Perc (due at NORAD Dance Bar tomorrow night) emerged over the last several years as one of the key figures in the global techno scene by championing an aggressive, atonal and industrial-tinged brand of dance-music via his own production work and through his label, Perc Trax. We recently caught up with the London-based DJ/producer (aka Alistair Wells) about the London techno scene, his early influences and what he has in store for techno fans when he comes to town.
Westword: You're based in London and from that area originally. So many techno DJs and producers have relocated to Berlin. What are your thoughts on that phenomenon?
Perc: I have mixed feelings about it. If you live in the middle of nowhere, in a small town or city with no techno scene, then it makes sense to move somewhere with more opportunities, but if you already live in New York, London, Amsterdam, etc., then I think it is unnecessary. If you were active on the scene in your home city, then of course your absence will have a negative effect on that city when you leave.
If you already have some profile and gigs coming in, then Berlin can help you grow. If you are going to Berlin to try to start a musical career, then you will very quickly find yourself in the most oversaturated, competitive environment there is for techno DJs and producers, making it much harder to be heard amongst the crowd. If everyone moves to Berlin, then the other scenes around the world will die, and Berlin will be like a Disney World for techno, overcrowded and homogenised.
What is the culture in London and in the United Kingdom in general, for techno, specifically?
I have always thought the U.K. has been one of the most creative and innovative countries in the world for techno since the early '90s. Of course, not all the music deemed as techno from the U.K. is great, and the club and label scene here has its ups and downs, but right now it is doing well. The U.K. scene is not as purist as in other countries and is more open to outside influences, which, for me, can only be a good thing. We know our history and respect it but refuse to stick to the well-defined formulas of the past.
Wicker and Steel culls from a wide range of genres, including industrial, drum-and-bass, jungle, hardcore techno and non-musical influences such as horror film, which I think is really interesting. Can you comment on that?
Well, these are just the influences that have built up in my life. I have never sat down with a piece of paper and made a master plan of how different amounts of these influences will combine to make something successful. I just go to the studio, and if I hear something that triggers a memory of music or a film I love, then it is natural that I might continue in that direction, pursuing the memory of something that means a lot to me.
There's a strong industrial tinge that runs through most of your production. Is that what you grew up on?
It depends what era of my youth you look at. I first discovered Cabaret Voltaire when I bought a CD of remixes of their tracks. I only bought the CD as it contained two remixes by Altern8, who I loved at the time, but it introduced me to CV and that started my industrial obsession. That was around 1993, I think. Before that, I was listening to a mixture of rave, hardcore, hip-hop, metal and indie. Some of these soon subsided and I was left mainly listening to industrial and techno/house.
In March, Perc Trax released the Tunnel Vision EP by Denver-based producer Steve Penders [aka Mick Finesse]. How did you come to know Steve?
Steve got in touch with me through a SoundCloud demo he sent me a few years ago. I try to listen to all demos, and of course 99 percent of it is totally unsuitable for Perc Trax, but there was something in Steve's music that caught my ear. Since then, I think he has really grown as an artist, and his next few releases should do really well for him.
What was your impression of the Denver techno community, based on the last time you were here?
It was my only ever time to Denver, but the scene seemed great -- knowledgeable, open-minded and enthusiastic, which is all you can ask for, really.
Can you tell us what projects Perc Trax has in the pipeline?
The Forward Strategy Group album came out right at the end of May, and it is Perc Trax's only album this year. After that there is a four-track EP from myself on 29 June. After that there's a digital EP from Bas Mooy, more FSG vinyl and an EP from Truss with a few nice remixes on it. After that there is Steve's new EP and a collaborative EP produced by Adam X and myself.
Are there any upcoming Perc releases you can talk about?
Most importantly, I have the EP on Perc Trax that I mentioned above. There is also a remix of "Walls," which has just come out on Kompakt, and remixes of Factory Floor due soon on DFA, which is a different type of label for me to work with, so I am very excited about that hook-up. Then I have remixes of an old track of mine on Prosthetic Pressings and an EP for Sleaze, which, if all goes to plan, should feature a Ben Sims remix.
What can we expect Friday night at NORAD?
A lot of new, unreleased techno, especially from myself and Perc Trax, including my new EP and a whole load of surprises.
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