later in the year I have a number of collaborations due for release including an EP with Adam X. As I said I have been cutting down on remixes, but I have recently remixed Wall sfor Kompakt, Factory Floor for DFA and I am remixing Truss’ new track for Perc Trax as soon as I find the time to do it. Apart from that the Perc Trax schedule is dominated by the Forward Strategy Group album, which is released on 28th May with its two vinyl EPs released before and after the album.
Big thanks to Perc for the interview! You can catch him at Bloc Weekend on 7th July along with one of the best line up’s of the year. Also, anyone around London on Sunday night then make sure and head to, undoubtedly the best club in the capital, Corsica Studios for Plex Vs Perc Trax which promises to be a nice warm up for their show at Bloc.