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INTERVIEW: Perc
Luke Turner , March 13th, 2015 13:53

We speak to Ali Wells ahead of his gig for us at Birthdays next week

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Next week, the Quietus are putting on a gig we've been looking forward to for months. Perc, a longstanding favourite around these parts for his line in techno pummelling, and for this show - taking place at Birthdays in Dalston on Thursday 19 March - he'll be joined by Dan Chandler of Sex Swing/Dethscalator, the man providing the tortured screams on 'Take Your Body Off' from last year's excellent The Power And The Glory. Joining the pair will be Bronze Teeth, the duo of Dominic Butler (formerly of Factory Floor) and Richard Smith, aka L/F/D/M/. How do they sound? Like "having the serrations on a bread knife cut through the cartilage of your upper ear", as exemplified on the pair of sterling 12"s they put out on Diagonal Records last year. Finally, drawing from their concentrated supply of Angst Music For Sex People, Hamburger Ladies, aka tQ's Luke Turner and Sophie Coletta, will be at the decks. Head over here for tickets. Once you've done that, we talked to Ali Wells, for Perc is he, about reaching the ten-year mark with his Perc Trax label, celebrating that fact with a night at Corsica Studios recently and what he's got planned for next week's gig.

It's been a great year/bit more than a year for celebrating ten years of Perc Trax. What's been your highlight?

Ali Wells: Just the response from people to both at the Ten Years events and to the compilation vinyl and CDs. People now realise what the label is about, where it is from and what it represents. The Slowly Exploding compilation was intentionally very forward-facing rather than being a collection of greatest hits or new remixes of past glories and people have responded to that. So many people have said that they are looking forward to what the label does next and that is much more satisfying than people talking about tracks you released five or ten years ago.

How was the party for you?

AW: A lot of hassle to set up, a few last-minute panics and then a great night that seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye. I tried to catch some of every set and I almost managed that. My set with Truss really felt like the pinnacle of what we have done together so far and was very much a set specifically for this event. We played some tracks that had real a connection to the London and wider UK scene which people loved on the night but might have had a German or Spanish dancefloor scratching their heads.

Do you think your audience is changing? When I first saw you play about four years ago it was an older, more male crowd.

AW: I think my sound and especially the Perc & Truss sound reaches a slightly different audience than your standard monochrome purist techno set. It definitely feels a bit more mixed in terms of men and women, has a wider age range and a bit more of an open-minded attitude to what they hear. I like each track I play to be memorable and to stand out on its own, not just fit into a perfectly layered set of nondescript techno tracks. Increasingly people are responding to this both in the UK and further away. People want a set that constantly challenges and surprises them and the current crop of UK producers understand this and are making tracks that are much more dynamic than your average techno loop track.

What are you planning for Birthdays? How will the set with Dan work out?

AW: It will be a live set by me with Dan joining me for a few tracks to add vocal and electronics to what I'm doing. It will be a mixture of experimental and more dancefloor-focussed tracks. I want the set to be one continuous performance rather than being broken into separate tracks so I'll just wave Dan on subtly rather than some grand introduction; it's not like we're George Michael and Elton John.

Are you recording more Perc material?

AW: I am currently working on a number of tracks simultaneously and soon I'll choose a few to focus on and finish. An EP on Perc Trax is my priority right now and after that I'll look into a few of the offers I've had to record for other labels since The Power And The Glory was released. It would be interesting to record for a few labels that I've not worked for before, especially those that release a wider range of electronic music and are not just purely concerned with techno.

You seem to collaborate with people outside of techno more than most producers. Why's that important for you?

AW: I think it just brings something fresh to my music and is the closest I get to experiencing my music from a different point of view. My collaboration with Truss works perfectly as we are good friends and have many shared influences, but, apart from that, working with someone that comes from a completely different area of music makes more sense to me.

What are your plans for the Submit label?

AW: I really want to get the label moving forward again but finding the right material has been hard. An EP was meant to be finished by a band at the end of last year, but it has been indefinitely delayed which is very frustrating. With the rise of labels like PAN and more and more techno producers experimenting with drone and noise tracks it is getting harder to find something that really jumps out at me. I also want to have a few releases ready to go before I release anything, not just put out one 12" and then disappear for another eighteen months.

What were the last three records you bought?

AW: S'Express - Original Soundtrack LP - packed with youthful memories.
Various artists - Drum Attack (Lost DJ Weapons From The 1990s) on Optimo Trax - mainly for the Fuel track.
Various ‎artists - RaveBase Phase 4 from 1995 – my old trick of buying a compilation from the 90s just to get a digital copy of a track that is not available as a download.